Sled dogs in Longyearbyen, Svalbard


Meet Lumi, a four months old female in training.

Lumi
Beautiful 4 month old female, in training.

Do not despair, my animal lover friends. She is a happy puppy. Her enclosure is huge, there are other dogs in training and she is very much loved. I was proudly invited by the caretaker to meet her.

The day we went for the sled dog ride, my heart sank when I saw each one chained to their little houses. I really wanted the whole thing to be over and get out of there. DO NOT JUDGE.
These dogs, the majority of them mixed, are working dogs. Nothing wrong with that, I worked all my life and nobody frowned upon that. They are athletes in a way, very strong, (each one can roughly pull 60kg ) and are a very important part of the Arctic life.
A dog that would jump to kiss you and gives you belly IS NOT and abused dog. They are very well fed, their health very much taken care of (if one is sick or in any trouble, the get to be in the main shack and walked around for their bodily needs as any other loved pet).
The care takers know every dog by name, and they are all animal lovers. You couldn’t do the job otherwise.
They get go ride at least once a day and I’m a witness they love it! Their joy is intoxicating.
I visited three kennels and got enough dog love for the rest of the year

Husky love
This beautiful girl was taking a Sunday morning stroll with her family. A bit more relaxed than the one at the kennel, she didn’t jump at me, but accepted and corresponded to my affection.


On our ride with Svalbard Huskies, one of the guides was a beautiful girl from Seattle. She can tell each of the hundred dogs apart and by name.

After they were harnessed, with the riders help, who get to learn, we went on our way. Six dogs to each sled (with wheels for the summer), two guides and four general workers make each team. Guides concentrate in the route which they know by heart and the rest just pull merrily.
We carry empty dishes (I was trying to figure that out) and stop by the clean streams for give them water. We stopped twice for water and a third time by a mine just so we could see it. They did not care for that stop and were hauling to get going LOL


When they got overheated, the whole team went to the side stream of water, took a quick and fun dip and came up to the road. Smart puppies.
We also saw many locals walking their dogs and “parking” them outside the business they were visiting. Got to “talk” yo many of them. I particularly remember “Monster”, with beautiful blue eyes and the female we saw the last day, who shed half her fur into my clothes.

Dogs are the only pet allowed in Svalbard, although the Russians have managed to illegally import some felines into Barensburg, the mining community across from Longyeabyen. Since they are isolated, they are contained there.

Dog parking
Sign outside the Radisson Blue Polar Hotel. It was common to see dogs “parked” outside businesses. All patient and well behaved.


Dogs are happy in Longyearbyen, both as home pets and as working dogs.

Husky close up
This beauty was, as most of them were, very friendly and loving. Difficult to get a good pic since they are so active. Wet kisses galore!
Svalbard Husky
One of the dogs at the kennel.

Sony a7II review, by Alfred Forns


Sony just released their new family member in the mirrorless full frame family. First came the a7, followed by the a7r and now the a7II. Each being different and serving a particular need.

Adjusting to this new camera was easy since we had the a7r, purchased initially as a back up to the Leica M, then we started liking its potential, huge files and great quality. We did not keep the r model, switching to the a7s due to its fantastic ISO performance.
Fabs has an image taken at just over 100,00 ISO that needs to be seen to believe and I have one from the Hunted House at Disney, 64,000, that looks normal. Amazing.

Here comes the new family member, a7II, we got intrigued with the 5-axis stabilization plus 24 MP sensor and decided to give it a try. On the first time out we were not surprised. Well, there was one big surprise which was unexpected: ISO performance was much better than we thought. I have lots of 4000 and more that show little noise and good quality. Will be shooting many more images and posting results but with the two initial session, we could see it is a winner.

The exciting part is being able to use the Leica lenses. It does have some native lenses producing high quality images, all by Zeiss. The 55 f/ 1.8 is one of the sharpest around and the test reviews rank it among the best in the class. The 35 f/2.8 is also a great performer and worth adding to the collection. The 16-35 f/ 4.0 is also very sharp and has a close up focus capability, allowing interesting images with close up perspective, unique. Have not used myself, but have seen reports from the 24-70 f/2.8 and they do not match the quality of the just mentioned. I will probably rent one for a week and try it myself, it is a practical focal length.

