Hola, September

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I sort of can’t believe that September is here. I’m so glad that Sept. 11 falls on a weekend this year. Because historically, getting to work on that day has been a joke. I suppose that it wouldn’t matter much this year anyway, since it is smack in the middle of fashion week. I’m getting pretty stoked about FW. My calendar is getting more and more packed by the day. During ’11 spring FW I turned over the 7D’s clicker. In those few days I snapped close to 4000 images, and loved every second of it. The in between shows is what stresses me out.

Anyway, the screen shot above is of part of my August image folder. Yes… I’m a windows nerd. I also still rock a blackberry. Now that Steve Jobs has stepped down, I may venture over to the Mac (dark) side. Only if Mac decides to open up their gigantic tight fist a bit, when it comes to creating/servicing your own builds and custom software/apps. Otherwise, I will most likely continue to be a stick in the microsoft mud.

Back to the matter at hand. Did anyone else* who reads this stuff (besides Bob, Zach and Tammy) shoot anything cool in August? Hit me with links please!

*I’m sure that I left some ppl out. Please forgive.

Get ready for aperture basics, as a part of the photog series, on Monday (probably).

New Shepard Fairey video.

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Check out this recently released vid featuring Shepard Fairey talking about how Obey came about. According to the video, Fairey derived some of his early inspiration from the NYC bred skate company Shut. As it so happens, I spent an afternoon back in June hanging out with Rodney and Eli (the founders of Shut) and shot the the stills (above)  for an article that was to be included in the latest HS print mag. Anyway, I thought that this video was pretty cool. It even includes some old footage of Shepard himself doing it up on a mini ramp. Check it–

Digi-camo shoot part 2

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Lots of “part 2″s today. This is the piece that I was intending to shoot in DC over the weekend. Since that whole plan was fouled up by the weather. Sam was a good enough sport to step in and rock this messenger bag for me. The lighting was surprisingly good for post-hurricane overcast conditions. I thought about warming the images up a bit, but ultimately I liked them how they were shot. A couple more looks–

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What is so awesome about shutter speed? part 2

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Hi. In this edition of the series we are going to chat about shutter speed in low light situations. In the last installation of the series, we discussed shutter speed in well lit situations, and shooting in shutter priority mode. As important as I feel like it is to learn what your camera(s) will do in all of the different settings, we are going to be approaching this segment mostly in full “manual” mode. Please don’t be intimidated. “M” is the most liberating setting that your camera affords you. Embrace it.

This might not be the right place to say this, but lower light makes for much more interesting photos. When we have long shadows, and directional (other than directly over head) light sources,  is when we should be shooting. Some people use the term “golden hour” to describe the hour after sunrise, and hour before sunset. I tend to endorse that term. Images shot during those windows tend to be golden.

Let’s do a brief overview of shooting in manual, but focusing on shutter speed effects. As you most likely recall, the main decision that we need to make when we are choosing a shutter speed, is– “do we want to freeze time, or do we want to show motion?” And actually, as Zach aptly pointed out in the comments of the previous shutter speed post, the question might also be– “do we want to avoid camera shake/unwanted motion blur?”

Ok, switch your camera to “M.” Now we are going to have to set the aperture (f-stop) and the shutter speed. After a little practice, shooting in manual will become second nature. But while we are becoming acclimatized, lets refer to the bucket metaphor as often as we need to. If we are trying to freeze time in low light, we are probably going to want to open up the aperture as wide as our lens goes (and possibly bump up the ISO to compensate for smaller maximum apertures). If we are going for some motion blur, then we can start at a neutral f-stop like f/4, or even f/8. After we take a couple of test shots at our desired shutter speed (based on how low the lighting is), we can adjust the aperture up or down. For long shutter shots, we are probably safe dialing down the aperture as much as we want, as long as we can do a 30 second (or better) shutter speed.

For viewing pleasure, my homey Sam Adams (direct relation to the founding father/brewmaster) was kind enough to make a video of me awkwardly demonstrating how to achieve a few shutter speed oriented effects in low light. As a side note, I have often called on Sam to model product that I’m shooting for editorial stuff. In fact, that is Sam longboarding in the photo at the top of this post. Sorry ladies, he is taken. Please feel free to laugh at how poorly I articulate thoughts on camera (and in real life?). Also, please forgive all of the “uh”s and “um”s. Did I mention that I talk a lot? Anyway this is the first ever Shot by Jake video tutorial. Thanks again to Sam for shooting and cutting this. He did a great job, especially given the fact that we just threw this together in one long take.

