OlegNovikov.com

What's New 2005

December 29th, 2005

Have just returned from The Yellow Mountain. This time, unfortunately, I was very unlucky in terms of the weather—out of three sunsets and three sunrises only one sunset was more or less decent; I also did not get to see all the things that the mountain is famous for (e.g., seas of clouds or pines in snow). With respect to the current home page photograph, though, I have to note that The Yellow Mountain is like an entirely gorgeous yet very capricious woman—she requires a lot of patience and waiting around but when she shows it to you then you know that you get an astronomical return on your investment in tolerance . I was standing on top of one of the peaks listlessly chewing on dry beef(牛肉干—a Chinese specialty) and disappointedly looking at the dull overcast sky when out of the blue sunlight beams broke through and turned the dreary scene into a magic moment. It lasted literally a moment, though—the magic was gone in about a couple of minutes. Bitches Brew rules!

December 23rd, 2005

Best wishes and compliments of the season to all readers! I am off to The Yellow Mountain(黄山)for several days to photograph and play "Bitches Brew"—yes, for the third time. Do not use my cameras for a couple of weeks and my hands get itchy... New Year's Eve will then see me in Beijing—yes, again, too. As far as these two places are concerned, you just cannot have too much of a good thing. Hopefully I will be able to post an update in between the two trips—otherwise, see you next year!

December 20th, 2005

Nikon D200 currently sells for RMB14800 (USD1836) in Shanghai. This price, obviously, is higher than in the rest of the world (it is supposed to be a hundred bucks less). When I asked one of the dealers here about the reason for this he told me that each D200 comes bundled with... three D50 kits. He then further explained that at the moment D50 kits are not selling very well in China (mostly because no one wants the kit lens) so when they get a D200 from Nikon China they also have to get three D50 kits in a compulsory manner. As D50 kits are not too popular, they have to be sold at a small loss and the dealers have no choice but to raise the price of the D200. He also said that the same holds for the 70–200 VR zoom which sells very well—when getting this lens from Nikon China they have to also take something that does not sell too well. Canon does not have this policy, he added.

I find this rather curious and, whereas it would be impossible to verify whether it is true, I tend to think that one would have to be highly creative to make this kind of explanation up.

Have a look at the updated photo gear prices in Shanghai here.

December 18th, 2005

Perfection 4990 PHOTO scanner is Epson's latest flatbed scanner that can handle film of pretty much any format. Some Web sites claim that it is almost as good as much more expensive dedicated film scanners. Unfortunately, my experience with it has been quite different—more on it here.

December 15th, 2005

Several days ago all of a sudden a whole building fell down in Shanghai. I happened to be there and capture the moment...

 
 

December 7th, 2005

A page on manual flash modes of the SB–800 has been added.

To those who might be interested in studying photography in Shanghai in English I recommend checking this out.

December 4th, 2005

A page on non–TTL auto flash modes of the SB–800 has been added.

December 3rd, 2005

Women have the superiority to choose; men have the superiority to refuse. When the former and lack of the latter coincide, a relationship is formed. It is going to last as long as intentions of the two do not expire. In the long run—if it gets to a long run, that is—the link is bound to be blemished by all the inevitable imperfections. Nevertheless, where wisdom prevails a real friendship might emerge. What are the chances of winning the national lottery?

Heck, just one of those days... Give me a break, will you?

December 2nd, 2005

I have been trying to finish my review of the Nikon Speedlight SB–800 for quite some time now. One of the readers suggested posting it in parts and then adding more content as it becomes ready. I have decided to follow this advice and posted the main bulk of the review here. The review is incomplete yet—I will be adding more info and tips on particular flash modes later on—stay tuned!

December 1st, 2005

Spent a couple of hours doing street photography in Huaihai Park(淮海公园)in Shanghai yesterday. China is certainly one of the best places for street photography—people generally are very friendly and there is always a lot going on so that finding interesting themes and subjects is not too difficult.