Having the stabilization in camera, means all lenses will be stabilized and the system works well. My preliminary images taken at one second with the 16-35 have produced some critically sharp images. Shooting at ¼ second is routine with decent hand holding technique. As mentioned before it’s a perfect back up for the Leica M if you can’t have a spare M!!

The new camera is slightly different than the previous, being heavier, larger grip, top bottoms more ergonomically placed and a very nice dark finish. For using Sony as a system, I would go for this new one paired with the a7s, lethal combination.
By the way, one warning regarding this new offering, it will cause some problems with third party extreme wide angle lenses. The a7s sensor solved that problem and was usable with all including the Voigtlander 12mm full frame. You will find some light fall off on the corners which is no problem and also some purple fringing around the periphery but not as noticeable as the a7r model. This is easily corrected with an Adobe plug-in called Flat field converter. Easy to use, but one more step during processing.

Highly recommend this new camera, mirrorless is the way to go, they are small, good performers and will be taking over the camera sales yearly until being the dominant factor. Presently, they are not as good in the autofocus performance but this new offering is narrowing the gap considerably. It has 117-point phase-detection AF system with 25 point contrast-detection system being capable of capturing action. I have noticed the increase AF speed over the others but not tested the performance with tough/fast moving subjects.

Will be posting lots of image samples after our next shoot which should give you a visual representation of what this jewel is capable of doing.
All images are out of camera, opened with Adobe dng converter 8.7.1, no noise reduction, adjustments, and if you click on them, you will get the full resolution version, with our permission to download and edit them as trial.

Sony a7II, 16-35 Vario Tessar f/4, 1/50, ISO 6400 Out of camera.
Sony a7II, 16-35 Vario Tessar
f/4, 1/50, ISO 6400
Out of camera.

Sony a7II, 16-35 Vario Tessar f/4, 1/60, ISO 4000 Out of camera, opened with Adobe dng converter 8.7.1
Sony a7II, 16-35 Vario Tessar
f/4, 1/60, ISO 4000
Out of camera, opened with Adobe dng converter 8.7.1

Sony a7II, Sony 16-35 Vario Tessar (by Zeiss) f/4, 1/60, ISO 200
Sony a7II, Sony 16-35 Vario Tessar (by Zeiss)
f/4, 1/60, ISO 200

Sony a7II, Sony 16-35/4 Vario-Tessar f/4, 1/40, ISO 6400 Out of camera, opened with Adobe dng converter 8.7.1
Sony a7II, Sony 16-35/4 Vario-Tessar
f/4, 1/40, ISO 6400
Out of camera, opened with Adobe dng converter 8.7.1

Sony a7II, Sony 16-35/4 Vario-Tessar f/4, f/4, 1/60, ISO 5000 opened with Adobe dng converter 8.7.1 Out of camera, no noise reduction, adjustments.
Sony a7II, Sony 16-35/4 Vario-Tessar f/4, f/4, 1/60, ISO 5000
opened with Adobe dng converter 8.7.1
Out of camera, no noise reduction, adjustments.

Sony a7II, Sony 16-35/4, Vario-Tessar f/4, 1/60, ISO 5000. Metadata included in picture. Full size, out of camera, converted with Adobe dng converter 8.7.1
Sony a7II, Sony 16-35/4, Vario-Tessar f/4, 1/60, ISO 5000.
Metadata included in picture. Full size, out of camera, converted with Adobe dng converter 8.7.1

Leica D-Lux 6 visits the train museum.


I don’t usually carry a point and shoot to the field trips, either the full garb or no camera at all so I can concentrate in others, but today I made and exception because I wanted to try my D-Lux without the electronic viewfinder and no tripod. I’m not a tripod lover and I’m enjoying traveling light. The reason for not using the EVF is the tight camera bag where I’d like to keep the D-Lux, to be on my purse at all times.