Some quick terminology for the tutorial– “prime lens”= a lens that has a fixed focal length (the opposite of a “zoom lens”).

Homework: Shoot something in low light, using shutter speed to show motion.

Extra credit: Shoot a long shutter-speed image at night (of something stationary or moving).


View all parts of this series here.

at least it’s thursday

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I’m currently working on a little lifestyle story featuring one of the brands that HS covers. I shot the first part of it early this morning  (before the monsoon rolled in). These are a few of the images. Hopefully (depending on the weather) I’ll be shooting the second part in DC this weekend.

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It’s been a pretty busy week already. I take comfort in the fact that tomorrow is Friday.

 

playing with lasers, hanging out with scientists

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Despite what this may look like, no, I was not hanging out on the set of some forthcoming Daft Punk video. I spent the day Tuesday hanging out with a bunch of scientists. I was basically the only person in the room without a PhD. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit intimidating. But, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to kick it with my good friend Tadd (on the left in the above photo), while he was in town for the day. Throw in some time playing with high speed cameras and lasers? I was basically in nerd heaven. I heard the word “laser” more times in a non-joking context yesterday than I had probably heard before that, my entire life.

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I thought I was the only one who drew nerdy diagrams in my notes. Apparently Tadd also does. I had to get a shot of his notebook above.

Here are a couple more looks at the lab.

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I’m pretty sure that I chose the wrong profession.

What is so awesome about shutter speed?

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Warning: this post is going to be lengthy.

I’m going to start out this post by referencing a question raised by Melissa in the last segment. She asked “how do you decide what the appropriate settings should be in the moment? Say I’m shooting outside on a bright day, how do I know how low I should set the ISO or how low of an f stop?” Very, very good question. I’m not trying to coach anyone on aesthetics here, but lets shift our thinking a little bit. We can be reactionary photographers, or we can be proactive photographers. To be reactionary, all we need to do is lock the cam into “auto” and let the camera evaluate the situation and make all of the calls. Or….. we can be proactive when see a photo-worthy subject, and think to ourselves “how can I make this shot awesome by interjecting a bit of my own style into the way I shoot this?” Depending on how we answer that question is how we would know which way to skew the settings. If you aren’t quite sure what your personal style is when it come to photography, don’t sweat it. I’m sure that it goes without saying, that one’s style is a very dynamic thing that will constantly change and expand with time, experience and practice, etc.. For those who are having a hard time figuring out where to get started, imitation is always a good place. Think of some of the photos that have recently caught your attention. Decide what it is about them that makes them appealing. Then, practice recreating the appealing aspects in your own work.

Now that we know all of the variables involved in achieving a proper exposure, let’s put that knowledge to use. Let’s play out the scenario described by Melissa, as well as a lower light scenario. Since we are discussing shutter speed in this post, we will address the questions in that context.

Shutter speed in bright light

We are shooting outside on a bright day. We have a great subject that we want to be proactive about and capture an interesting image of. We decide that we are going to make the aperture defer to our shutter speed. For those shooting with SLR’s there is actually a setting that will accomplish this for us. On Canon cameras, it is “TV” mode. I apologize for not knowing Nikon’s shutter priority mode. But I know that Nikon also has one. Nikon ppl, please put the name of Nikon’s shutter priority setting in the comments. In shutter priority mode, the camera will automatically try to adjust the aperture to gain the proper exposure, based on the shutter speed that the photographer has chosen.  But, the photographer will still have to manually select the ISO (unless the camera is on auto ISO [which I strongly discourage]). Since we are shooting outside on a bright day, lets start by dropping the ISO down to like 100. That way we know that we are going to get a nice buttery image with zero noise.