 
 

This time my weapon of choice was a Nikon D70s with the... wait for it... Nikkor 70–200 telephoto bazooka. Even though Leica users and street photography purists will smirk at this, I personally find that the lens is perfectly suitable for street photography. In particular, I like shooting wide open (at f/2.8) and from relatively afar which, on the one hand, produces very shallow depth of field thus emphasizing the main subject and, on the other hand, allows shooting at faster shutter speeds.

 
 

In my opinion doing street photography is about how you behave and approach shooting as opposed to how small/big quiet/loud your camera is. For one thing, at different times I did street photography with different tools ranging from Mamiya 7II with a standard lens to Nikon F6 with the 70–200 lens attached to it (I am yet to try a 4X5 view camera, though ). People do notice you at first no matter what camera you are carrying—in China you are bound to be noticed anyway (unless one is of Asian origins, that is). But this is something one should not be afraid of—yesterday I actually managed to blend in and people kept at what they were doing even though I was shooting away!

 
 

On a technical note, I was once again quite disappointed with the D70s' speed—the camera is just too slow for this kind of photography and had a difficult time driving the big lens. In continuous shooting mode you only get four RAW shots at lowly 3 fps (frames per second) and then you have to wait until the buffer clears up. Autofocus is not responsive enough and only five autofocus points do not suffice to compose properly. Off–centre autofocus sensors are insufficiently sensitive which results in even more sluggishness and autofocus hunting. The F6 or D200 would have been a much, much better choice for the task!

 
 

November 24th, 2005

Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) review has been posted.

November 18th, 2005

Sekonic Dualmaster L–558 Exposure Meter review has been posted.

November 4th, 2005

Chinese photography magazine Photographers' Companion (摄影之友) has published the following:

"Hasselblad has already stopped R&D work related to V–series products and 500–series cameras will be discontinued within two years(哈苏已停止 V 系列产品的研发工作,而且两年内500系列相机也将全部停产)."

I could not yet find confirmation of this from other sources so please do let me know if you hear anything contrary to this. We all were hoping that at least the venerable V–series cameras would survive relentless changes caused by the advance of digital technologies but, alas, the times they are a–changin'...

A short essay called Impressions of Mount Tai has been posted.

October 28th, 2005

I am going to Mount Tai(泰山)to photograph for two days. The mountain is said to be number one among the five sacred mountains in China(五岳). Will check out Confucius' home town on the way, too. Judging by what I have read about the place, it is going to be a promising trip.

Bashang Grassland Photo Travel Guide has been posted; the picture below is a bit of an advertisement for Hasselblad .

 
 


October 21st, 2005

Hasselblad Tessar CB 4.8/160 lens review has been posted. One photograph has been deleted from the Bashang Grassland gallery.

October 14th, 2005

I have posted eighteen photographs from my trip to Bashang Grassland here (these are the pictures I like most at the moment but I might delete some of them later). Unfortunately things have been very hectic lately and I have not had the time to write anything but thought I would share the photographs with you first anyway. To be honest, I am quite happy with the results—especially considering the fact that all of the pictures were taken in only three days' time and using only one prime (fixed focal length) lens. Your comments will be appreciated—please let me know if you like/dislike any photograph in particular.

October 6th, 2005

I spent three days in early October photographing in Bashang Grassland(坝上), which is a tableland stretching from northern Hebei province into Inner Mongolia. It is an absolutely gorgeous place and one of the major photographic destinations for landscape photographers in China—indeed, all serious Chinese photographers know it and it is featured directly or otherwise in pretty much every issue of Chinese photographic magazines.

On the way from Beijing to Bashang I met two Chinese photographers from Guangdong (Fei Teng Teng and Ying Zhi Lang). We got friendly very quickly and continued our trip together; their friend A' Wei joined us a little later. We also got to know several photographers from Jiangsu province and, as our logistics were arranged by the same operator, it ended up being like a workshop with the only difference that no one was leading it and photographers simply exchanged their ideas, vision and techniques. For me, this was an absolutely brilliant experience as I, essentially, plunged into the unknown yet ended up having everything perfectly arranged.

