Trump Protests

For all that's happened over the last few weeks that I've disliked, I can at least say it's been interesting living in Washington, DC. I slept in for the actual inauguration, but as someone who was packed in tight over a mile and a half away as I watched President Obama's first inauguration from near the Washington Monument, I can assure you that the crowds this time were indeed quite small. But I did make it out that night to the anti-inaugural ball at one of DC's best music venues, Black Cat. This was a fundraiser for the wonderful groups Casa Ruby and One DC. Over a dozen acts played, including hometown heroes Priests...

This was taken with my latest lens - a vintage JC Penny (!) 28mm f/2.8 lens Minolta mount (which I adapted onto a Sony a7sii), bought for $11 on eBay. These "brand" lenses were typically really made by legit lens or optics companies, and I'm quite happy with the glass in this one. Note the slender snake-like lens flares.

But on to the protests, which started the next day with the wonderful Women's March on Washington...

Taken with my trusty Helios 44-2 58mm f/2, which is a lens I will always keep coming back to. It's easy to find one for less than $50 - I don't know of any better bargain in lenses out there. Shutter: 125, ISO: 250, Aperture: Probably around f/8.

The beautiful architecture of the new African American Museum made for a nice frame here. Helios 44-2. Shutter: 200, ISO: 100, Aperture: Somewhere around 5 - with the Helios click-stop aperture ring, I'll often float between the set stops.

Note the great arm tattoo - "I love you." I didn't know this person and wouldn't have felt comfortable taking such a close shot at this angle, but my friend had asked if photographs were ok and they they said yes. I still cropped the bottom a bit so I could comply with Instagram's absurd no-nipples rule. Helios 44-2. Shutter: 1/200, ISO: 400, Aperture around f/4.

That was a special and powerful day, but what you may not have seen on the news is that smaller but still sizable protests have been almost daily since then. This one was taken 4 days after the Women's March, on January 25, when rumors of the travel ban were swirling. The travel ban was issued two days later.

Just outside the White House. The Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8. Shutter: 1/100, ISO 3200, Aperture: f/1.8. This is the only native lens for my a7sii I own, and the only one I'm interested in owning at the moment. I'm usually not one to chase sharpness, but I do love how sharp it is at faster apertures.

On January 29, the day after the travel ban took effect, there was a large protest that moved between the White House and a few blocks away at the newly opened Trump Hotel. These shots I took with the Asahi Takumar 85mm f/1.9.

Near the White House. Asahi Takumar 85mm f/1.9. Shutter: 1/400, ISO: 125, Aperture around f/2.8.

It was quite a sight seeing such a crowd outside the hotel's door. Asahi Takumar 85mm f/1.9. Shutter: 1/250, ISO: 200, Aperture around f/4.

Not sure how someone managed this given all the police and security that were around. I suppose they had allies crowd around them while they worked. The moment the protest broke up, workers came out and got to work on removing it. Asahi Takumar 85mm f/1.9. Shutter: 1/400, ISO: 160, Aperture: around f/2.8.

Walking up Pennsylvania Avenue. Asahi Takumar 85mm f/1.9. Shutter: 1/400, ISO: 160, Aperture around f/7.1.

Asahi Takumar 85mm f/1.9. Shutter: 1/400, ISO: 160, Aperture looks fairly open, maybe f/4 or so.

On the Threshold of Winter (with the Asahi Takumar 85mm f/1.9)

I shot a performance of composer Michael Hersch's On the Threshold of Winter opera for the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. It was one of my first times shooting with the Asahi Takumar 85mm f/1.9 portrait lens, adapted as usual to my Sony a7ii via a $10 M42 screw-mount adapter. I was so happy with how it handled low light. The beautiful set design also helped...

Asahi Takumar 85mm f/1.9. Shutter 1/160, ISO 1250. The aperture was probably around 2.2 or so - it doesn't need to be stopped down much for nice sharpness.

This particular Takumar lens dates from the 1960s. Later versions of it got the Asahi "super-coating" and in the 1970s it was made in an f/1.8. From what I've read and seen, the f/1.8 is a little better - they improved what was already a great design. The differences seem pretty minor to me though, and I was content to save a little by going with the f/1.9 - I got one in pristine shape for about $300 from an American seller on eBay. Another shot with the lens was used by Vanderbilt University for the poster promoting the opera's upcoming performance there.