Ok, so we are set on shutter priority mode, with the ISO at or near the lowest setting. Do we want to show motion, or do we want to freeze time? It is going to be a lot easier to freeze time in bright daylight, since our aperture only goes so small. So lets dial up the shutter speed to 1/1000″ That should be fast enough to freeze most motion that humans are capable of. Since it it bright daylight, we shouldn’t have a problem underexposing. This is a great setting for jumping or hair whipping pics–

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The image above was shot by John Holman, who is friends with the gentleman (my amigo Zach) jumping over his bride in the photo. Let’s check out the EXIF data (fn.1)  on this image.

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So, we can see here that John was using a custom program geared towards action, giving priority to shutter speed (sounds pretty similar to Canon’s TV mode). That was a smart move. The shutter speed was 1/800″ and the aperture of f/10 was probably automatically selected by the camera based on it’s light meter. Here is a quick quiz. If John was shooting in TV, and would have had the ISO set to 100 instead of 400, and the shutter speed set to 1000 instead of 800, would the camera have adjusted the f-stop to a higher or lower number to try to get the same exposure?

Motion blur is also possible in well lit situations, but it is more fun in low light, so let’s cover it there. When you learn to do it in low light, you will be able to capture it in any kind of light.

Before we move away from our brightly lit scenario, there is one more idea that I would like to throw out, while we are talking about shutter speed. Why not underexpose? This in an effect that can be very cool. People who see the image will know that it was shot in bright light because of the way that the light is hitting the object in the image. But the photo will be interesting, because instead of being bright and blown out, it will look almost like night time. Here is an awesome example of that–

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I wish that I could say that those were my images. Alas, they belong to Enrique Badulescu. Granted there is also some serious post-production work done on these, but it is a good example, no?

I was going to keep dragging this post out, and write about choosing a shutter speed in low light. But since my attention span has expired, I can imagine that a reader trying to ingest all of this would probably also be struggling to pay attention by this point. So, instead lets do an assignment and chat about low light later.

Before we get to the assignment, I would just like to throw in a quick suggestion/technique. One of the coolest things about digital photography, is that it costs just as much money to shoot 100 frames as it does to shoot 1 frame. So, trial and error is our friend. Shoot as many frames as you need to. Term of art– “bracketing.” If we are documenting something that doesn’t allow us time to perfectly dial in the exposure before we start shooting, we can put it about where we think the setting should be– shoot a few frames; then adjust up a bit, snap a few; Adjust down, snap a few. This way we have our bases covered. If the initial guess was a bit off, no worries. We have belt and suspenders by exposing some frames adjusting up and down a bit. One of those shots is bound to be golden.

Here is the homework– Let’s find the sweet spot for freezing time with our shutter speed. Note, this is going to vary depending on how bright of light we are shooting in. So, let’s try it shooting outside during a fairly bright time of day. Set your camera to the shutter priority mode (“TV” for Canon). Start with 1/800″, and play around until you get an image that you are stoked about. Remember, depending on the ambient light, you run the risk of underexposing while using a high shutter speed. The camera can only compensate in f-stops up to the maximum aperture of the lens you are using. But you can always fall back on adjusting the ISO up a notch if you need to.

For extra credit, purposely underexpose in broad daylight. Still in shutter priority mode, run the shutter speed up all of the way, and drop the ISO all of the way. Depending on the ambient light (and your camera’s maximum settings), you may end up with some seriously dark frames at first. So between frames, gradually slow down the shutter a bit until you get an image that you are stoked about.

Link to your images in the comments, if you feel like sharing the results of your homework assignment.

Stay tuned for ideas with shutter speed in lower light situations (for which I’m planning a short action packed tutorial vid to accompany).

1. EXIF data is the information regarding the camera and camera settings that digital cameras automatically store in the image file. It can be viewed in most photo editing programs. Unless the EXIF data has been scrubbed from the file, you can even download images from the interwebz, and see what camera settings were used to capture the image.


View all parts of this series here.

Lightning

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I have never been able to successfully shoot lightning… until tonight. I mean, at least marginally successfully. These images aren’t blowing my mind or anything. But they are definitely better than the crap that I have captured in the past. When I walked in the door from this evening’s run, the whole hallway lit up. Then it happened again like 3 times, before I even got to the bedroom. So, without even changing out of my nasty sweaty running garb, I grabbed a cam and a tripod and scurried up to the roof (which I hear is one of the smartest places to be in a lightning storm). Anyway, the flashes were so frequent and consistently located, that it was almost like shooting fish in a barrel. When the storm started to move more directly overhead, I felt like it was time to call it quits and retreat. Here is one more shot of a lightning illuminated cloud.