During the trip I overall encountered over a dozen serious amateur and professional photographers shooting in the area. It was interesting to see what photo equipment was being used and what I observed was very interesting indeed. First and foremost, the absolute majority of the photographers used medium format film as their main medium and, whereas some photographers (including yours truly) used digital cameras as supplementary tools, only two photographers were shooting digital only (both used Nikon D2X cameras). Two photographers had high resolution digital bodies (one Canon 1Ds, one Nikon D2X) but they primarily used medium format film, too. There also were three photographers using 4X5 cameras with film. Yet another interesting thing is that roughly half of medium format cameras were Hasselblad (two photographers even had the expensive CFE 5.6/250 Sa lenses). So talking about film being dead and all, it ain't dead in this part of the world—in fact, it is alive and kicking.

Later this month I will be posting photographs from the trip, Bashang Grassland Photo Travel Guide as well as a review of the Hasselblad CB 4.8/160 lens (which turned out to be the only lens that I used during the trip). Meanwhile, I am updating home page photograph with one of the pictures taken during the trip to give you an idea what the place is like.

October 4th, 2005

One of the photographs from my article Huizhou—ancient China today, along with a short writeup, was published in October issue of That's Shanghai Magazine.

 
That's Shanghai - The Real Deal
 

September 17th, 2005

Sometimes simple tools suffice to take great shots—as long as you find a subject that speaks to you, draw on a bit of imagination and creativity and use your camera skillfully... Read further here.

On another note, I had a chance to talk to a professional photographer who photographed staff at the place where I work today. He was using the Canon 1Ds and told me that, according to his sources, Canon is going to unveil a 26MP body (full–frame, of course) some time next year. Whereas this kind of "news", obviously, cannot be verified and is only a rumour, it does seem to be within the realm of possibility. If this is true, though, it will have quite a few implications ranging from the necessity of introducing zoom lenses of significantly better quality to the question of how many MP one actually needs and can realistically handle as well as, of course, the inevitability of Nikon introducing a full–frame body.

September 12th, 2005

Last week I spent several days on my parents' dacha near Moscow just chilling out, reading a book ("Kafka on the shore"), as well as working soil. I have to note that manual labour has a lot of dignity and is the best way to rest from mental work. No mobile phones, no computers, no Internet; instead, a shovel and soil, autumn colours and a deep blue sky with a couple of subtle feather clouds here and there, fresh air that almost pierces your lungs and... of course, my camera. The photograph below was taken on one of the days just after sunset.

 
Fog settling
 

Fog settling

A look at how Nikon D70s could be further improved has been posted.

August 27th, 2005

Nikon 18–70mm f/3.5–4.5 DX lens review has been posted.

August 24th, 2005

As the 12.8MP Canon EOS 5D has been announced the romours abound that Nikon is about to introduce the D200 which will replace the long–obsolete D100 and is said to have specs quite similar to those of the EOS 5D. One of the biggest differences between the D200 and the 5D is going to be the size of the sensors used with the Canon being a full–frame DSLR and Nikon persistently using their DX format. Whereas both formats have their advantages and shortcomings I am sure that both cameras will produce comparable and great image quality. However, what interests me most here is where this all is heading. Considering the fact that medium format digital backs already boast 39MP sensors, I am sure that the megapixel rat race is to continue—at least in the foreseeable future. One, however, would inevitably ask the question of how many more pixels Nikon can pack into their APS–sized sensors before they find it difficult to keep image quality up to the standard.

Another interesting fact is that Nikon has been producing digital SLR cameras with APS–sized sensors for over five years now yet so far they have introduced only some very basic DX lenses which merely cover immediate needs. Also, the new 200mm (as well as 300mm) VR lens has a full–frame (35mm) image circle.

All of this gives me a strong impression that it is just a matter of time when Nikon introduces a full–frame DSLR. Better hold on to those pro–level full–frame wide–angle lenses of yours.

