Hello, My Name is Jesse and I have a problem…

Hello, my name is Jesse, I suffer from GAS but itís been over 6 months since my last purchase. Itís been a hard road, but Iím fighting, one day at a time. I know Iíll never be free of GAS, but Iím finally controlling it, instead of letting it control me.

For those of you new to the group, GAS or Gear Acquisition Syndrome, is an epidemic sweeping the photographic community, youíre not alone in this. Although it started in a very small subset of the population, mostly professionals and collectors, it has spread into the general populace at a staggering rate. Besides the fact that cameras are awesome, as electronics have become the de facto status symbols of our generation the urge to have bigger, better, more than our friends and neighbours is increasing. This creates a fertile breeding ground for GAS. GAS is highly infectious, highly contagious, expensive to treat and will lead to many hours of internet browsing. Although not sexually transmitted, it can be repellent to non-sufferers. Continue reading “Hello, My Name is Jesse and I have a problem…”


What’s In The Bag: Voigtlander 50mm f1.5 Nokton

After almost a decade of shooting rangefinders on a regular basis, I’ve gone through my share of 50mm lenses. My first was a junker Russian copy of the WWII era Zeiss Sonnar, a good little performer but not terribly sharp. Next came a couple older Leica’s, an Elmar and a Summar; great lenses but still not quite what I was looking for. I really needed speed in a 50mm as I use it almost exclusively at night; f2 is the standard “fast” rangefinder 50mm aperture, going faster usually means forking out a lot more money… then along came Voigtlander. Continue reading “What’s In The Bag: Voigtlander 50mm f1.5 Nokton”


The Traveling Photographer: What’s In Your Bag?

Every time I travel I end up taking way more than I need, lugging it around and cursing the day I thought I needed all this gear; but camera gear’s like rental car insurance, I’d rather have it and not need it, not need it but don’t have it. I think I’ve finally paired my travel camera bag down to just the essentials, it’s still a bloated list, but it’s the least amount of gear my “what if I need it” mind can handle. †I used to bring my DSLR rig on most trips, but my back just couldn’t hack it, it’s not a gear bag you want to walk any length of time with and still enjoy yourself. †With the addition of the Nex 3 to my rangefinder kit, I have the flexibility of digital with the compactness of my Leica gear.

Major Gear:


I usually have one of the wide angles on the Nex leaving the 35mm and 50mm lenses on the Leica. †The XA is a great backup film camera, it’s really small, really sharp and can fit in any pocket. †I picked the Asus 1215P because it’s one of the few netbooks with 1024×768 resolution; I can’t stress how important this is if you intend to use Photoshop CS3 or newer on your trip. †The more recent versions of Photoshop have a really annoying “feature”; some of the most important windows like the Camera Raw dialog and the Save As window either render with buttons off screen or not at all if your screen is smaller than 768 pixels tall. †The Leicatime leather neck straps are the most†comfortable†and stylish straps I’ve ever used. †And while not strictly photo gear, the Kobo e-reader now comes with me everywhere, especially on vacation. †One constant no matter where you travel is waiting. †You’re going to wait for hours at various airports and transit stations, wait in line for hotels, attractions, food… you’re going to spend a good chunk of your vacation with nothing to do and always having hundreds of books at the push of a button really helps.

I usually end up filling up any nooks and crannies left in my photo bag with any gadget that will still fit, but that’s the important stuff. †What’s in your travelling gear bag?


England Trip 2011: Round Two

I’m slowly going through all the thousands of photos I took on my spring trip to London. As I said in my previous England post, while I brought a bunch of film gear on the trip, I ended up using my Sony Nex 3 for most of the trip. As much as I was impressed with the camera it really made me realize how much my mindset changes depending on what I’m shooting with. When I’m shooting film I’m much more careful with each shot. I take my time framing, judging exposure and I’m much more reluctant to squeeze off a shot at just anything. My keeper rate when shooting film is definitely much higher. Out of a 36 shot roll I’m usually happy with roughly half the frames and will get at least 2-3 really nice shots.

