AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

August 29, 2015

This week was over in the blink of an eye. For some reason, it almost feels like autumn is already knocking on the door. Furthermore, the Apple event is now officially in sight, which means the next few weeks are bound to go by even faster.

For now, though, let’s take a look at some of this week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Issue #12: On creativity, legendary athletes, legendary filmmakers, and your weekly dose of the Sony A7R II

This issue is nicely balanced across four main topics: creativity, sports, technology and photography. Enjoy.

Whole brain creativity | Shawn Blanc →

Great piece by Shawn on how our brains operate when dealing with complex tasks that require us to engage several different cognitive functions:

Each of us are dominant in one of these four quadrants. You, dear reader, have some strength and some weakness of all four quadrants of learning and thinking style, but one of them is your most dominant. Do you mostly thrive on: Facts and logic? Form and Safety? Feelings and relationships? Or future ideas and concepts?

However, for us to do our best creative work — work that matters — we have to operate out of all four quadrants.

I’ve always believed that, order to improve upon something, learning how it works is an essential first step.

How to get good at what you’re bad at | David Cain →

As if by some weird coincidence, this piece by David Cain serves as the perfect follow-up to Shawn’s article above:

It’s the bigger principle that’s important though. Whenever you do one thing well and another thing poorly, you can learn why by picturing yourself doing X with your usual approach to Y, and vice-versa. Maybe you run your business like Jeff Bezos, but you run your household like Homer Simpson. What would your Jeff Bezos side do with your household? What would your Homer Simpson side do with your business?

That’s pretty clever.

How Roger Federer got sneaky good | Tom Perrotta →

Last Sunday, 34-year-old Roger Federer defeated World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final of the Cincinnati Masters 1000. This is the 24th Masters 1000 title for Federer, and his 7th title in Cincinnati. It’s also the second time he’s won the tournament without losing a set and without dropping his serve all week. These are all staggering statistics.

Moreover, it’s the second time this season that Federer beats Djokovic for a title, the first one coming in Dubai earlier in the year. As for Djokovic, he’s beaten Federer three times this season, in the finals of Indian Wells, Rome and Wimbledon.

However, much has changed in Federer’s game since the Dubai final. The Swiss player is being more aggressive than ever on the return, often employing seemingly insane tactics, like returning serve directly off a half-volley and then immediately charging the net.

Yet, as they say, the distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.

All through the tournament, but specially on Sunday’s final, Federer’s tactics were indeed genius:

At a key moment in the first set tiebreak of Sunday’s final, Federer frustrated Djokovic with the ploy. Federer led 3-1 when he moved up to the service line as Djokovic hit a second serve. Most second serves go to the backhand side, but this time Djokovic threw in a surprise, a slice to Federer’s forehand. Federer lunged to his right, blocked a short-hop, half-volley return down the line and crowded the net. Djokovic missed a backhand and then raised his racket over his head in anger, but resisted the urge to smash it to bits. Federer won the next three points to take the set.

I find it amazing that a player that’s won more than anyone else in his career still has the passion, the energy and the work ethics to reinvent his game at 34. If there’s something the Cincinnati final showed everybody, it’s that Roger Federer is definitely one of a kind.

Only man who can topple Usain Bolt: a photographer on a scooter | Christopher Clarey →

In this week’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing, many records are sure to be broken, and many surprising feats achieved. However, there’s one man who keeps shining above everyone else: Usain Bolt. The Jamaican star won both the 100m and 200m races, claiming his 3rd and 4th World Champion titles, respectively. In both races, American athlete Justin Gatlin was the man in Bolt’s shadow:

Bolt had beaten Gatlin by just one-hundredth of a second to win the 100, but the 200 was a much less suspenseful affair as Gatlin was unable to approach his top time earlier this season of 19.57.

“He came through when it was time to come through,” said Gatlin, who was also second behind Bolt in the 100 at the 2013 world championships in Moscow.

Much like Federer, Usain Bolt is an athlete for the history books.

In conversation: Quentin Tarantino | Lane Brown →

This was a very interesting interview for Vulture. Tarantino is not one to shy away from controversial topics, and this was no exception:

How did what’s happening in Baltimore and Ferguson find its way into The Hateful Eight?

It was already in the script. It was already in the footage we shot. It just happens to be timely right now. We’re not trying to make it timely. It is timely. I love the fact that people are talking and dealing with the institutional racism that has existed in this country and been ignored. I feel like it’s another ’60s moment, where the people themselves had to expose how ugly they were before things could change. I’m hopeful that that’s happening now.