 
Moody sunrise @ Huangpu River
 

Moody sunrise @ Huangpu River, Shanghai

The photograph above was taken yesterday early in the morning when I went to the Bund to see if I would get more luck with the sunrise than I had with sleep that night.

August 15th, 2005

As I wrote earlier, my friend Thomas Gleave and I went traveling to Sichuan Province, China in June. We spent a couple of days in Chengdu(成都)discovering the city and its people. Tom, who in real life is a business case researcher and writer with one of the world's top EMBA schools, briefly shares his impressions of the city here (supplemented by several photographs I took at the time). They are entirely consistent with what I felt at the time—in fact, I could not have expressed it better if I wanted to! (This might also be interesting for those considering buying the 70–20mm f/2.8 zoom as all pictures were taken with the lens.)

August 11th, 2005

Tongli(同里)Photo Travel Guide has been posted.

August 7th, 2005

As you most likely already know China's Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces (with Shanghai in–between) were battered by Typhoon Matsa over the last weekend. I was photographing in Tongli(同里)—one of the major water–towns in Jiangsu Province (80km away from Shanghai and only 13km from Suzhou)—on Friday and got the news on the coming typhoon only in the late afternoon. All day long the wind was stronger than usually and exactly at the moment when I finished taking pictures and returned to the guesthouse where I was staying (just past 9 p.m.) all hell broke loose—the rain came down as a solid sheet and wind gusts became indescribable.

My original plan was to wake around 5 a.m. on Saturday and go photographing while all the tourists were still asleep. I did wake up as intended and even managed to take a couple of pictures when the rain was not falling too hard but my schedule, generally, had to be changed drastically—I had to figure out how to get back to Shanghai a.s.a.p. as most buses including the one I was supposed to take to get back to the city were canceled and I did not feel like being trapped in the town amidst the storm for another couple of days.

I had to walk between my guesthouse and two bus stations in the heavy rainstorm to figure out whether it was still possible to get back to Shanghai. My umbrella was crippled pretty much once I was out in the open and by the time I returned to the guesthouse to get the rest of my gear I was completely soaked. I have to note, though, that experiencing a natural force of this magnitude (knowing that it could not be lethal, of course) as opposed to indifferently reading about it in the news while munching on chips was quite refreshing in the sense that it makes you realize what natural disasters can be like and how helpless people can be if unprepared.

In the end I had to go to Suzhou and then take a train to Shanghai from there. The metropolis was being trashed by the typhoon, too. It, however, was well–prepared and all its functions were running smoothly as usually.

Photo on the right—the rainstorm battering a huge advertisement banner that was not removed in a timely manner

August 3rd, 2005

Today, listening to Neil Young's tune called "Bandit" where you hear what sounds like a cheap or improperly tuned guitar throughout the song, it occurred to me that the same holds for photography—sometimes the so–called technical imperfections such as grain/noise, light fall–off or lack of sharpness that we all generally try to avoid are the best and the only means to exactly express a certain frame of mind or idea.

August 1st, 2005

Oh, did I also note that Nikon D70s comes bundled with Nikon Picture Project which, excuse my French, is a f***ing joke? Be prepared to spend extra cash on a more decent browser/converter.

July 28th, 2005

I have posted two favourite photographs from my June trip to Siguniangshan together with the pictures from the previous trip to the mountain here. One of them is currently featured on the Home page. Believe it or not, to get the shot I had to do a 30km hike with all my photo gear in one day. Unfortunately, the limited size, resolution and colour reproduction do not do the photograph any justice—I wish you could see it professionally printed on paper at a significantly larger magnitude!

I have to note that being in a good physical shape is essential to travel photography and extensive hiking. A couple of days ago I ran 7km—my favourite distance—in 36 minutes and 34 seconds. Sure, quite far from a significant record yet not too bad for a not–entirely–slim guy like myself. No, no—do not mean to brag—just a bit of an encouragement for you .

Zhouzhuang Photo Travel Guide has been posted, too.