Comparing that to shooting digital, I get the same number of keepers from a full 8 gig card with hundreds of shots on it. I’m much more trigger happy with digital and quite a bit sloppier with framing and exposure because I don’t have that little voice in the back of my head saying “That picture’s going to cost you $0.25 to take, and you only have 10 more shots on the roll”. On the plus side though, I find digital does produce more dynamic and unusual shots because I’m more willing to take risks on subjects I wouldn’t take the chance of wasting a frame of film on. The nightmare begins when I get home after a two week trip with 3000+ images to go through.

I’m about half way through now, I still have all of Iceland to go through but they’re coming. I’m definitely going to have to make a second pass at these shots though in about six months time. Time enough to get some distance from the subject matter.

On a different note, a lot of cool stuff has been going on in Ottawa lately, stay tuned for pics from Fringe Festival, Roller Derby and more from the world of Canadian Music.


Grafea Camera Bag Shoot

Amidst the craziness of Ottawa Fashion Week I snuck in a shoot with Tania for Grafea London. Grafea are the creators of some of the most gorgeous and affordable leather bags, briefs and purses I’ve ever seen. I wrote a review for their newest camera bag, the Grafea PHOTO a few months ago and recently they approached me to do a shoot for the bag.

I wanted to do an outdoor shoot, but Ottawa has not been very accommodating weather wise. It’s been either too cold, too sunny or too rainy every time I tried to put the shoot together, finally we decided to just go for it, regardless of the weather and see what happens. This particular day it was blindingly sunny and deceptively cold. We ended up having to do the shoot in whatever shade we could find. It turned into a complete run and gun, eight locations and four hundred plus shots in just under an hour.

Sometimes I actually prefer this method as it keeps you from over thinking things. You can have a great plan with the perfect location and somehow when it’s time to shoot there just isn’t that magic you pictured in your mind. By running from location to location and shooting a minimal number of shots per site you get a great variety to work with afterwards and avoid the

“200 shots of the exact same thing” syndrome that seems to have taken over the digital workflow. One of my least favorite things that digital has given me, hours sorting through what’s essentially the same photo to pick out the best shot. It also keeps the model fresh and spontaneous, over all I think it worked out well in this case.

You can see the rest of the Grafea Camera Bag Shoot on my Flickr. Stay tuned, as some of the shots are currently up on Grafea’s Blog and some will soon be included on their website as well. Many thanks to Tania, she was great to work with as always.


Grafea PHOTO Camera Bag Review

About two years ago, after a long and exhaustive search, I finally found the perfect camera bag for my rangefinder kit from a company called Grafea out of the UK. Well last week Grafea was kind enough to send me a sample of their newest camera bag to review: the Grafea PHOTO. It’s very similar to their previous bags with one very important addition, a padded and removable insert. The bag pictured in this review is their “Caramel” color but I’ve been told it will be available in dark brown and black very soon.

My original Grafea bag has been on my shoulder almost every day since I bought it, so I had pretty high hopes and equally high expectations from this new bag. It’s slightly taller but with slightly less room back to front, roughly the same internal volume. I was excited about the added height as there are a few items in my kit that where a bit too tall for my previous bag; my netbook for one, it would fit but protruded a bit above the top. It has the same side pockets and zippered back pockets as the original camera bags. The stitching and construction is great, and it’s made from the the same type of high quality leather as my old bag. I was a bit disappointed when I first picked up the bag as the leather felt stiffer than my old one, but on reflection that’s not surprising; it’s the difference between a brand new baseball glove and one that you’ve been using for years that’s become an extension of your hand. Like any quality leather product it’s going to take some breaking in, I’d just forgotten the mileage I’ve put on my original bag. One thing this has made me realize though, is that while all my other camera bags are looking worse for wear after even occasional use, my Grafea bag looks better and better as time goes on, acquiring the character you expect from well used leather. Continue reading “Grafea PHOTO Camera Bag Review”


Photography Is Not A Crime

This will be a bit of a departure from my usual style of post, but I feel the need to rant a bit. I have many photographer friends in other countries that complain about the harassment and abuse they receive for merely carrying a camera in public, mostly in the US and UK. There’s a British blog, Not A Crime, that documents this rather well and it’s spawned many others from other countries. Post 9/11 there seems to be an ever increasing animosity towards photographers, especially in the more draconian police states that believe fear is the best way to control the populace all the while preaching about truth, justice and freedom.