I love the bold word layout the designer used. The figure in the background is a work by sculptor Christopher Cairns. Shutter 1/125, ISO 1000, aperture around 2.5.

Soprano Ah Young Hong after getting her hands dirty. Asahi Takumar 85mm f/1.9. Shutter 1/125, ISO 1000, Aperture probably around f/2.8.

I also used my native Zeiss lenses for wider shots. The following was one of my favorites, which came at the end of the opera.

With the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 ZA. Shutter 1/80, ISO 1250, aperture 4.0. The lighting was pretty much just a spotlight on the singer, which made composition fun - lots of black negative space to play with. Placing her in the upper half of the frame makes her look elevated somehow, running contrary to the obvious sense of exhaustion.

Another shot with the 55mm f/1.8 was used by the Baltimore Sun for their very enthusiastic review of the opera...

Shutter 1/60, ISO 800, aperture 2.8. Exquisite colors as usual from the 55mm.

Three Silhouettes

Turner Classic Movies has, to my joy, been running film noir classics all summer. In keeping with their summer of darkness, here are 3 black and white silhouette shots.

The first was selected for Explore on Flickr. That mostly just means bragging rights, but the image got over 6,000 views so that's neat I guess. I was walking up Wisconsin Avenue in Washington DC, and I noticed a guy walking into the light of the alley I was passing. I was shooting the Zeiss Distagon 35mm wide open at f/1.4.

Zeiss Distagon ZA 35mm f/1.4. Shutter: 1/60th, f/1.4, ISO: 400.

The next is with the Helios 44-2. Not the type of shot that lens is best for, but I was happy that the bird waited there long enough for me to move until I was catching it against one of the brighter bits of cloud.

Helios 44-2. Shutter: 1/1000, f/11, ISO: 100. Extra tweaking in editing to turn the gloomy up!

Next is Hemlines playing against the sunset at Fort Reno here in DC. This one goes back to the Asahi Takumar 135mm f/3.5. I talked about that lens in my last post, but I have to say again what a bargain it is to get this kind of performance from a lens that can bet found well under $200. The sharpness is so crisp that it picked up individual hairs here very clearly from 15+ feet away.

Asahi Takumar 135mm f/3.5. Shutter: 1/2500, f/7.1 (or something close to that), ISO: 250.

The American Prospect

The desktop version of this terrific article from The American Prospect features my concert photography. Amanda Teuscher's piece is fantastic -- I especially like the wariness of nostalgia, and how DC's scene instead centers on dealing with current issues and looking forward.

 Screen capture from prospect.org. Pictured: DC's own Coup Sauvage and the Snips.

Screen capture from prospect.org. Pictured: DC's own Coup Sauvage and the Snips.

Many of the photos they chose to use happened to have been taken with my vintage Asahi Takumar 135mm f/3.5 lens. Copies in good condition will go on eBay for under $150. Mine is an M42 mount. It's quite compact for a 135mm, and the image quality can be very nice. Check out the sharpness on this shot of Katie Alice Greer of the (totally awesome) DC-based band Priests.

I love the stray hairs against the black background, as well as the black fur against the white background. Shutter: 1/40, f/3.5, ISO: 2000. I usually won't push the ISO anywhere near that high, but the venue was rather dark this band's movements are so frenetic that faster shutter speeds were needed!

I was happy with the inclusion of this Ian Svenoius shot, because it has a little bit of wordplay. As the article notes, the words "POPULAR LIBRARY" were behind the band. I wonder if readers will notice that I framed the shot so it says, "POPULAR LIE"?

I feel like Popular Lie would be a solid name for a punk band. This shot was also with the Asahi Takumar 135mm f/3.5 lens. Shutter: 1/60, f/3.5 (or close to that), ISO: 800.

Paperhaus at the Embassy of France

Washington, DC's own Paperhaus playing to a hometown crowd at the French Embassy. This was shot on the new Sony Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA lens, which I'm trying out. It's gotten rave reviews, but I haven't been blown away by it yet. I may just need to give it time and find my way with it, so I'll reserve judgment for now. Shutter: 1/100, f/1.4, ISO: 500.

Back to the Helios 85mm for this one. Shutter: 1/100, f/2.8 or so, ISO: 1600.