July 20th, 2005

General issues to be aware of when traveling in China has been added to my China Photo Travel Guide. The list is far from complete and only includes matters that I have thought of so far. I will be updating it as other relevant topics come to my mind.

July 19th, 2005

Huizhou(徽州)Photo Travel Guide has been posted.

July 12th, 2005

We met quite a few interesting characters during our trip to Siguniangshan Mountain in June and I have posted a short essay—Millions of ways—which is based on only one photograph of a person who impressed and had me thinking most.

July 9th, 2005

Today one of my best mates, being not entirely sober, has said, "Loneliness is an inbuilt function and not a matter of current circumstances." Hmmm...

July 7th, 2005

My China Photo Travel Guide has finally got off the ground starting with a full description of how to best arrange a photographic trip to/in Siguniangshan (Four Girl Mountain) in Sichuan Province. Many more places will follow in the nearest future.

Comments? Suggestions? Critique? All will be highly appreciated—drop me a line!

July 4th, 2005

I am a guy who prefers quality to quantity on any given day. For that very reason I decided to take the best pictures from the recent trip to Huizhou(徽州)and combine them with some of the pictures of the place that I took in February. I hope that this reshuffling has resulted in a better presentation of the place—please have a look (pictures no. 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11 were taken during the last trip with a Hasselblad 503cw, the 80mm lens and Fuji Velvia 100F).

Picture no. 3 is currently featured on the home page. The pond in the photograph is roughly 1200 square meters and the buildings surrounding it were illuminated only by one small light–bulb and very weak moonlight—it took twenty two minutes to capture what you see in the photo (the time was spent enjoying a couple of beers while sitting on the curb talking to my friend ). Unfortunately, the picture is not big enough to see star trails in the sky...

June 24th, 2005

Two obvious and huge advantages of the digital capture over film are the ability to immediately review results and a significantly faster workflow. With digital files all post–processing can be finished literally within a couple of hours upon your return from a trip; with film, you have to go to a lab and then scan. It is great if your favourite pro lab is near where you live and you also own a dedicated film scanner. In my case, however, I have to go to two different places to process film and then scan it. Hopefully I will be able to acquire a medium format scanner before too long, which will significantly speed up my film workflow.

The point of the little chit–chat above is that all digital files from the recent trips were processed a long time ago—I have posted one of the photographs here. On the other hand, while my slides have already returned from the lab (nothing beats viewing 6X6 Velvia transparencies on a light–table!) scanning is going to take a little bit longer. Obviously, digital convenience goes a long way. That said, though, I have to emphasize that I do not intend stopping using slide film for my important and art work.

June 20th, 2005

Nikon D70s with the 17–35mm f/2.8 lens

I spent last weekend photographing in Huizhou area where I photographed previously in February. It was a very nice and relaxing trip and I came back with several nice photographs. Hopefully I will be able to post some of the pictures from the recent trips in the nearest future. Meanwhile, I have posted a brief review of the Hasselblad CFE 80mm f/2.8 lens to show what is so good about Carl Zeiss lenses.

June 15th, 2005

Quite interestingly and somewhat unexpectedly, the price of the Nikon F6 has recently dropped quite significantly—a new body can now be bought for USD1670 (RMB13800) in China.

June 13th, 2005

One more note on the Nikon D70s' drawbacks—the body is made of plastic and built to a price point. This, of course, is perfectly fine for a camera of this level and irregular amateur use. However, quality of construction starts seriously pushing its limits when you mount pro–quality lenses or use the camera in imperfect conditions on a more regular basis. Using heavier lenses (e.g., the 70–200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom) inevitably requires a firmer grip on the camera, which puts much more pressure on the CF card compartment door (that is where your thumb falls). As a result, the door starts moving in place and creaking slightly when you handle the camera. I do not think it is likely to break but it does not inspire confidence either. Apart from this, the back panel creaks faintly when I press the DELETE bottom (this might be the case with my sample only, though). Also, I somehow managed to slightly scratch the outer part of the handgrip which revealed the cheap materials it is made of. Otherwise, though, it is a great camera for its intended use and I love it . That said, where is that D100 replacement?