Here in Canada I’ve been happily free from this kind of abuse, most of the time. Today I was walking around and was confronted by two different people in the span on 10 minutes. I wasn’t even taking a picture at the time, just walking down the street with a camera around my neck. The first person, a older woman, got right up in my face asking if I’d taken her picture… what was I doing with the pictures I took… and so on. On a side note, I never take a close up portrait of someone without asking, but this is purely a courtesy, not because it’s against the law. The second was a man about my age who started getting really loud and angry yelling “did you take pictures of my kids! I’m gunna call the cops you freak”… his kids were nowhere to be seen, and I hadn’t taken a picture in a while, so I don’t know where he was coming from. Needless to say this put me in a bit of a bad mood, so I decided to write about it to get it out of my system.

I’m not sure where this connection between photographers and criminal behavior came from. Most people have the same two problems with it. Photographers are either terrorists or pedophiles… which makes absolutely zero sense. Lets look at terrorism first… if I were a terrorist, wouldn’t I use a cell phone, or some discrete little digital to take pictures…. not a huge SLR you can see from a block away. And why go take pictures of a target yourself, between google image search, flickr and google earth you can probably get pictures of anywhere on earth better than you could take yourself. Do a google image search of the MI6 building and see for yourself.

The pedophilia complaint is the one that really gets me. I did a bit of research and in the US, of all the reported cases, the odds of a child be abducted or sexually assaulted by a complete stranger is 1 in 347,000. The vast majority of abductions and sexual assaults on minors are committed by a close friend of relative of the child. Ironically these are the same people parents have absolutely no worries about taking pictures of their kids. Further, I wasn’t able to find a single case of a pedophile stalking or abducting a child because of a photo they took or found on the internet, it’s completely a fabrication of thriller movie plots and shows like CSI. And again, if I really wanted to take pictures of your kids, wouldn’t I use a little cell phone that no one seems to blink an eye at, not a large professional camera in plain view.

Street photography is about recording everyday life as an art form and as an archive of the time we live in. Without street photography, a hundred years from now all we’ll have to judge what life was like in our times is posed portraits, celebrity paparazzi pics and a billion drunken facebook party pictures. The work of people like Capa and Bresson is famous world wide and among some of the most influential photography of all time. We’re getting dangerously close to all but outlawing this type of art and it’s a scary thing.

And what really baffles me is that people are either ignorant or knowingly ignore the laws regarding photography in public. In Canada, any subject in public, building or person, is fair game to take a picture of. You can take a picture of ANYONE in public as long as there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy. So for instance you can’t take someones picture through a fence, or into a building because there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy, but on the street… anything goes. The only time you need permission or a release form is if you intend to use the photo for commercial use… but that’s it. Now, as I stated, I rarely if ever take a close up picture of someones face without asking, either before or after I take the picture… and I’ve had many people ask me to send them a copy which I’m more than happy to do. You may not like the fact that that’s how the laws of this country work, but that’s not an excuse for making up your own laws. I don’t like that there’s often dog poop on the sidewalk, but I’m not going to harass every dog walker because of one dog owner failed to scoop. There are definitely times when photography is inappropriate or illegal, but please don’t treat every photographer as a criminal by default.