Leica D-lux 6, f/2, 1/20, ISO 400
Leica D-lux 6, f/2, 1/20, ISO 400

I must admit I missed the EVF on a couple of occasions because of the angles of captures, and given the darkness indoors in the museum, I could have used the little tripod. But you can’t win them all and other that the heat, the day was great.
1/13 & f/4, ISO 400
1/13 & f/4, ISO 400

The D-Lux performs quite nicely, although it is not in the same league as the M type 240. If you accept that, it is a veery convenient and small cam that can save the day if you don’t want to carry a lot of stuff.
1/160, f/4, ISO 80 (my hand and camera's shadow over the rusty can)
1/160, f/4, ISO 80 (my hand and camera’s shadow over the rusty can)

It has a Leica lens (of course), 24 to 90, that can be set in steps, to 24, 28, 35, 50, 70 and 90 and that is the way I prefer to keep it, since I’m trying to stay away from the comforts of zooms.
1/50, f/4, ISO 400
1/50, f/4, ISO 400

It has a built in .9 (three stops) neutral density that you can use if it’s too bright or if you want to to some slow panning. It is small yet no credit card size, which makes it comfortable in your hands.
It has 12 MG, but it depends on the ratio of picture you choose.
1/25 f/5.6, ISO 400
1/25 f/5.6, ISO 400

I have seen beautiful prints 20×30 made with this camera, not that I’m going to print that big, but it’s nice to know that it can hold it.
1/125, f/4, ISO 320
1/125, f/4, ISO 320

Although my preferred camera is the M, this little jewel, which BTW can be very affordable, can be in my purse all the time and allow me to take pictures when I was not planning to. OH, it has AF and takes video.
You can check one or any other on the free Leica walk on September 20th, Friday, out of the Leica Store. RSVP required, email info@leicastoremiami.com
1/50, f/5.6, ISO 400
1/50, f/5.6, ISO 400

You can click on images to see a larger version. Our images are watermarked and protected with Digimark.
1/100, f/4, ISO 80
1/100, f/4, ISO 80

1/125, f/1.4, ISO 80
1/125, f/1.4, ISO 80

1/30, f5.6, ISO 400
1/30, f5.6, ISO 400

Leica Monochrom


 

The only way to know if a Monochrom is worth it for you is trying it. No amount of reading will be able to

Make your decision easy…… so I went down to the Leica Store and got one for using overnight.   Sweet.

Nothing but good vibes at the  store and  Kirsten and Peter could not be nicer.

 

First, test it at Miracle Mile with a 50 Summilux, then to  the Grove with the Noctilux for nighttime shooting.

Got enough images to get a feel for what the camera could do. First obvious difference is the clean ISO,

10,000 is usable with work. For general shooting would set to 3200 without having to worry about

noise, hardly any at that setting.   Made images thought to be impossible before (action wise).

 

50mm Noctilus f/0.95, 1/125, ISO 10,000
50mm Noctilus f/0.95, 1/125, ISO 10,000

The Monochrom files are much better than the M9 but only marginally better than the M type 240.   Still

Feel there is enough different to make it worth the effort.   The sharpness produced at high ISO needs to

Be seen to believe.

 

Will post some images from the two shoots and will be posting lots more in the very near future.

90mm f/4 Macro Elmar. F/11, 1/125, ISO 800
90mm f/4 Macro Elmar. F/11, 1/125, ISO 800

 

50mm Noctilux f/0.95, 1/60, ISO 1250
50mm Noctilux f/0.95, 1/60, ISO 1250
50mm Noctilux @ f/2, 1/125, ISO 320
50mm Noctilux @ f/2, 1/125, ISO 320
50mm Noc  f 1.4  1/90 sec  ISO 1600
50mm Noc f 1.4 1/90 sec ISO 1600
50mm Noc  f 0.95   1/125 sec  ISO 320
50mm Noc f 0.95 1/125 sec ISO 320

 

 

 

 

Sony NEX-7 Review


Recently, I have been looking for something other than bird photography, and started researching available cameras. A normal DSLR like the Canon 5DIII would be a good choice, but I feel it is too large and bulky for traveling. Large lenses for candids are counterproductive, since people tend to shy away.

 

After much digging, I came up with the Sony NEX-7 which I find to be a jewel.   It has 24.3 MP, APS-C sensor, no mirror, ISO to 16,000 (fully usable), Electronic viewfinder, lots of in camera features, excellent ergonomics and superb quality. Articulated LCD and capable of shooting 12 frames per second.  Panorama and HDR features, although these only in jpg format. Add some high quality lenses and you will see what I mean.Image

Sigma 105mm f 2.8 EX DG OS HSM    f 2.8  1/3200 sec  ISO 800  (157 equivalent)  hand held.