June 11th, 2005

One of my best mates, Thomas Gleave, and I have just undertook a trip to Sichuan Province(四川省). We spent a couple of days hanging out in Chengdu(成都)and three days in Siguniangshan (Four Girl Mountain, 四姑娘山—despite of what I wrote on May 3rd. It was a brilliant and rewarding endeavor rich in many aspects ranging from photography to physical exercise and just fun. Upon my suggestion Tom has expressed his wish to share his impressions in a short essay which I hope I will be able to supplement with some of the photographs taken during the trip. I also hope to finally get my China Photo Travel Guide project off the ground starting with Siguniangshan. Meanwhile, home page photograph has been updated with one of the pictures from the trip.

May 29th, 2005

AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lens review has been updated to reflect on how the lens behaves on a DSLR with a 1.5X crop factor. It was fun and I intend to do the same with the rest of my Nikkors.

May 28th, 2005

Mamiya 7II review has been posted. I wrote earlier that the camera is a very specialized tool—read the review to see what I meant by that.

May 22nd, 2005

Yesterday there was a regular (monthly) segregation of the Russian community of Shanghai. Some of the photographs from the gathering can temporarily be found here.

I photographed the event with the new Nikon D70s, the 17–35mm f/2.8 lens and an SB–800 flashlight. As you most likely already know, the D70s is a very capable camera—it is very responsive and boasts an impressive amount of features in a very light body at a very reasonable price. I am happy to report that the equipment combination I used yesterday worked incredibly well. However, the following two—less enthusiastic—aspects drew my attention during the session:

  • There is no direct indication of the current ISO setting either in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen on the top panel of the camera (unless ISO is set to AUTO, in which case ISO AUTO is displayed). Most photographers use the lowest ISO setting possible and switch to higher settings only when ambient light dictates so. When you switch to a higher ISO setting, though, it is very easy to forget to switch back. Yesterday my last shot was taken at ISO1600 and I, quite predictably, forgot to switch ISO setting back to 200. This morning, the only thing that made me realize that ISO was set to 1600 was that when I picked the camera up the exposure at what I thought was ISO200 seemed way off. Had the camera been set to, say, ISO400, I would not have realized this as the difference in exposure would not have been so drastic. Since LCD screens and viewfinder displays have fixed architecture, this obviously cannot be changed by a firmware update. (Quite interestingly, there is a "beep" on/off indicator on the LCD screen, though—as if most people never believe their ears and always need a visual confirmation of the "beep" sound .)

  • As far as image quality is concerned, I often prefer using the RAW + JPG mode when photographing social events. In this mode two files are written for every shot—one in RAW (Nikon NEF) format and one in JPG. This allows me to immediately email and/or publish JPG files and have better quality files (NEF) to print photographs if necessary. In RAW + JPG mode, however, the D70s automatically applies Large size (3008X2000 pixels) and Basic quality settings to JPG files. I do appreciate that asking to be able to choose size and quality of JPG files in the RAW + JPG mode is probably a bit too much considering the class of the camera, but who on earth would want to have a huge file of poor quality? If the size/quality combination has to be fixed, I most certainly would prefer having a smaller JPG file of better quality. Although this can be fixed with a firmware update, I seriously doubt that Nikon is going to go down this path—they are likely to suggest upgrading to the D2X (does it actually allow to set size and quality of JPG files in the RAW + JPG mode ?).

May 20th, 2005

I had a major technical problem caused by a row of unfortunate coincidences and the Web site was not available for the last two weeks. I am sorry for any inconvenience this might have caused. Meanwhile, the F6 review has been updated—scroll down to the end of it to see what my further experience with the camera has revealed.

