Archive for August, 2014

Morning Has Broken

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 28, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Leica M-240, Vario-Elmar-R 80-200.

Tulip Frenzy SBG 9

Ty Segall Is Ready For His Close Up

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on August 28, 2014 by johnbuckley100

As longtime readers of Tulip Frenzy are no doubt aware, we believe we are living in a Golden Age of Rock’n’Roll, thanks largely to the emergence of Ty Segall, Thee Oh See’s John Dwyer, and White Fence’s Tim Presley.  Ty is clearly the freshest platter o’ grass-fed beef in the steakhouse, a fuzz-tone wunderkind whose solo albums since about 2009 have shown artistic growth in a compressed time frame  that, it is not an exaggeration to say, exceeds that of previous saviors-of-the-genre like The Clash.  

You can never have too much garage-rock psyche mixed with Beatles chops, we always say, and over the past four years or so Mr. Segall has delivered the goods in spades.  Way we see it, the arrival of Ty in our summer sky was like the return of the comet that brought us the British Invasion, swept back into view with the Summer o’ Love, made a hasty swoop ’round the planet during the punk era, but then went back into the cosmos for a long and dilatory snooze before three wiseacres came out of the East bearing Frankenstein and Murine, announcing His arrival.

If you are getting the message we believe the sun never sets on Ty Segall’s full talent, yeah, we cop that plea.  So it is with genuine mixed emotions that we greeted the release this week of Manipulator, the 17-song opus Segall’s been promising to drop all these years.  There is a fantastic album contained within it, but going for the double-album glory has brought slightly mixed results.  Let’s offer up the good, bad, and ugly in the spirit of friendship and avuncular advice.

We imagine that Ty, a smart 27-year old who can hit for distance and for average, looked over at Dan Auerbach and the success he’s had with the Black Keys and said, hmmm.  Until the Black Keys hit it big, they were an interesting, authentic Ohio blues band with traces of soul.  Segall is an interesting Cali punk-rock demigod with traces of metal.  Objectively, there is no reason why the Black Keys should play sold-out shows at the Verizon Center and Ty Segall can’t.  Manipulator, then, is an album that is at once mostly true to Ty’s prior work while also a straightforward play for the radio programmer’s heart and soul.  Viewed as such it is a complete success.

That said, when the essential Ty Segall playlist is made up in, say, 2018, we bet we will put many more songs from Twins and Goodbye Bread, or rarities like “Children of Paul” on it than songs from Manipulator.  If “Green Belly” breaks wide open on XMU, or “Who’s Producing You” becomes the biggest hit on Beats Music, no one will be happier than us.  For the uninitiated, Manipulator is a fantastic album.  For those who believe that Ty lights up the night sky, yeah, we get it, and we hope it sells in the mega-millions.  And we’re left just a little bit disappointed — not by the first, say, seven songs, but by what shows up in the back nine, some of which is filler.  For the first time, as catchy as it is, a song like “Susie Thumb” seems slightly formulaic.  Unusually, in “The Hand,” he sounds just a wee bit generic.

But on the title track, on songs like “It’s Over” and “Feel,” the magic is there.  Oh brother, is it there.  We exult in it, and hope those listening for the first time — and we suspect millions will — are moved by this ‘un to press the music wide-eyed on all their friends and family, and then go explore the earlier, rawer albums, and the associated recs by Thee Oh Sees and White Fence that have been made better by the knowledge that Ty was out back, recording his new one in a cheap and scuzzy garage.


Wait, You Mean You Can Buy The Complete Basement Tapes Now Legally?

Posted in Uncategorized on August 26, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Even in the tourist precincts of Cape Town, the word is out. Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.

Tulip Frenzy SBG 8

Lo And Behold! Dylan Announces Release Of The Complete Basement Tapes

Posted in Music with tags , , on August 26, 2014 by johnbuckley100

“When there’s too much of nothing/it can cause a man to weep,” sang Dylan on one of the greatest songs on possibly his greatest — if incomplete — collection.  And so we have, over the years, wept when faced with only the two-disk, 1975 official version of The Basement Tapes by Dylan and the Band.  Sure, we’ve bought the 6-cd bootleg, and gloried in some of the snippets, half-songs, the Johnny Cash covers.  But it’s not the same thing as having a relatively high-fi version.

Today came the blessed email from announcing The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 to be released November 4.  

This is even more welcome than the forthcoming release by Elvis Costello, Jim James, T Bone Burnett and others of their Wilco-does-Woody-like recording of music made from Basement Tapes-era lyrics that Dylan handed over to them.

We will finally get to wallow in rock’s greatest trove of music thus far denied an official release.  And on this day we are so pleased to have new music from Ty Segall, the New Pornographers, and Robyn Hitchcock to listen to, the notion that the autumn will only get better is too much news to handle.  Please, whatever you do, don’t tell us the Stones are finally going to release the live album from their ’72 tour.  We wouldn’t be able to take it.

Split Screen

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 25, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Even in Africa, thinking of the remarkable Saul Leiter.  Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.

