Make the print

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I had a wonderful day with Lauren and the kids. And it was also a day to be reflective. 

It is no secret, photography has had a massive impact on me.

Sharing photographs and connecting online with others has deeply influenced my professional investments and has enriched my personal life a great deal. 

The overwhelming benefits are too lengthy to describe in this post. It’s obvious with the massive rise in photography that many of us feel the same way.

We have figured out how to create, publish and connect. And many have figured out how to back up and archive.

But there is something missing. Backing up is critical but I’m not convinced it’s sufficient. When I leave this planet how will my children and future grandchildren browse my photographs. Will they want to comb through Adobe Lightroom files on my computer? Or go through countless JPEG and RAW files?

It doesn’t feel like they will want to do that. 

So I’m thinking backing up is really for me and for right now. It’s less compelling to others in the future.

I think the thing missing are the prints. Photographs need to be printed. Hand someone a print and watch their reaction.

I confess I am out of practice when it comes to making prints with any regularity. Printing is much harder than a quick post on your favorite social network. My closest printing attempt is the annual holiday photo calendar I make for my parents and Lauren’s mom each Christmas

But I’m going to make a new start.

Each month I’m going to pick my favorite 36 photographs. Sometimes it might be less. But not more than 36.

Then at the end of the year I am going to make a photo book with these photographs. And that will be the thing we can have to enjoy, cherish, smile and cry. 

I am happy we are all taking so many photographs. It’s wonderful we are getting more creative as a connected society. Just don’t forget to make the prints.

One day if I go to heaven…I’ll look around and say “It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco” — Herb Caen

I was in San Francisco for the last few days.

There is so much going in startup land within the South of Market district of San Francisco. New ideas are bouncing off the walls and you can feel the desire, ambition and passion on every corner.

It’s infectious.

But getting out of SoMa is something I truly appreciate. The part of SF that is quiet, mysterious and reflective.

I’m glad I could catch up with friends and see both sides of such a special city.

Eyefi Mobi

Last week I met up with a bunch of friends and photographers in NYC.

I had been following Lucio for some time so it was finally cool to meet him in person.

Lucio showed me his wifi sd card and how easy it was to beam photos from his dslr to his iPhone. Fast and simple.

That night I ordered mine on amazon.

The product is called the Eyefi Mobi and I love it.

Few things to keep in mind about this product.

-The Eyefi Mobi only supports jpeg.

If you shoot raw either configure your camera as raw+jpeg or manually convert your raw images to jpeg on your camera. My Leica M240 doesn’t allow the latter but many others allow this.

-Wifi not Bluetooth

This is probably my biggest complaint about the Eyefi. I wish it worked with Bluetooth. To connect your camera to your phone you need to goto your phones wifi setting and select the Eyefi.

It takes a few seconds to do this each time and it sounds cumbersome. In reality it’s totally workable. But Bluetooth would make it so much easier.

-There is a cloud offering with the Eyefi. I haven’t tried it so I can’t comment on that part of the product.

The iPhone camera was a gateway drug for my photography. It turned me on to different cameras that don’t have internet connectivity.

Now I feel like I have the best of both worlds.

Photography: input vs output ?

John Gruber recently linked to this story by Craig Mod in the New Yorker, “Goodbye, Cameras”

Craig’s story walks us through his personal journey of photography, from film to digital SLR to digital mirrorless to the iPhone.

And it’s clear he’s passionate about his work and his art. You can also feel his joy and memories of using film.

Because of its simplicity, shooting with a [Hasselblad] 500C is deliberate in ways that few other cameras can match: you line up your shot, take a deep breath, and then, when everything comes together—light, shadow, and subject—squeeze the release and mumble a short prayer as the cloth shutter opens and closes with a thick, satisfying thunk. It almost feels like the camera is munching on the photons of light passing through it. I loved looking at the world through its precisely ground glass,

You should read the entire piece but in the end he comes to the following conclusion

In the same way that the transition from film to digital is now taken for granted, the shift from cameras to networked devices with lenses should be obvious. While we’ve long obsessed over the size of the film and image sensors, today we mainly view photos on networked screens—often tiny ones, regardless of how the image was captured

I agree with much of this. Most of our photographs aren’t printed by any means or even appreciated on large displays. They are mostly consumed on our small mobile devices. 

And with those small displays, it’s less obvious that you need anything more than todays iPhone 5s which is truly a remarkable camera. 

But for me it’s not about the output that matters. The input matters just as much.