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let’s talk about exposure

Ok, so here we go. For the first part in this series, I have decided to discuss exposure (not the indecent kind).

Exposure is kind of the corner stone of photography. I mean, that’s what photography is– exposing film (or a light sensitive chip) to light. There are three variables that determine the exposure of an image (not counting post-processing). They are ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture. The “exposure triangle” is a useful way that I have seen it explained before. I drew a little diagram with a marker of the exposure triangle. Please pardon my terrible penmanship, but I thought it was nicer than stealing someone else’s graphic, and faster than fumbling with Illustrator (not my forté)–

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All three of these settings can usually be controlled manually on most modern digital cameras, even inexpensive ones. This allows the photographer to take total control of the way that the image is exposed. There are several sought after effects that can be achieved by manually dictating the way that your camera exposes the image. First, the very basics–

ISO

Historically, ISO was a number that was used to measure the sensitivity of the emulsion on film. The lower the number, the slower that the emulsion reacted to light, making it take longer for the film to expose. This same idea translates to digital cameras. The ISO setting on a digital camera controls the sensitivity of the chip. The settings generally range from ISOs 100 to 3200 (or more), depending on what kind of camera you are using. The lower the number, the less sensitive the chip will be, and the longer it will take to achieve desired exposure. Conversely, when using a high ISO  number the chip will be very sensitive.

There is another factor that should be taken into account when selecting ISO. The lower the number, the richer and creamier (term of art, hahaha) the image will be. The higher the ISO, the grainier the image will become. The graininess that occurs at high ISO settings is commonly referred to as “noise.” Some times images are shot to purposely include noise for aesthetic effect (our friend Kat in Charleston, last summer) . Most of the time it is not desirable, because it can muddle the sharpness of the image.

As a rule of thumb, I try to keep the ISO at 400 or lower. But depending on lighting, that’s not always possible.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is pretty obvious, right? It is the setting that determines how long the shutter is open, allowing the film or chip to be exposed to the light. Fast shutter speeds are great for freezing time (fashion week fall 2010), like when shooting sports or if you are shooting outside on a really bright day. Slow shutter speeds are cool for showing motion (a great example, shot by my good friend Zach Tolbert), or for when shooting in low light. Shutter speed settings can range anywhere from 30″ to 1/2500″ (or more). In layman’s terms, those numbers translate to thirty seconds (a super slow speed, for shooting at night or something), to one twenty-five hundredth of a second.

About 90 percent of the time, I find myself shooting between 1/80″ and 1/640″. Many times, this setting will show up on the camera menu display as a single number, not a fraction. For example 1/80″ will just be 80. Higher end cameras will also generally have a “bulb” setting. Bulb will keep the shutter open as long as the shutter release button is pressed down (or press once to open, press again to close). The “bulb” setting is what people use to get those crazy long exposures of stuff like the stars swirling in the sky, etc..

Something to keep in mind– To obtain sharp images, it is best to keep the camera perfectly still while the shutter is open. So, shutter speeds slower than 1/80th of a second while shooting hand-held (not on a tripod) might run the risk of blurriness caused by camera shake, especially when large amounts of caffeine have been ingested.

Aperture

The aperture is the diaphragm behind the lens, that can be adjusted to control the flow of light coming through the lens. The size of the opening is measured in “f-stops” and is generally expressed as a fraction, because… that is what it is. An example of how f-stops are written is “f/4” or “f:4”. The “f” part of the fraction is referring to the focal length of the lens (we will get more into that later). So for example, if I’m using a 50mm lens, then “f” is 50. If I’m using a 50mm lens set to f/4, then I know that the aperture size is 1/4 of 50 millimeters.

Ok, if all of that sounds a little too much like math class, then just remember that the lower the f-stop, the larger the aperture is, and the more light you are letting through. So f/1.4 is letting in a lot of light. F/22 is only letting in a little pinhole of light. As with shutter speed, the f-stop may appear as a single number (not a fraction) on the camera menu. So, f/4 might just show up as “4” or “4.0.” A helpful way to think of it might be to remember that the higher the f-stop number the more light you are stop-ping from getting to the sensor.