Tulip Frenzy SBG 6

John Buckley’s Black And White Photographs From Botswana Exhibited At Stephen Bartels Gallery

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 23, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Tulip Frenzy SBG 2

A dozen of my black and white photographs taken while on safari in Botswana last week are now on exhibition at the Stephen Bartels Gallery in London.

If over the past week you have enjoyed the photographs posted on Tulip Frenzy, check out the exhibition here.  The images are priced reasonably, and the prints show off the full-resolution images wonderfully.

It’s an honor to be associated with Stephen’s gallery.  He fully supports his artists and is blazing trails in the promotion of high-quality photography.

On Using The Leica Monochrom On A Safari

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 21, 2014 by johnbuckley100

  TF Lion Portrait


Leica Monochrom, 90mm Summicron, all images w/ ND Filter, @f/2

A few days ago, we published in Tulip Frenzy a field report on using a Leica M-240 as our main camera while on safari in Botswana.  We took the M-240 as our main camera because it is, in fact, our main camera.  Some people have responded as if we did this out of some need to prove a point, or as a bizarre experiment, given that of course one would more naturally shoot with a Canon or Nikon — DSLRs made for this kind of photography.  In fact we used the M because Leica M’s are the only camera system we own.  

However, in addition to taking along our M-240, which at least has the benefit of being able to use telephoto lenses via an adaptor, we also took along our Monochrom, the Leica M that only takes black and white images.  We took it along because frankly we were determined to escape the bounds of cliche, to take photographs that aren’t typically what one returns from Africa with.  Moreover, we thought that taking along the Monochrom, and shooting either the 90mm APO-Summicron-Asph or the 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph (and quite rarely, the 28mm Summicron Asph), and as much as possible shooting wide open (using an ND filter), we might be able to come up with memorable images.  

TF Lion Tongue

Leica Monochrom, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

We have to declare that taking the Monochrom along as our second camera was a complete delight.  Thinking in terms of light, not color, in an environment with, at times, a hyper-abundance of both, was a conceptual joy.  And the images we took, in our own subjective view, are likely the ones we will print and put up on our walls, because they’re in many ways more compelling images than the color shots.

TF Leopard Portrait

Leica Monochrom, 90mm APO-Summicron-Asph

There was something about isolating the animal against its background — taking advantage of the bokeh inherent in shooting fast Leica lenses wide open — that appeals to our eye.  Admittedly influenced by the brilliant photography of Nick Brandt, whose shots of animals in Kenya and Tanzania are so unbelievably naturalistic — as if lions came to his plein air portrait studio — we knew what we wanted to achieve visually.  Taking along the Monochrom and using it as an alternative to the Leica M was like shooting in black and white film, with all that entails both in limitations and the liberation of simplicity.

TF Lion Teeth

Leica Monochrom, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

Those who read our post on using the Leica M-240 last week in Botswana will remember that I complained I had some trouble focusing with the EVF.  But after a dozen years using a rangefinder, focusing with the Monochrom was second nature, and I felt in some ways that if I really needed to focus quickly, this was the camera I wanted to use.

TF Leopard Grass

Leica Monochrom, 90mm APO-Summicron-Asph

But it wasn’t just ease of use that made the Monochrom such a delight to work with.  It was the conceptual possibility of what one could do shooting within the confines of black and white, and the simplicity of knowing I was only going to shoot wide open.  That if I nailed the focus, the contrast between, say, the leopard’s fur and the grass behind it would be pleasing.

TF Giraffe

Leica Monochrom, 90mm APO-Summicron-Asph

As always with the Monochrom, you go into taking the picture visualizing it in terms of light and form, not color.  Because I had both cameras within reach, I would make a conscious choice about which to use.  Yes, sometimes the matter was solved by the expedient of needing a telephoto lens, which meant using the M.  Sometimes I used both cameras and took multiple images in color and black and white, leaving it to later to sort out which was better.  But sometimes the matter was solved by seeing something and saying, That will simply look better as a black and white image.

TF Elephant Trunk

Leica Monochrom, 90mm APO-Summicron-Asph

We said that Africa is filled with light and color, but perhaps it should be noted that where we were, many of the colors were muted — the grasses dry and the same tone as lions fur, surrounded by many dead trees.  But of course these conditions lend themselves to monochrome photography.

TF Lion Male Female

Leica Monochrom, 28mm Summicron Asph

Finally, there was one other reason we loved taking the Monochrom along: it limited us to shorter lenses.  This meant both that there was background in the picture — not just the lion’s nostril, but the fields behind it — and that ours was a more intimate view than is often the case when using tellys.  The picture above was taken with a 28mm lens, which we often use for street photography.  Being this close to a lion is a thrill.  We hope this comes through in the pictures.

Please note: if you like these photographs, in the days ahead, several of the ones above will be available for purchase through The Stephen Bartels Gallery.  