May 3rd, 2005

So, back to Siguniangshan Mountain. My original plan was to depict the place at a length; however, one thing made me lose all possible interest in doing so—I was quite disappointed in the local people (mostly ethnic minority Zang). They try to rip you off every single time you spend your money; they constantly try to sell you services you do not need or have already used (e.g., hiring a guide or a horse). Potentially more dangerous, many of them try to mislead you regarding where to go, what to see and for how long with the sole purpose of making money on you. On a couple of occasions they even became quite hostile and called me names when I said (politely) that I did not need any of the services I was being offered. Now, I do understand that all those people need to make a living; however, I very much hope that they will learn doing it in a more civilized way. Considering the fact that it takes a long time to educate a people, their behaviour is unlikely to change immediately. The only advice I can give is plan the trip well, follow your schedule, and concentrate on what you are there for—stunning scenery and superb outdoor experience.

Having lost interest in writing about the place, I decided to simply mix some of the photographs from the trip with some thoughts that occurred to me later. This resulted in a short essay with photography called Steppenwolf Photographer—your comments are welcome and will be appreciated.

April 30th, 2005

Just thought would change the home page photograph while I am working on all the other stuff...

April 13th, 2005

Another good thing about business trips is that sometimes they take you to places that you normally find difficult going to without sufficient intent and preparation. My last business trip took me to Chengdu(成都)and one of the greatest aspects of being there is that there is an enormous number of exceptionally beautiful places around the city and in the province that one has to go to. My boss was kind enough (which he always is) to allow me to take several days off right after dealing with all business–related matters and, after considering my options, I decided to go to Siguniangshan Mountain(四姑娘山).

As expected, the scenery was absolutely stunning (see current home page photograph) despite the fact that it was not the best time of the year to visit the place. A positive side to the wrong timing was that the place was almost for me alone to explore (in four days I spent in the mountains I came across only a dozen of other tourists). There were several not entirely pleasant situations when dealing with locals but none of them spoiled the trip and I look forward to visiting the place again—probably in October.

This time I photographed with two systems. A Mamiya 7II with the 80mm lens was my main camera and a Nikon F6 with the 17–35 and 70–200 lenses was used for super wide–angle and telephoto as well as casual shots. Quite a few times the F6 was also used as a spot meter. In the end, I shot only four films with the F6 while burning through fifteen rolls of 120 film with the Mamiya. No need to say that photographs printed from the huge slides produced by the Mamiya are of fantastic quality; that said, though, I have to note that the camera is a very specialized tool with quite a few limitations. More on that later.

My guide and his horse (as well as my Mamiya 7II on tripod) were waiting for me
while I was running around looking for a better spot to photograph Siguniangshan Mountain at sunrise.
At the beginning of a two–day journey in Haizi Valley, about 3600 meters above sea level

Of course, I will be posting photographs and my sentiment from the trip at a later point. This is likely to take me some time, though, as I am off to England on business for about ten days. From mountains not far from Tibet to a typical English town—quite a bit of a change, would not you say ?

March 19th, 2005

Recently I received a couple of emails asking about the best places to process slide film in Beijing. I have listed the laboratories that I use here.

March 18th, 2005

One of the things I like about business trips is that evenings normally allow me some time to work on the Web site (after enjoying a couple of pints, of course ). I have finally had the time to finish and post a short essay and photography named Huizhou (徽州)– ancient China today. Also, Where to buy photo equipment and film in China has been updated (an address in Guangzhou has been added).

February 23rd, 2005

At long last, Bitches Brew @ The Yellow Mountain has been posted. Photographs from Huizhou(徽州)will be posted separately later—please do check in in a while .

February 15th, 2005

I have just returned from what turned out a six–day trip, which was absolutely brilliant. I got to see and photograph some unbelievably gorgeous scenery, very unique cultural heritage and, among it all, the ancient allies and bamboo forest where some of the scenes of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (卧虎藏龙)" were shot. I also got to know quite a few interesting and kind people. And, of course, I learned a couple of things here and there on the way. In one word, it was one of the most rewarding experiences that I can imagine.

