105mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/400, 2 images stitched
Now that the festivities of Christmas and New Years have wound down once more, many reading this are back to their normal lives. I hope everyone out there had a great time with friends and family the past couple weeks and didn’t do anything too crazy (but hey, I can’t tell you how to celebrate!). Especially with it being a great time for gifts and resolutions, I’m sure many are finding themselves learning a new camera or lens to shoot with. As long as you are mindful of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.), you should be fine. 😉
Oddly, WordPress didn’t put together an end-of-year analysis like it usually does for this site. A few clicks into my analytics still show great numbers despite my decline in post frequency (which, if you’ve been following previous updates, are due to a myriad causes). Over 110,000 views from 71,000 visitors, with the top three countries being U.S.A. (no surprise), the U.K., and Germany (Hallo!). I can’t thank you all enough for still supporting the site through my many life changes. Speaking of those life changes, 2018 definitely had its fair share. I moved from Japan back to the States in Chicago, got married, bought a car, and even managed a promotion at work. Keen readers may know what Mrs. Matthew Durr Photography looks like from a previous post or two, but just in case… Continue Reading
105mm, ISO 640, f/5.6, 1/1250
Summer and Winter may just be the easiest seasons to photograph regardless of where you may find yourself on the planet. Both seasons take some time to get through, and provide plenty of opportunity for photographs for even the busiest people. The seasons of change however, Spring and Fall, present a fast-paced challenge for many throughout the world. When I was in Japan for the past couple years, Spring was the most difficult time of the year to photograph due to not only my work schedule, but also to the fleeting cherry blossom trees almost necessary to provide ambiance for the Japanese setting. Depending on the type of cherry blossom tree, a window of 3-4 weeks was pretty generous.
Here in North Chicago, I found myself getting rushed through the millions and millions of leaves changing over the course of only a couple weeks. Due to an unseasonably warm early Fall, the landscape here didn’t begin to change until mid-late October. However, arctic air–and the high winds that accompany it–blew in so quickly that the splash of color everywhere was all but gone by the start of November. Combine that short turnaround with a couple busy workweeks, well, let me just say I was in a rush to capture whatever I could in my little corner of the Midwest. Continue Reading
105mm, ISO 100, T3.2, 1/640
This summer, I have searched for some local photo-friendly spots that I can use to test out lenses and other gear. There are local parks, trails, and the like in North Chicago, but little to nothing that compares to the sprawling metropolis/park areas I saw on the daily in Japan. Some of the smaller areas and bike trails are great for getting out for an afternoon of fresh air, but they don’t offer much in the way of a bonafide picturesque and scenic location. Thankfully, I did not have to search too far to come across the excellent Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL. Housing 27 separate gardens and four nature areas on 385 acres of land, the “living museum” has so many great places to make some great photographs. As it should be no surprise to some of my readers, I’m very excited they house an extensive bonsai collection as well as a well-manicured Japanese-style garden (that I plan to visit on my next trip!). In a summer filled with Navy Weeks and other projects, here’s a few photos made during a day trip to help keep my photographic chops sharp.
Well…I’m finally doing it. After years of owning this 11-pound tank of a telephoto, it’s time to put together a review of “Big Papa”. I’ve shot with the lens for events and wildlife sparingly, in my time in Japan I couldn’t just drive anywhere with this optic in tow. All my photowalks consisted of train rides and lots…and lots…of walking. Now that I’m finally back in the States, and I have a high-performance full-frame camera to test on, I have the opportunity to really get out there with the lens and try some more wildlife shots, and perhaps some sports/events if I get the chance. Thankfully I do have at least a few shots over the years that will easily find their place in the review if needed. Continue Reading
UPDATE: All four lenses are now available on eBay via these links:
Rokinon 16mm f/2
Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-s
Nikon 105mm f/1.8 AI-s
Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 S-Auto
As mentioned in my last update, I’m getting ready to list a few of my old lenses I no longer need in my kit on eBay. As I like to do when I sell off old gear, I will leave this post up for about a week if any readers would like to purchase one or all of the lenses before the eBay listing goes live (email contact is A-ok!). After they are up on eBay, this post will be edited as needed. Of the four lenses, I have written a full lens review on three of them:
Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-s
Nikon 105mm f/1.8 AI-s
Rokinon 16mm f/2
Of course, my reviewing style and technique (as well as photographic skill in general) changed over the years. I’ve had the Nikon 105mm ever since I first got into photography (its review is almost six years old!), while my Rokinon 16mm is just from Fall of last year.