One important thing to keep in mind when choosing the appropriate f-stop, is that the aperture size also affects the depth of field. Depth of field is what determines how much of your image will be in focus. We will discuss this more later. For now, just try to remember that it is affected by aperture (or f-stop).

For those who are more visual learners (like myself), I’ll use an example that one of my grade school photography teachers used, and has stuck with me all of these years. Again, please pardon my less than stellar drawing skills and penmanship–

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Ok, in the amazing graphic above, we are using the metaphor of filling a bucket with water, as getting the correct exposure of an image. Just like the exposure triangle, we have three main variables. How large is the bucket? Compare the bucket size to the ISO setting. If the bucket is small (if the ISO is a high number), the bucket will fill up fast. Conversely, if the bucket is large (if the ISO is a low number) the bucket will take longer to fill.

Shutter speed can be compared to how long we have the tap open for.

Finally, compare the aperture to how large of a hose we are using. If we are using a fire hose (large aperture), the bucket will fill up much faster than if we are using a garden hose (small aperture).

The object is to use the exposure variables to offset each other, when we are seeking a certain result. Let’s say that we want to shoot with the aperture wide open to create a really shallow depth of field (more about that later). But since we are letting all of that light in, we are going to seriously overexpose the image, unless we compensate by choosing a fast shutter speed and/or drop the ISO.

Now let’s say that we are trying to shoot a hummingbird and freeze it’s wings motionless in the image. So, we need to use a really fast shutter speed. Unless we have a really bright light source, we are probably going to underexpose the image if we fail to boost the ISO and/or open up the aperture.

Hopefully some of this makes sense. I’m sure that there are plenty of other photographers who have helpful insight on understanding exposure. So, please feel free to contribute in the comments.

Should I be giving assignments?


View all parts of this series here.

on cameras and photography

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Sometimes people email me asking for recommendations about purchasing a camera. I don’t mind it at all. I love cameras. I love talking about cameras, taking photos, and all of that stuff. But, I wish that people would be generally mindful of a few things when considering upgrading cameras, getting into photography, etc.. At least, I wish that they would be mindful if they are going to interact with me on the subject. I think that it would be less frustrating for all parties involved. For example– even though I know it is not meant to be offensive, I can’t help but be a little bit insulted when someone says something like “I want to get a good camera so my images will look like yours.” To me this is the equivalent of saying something like “This is really good food. I wish I could get a new kitchen, so that my cooking would taste like this.” I’m flattered that someone finds my images appealing, but discouraged by the insinuation that the camera did all of the work. I mean, having a nice camera definitely helps people produce quality images. But, it would be nice if people could acknowledge that there is a little more to it than just knowing how to use the shutter release button. I’m not trying to get all swollen headed, or pretend like I’m some sort of photography mogul. And I really hope that people don’t take this post the wrong way. I truly believe that, as with any artistic medium, producing something great comes from more than just having the right tools for the job. I think that in addition to having the right tools, a person should have a little bit of natural ability (which I think most people have), and willingness to study and practice.

At the risk of coming off like I think I know everything (I’m stating for the record, right now, that I don’t even come close to knowing everything about photography or anything else), I have decided to write a short series, in an attempt to possibly help people who are interested and want to become more involved in photography, and don’t mind the superfluous use of commas. In the series I will give my opinion about where to focus energy in order to improve ones photography skills, and possibly throw in some basic knowledge and links to some online resources that I find helpful. Intend to cover things like basic composition, exposure, lighting, and how to choose a camera. Again, all just my opinion, in hopes that someone finds it helpful. The “dropping knowledge” tag is meant to be tongue in cheek.


View all parts of this series here.

New York Street Art

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I don’t mean to write two “I heart NY” posts in a row. But, I really enjoy the non-stop visual stimulation that occurs just walking around the City. Today I was on the way to shoot this, and I happened upon the scene pictured above (and below). I don’t know what I like more about what is going on here– several dozen trampled roses on the sidewalk, or a dog that looks like a baby deer. I think it is going to be a good weekend.