When I hold a camera like a Leica M3 or M240, or a medium format film camera like a Hasselblad 503cw, the output isn’t guaranteed. It’s part of the process. But I’m in full control. I zoom with my feet. I can feel, with my hands and eyes, how to change the photograph by moving the aperture dial, focus ring and shutter speed. And then I press the shutter and make my photograph. One at a time. 

I don’t know how else to explain this feeling even though I know that all of that effort doesn’t matter to the viewer on their mobile phone. But it does matter to me. 

And yet its not lost on me that my most well “liked” photograph (11k likes) on my Tumblr was taken with an iPhone. 

To be continued….

My latest adventures in photography

I’ve been getting a bunch of emails with increasingly frequency asking when I’m going to resume writing about tech and startups. 

Even though I have a continued love affair with startups and tech, I just don’t have a passion about writing about them at the moment. Maybe that will change soon. Tomorrow is another day.

My photography explorations continue. Photography seems to be this fascinating blend of art, technology and community for me. And I just can’t shake it. So, here a few things I’ve discovered of late:

1. Hasselblad 503cw. I recently purchased this fascinating camera. I’ve been inspired by the work of Johnny Patience, Chris Ozer, Benjamin Heath and Aaron Durand and their use of film and this particular medium format machine. Along with my Hassy, I’ve picked up a bunch of Kodak Portra 160 and 400 rolls of film. The film shoots 12 exposures per roll. It uses a big, bright waist level viewfinder. You move it left to go right and right to go left. Everything is manual. I had to get an external light meter. I’m learning with film overexposing is better than under exposing. I get the film processed and scanned at a local lab. The prints are delicious.  It’s a whole new experience and I am loving it. 

2. I was out for dinner the other night with my friend Josh. Josh has just started shooting film recently and he suggested I read Film Is Not Dead. I ordered the hardcover (the kindle version didn’t seem appropriate). I can’t wait to read it cover to cover (as they used to say in the old days). 

3. My workflow continues to revolve around Adobe Lightroom. Probably the only piece of software that makes me still value MacOS machines. I recently purchased some beautiful Lightroom presets from Rebecca Lily. They are beautiful and I am enjoying them very much. 

That’s all for now. Thanks. 

What kind of camera should I buy?

I get this question frequently since I wrote this post.

It’s nice to see fellow enthusiasts wanting to push their photography skills farther along their journey.

Right now, there are so many fine cameras it is hard to go wrong. But since I’ve written this down for a number of friends lately, I thought I would just share it on my Tumblr.

(note: this post isn’t meant to cover point and shoot style cameras. It’s likely true the best point and shoot is the iPhone 5s).


I think there are less and less reasons to buy a DSLR these days thanks to high quality, compact mirrorless cameras. But there are a few reasons to still buy one, namely:

-If you are a professional photographer
-if you want to make large prints
-if you seek highest quality images and don’t mind carrying around a big camera and big lenses
-if you want (very) fast autofocus
-if you want telephoto lenses

If you want something that is more compact and still high quality, here are my recommendations at this time.

1. Olympus OMD EM-5. This camera came out last year. The image stablization is sick. I’ve been able to handhold photos at 1/15th of a second. Some of the lenses for this camera are simply stunning like the Olympus 17mm f/2, Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. Autofocus is very fast with any of these lenses. The camera is small, lightweight and responsive. It’s a great system. Olympus is shipping a new model next month called the EM-1. It’s bigger and more expensive than the EM-5 and the image quality is significantly better.

2. Fuji X-E2. The X-E2 is coming out next month. It replaces the Fuji X-E1 which has amazing image quality. The image quality is better than the Olympus but the autofocus is slower. The X-E2 promises faster autofocus speed than it’s predecessor but still a slower camera than the OMD EM-5. Fuji makes a gorgeous 35mm lens for their X systems.

3. Sony RX1R. This is a full frame, autofocus compact camera. The image quality is the best of this bunch and rivals full frame pro DSLRs. The build quality is extraordinary. The UI isn’t my favorite but that’s a personal preference. There are two drawbacks with this camera in my mind. First, it doesn’t come with a built in viewfinder. So you need to either attach a clunky external one or just shoot using the LCD on the back. The other drawback is the lens is fixed and attached. You can’t switch it. But that built in lens is a beauty. Absolutely gorgeous.

* * *

4. Leica M. This is my favorite of the group but it really is a different type of experience all together. It’s a full frame rangefinder system and requires manual focusing. Leica lenses are the best in the world. It’s not for everyone but I had to mention it. It also costs significantly more than the other camera systems mentioned above. A Leica M body is about $7,000 and lenses range from $2k-$10k. I am in love with this quirky, camera that feels like nothing else I’ve ever held.