The camera is small but easy to hold in your hand, takes little getting used to. In no time, you will be able to get to all controls rapidly without effort.  The camera is complex, but so is every other camera in the market, so reading the manual and spending time with it will pay dividends in the field. It is frustrating trying to find a setting having to scroll through all the menus.

 Image

 

Image made hand held  Sony 18-200  3.5 6.3   f 6.3  1/50  ISO 200  @  142 (214 equivalent)
Shooting wide open and at a slow shutter speed for showing the sharpness and stabilization performance.
Image100% crop of previous image, no sharpening applied.

The NEX-7 has its own E Mount Sony lenses but is also able to use just about any other lens with an adapter. Interesting too, that the Sony adapter for the Alpha lenses improves the AF !!!! .The camera has a phase detection AF vs contrast in DSLRs, each has advantages and disadvantages. Face AF is not very good for fast action like birds if flight, contrast has it by a mile, however, this system has an electronic viewfinder, with a choice of live histogram or a level, which is amazing. First of all you can review the image on the viewfinder, no need to take your eyes away and look at the LCD if you want to chimp, it will be discrete :).   You can also change all settings looking into the viewfinder. Going back to the converter for using the Alpha lenses, the converted uses both face and contrast for AF functioning and it makes it faster. Still, not in the same league as the pure contrast AF systems.    

Image

Sony 18-200  3.5-6.3     f 13  4.0 sec  ISO 100    at 18mm (27 equivalent)

I did my AF testing for flight with probably the worst lens I could use but it was the only available, the 105 Sigma macro. By the way, for macro I have been using Sigma lenses both when I was with Nikon and Canon, We like like the lenses and its the only third party lens we use. With the macro lens and converter, I was able to obtain some razor sharp flight images pre-focusing and being extra careful, without the converter and the other E lenses, It was just about impossible.   Only got one, shown below.

Image

 Sony 18-200  f 6.3  1/1600  ISO 400
Made the best with harsh light conditions.

The lens line-up for this camera is superb. I would caution from buying the smaller, black 18-200, it seems to be a Tamron with a Sony label.   There is another 18-200 made by Sony (silver), a bit heavier (2 oz) and thicker, which is sharp. Not sure if we had two bad samples of the black lens but performance was not acceptable. The Sony lens was designed for their high end video cameras and has image stabilization for both still and video, the other just for stills. Price difference is about fifty dollars.

ImageSony 10-18, @ 18mm. f/4, 1″, ISO 100, tripod mounted.

First lens to buy would be the 18-200 and then you go according to need.   I want fast lenses for low light so we went with the Zeiss 24 1.8, Sony 50 1.8 and Sony 10-18, f 4.0. The 24 is the crowning jewel. Michael Reichmann raves about the lens and compares to the Leica Sumilux 24!. One amazing statement, be sure to read his reviews in Luminous Landscape for an eye opener!

 The wide angle zoom is amazing, since its image stabilized, producing sharp images at low shutter speeds even hand held.  The 50 1.8 is an obvious choice since the cost is not that high and the performance remarkable. My wife and I have tried and shot thousands of images during two trips to the House of the Mouse (Disney) and have been impressed. Some sample images including a couple at a ridiculously high ISO, taken by my wife and I.Image

Straight out of the camera with no processing   Sony 50 1.8    f 1.8   1/100 sec  ISO 16,000

Another good lens choice would be Leica.   Lenses are small and excellent performers, you set the f stop on the lens so no complicated adapter is needed .. they are manual focus only, though. For Canon, Nikon etc you need the latest adapter so the camera communicates with the lens, otherwise the lens would default to wide open.

 Image

Sony 18-200  f 22  1/4 sec  ISO 100 @ 43 mm  (equivalent 64)
Forgot my ND !!!
 

One safe way to try out this camera would be renting. Lots of places to rent online for very little and there is nothing like a hands on experience. First, download the online manual, to be familiar before the camera arrives.  After trying I know you will not be disappointed.

 Image

Sony 10-18mm @10mm, in-camera HDR with 6 Ev range, 3 images, f/22, ISO 1600, tripod mounted. Sony IR remote.