Fujinon XF 35mm F/2 Lens

This compact Fujinon 35mm f/2 is one of my favorite lenses.

I bought the Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 WR lens some time ago. I don’t recall exactly when I purchased the lens, but it was sometime after I bought my X-T1. As Fujifilm released their compact series of lenses, they received very good reviews. They are fast. They are compact. They are well-made (mostly metal and glass with plastic where it makes sense). They are weather resistant (like the X-T1).

There are plenty of very technical, pixel-peeping, jargon-filled reviews on the Interwebs. I think those reviews are interesting, but then I am an engineer and I like technical analysis. My short review is not like those. That is all done and I can add nothing significant to that content.

What I can do is share some of my experience with this particular lens on the X-T1. I carry it a lot (hence all the dust). It complements the small form-factor of the X-T1 well. It is excellent optically. It focuses accurately (for the most part) and quickly. It is also very quiet.

I found this on morning walkies Sunday and had to have an image.
A number of the images on my weblog were made with the Fuji 35/2. Some of my favorite images (think the pepsis wasp) were made with this lens. Some of the characteristics of this lens that I like are:

  • It will focus to about a foot, which is close enough to work as a light macro lens.
  • It has good contrast.
  • It is small and light.
  • It is fast enough to provide separation between the subject and the background.
  • The out of focus portions of the image are quite pleasing.

There is only one thing that I don’t think this lens does very well. It will sometimes miss focus, especially when close in. That is a limitation of the system and not a fault of the lens. The Fujinon 35/2 is not a true macro lens. The focusing sensors will sometimes target the background behind a close subject. When I miss this in review I am disappointed when I return to the computer and begin working on the image.

The solution is to check focus in the field after making the capture. The alternative is to use manual focus (which the X-T1 does very well) with the split screen and focus peaking.

The split-screen capability of the X-T1 operates by presenting a small portion of the center of the image, enlarged, adjacent to the full frame in the EVF. This is perfect for use with manual focus, either when operating the Fujinon lenses in manual mode or when attaching legacy manual focus lenses to the camera via an adapter. (I have a large collection of legacy glass that can produce beautiful images.)

This boy is the victim of a couple of bad spinal disks. However, in the water, he’s just a dog — his land-gear left behind.
Focus peaking is an algorithm in the camera firmware that detects the sharpness of the image and highlights sharp areas in the EVF. Focus peaking was a feature of my first mirrorless camera (a Sony NEX-5N, that I loved and used a great deal) and was a requirement when I started looking at the Fujifilm Finepix cameras. Fuji knows how to do focus peaking just as well as Sony.

Although my intent is not to review the Fujifilm X-T1, those points are salient because the Fujinon 35/2 works with the camera as a system and this system works well for me. It is a good system.

To sum up, I really like the handling of this lens on the X-T1. With a compact lens and relatively small body, the combination is light, handles very well, produces excellent images, and is a joy to use. The X-T1 and 35/2 fit into a small bag and there is room for extra batteries, extra memory cards, and a couple more of the compact Fujinon lenses. But, those lenses are a topic for another entry.

Does Not Make a Right

I have not yet identified the species of this snake. It looks like a human kill to me. The yellow jackets are feasting (and cleaning up the mess).

A few weeks ago I shared an image and a story about a rattlesnake found dead at a park. A week or so ago The Girl and I were walking the Mexican Ditch Trail on Silver Saddle Ranch when we came across this snake. It looked to me that someone had killed it on the trail and left it.

I cannot tell if it is a rattlesnake or not. It looks like someone took the tail so I am suspicious that it was a rattlesnake.

I am not OK with killing one of these animals on encounter. The Girl and I bypass them and let them contribute their part to the ecosystem. They fill a valuable role.

This is another wrong… and two wrongs do not make a right.

Air Quality

The air quality was abysmal a few days ago. That didn’t stop the geese from flying or me from waking The Girl.

For the last couple of weeks (since I returned home, actually), the air quality here in Carson City and western Nevada has been poor. On several days we were warned by NOAA to check AirNow for air quality conditions and listen to what they said.

Late last week I gave up my strength training because I felt so bad. This weekend I did not go outdoors much at all. I finally gave in early in the week and started taking shorter walks. The Girl was about to go stir crazy and was, therefore, making me crazy. So I gave in and began walking again, trying to make the outings shorter to reduce my exposure to the smoke.

The day I made this image was not the worst. The geese flew anyway. The Girl and I walked a couple of miles out by the Carson River and then returned home.

The air was much better this morning. We made the walk out to Mexican Dam and back to the staging area. The air was much better and I really enjoyed the walk.

The Pepsis wasps were out working one of the milkweed plants. They patiently permitted me to make photographs of them. The Girl rested nearby in the shade.

