Sailing through Time


Four images from a series that I call “Sailing through Time”:Sailing through Time-1

Sailing through Time-2

Sailing through Time-3Sailing through Time-4

Young Artist

My daughter has developed into quite the young artist.  She sketches, draws and paints.  She’s currently very fascinated by Manga and has been doing a lot of sketches influenced by that style.  She’s also learned to ignore dad when he’s got a camera in hand!  I managed to shoot several portraits of her as she was sketching away one day, by the winter light of a northwest facing window.  This image was made with the Nikon Df, a remarkable camera that I will have more to say about in the next few days.  The lens used was the classic Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 lens.  One of my all-time favorite lenses for Nikon F-mount.  Shot wide open at f/1.2, focus was on the eyelashes, with the rest of the image showing the wonderful out-of-focus rendering that the Noct is so well known for.  RAW conversion using Capture NX 2.4.5.

Young Artist-1


As always, comments and critique welcome!

Back after a long hiatus…

Life tends to get busy and things fall by the wayside.  Such is the nature of life…

For me, it has been a long break from posting here.  I was traveling a lot for work and then I made a change in my life – I resigned from a great job and jumped into a startup that a friend and I decide to create last April.  Things have been very busy, with little time for photography and none for devoting any attention to this blog.  I used to hang out at the Leica Forum at DPreview with what little time I had, as I had many friends there, and have found the forum to be a great community over the past many years.  Recently, I’ve observed the forum to have devolved into cliques, mindless praise of iffy images (something that I must admit to certainly being guilty of – both posting and commenting) and a tendency on the part of some people to engage in a cult of personality fueled by ego.  I decided then that life was too short to hang out in such a community.  What little time I can reclaim, having made that decision, I plan to spend posting here.

A very Happy New Year, filled with much love, laughter, prosperity and joy to you all in 2014.  And above all else, a year filled with great light!



Haiku in Two

Haiku in Two

A Lesson with a Master Chef

A few weeks back I was at the Jaipur Mariott.  Saffron, a restaurant at the Mariott that serves classic Indian cuisine, was running a week-long Hyderabadi food festival.  Hyderabad, a state in southern India is renowned for it’s cuisine,  a legacy of the Nizams (rulers) of Hyderabad who had a passion for good food and music.  Hyderabadi cuisine is heavily influenced by the cuisine of Awadh, a princely state that used to exist in Nothern Indian.  The chefs of Awadh introduced the world to Dum Pukht (literally “slow oven” in Persian) cuisine – food that is notable for it’s rich flavors and aroma, achieved by slow cooking over low flame, in sealed utensils.

Saffron had a new chef, Chef Qadir, who specializes in Hyderabadi Cuisine.  He invited me to come sample the new menu.  I agreed and showed up one evening, leaving the choice of dishes to Chef Qadir.  I was treated to eight or nine dishes and can honestly say that every one of them was exquisite.   That evening, for the first time in my life, I began to understand the mindset of the romans and the way they ate at their bacchanals!

The most mind-blowing dish that evening was Lamb Biryani, a delicacy of India – a delicately spiced, aromatic dish of seasoned lamb and rice.  I had never eaten Biryani like that before and conveyed that to the staff and the Chefs.  They were pleased with my obvious enjoyment of the dishes and offered to teach me how to cook Biryani!  Needless to say, I took them up on their offer and showed up one afternoon for a lesson with a Master Chef.  I was asked to put on a Chef’s hat and brought in to the kitchen.  They graciously allowed me to shoot that lesson – I had brought my camera along.  These images were captured in the midst of trying to take notes, while attempting to listen carefully and watch Chef Mahesh and Chef Qadir, as the Biryani was created.

Chef Qadir gets ready to add yogurt to the marinade  – the lamb in the tray has already been spiced with red chilly, coriander, ginger and garlic paste, salt and a special mixture of spices that include cloves, cinnamon, green and black cardamom and other exotics like pathar ke phool (literally flowers of rock).  The marinade is rubbed in well and the tray covered up to marinade in a cooler for 24 hours.


Here Chef Qadir explains that the yogurt in the marinade serves as a tenderizer for the meat.  If the meat is especially tough, additional tenderizing using papaya paste may become necessary.  However he tells me that the lamb in Jaipur is of the finest quality and does not need additional tenderizing.


On the tray here, we some of the exotic spices that are not very commonly used in Indian cooking, as a whole.  Some of these spices are only available in and around Hyderabad.


Three handis (pots) have been made – one with the marinaded lamb, one with chicken and one with vegetables for the three Biryanis.  The next step is to cook the rice.  The secret here is a mixtures of spices and rose petals that are bundled in a muslin cloth, called a potli.   The water is boiled until the spices in the potli have leached and infused into the water.  When this happens, the water takes on an orangish color.   Here we see Chef Qadir about to put the potli into the boiling water.


The water is close to done and here Chef Mahesh gives it the sniff test – the aroma of rose must be present, along with other subtle scents from the spices.


The water is ready for the rice – the potli of spices is taken out, salt added and then Basmati rice that has been soaked for a while is added to the boiling water.

Another secret to a great biryani is the layering of rice that has been cooked to different consistencies.  Here, as Chef Qadir stirs the rice, Chef Mahesh explains to me the consistency of rice that goes in the first layer – it must be about 50% cooked, with a firm consistency.


Here as Chef Mahesh and Chef Qadir discuss the finer points of the spice mixtures, we see the three handis with lamb, chicken and vegetables, awaiting the first layer of rice.


The first layer of half-cooked rice is layered on to the meats/vegetables.


The second layer is on now and Chef Q is testing the rice in the boiling water for the last layer.