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i want this– papercraft leica m3 pinhole camera

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I remember taking my first photography class, in like 7th or 8th grade. One of the very first projects that we did was make pinhole cameras. We spent one day making the cameras (out of shoe boxes), then the next day wandering around campus during the entire period capturing images with them. We were exposing directly to photo paper, so everything was a negative. But I still remember how much fun it was.

Enter the paper Leica m3. How awesome is this? I would say that it is quite an upgrade from the rickety shoebox contraption that I built back in the day. This printable papercraft Leica m3 was designed by Matthew Nicholson, and is available for download from his site for only £1.50. It comes with assembly instructions (which appear to indicate that it shoots 220 medium format film [same as the Holga]). I think that I may have found a project for the weekend. A few more looks below–

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One WTC as of yesterday.

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Every once in a while I feel the need to write about the World Trade Center construction progress. Here is my 2008 rant about calling it ground zero (which people still do, btw). Here is a shot of One World Trade Center last November. And the shot above is one that I snapped yesterday from ground level. It’s pretty crazy that next month will mark 10 years since the attacks. That means that next August I will have been in NY for 10 years. My, how time flies.

I saw a ghost

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I grew up on Nirvana. Kurt C. was a person that I admired and adored simultaneously. I had the pleasure of seeing Nirvana on more than one occasion before Kurt met his demise (which, btw seriously shook my world). Anyway, I stumbled upon this set of photos today, shot by Hedi Slimane. They are of Francis Bean, who is now a grown woman. When I first perused the set, I literally got cold chills. This woman, who I for some reason still think of as a baby swaddled up in Kurt’s arms during an MTV interview, bears a striking resemblance to her father. For a split second, I seriously felt like I was looking at Kurt reincarnated as a woman. Kudos to Slimane and Francis. I was very moved by this set. Have a look for yourself.

[Photography: Hedi Slimane]

I want this: NOKTOR 50mm f/.95

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I was browsing Hypebeast today, when I came across this gem. Made by NOKTOR, this 50mm prime opens up to f/.95. Yes, that means that the aperture actually goes larger than the focal length. Pretty amazing. They are billing is as a “HyperPrime.” The lens can be ordered on the NOKTOR site, and ships starting July 31. The price is about $8,400 in Hong Kong dollars (from where the units ship). But that is only about $1100 USD. So, it is actually less expensive than the Canon 50mm f/1.2L. I would be curious to know how the NOKTOR glass stacks up against the Canon L optics. There is one huuuuuugggggeeeee drawback from my perspective, though. Besides not having AF, this lens only comes in MFT and E-mount. Which means that I would have to get an adapter to shoot with this on a Canon body. Hopefully they will remedy that issue by the time I actually get serious about purchasing one.

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[images via NOKTOR & Hypebeast]

Happy Friday

I had myself quite a busy little night, last night. I stopped through the new location of the Hole Gallery on Bowery to see NYC graffiti legend, TAKI 183 in the flesh (and shoot his book signing for curatedmag). For fun, I put together a little animated gif above of TAKI scrawling his tag in someone’s book. I hope that it doesn’t give anyone seizures.

After the book signing, I headed across the street to the New Museum for an event with KAWS and Hennessy to celebrate the ltd. edition bottle that KAWS designed for them. ?uestlove was the DJ. It was a cool scene. Here are a couple of my favorite shots–

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Above and below: ?uestlove, of The Roots.

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I threw this one in just for kicks. The CK billboard hasn’t been as good, since Eva Mendez left. But I think it is funny the way that the BP and CK logos line up from this angle. Anyway, I’m a nerd.

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I feel like Jakesmag has been a little bit heavier that I intended, for its first week in existence. I think it is partially a result of the fact that I have been in such a serious mood all of the time lately. I’m shooting for a bit of relaxation this weekend, so that I can tone things down a bit, if that’s ok. Have a great weekend.

Some faves from last week.

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Element held a preview for their new Emerald collection at Saturday’s Surf (above). I did a little editorial shoot with my homey Jace, on an UWS roof top, for Sons of Intrigue (below).

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After shooting, we hung out and enjoyed the weather for a while. I snapped this long exposure of the UWS at dusk.

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I covered an Olek installation that was held in a recording studio. You may recall that Olek is the eastern European knitting street artist who once completely covered the Wall St. Bull. Part of the exhibit included various people wearing full body crocheted camo suits (below).

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