The Apple Watch at work and play | Fraser Speirs →

Excellent piece. I like how, despite this being a decidedly positive take on Apple Watch, he doesn’t sugarcoat his experience with it:

Before I get into my thoughts about what the Watch is good for, I think we should acknowledge something: it is a complete nonsense that Apple ever shipped an operating system where in about 3 in 5 tries, an app simply will not launch. To me, this is the glaring flaw in Apple Watch: apps need to be instantly available at all times and respond quickly. Otherwise, what’s the point? If it’s not quicker than reaching for the phone, why bother?

I’m putting a lot of faith in watchOS 2.0 to fix this problem. I hope it’s not misplaced.

All websites look the same | Dave Ellis →

Fun and spot-on criticism of modern web design by Dave Ellis. Check out the mockup and tell me it doesn’t ring a bell or two. Via Daring Fireball.

Dynamic range of the Sony A7R II | Marco Arment →

Good examples from Marco on the shadow recovery capabilities of the Sony A7R II sensor, and how that can save your pictures when you make a mistake on the exposure parameters. It’s worth keeping in mind that screwing up the exposure is something what will happen from time to time, no matter how careful you are, so being able to work your way around it is definitely a nice plus.

On feeling inadequate as a photographer (and the worst Sony A7R II review ever) | Neil Ta →

Great essay. Via Eric Kim:

Recently, I’ve been running into friends who’ve done really well for themselves. A friend still in his 20’s whose tech start-up is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, a close childhood friend who bought a new Porsche 911, several others who run successful businesses or are directors or VPs of large corporations, and everyone who seems to be living in a home larger than 400 square feet (that isn’t packed to the brim with camera equipment). In the photography world, I have friends who are massive industry icons with hefty social media presences. In comparison, I am a virtual nobody. At times, I can feel inadequate compared to them.

Anyone who’s ever decided to strike out on their own, especially those who work in a creative endeavor, have felt this way at some point in their careers. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings, but it’s also important to not let them discourage and distract you from your end goal.

And about that Sony A7R II review:

The camera does exactly what cameras do. It is more similar to the camera you already have than it is different. It’s a nice toy. However, it is highly unlikely that my clients will notice any difference in what I deliver to them. Verdict: buy it if 1) you have enough in your bank account to buy it outright and to cover life expenses for at least three months 2) the differences in this camera compared to yours will result in new business and; 3) it provides greater shooting enjoyment.

Definitely a concise review but, in all fairness, I’ve seen worse.

Afterword

Like I said in the beginning, it seems time really is flying these days, and without even realizing it we’re almost entering September. I’m excited to see what the Apple event holds in store for us, beyond new iPhone models, of course. The long-rumored new Apple TV, perhaps? Judging by the invitation artwork, it really could be anything.

As for photography, it’s Friday morning as I type this, and I’ve just received the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens a few minutes ago. I’ve barely had any time to inspect it yet, but suffice it to say I’m just as impressed by its build quality as I was with the 24-70mm zoom. The 55 is considerably smaller and lighter than the zoom, but it feels just as solid and well-built. I really can’t wait to use it more extensively in the coming days.

Alas, that’s going to have to wait. I’m spending the weekend in Valle del Jerte, a beautiful valley near Plasencia, where I expect to visit a really gorgeous set of natural pools called Garganta de los Infiernos. Since the risk of getting the camera wet is fairly high, I’m probably not going to take the A7 II with me, so I won’t be able to really use the 55mm lens until Monday.

If I’m feeling adventurous, though, I may take the E-M10 with the Olympus 17mm lens. I still haven’t decided.

Other than that, on Thursday I visited Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style, an amazing exhibit with many original design mockups, costumes, gadgets and props used in the production of the Bond films.

This is a touring exhibit that’s been displayed in London, Toronto, Shanghai, Melbourne, Moscow and Rotterdam before coming to Madrid. It had been in Madrid since May, but for some reason I hadn’t gone to see it yet. I managed to do it just in the nick of time, because this coming Sunday — tomorrow for most of you — is the final day.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the exhibit, so I had to make do with the amazing Aston Martin DB5 that was on display at the entrance, next to a life-sized figure of Sir Sean Connery himself.

All in all, not a bad experience, and definitely tons of fun for any Bond fans out there. I’m not aware of where the exhibit is going next, but if it’s somewhere near you, I strongly recommend visiting.