Once the three layers of rice are in place, the next ingredient is ghee (clarified butter).  Here we see Chef Qadir adding the butter.  And yes, this dish is very rich – almost certainly guaranteed to expand the mid regions and harden arteries if partaken on a regular basis! :)


The final step and the essence of Hyderabadi cooking – sealing the handi for the Dum.  Here we see Chef Qadir sealing the first handi with foil.  He explains that sealing the foil is key and must be down carefully and thoroughly – any sloppiness here will allow the delicate flavors to escape and ruin the Biryani.


The first handi has been sealed and is being cooked on an open flame as Chef seals the second handi.   Notice that the surface of the foil on the handi being cooked in concave at this stage.


Here we see the first handi which has been cooking for a bit – the pressure inside had caused the foil to bulge outwards.  This is the point when the handi will be taken off the flame and put on the
tava, the flat griddle that is being preheated on the adjacent burner.  Then the Biryani is cooked on indirect heat for a while longer.  At this point we are done with the cooking.


The Chefs ask me if I have any questions.  I remark that I hadn’t seen them measure anything at all through the entire process  – all the spices were tossed in without any explicit measurement.  This cause a bit of mirth – they are too polite to say it but I’d bet that essentially they are thinking “measurements are for amateurs” ! :)


Finally, here is a portrait of Chef Qadir.  Chef Mahesh had left by then.


A wonderful experience, the Jaipur Mariott has some of the warmest and friendliest people in Jaipur.  Their food is awesome too!

As always, comments & critique welcome.

The new Leica M (type 240)

On the 17th of September 2012, Leica announced the new M (Type 240), generating a lot of excitement amongst photography enthusiasts.   In a significant departure from it’s predecessors – the M8 and M9 digital rangefinders, the new M Type 240 is to feature LiveView!  This coupled with bells and whistles like focus peaking and magnified view was positioned as enabling the use of Leica R lenses, via suitable adapter, to be used with the new M.  Obviously, using other adapters, theoretically any lens from another mount system could then be used on the M, allowing photographers to get past one of the limitation of the previous Leica M-mount digitals – with the M8 and the M9 one was restricted to M-mount lenses.  Either that or  if you mounted a non-M-mount lens via an adapter, you were on your own as far as focusing was concerned.  You had two options – focus by using the distance scale or focus using trial-and-error.

Amongst the many discussions that the announcement generated were discussion about the inherent difference in the sensors – LiveView meant a CMOS sensor whereas the “magic” of the M8 and M9 came from the unique rendering of the Kodak CCD sensors in those cameras.  A rendering that many photographers, including yours truly, had grown to love – the color signatures of the the M8 and M9 are unique and the rendering is very different from the output of the Nikon and Canon CMOS sensor based cameras.  Many photographers using the M8 and M9 felt that at base iso, the image quality from the Leica cameras was far superior to that from CMOS sensors.  My friend Peter blogged about that here.  Needless to say, those debates are still seen on online fora, especially in the absence of images from the new M (Type 240).  I’m going to refer to the new Leica as the M240 here onwards.

My friend Dr. Ulrich Rohde has had access to the new M240 for many months now and has been kind enough to share images with me,  as the M240 developed and he received multiple prototypes.  I recently got his consent to share some of those images.  He was also kind enough to invite me to visit him and shoot with the M240, an offer that I’ve so far been unable to take him up on, given year-end work pressures.  I hope to visit him sometime in the new year and shoot with the new Leica.  Anways, without further ado, here are some of Dr. Rohde’s images.  These are from version of the firmware.  Dr. Rohde is very excited about the M240.  He tells me that the color rendering, sharpness and clarity of the new Leica surpass those of the M8 and M9.  He also tells me that the exposure meter is more accurate.  So far the prototypes have been jpeg output only.  I’m hoping to get DNGs as the firmware evolves and supports RAW output.  Stay tuned!

These following images are all shot by Dr. Rohde in his tests of the M240.  He holds copyright and they may not be reproduced elsewhere without his explicit permission.












These images are at web resolution and may or may not  enable one to make judgements about the quality of the images produced by the M240, especially in the context of the CMOS versus CCD debate.  Personally, I’m excited – these images give me more hope that the M240 will produce images close in character to those from the M9, at least as close as physics will allow, given the inherent differences in the sensors.  I hope to post more on this subject soon.  Thanks much to Dr. Ulrich Rohde for providing the images and his comments based on many months of playing with the M240.

At The Chinese Opera – The Diva

In Beijing, I had the opportunity to have dinner at a restaurant that featured a variety show that my local friends called “Chinese Opera”. This show featured Musicians, Singers, Martial Artists, A Magician, a Juggler and a Sichaun “Bian Lian” performance, where face masks are changed right in front of you at blinding speeds, almost like magic. It was a wonderful show and I was glad I had my camera with me that evening!

Here are four images of a diva from that evening – her ability to emote was amazing.

Please click on the images to view larger versions:



“You Coming, Son?”

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This beautiful young lady works at one of my favorite restaurants and always has a smile on her face.  She’s always very pleasant and was gracious enough to pose for a portrait.

Leica M9 + M-Hexanon 50mm f/1.2

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At the Pizzeria Prima Strada

Recently, while in Victoria, BC, I had a wonderful evening with a couple of close friends – my buddy Kevin and his beautiful wife Barb – wonderful people,  at the Pizzeria Prima Strada. The pizza was wonderful, the Montepulciano flowed in great quantity and the company was great!

All shot with Leica M9 + M-Hexanon 50mm f/1.2 lens:

Please click on the images to view a larger version:

The wood-fired oven that baked the wonderful pizza

Here’s Barb enjoying the Montepulciano


What lies yonder?

This lady took care of us – great sense of humor, a ready smile and, I suspect, a very tough lady

All in all, a most excellent evening!