Anyways… sorry about the rant, but I needed to put this into writing to get it out of my system. I’ll leave you with a quote from a great man from a country that purports to be the center of freedom and justice in the world… though current events might make it seem otherwise:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin


Reflections on Film

I’ve been having a ton of fun with the new rangefinder setup, especially with the super-wide Voigtlander 15mm lens. I’ve been shooting a lot more film recently, using digital pretty much solely for my professional work.

This image was taken with the 15mm on the Rideau Canal, right near the locks by Parliament. The film was past date Kodak Ektachrome slide film I got processed at Walmart and scanned at home. I’m getting really nice results scanning at home, and should get even better when my glass negative holders get here. They keep the film flatter for scanning, giving much better sharpness.

I’ve added quite a few shots to my Street Photography set on Flickr, and will hopefully have more coming as I slowly go through the rolls I’ve shot over the last couple months. Winter’s a slow time for me going out and shooting, Ottawa weather is usually too cold or too wet for comfortable casual photography so I’ll be using the time to go through the archives… stay tuned.


Yes, I Still Shoot Film

As long as itís available I canít see myself every giving up shooting film. Digital photography has been a godsend when it comes to events where a quick turn around and hundreds of shots are required, but film has qualities you just canít duplicate digitally. With digital I have be very carefull with exposure, and I donít have nearly as much play with it in post processing. For the most part, in decent even light, film is like horseshoes and hand grenadesÖ close is good enough. Highlights donít blow out as easy and shadow grain looks so much nicer than digital noise. It really lets me concentrate on the image instead of all the technical stuff.

AnywaysÖ this isnít a digital versus film rantÖ that horse has been flogged sufficiently. Both sides of the argument seem to have called an armistice and have grudgingly agreed that both photographic mediums have their own time and place. Film has seen a huge resurgence among younger photographers and a lot of the old guard have gone fully or partially digital.

This shot was of a telephone pole in downtown Ottawa. Thereís many that have so many staples, that over the years theyíve developed up to an inch of rusted staple and poster paper armor. This one had a nice balance of wood and metal textures. I was also surprised at how well the Rolleinar close up filters for my Yashica Mat-124G worked. Originally made for Rolleiflex cameras, theyíll fit on most TLRís with the same filter size. I was worried that another layer of glass might introduce some softness or distortion like most of the modern accessory lenses, but I canít see any degradation at all, gotta love 70 year old German glass.

One unexpected bonus I’ve found to shooting film is how I’m perceived. When I walk down the street taking pictures of random stuff with a big lens on a DSLR, some people have come up with some very imaginative and devious uses I must be using those pictures for. Walking around with an archaic box with two lenses and all kinds of knobs and fiddly bits seems to scream “artist” and people generally leave me alone or take a positive interest in what I’m doing. For more of my film captures you can check out the film section of my Flickr.


Lomo Pop 9 does Downtown Ottawa

Lomo Pop 9 by Jesse Hildebrand

I picked up a Lomo Pop 9 last week and ran a roll of dollar store film through it. Like most toy cameras you can’t change the shutter speed or aperture so using different film speeds is the only way to control exposure. Lomo makes a lot of unique and quirky cameras, this one has nine lenses arranged in a square that all trip at the same time, producing a kind of Warhol-esque mosaic. Itís kind of liberating not having to worry about all the technical stuff and be able to literally just point and shoot. Itís going to take a while getting used to composing for nine tiny lenses though.

Since the Lomo/Holga movement has taken off these little cameras, that are not much more than a nickels worth of plastic, have been commanding top dollar. The Pop 9 goes for around $80 new so I jumped at grabbing this one on the cheap of Craigslist. There arenít many places that sell them off the shelf, you usually have to go the internet or ebay route to get one, but if youíre in Ottawa youíre in luck. Canteen on Dalhousie has a selection of them, theyíre not cheap, but after you add shipping, duty and customs on an ebay order you end up saving about $5-$10 and you donít have to wait two weeks. Itís a lot of fun so far, I canít wait to try running some slide film through it. You can seem more shots from the Pop 9 on my Flickr.