From my home in San Antonio I can drive to most parts of Texas to shoot photographs and return the same day. Usually I head northwest onto the Edwards Plateau and beyond to the Texas Bend country. My inclination is to go as far west as I can and still return in one day. For me there is a sense of freedom when traveling in the less populated parts of West Texas and the borderlands. It is a vast area with few resources so you need to be able to manage on your own.
Logistically, getting to West Texas for a sunrise photograph without an overnight stay means starting out at two or three AM. A shooting plan is a necessity when traveling hours to make a few photographs. It is simply too far to drive without knowing what you expect to accomplish. My first task is always to work my plan. Then as time and distance permit, to scout and shoot documentary images for future trips.
I could spend a couple of days a week on the road and never get to photograph all the interesting places I’d like to see. Being a regional photographer in Texas means there is plenty of room to roam around.
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I’m now about one third done with my project to shoot with legacy lenses for a year. Using forty plus year old optics full time on a Sony A7II may seem a little unusual. It is a different approach to digital photography and not something to do without planning. For me it is worth doing. Those old lenses are inexpensive and some even give excellent results.
Images captured with legacy lenses often have a different look than those captured with modern optics. Lenses for film cameras were designed using analog methodologies and manufactured with less precise tooling. That gives them what some enthusiasts call ‘character’. When adapted to digital cameras they often render images with unique qualities. That is not to say better qualities than modern lenses.
So far all my project images have been shot with one of four prime lenses in the range of 28-135mm. Not much reach considering I shot many images at 200mm with my X-T1. That would be a field of view around 300mm with the full frame A7II. Using prime lenses with just four available focal lengths has caused me to adapt the way I visualize images. That along with manual lens control has forced me to work slower. I’ve been shooting fewer frames with better results.
The first third of the project has not been as productive as I’d hoped. My time shooting in the field has been less over the last few months than any time in recent years. I expect that to change. I will be shooting more in the Texas Bend as well as around San Antonio in the coming months. Just for starters Día de Muertos is in a couple of weeks. That is always interesting to photograph.
To sum up, the project has exceeded my expectations. I’m enjoying my time with the camera and shooting better images. That makes the project a success to this point. I expected using legacy lenses would be a burden but I like the control they give me. Also the lenses I’m using are producing good results. What’s not to like?
On Independence Day I drove up to Luckenbach with the A7II to shoot some outdoor music performances. To be honest I didn’t have high expectations of being able to use a manual lens to get decent shots. As expected the results were mixed but the manual lens was less of an issue than the camera firmware.
As has been reported numerous times elsewhere the A series cameras insist on using 1/60 second shutter speed when set to aperture priority and auto ISO with manual lenses. That behavior makes shooting any sort of moving subject problematic at best. In most ways the Sony is an outstanding camera but it falls down badly in this situation because you can’t set a minimum shutter speed in aperture mode. It is really too bad and disappointing for such a competent tool to behave this way.
All cameras have quirks and there are ways around the slow shutter speed problem with this one. You just have to change how you work with the camera. There are three variables that can be manipulated on this particular camera to get proper exposure. These are aperture, shutter speed and light sensitivity (ISO). Using some combination of the three variables provides a solution.
Two simple workarounds use either shutter priority or full manual along with auto ISO to achieve a proper result. Both are very similar when using manual lenses. Set the aperture on the lens, select the appropriate shutter speed and allow the camera to work out proper exposure by varying the ISO within a user selected range. As long as the camera can adjust sensitivity to achieve proper exposure you are good to go.
This is not a point and shoot solution. It requires the photographer be able to judge lighting conditions well enough to be able to select a shutter speed that keeps exposure within the ISO range the camera will use. The camera provides all the information you need to get proper exposure right in the viewfinder but the photographer is in control.
The point is that the photographer has to make decisions to ensure that the camera performs correctly to get the desired result. If you are unwilling to control the camera to get proper exposure then don’t shoot with manual lenses.