Regular readers to this site may not recognize the last lens in the photo, which is a very old Nikkor-S Auto 50mm f/1.4, from when Nikon labeled their lenses as Nippon Kogaku! These same readers likely also know that I take care of my photo gear over the years. I used these lenses, for sure, but never abused them. Continue Reading
Mt. Bandai Scale
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/2500
The shortest and often coldest month of the year thankfully provides great conditions for hitting the slopes on some skis or a snowboard. Just like in December and January, I skied about as much as possible throughout February to hone my skills in and to get my last tastes of the beautiful Japanese mountains before I transfer back the States. In fact, I can confidently say this past month was the one where I crossed the threshold into running as an advanced skier! Okay, okay, so I still fall every now and then in deep powder, and I often have to make slow descents on walls for my own safety, but I find myself going down and enjoying expert courses (successfully!) more than intermediate runs. A win in my book, for sure. What also set February apart from the past couple months, however, was that I brought my a6500 along in my coat pocket for every trip to get much cleaner photos than my iPhone could manage. Continue Reading
I knew it was just a matter of time before I had to start learning to use Photoshop. For years, the free and open-source GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) served my limited graphics-producing needs well. In fact I still remember some tricks to make that program perform at a much higher level than it was originally designed for (thank you plug-ins!). As Adobe started adding more and more features into their Lightroom/Photoshop suite–in addition to the slow but inevitable march towards a dastardly subscription model–I shifted back to see what I was missing. Over the past year, I slowly introduced myself to this powerful program, and am still taking baby steps to learn the ins and outs. Continue Reading
Old with the New
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/200
After a full day of wandering around central Seoul, I was still pretty excited to get out and do it all over again the next day to see what else I could find. After all, in the megacity of Seoul you can just pick a direction to walk and eventually stumble across some cool sights! Being our last day, however, I headed out with a friend to hit as much as possible with the help of Seoul’s (incredibly cheap) metro. Continue Reading
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1000, 5 images stitched
Now that all the pleasantries are out of the way from finally hitting 1,000,000 views on the site, it’s back to quickly catching up with my most recent international trip to South Korea! Part one of my travels saw me more in the countryside of South Korea, exploring some cool spots in Gyeryongsan National Park. Just a few days later, however, our group finished our performance with the Republic of Korea Navy Band and we had a whole two days to relax and see the sights of downtown Seoul! Last year, free time was essentially non-existent, so I pretty much didn’t know what to do with myself with so much opportunity to explore. Continue Reading
Under the Mountain
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/2000, 40 images stitched
As a photographer, traveling to new places under pressure to do one’s best to capture all the unfamiliar surroundings can make for some exciting trips. Often, variables such as weather and free time available cannot be controlled, and these make it all the more challenging to photograph something that may not be seen again in a lifetime. Serving with the Navy, I have come across many of these opportunities in some of my international travels, with my most recent trip (second annual, actually) heading back to South Korea.
In a strange turn of events, my coworkers and I were given ample free time both during and after the days of work. As a result, I came back to Japan with many gigabytes of photos and videos, and am still working through them! For my first post, I will focus on the first couple days near Gyeryongsan National Park, a sizable protected area with a convenient entrance right next to our hotel! In spite of only about 5 hours of free time total to explore the area, I managed to get around a couple trails for some shots. Continue Reading