I hope this helps some of you.

A first

Over the years I have been interviewed about Spark or one of our portfolio companies. And I’m often happy to do that.

But this week I had a different kind of interview. I was invited to share my photographs and thoughts on Prosophos. That’s a first. 

I’ve been following Peter and his website Prosophos for some time now. When I became introduced to rangefinder photography, I was led to his site because of his beautiful photographs (which he typically makes with his Leica).

He shares a thoughtful, wonderful photograph every day along with great insight about photography and equipment. 

When he asked if I would be a featured photographer on his website I was honored. 

If you are interested in photography or just like being inspired by beautiful images, I would encourage you to add Prosophos to your daily reading list.

(Thanks Peter!)

Is the iPhone destroying standalone cameras or is it a gateway drug?

The most popular camera on Flickr is the iPhone 5. The 2nd most popular camera is the iPhone4S.

Wanna guess what the 3rd most popular camera?

Yep, iPhone 4.

The iPhone camera is truly stunning. Folks are blowing my mind on Tumblr and Instagram with their eye, talent, creative energy and this camera. Check out these iPhone photographs by Michael O’Neal.

I’ve met Michael. He’s a super talented (and super friendly). We’ve met for a sunset photowalk and a sunrise photowalk in San Francisco. He’s taught me so many things about making photographs with an iPhone (and post processing with mobile apps like snapseed) and he turned me on to AvgCamPro which is a sick app.

I was dabbling with photography for years but the iPhone 4 led me to more serious photography. I wanted to learn as much as possible about workflow in Adobe Lightroom. I couldn’t believe what you could do with a few sliders like shadow, highlight, contrast, tones and clarity.

That led me to buy a camera that could shoot in RAW and allowed me to manually override the shutter speed and aperture (fuji x100). I could take long exposures. I could blur backgrounds. I could shoot into the sun. Then two years ago I picked up a rangefinder that changed my life. I’m now chasing light.

Interesting the 4th most popular is the Canon 5d markii. That is a serious camera. It sports a full frame sensor and Canon sells some magical glass. I’ve had a few dreams about their 50mm f/1.2.

There are so many wonderful cameras coming out these days. People ask me all the time what camera they should buy. It really comes down to budget and what type of photography interests you and form factor. The reality is you can’t really go wrong with many of them. You just need to put in the time and commit.

And I’m seeing so many people do just that. They are double fisting. iPhone in one hand and a more “serious camera" for different photography experiences.

This fall Apple will ship a new iPhone. Probably called the iPhone5S. My guess is an improved camera amongst other things. That phone will take over the title for most popular camera on Flickr in no time.

But will it kill standalone cameras or serve as a gateway drug for more people who want to push their photography interest farther along.

It feels like the latter and that is pretty cool.

(ps here is the flickr page ranking cameras by popularity)

A compact camera that rivals the DSLR

For the past 5 years, I’ve been using a DSLR as my “real camera”. It started when I bought the Canon Rebel and then a few years back I bought the 40d. It’s an amazing camera that is fast & flexible. I have three very different lenses for almost every situation. It takes beautiful pictures.

But there is a problem with the 40d. It’s big & heavy and I end up leaving it home a lot. It’s not easy to carry that thing when I’m running around with three kids.

So the iPhone ends up taking a ton of photos which isn’t great. Sure, it’s excellent for the casual snapshot but I love photography, getting the right light and making pictures. 

My brother has been excited about the micro four thirds system for some time now. He’s a doctor by day and as a hobby runs a micro four thirds message board. He’s been pushing me for the past year. 

A week ago I took the plunge and bought my first micro four thirds camera – the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (honestly, who names these things).

Quick review: easy, fast, small and takes great pictures. 

My 10 year old daughter took a bunch of shots today. It’s so fast that even in auto mode it didn’t require a flash indoors. 

Here’s a few indoor shots that Sophia took besides this funny self portrait. 

Me / Our dog / James jumping (no flash) 

I absolutely love this camera. It’s light and the 20mm lens that comes with the camera is sweet. Autofocus is fast. It takes HD video. 

Right now the only thing I miss about the 40d for everyday shots is the view finder. The view finder comes in handy on sunny days and some old habits die hard I guess. I’ll probably only use the 40d when I need my telephoto lens – otherwise I’m all about the GF1.

I highly recommend this camera if you are looking for an amazing camera but don’t want to lug around a DSLR, You won’t be disappointed.