And on that note, I’m afraid we’ve reached the end of this week’s issue. I’ll have much more to share with you next week, when I get down to work with the new lens. Until then, have a lovely weekend and, of course, thank you for reading.

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El Rastro is Madrid’s traditional flea market, a place where there’s literally nothing that’s not for sale. Last Sunday I brought the camera with me and tried to capture some of its unique essence:

With almost 300 years of history — early mentions of it date back to 1740 — El Rastro is probably the oldest flea market in all of Spain. Loved and visited by locals and tourists alike, El Rastro is as much an experience as it is a market. Everything has a price here, even a few things that really, really shouldn’t.

I really love El Rastro. If you’re ever stopping by Madrid, I can’t recommend visiting enough. You may not end up buying anything, but you’ll definitely go home with a couple interesting stories to tell, at the very least.

Head on over to Tools & Toys to check out the entire photo-story.

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Instagram announces support for portrait and landscape orientation pictures →

August 27, 2015 |

Big news over at the official Instagram blog:

Today, we’re excited to announce that — in addition to square posts — you can now share photos and videos in both portrait and landscape orientation on Instagram. Square format has been and always will be part of who we are. That said, the visual story you’re trying to tell should always come first, and we want to make it simple and fun for you to share moments just the way you want to

Totally called this one.

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Tesla Model S P85D breaks the Consumer Reports Ratings System →

August 27, 2015 |

Apparently the car’s not half bad:

In rating it, however, we faced a quandary: The Tesla initially scored 103 in the Consumer Reports’ Ratings system, which by definition doesn’t go past 100. The car set a new benchmark, so we had to make changes to our scoring to account for it. Those changes didn’t affect the scores of other cars.

Of course, such high praise is inevitably followed by the customary but:

To be clear, the Tesla’s 100 score doesn’t make the P85D a perfect car—even at $127,820. It has imperfections. The interior materials aren’t as opulent as other high-ticket automobiles, and its ride is firmer and louder than our base Model S.

What’s more, a lengthy road trip in an electric car with a 200-plus mile range can be a logistical hurdle if a quick-charging station isn’t along your route.

Not that I have the highest regard for Consumer Reports and their ratings system, but it does look like the Tesla Model S P85D is one hell of a car.

Via The Verge.

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Bond By Design: The Art of the James Bond Films →

August 27, 2015 |

Gorgeous upcoming book on the art and design of the EON Productions’ James Bond films:

Accessing EON Productions’ vast archive of more than 50 years of art and design, featuring the work of legendary Bond film designers such as Ken Adam, Peter Lamont and Syd Cain. The book provides a unique, spectacular and fascinating insight into the longest-running film franchise of all time. Reveals the craft behind the creation of famous sets, such as Stromberg’s Atlantis base in The Spy Who Loved Me and Drax’s shuttle launch site in Moonraker, as well as technical drawings of Bond’s gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5. Includes two exclusive, full-colour prints of Bond film designs.

Bond By Design also brings the James Bond story right up to date with behind-the-scenes artwork from the newest film, SPECTRE.

Bond films have always featured impressive set designs, and this book gives an incredible sneak peek at the creative process behind it all. A must-have for all design-conscious Bond fans out there.

The book will be released in the U.S. on October 6. You can preorder it on Amazon here.

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Canon announces new EF USM 35mm f/1.4 L II lens →

August 27, 2015 |

This one really does deserve a finally. After 17 years, Canon has finally updated their venerable 35mm f/1.4 L lens. Allison Johnson, writing at DPReview:

Canon has announced the EF 35mm F1.4L II USM, the second generation of its popular wide-angle prime. It uses newly-designed Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics, which claim to correct chromatic aberration better than any other existing technology.

The 35mm F1.4L II includes a total of 14 elements, two of which are aspherical and the other being ’Super UD’. It offers 9 aperture blades for pleasing bokeh (and gorgeous 18-ray sunbursts, we hope) and a minimum focusing distance of 0.28m/11in. It also claims to be more durable than its predecessor, with dust and water-resistant construction. The Mark II is considerably heavier, though, weighing in at 180g/6.3oz, or 31% more than the original model.

This is a much-awaited announcement for Canon users, especially since Sigma introduced their excellent 35mm f/1.4 Art lens, which bested the Canon in just about every way and managed to do it at half the price.