At times it was a pretty rough ride, though. On the first day I had to hike for six hours in the mountains under heavy rain and in thick mist. The second day saw me photographing in heavy snow. When I got to Huizhou(徽州)area, it turned out that I (and, for that matter, any foreigner) needed a special visa to visit the region. Finally, getting back to Shanghai was a bit of a wide gamble as a zillion of Chinese people were traveling back from the Chinese New Year holiday and all imaginable means of transportation were seriously stretched.

All my equipment and the F6 in particular saw some serious abuse despite the fact that I tried to protect it from extreme weather conditions (very dense mist, rain and snow) as well as I possibly could. This was one of those occasions when you comprehend why spending extra money on pro–level gear is entirely justified. I am glad to report that the F6 and all my lenses held their own and my F100 stayed at the hotel all the time.

I shot twenty one rolls of Fuji Provia 100F in five days and brought back several portfolio–grade images (current home page photograph is one of the nominees). I have to admit that I did quite a lot of bracketing (in difficult lighting conditions) and "sketching", though. Why? See point no. three here. At any rate, I will be posting more photographs from the trip after I finish processing and analyzing all the slides.

February 8th, 2005

I am leaving for the Yellow Mountain (Anhui Province, China) tonight. I have no idea how long I will be there as everything to a great extent depends on weather conditions. It is raining down there at the moment, which is a mixed bag. The bad news is that rain, normally, is not the ideal state of affairs for photography (especially considering the fact that I was expecting to photograph the Yellow Mountain in snow); the good news is that there bound to be lots of interesting moments and light once the rain stops.

On the way back I am planning to spend a couple of days photographing in Huizhou (徽州)—an area not far from the Yellow Mountain consisting of several small villages which were established more than eight hundred years ago and still largely preserve architectural styles and atmosphere of Ming and Qing Dynasties. This, without a doubt, is one of the best destinations for cultural photography in China. Judging by the pictures of the place that I have seen, it is going to be a very stimulating photographic endeavor.

I will be photographing with the F6 and one of the things that I have given a lot of consideration while preparing for the trip is whether to take a backup body. I expect to encounter rain, snow and sub–zero temperatures, so bringing an extra body just in case makes perfect sense. However, my previous experience there indicates that I will be hiking (and, of course, carrying all the gear) at least ten miles a day for several days in a row as I will have to be going back and forth between relatively remote peaks. Due to these factors, I have decided to take my F100 along but I will be leaving it at the hotel all the time. The F6 is supposed to be the camera for harsh weather conditions, so I should be pretty safe with it. And shall it have any problems, I will lose only a couple of hours—not the whole trip—going back to the hotel to pick up the F100.

Will let you know how it all goes once I return—wish me good luck!

February 2nd, 2005

Things have been very hectic lately and my review of the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) is still underway. I meanwhile am updating home page photo, which actually shows that CLS works magic not only in the brochures but in real life, too.

First light of the year 2005

Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) and SB–800 ensure proper exposure
for background and a very subtle fill–flash for the main subject

January 13th, 2005

AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lens review has been rewritten. I am also currently working on a review of the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) and SB–800 flashlight —stay tuned!

January 9th, 2005

My friends and I spent New Year's Eve in a small village in mountains near Beijing, China. I made a determination to get up before dawn to catch first light despite all the drinks and fun that we had. I have to admit that getting up very early and into the cold (it was –10C outside) was quite difficult but I was rewarded with beautiful light—in fact, first light of the year 2005.

First light of the year 2005

First light of the year 2005

First light of the year 2005

The moon cradled by mountains

Both pictures were taken with the Nikon F6 and Fuji Provia 100F slide film (the first one with the 17–35mm f/2.8 lens, the second with the 70–200mm f/2.8 zoom).

January 6th, 2005

Home page photograph has been updated. Apart from this, last year's What's New content has been moved to a separate page (see the link below). Please allow me to remind you that the two major updates made in the end of 2004 were a short essay and photography Alternative approaches in photography—Zhouzhuang, take two and a review of the Nikon F6.

Previous What's New pages: 2004 2003