On Using The Leica M (Typ-240) On A Photographic Safari

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 18, 2014 by johnbuckley100

TF Botswana Color 1

Leica M, 90mm APO-Summicron-Asph

Some years ago, when contemplating going on a safari to Africa — maybe the better description is “praying to someday have the opportunity to go on a safari” — it seemed likely I would have buy or borrow a different system camera than my trusty Leica M rangefinders, because no one goes to take pictures of wild animals while limited to a focal length of 135mm.  For prior to September 18th, 2012, that was the maximum focal length you effectively could use with an M9 or other Leica M cameras that preceded it.  But on that date, Leica announced the M-240, which like Clark Kent changing in a phone booth, could be converted from a rangefinder into something approximating a DSLR.  With an adaptor, and an Electronic Viewfinder, now — mirabile dictu — all of Leica’s glorious R lenses could be used on an M camera. For the first time, one could contemplate a safari using an M and long lenses.  It seemed like a dream come true.

Last summer, I used the M and the Vario-Elmar-R 80-200 f/4 lens while taking photographs of animals out west, and it was a revelation to use the M as a multipurpose tool — by day a rangefinder, but in the evening light along the Gros Ventre River, when the moose come out to play, I could stand there with all the photographers with their long lenses and, yep, take perfectly adequate pictures.  It was a delight.  And as I knew then that this summer my family and I would be going on a long-planned safari to Botswana, it filled me with hope.

TF Botswana Color2

Leica M, Vario-Elmar-R 80-200

Having just returned from the trip, and having returned with a number of pictures I would never have been able to take previously with a rangefinder, I think it’s safe to say that using the M-240 with long lenses on a safari can be mostly successful.  With the right lens, it can certainly take pictures at a distance.  A world of possibilities are opened up. With that said, it’s not an entirely pleasing experience.  Put differently, the M-240 in use as a DSLR is clearly a kludge.  My analysis of benefits deems it a worthy effort by Leica to give its loyal M users an opportunity to shoot long distance. But there are some drawbacks.  (To see a gallery of images taken with the M-240, go here.)

TF Botswana Color7

Leica M, Vario-Elmar-R 80 -200, with the APO-Extender-R 2X

When taking a picture of animals in a static, or semi-static position, you have the time to focus the M manually.  Remember, even though the R-system lenses you can now use with an adaptor are superb telephotos, they are still manually focused.  And to a rangefinder user, they are not easy to focus.  I continually found myself pressing for Focus Assist, the device that with Focus Peaking enables one to see a magnified version of what he’s focusing on, along with indicators of whether the surface he is aiming at is in optimal focus.  But Focus Peaking doesn’t work as well on animal hair/fur as it does on, say, a brick wall surface.  And often it didn’t work at all.  Which means that even when I got the opportunity to take a photo of an animal, it was not nearly as easy for me to get the shot as it was for my son, sitting beside me on the back row of the open-air Land Rover, whose Canon 6D could autofocus on the animal in a split second, while I was fumbling with Focus Assist.

TF Botswana Color3

Leica M, Vario-Elmar-R 80-200

And then there is the matter of the EVF that Leica acquired from Olympus and rebadged with its brand.  The EVF has a very slow refresh rate — some three seconds or longer between when you take the shot and when you can take the next one.  As anyone who has ever tried taking a picture of a child — never mind two lions snarling at each other — can attest, a lot can happen in a few seconds.

But this post is not meant to be a complaint.  Objectively, using a manual focus DSLR with a slow refresh rate puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the shot.  On the other hand, you can use your Leica M on a safari, and you can also use any of the amazing Leica R lenses that were manufactured prior to 2009.  And you can use the Leica APO-Extender-R 2X, which turns your 200mm lens into a 400mm lens, without carrying a bazooka-sized contraption or paying so much money for the lens you couldn’t take the trip in the first place.  You might have the reach to take the picture of the black rhino below…

TF Botswana Color6

Leica M, Vario-Elmar-R 80 – 200, with the APO-Extender-R 2x

But it is hard to anticipate… and to focus… and to take multiple quick shots.  Yet for a quality combination of lens and camera, shooting an animal that is not moving, I would confidently put the M-240 up against Canons or Nikon combos.

TF Botswana Color5

Leica M, Vario-Elmar-R 80 – 200, with the APO-Extender-R 2x

And then there are those magical moments when you are out there and something materializes before your eye, and with your Leica M — yes, with the Leica rangefinder you brought on safari, despite all the advice from others to take along a Canon or Nikon with autofocus… you know, the kind of camera made for this, not a gussied up street camera more appropriate for wide-angle shooting in a crowd than capturing an animal on the move… you suddenly find yourself in a position to take a shot you never dreamed you’d be able to get with a Leica M.  It was a real privilege, and joy, to go on safari.  And it was a mixed blessing, but on balance, it was a blessing, to be able to take along my familiar Leica M and be able to use it in such a setting.

TF Botswana Color8

Leica M, Vario-Elmar-R 80-200, with the APO-Extender-R 2X

How You Know You’re Going To Have A Good Day

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 5, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.

Robben Island Day 1-2

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