It will be interesting to see how well this new lens compares to its predecessor, as well as the rest of its competitors, including the aforementioned Sigma. I’m also particularly interested in seeing how it compares with the Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, a lens that’s been on my radar for quite some time and that’s been called the best 35mm lens ever by none other than Steve Huff.

The new version of the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L lens will be available in October for $1,799. You can check out Canon’s official press release here.

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Banksy’s Dismaland →

August 26, 2015 |

This is amazing. Legendary artist Banksy has created a very, ahem, unique theme park:

The castle’s derelict, Cinderella’s pumpkin has crashed, and the seagulls are on the attack … Banksy has opened a theme park called Dismaland at a disused lido in Weston-super-Mare. The show has been shrouded in secrecy for weeks, and locals had been led to believe it was a film set for a Hollywood thriller. Take the first look inside.

Mark Brown, writing for The Guardian, explains a little bit more about how the project came to be:

The name is a play on Disneyland, but Banksy insisted the show was not a swipe at Mickey and co. “I banned any imagery of Mickey Mouse from the site,” he said. “It’s a showcase for the best artists I could imagine, apart from the two who turned me down.”

Works by 58 handpicked artists including Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer have been installed across the 2.5-acre site. Julie Burchill has rewritten Punch & Judy to give it a Jimmy Savile spin. Jimmy Cauty, once part of the KLF, is displaying his version of a fun model village complete with 3,000 riot police in the aftermath of major civil unrest.

It’s absolutely crazy. For some reason, there’s something deeply unnerving about abandoned theme parks. Banksy’s vision seems straight out of many people’s darkest dreams.

Sounds like fun.

Via Daring Fireball.

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The ONA Prince Street messenger bag at Tools & Toys →

August 25, 2015 |

I’m a huge fan of ONA camera bags, and the Prince Street is number two on my list, behind only the Brixton. Both bags are extremely similar, with the main difference between them being size.

I’m also a fan of Mike’s reviews, and this one is no exception. The photography is gorgeous as usual, and every detail about the bag has been carefully considered and deftly explained.

I probably won’t end up buying the Prince Street, but I sure enjoyed my time reading Mike’s take on it. An excellent piece of work any way you slice it.

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MirrorLessons reviews the upcoming Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II →

August 25, 2015 |

Mathieu and Heather from MirrorLessons have already gotten their hands on the upcoming E-M10 Mark II and they’ve wasted no time before reviewing it. From what I’ve seen, the update is somewhat underwhelming. The Mark II retains the same 16 MP sensor and TruePic VII image processor, there’s still no weather sealing, and there’s still no battery grip option. This update doesn’t really try to grow the list of things the E-M10 was already capable of, instead it is a refinement of the original concept.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this camera is how it repositions the E-M10 series within the Olympus lineup as an entry-level product. While the original E-M10 was so good that it even had a leg up the E-M5 with features like WiFi and a more modern image processor, this time around there’s no such thing going on. Everything the E-M10 II can do, the E-M5 II can do as well, but not the other way around. With this camera, the Olympus lineup falls back into a good/better/best model once again, which will be made all the more apparent once the upcoming E-M1 Mark II is announced.

Now, Olympus did add a few interesting new features with the E-M10 Mark II, like their excellent 5-axis IBIS and an electronic shutter option that goes up to 1/16,000th of a second. The EVF was also slightly improved, although probably not enough to constitute a huge difference over the previous one.

Still, for my money the original E-M10 remains an excellent value. Despite these few nice additions, you won’t get better image quality out of the Mark II, which means owners of the previous generation don’t have many compelling reasons to upgrade this time around. That said, if you’re looking to buy your first Micro Four Thirds camera, the new E-M10 Mark II is definitely a solid choice.

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Jordan Steele reviews the Sony A7R II →

August 24, 2015 |

Jordan’s review is fantastic, as usual. Lots of interesting thoughts on the camera’s small quirks, and lots of incredibly gorgeous pictures. I was really impressed by how well images shot with old Canon FD glass look on the A7R II. In particular, this picture of Jordan’s son, taken with the Canon FD 85mm f/1.8 lens, looks amazingly sharp at the point of focus, with the background melting away into a gorgeous bokeh. Really impressive stuff.

Given that old Canon FD lenses can be easily purchased today for pennies on the dollar, this quality is enough to make you wonder if the investment on modern, Zeiss-branded autofocusing glass — not to mention the manual-focus Loxia lenses — is really worth it.

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