I’m looking forward to having the fires out. It’s a little selfish, I know, but I will also be happy for those affected by the fires. I know they will be relieved to have them under control and then out.

Vortex Diamondback Binoculars

I bought this pair of Vortex Diamondback binoculars a couple of months ago. They are very good at the price point.

A decent pair of binoculars is an appropriate part of an outdoorsman’s equipment. They are useful in so many situations where a better view of a distant object is needed. That could be birds or other wildlife or a more tactical situation.

I have a couple pairs of Nikon binoculars. I spent about a hundred bucks for the pocket set and a couple of hundred bucks for the compact pair. They worked reasonably well a few years ago when I wore contact lenses.

However, I gave up on contact lenses because my eyes just do not tolerate them well. It is too dry and I could not keep my eyes wet enough. After discussing this issue with my eye care provider, I gave up and went back to regular spectacles.

I muddled by with the limited eye relief (the distance between the eyepiece and the eye) for a couple of years. But earlier this year I decided that I like looking at and identifying birds. After a little research, I chose a pair of Vortex Diamondback binoculars and bought the 8×42 version at the local outdoors store.

Magnification greater than eight times does not work well with handheld optics. We move too much and the field of view will not be either stable or clear. I think that eight magnifications are actually a bit much (I prefer seven magnifications for handheld optics). But I could not find this model in a 7x version. Regardless, they work well enough.

The eye relief is sufficient for my application. I get a full field of view with my eyes and eyeglasses. The field is bright, contrasty, and sharp. They work.

The objective diameter is only OK for night viewing (only 42mm) and is not the best for astronomical application. They work well enough if they are what you have, but a larger objective would be better for that application.

They are mildly susceptible to flare (loss of contrast and ghosting) if a bright light source is in the field of view or if the sun shines on the objective lens. The flare presents as a bright area on the opposite side of the field of view. It is not awful and is consistent with binoculars at this price point (about two hundred bucks). I can live with it.

One of the great offerings of Vortex is the warranty. It is a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty on the units. I am not particularly hard on my things, but I can tell you that I dropped my binoculars already. It will happen in the field.

The next step up in this line (the HD version) is one of the Audobon recommended binoculars for bird watchers. They are about $500 on the street. They are the same magnification and objective size (8×42) and I think they are worth a look. I might buy a set of those later this year and keep the current set in my SUV for those time I do not have my pack with me. I know that I reach for the pocket Nikons now and again when I am driving and see something in the distance I cannot identify.

The paracord lanyard was something that I put together. I hang my binoculars from a Grimloc on either the shoulder strap of my pack or the crossbody strap of my Versipack. I also use a paracord loop to trap the eyepiece cap.

I can recommend the Vortex Diamondback binoculars for general field use. They are reasonably powerful and optically good enough for a budget-priced optic. They have enough eye relief to work with my eyes and eyeglasses. I will keep my set and sell the Nikons.

On Facebook and My Weblog

A couple of weeks ago I received a notice from WordPress that Facebook would disable cross-posting of my blog writings to my page. This morning I noticed that there was a warning to connect my weblog output to a specific Facebook page. That is, I can no longer post my weblog output to my personal Facebook page.

I am unsure why Facebook made this decision. It is likely another move to protect their business. I think it is short-sighted and inappropriate. But, I am also OK with one more disconnection from Facebook. It is not a service that I enjoy and I do not spend much time there. I will not spend much time there.

As a result, if you are interested in what I leave here on this site, then you will have to check it once in a while to see if I have posted something new.

The Writing Discipline

I found this on morning walkies Sunday and had to have an image.

About a week ago I met Judy M. while walking The Girl out at Riverside Park on the Carson River. I think Judy is about where I was a few years ago after Wife died and I was in the process of discovering what I was to be without her in my life. It was a turbulent time of reflection and introspection during which I ended my engagement with my previous employer, sold my house, put my things into storage, and went on a long wander.

That wander took me many places where I spent time with family, friends, and loved ones. It was necessary for me to take the time to process my loss. It was good to connect with people I love. I cherish that time.

In any event, I think Judy will be an interesting read and encourage you, the reader, to visit her weblog and encourage her to continue posting. I am going to follow her.

Her sharing with me her weblog reminded me that I have not been exercising the writing discipline on my own site for some time. I see that it was early in July when I posted last. To be fair, I was traveling to see family and friends for a couple of weeks. I spent my time and energy on that exercise and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, it meant that I did not have time and energy to spend writing on my own weblog.

I know that I shared before an intention to write here regularly. I find it difficult, though, when I break the habit (or discipline) of writing regularly here to restart that work. I have many things to do and they will take priority if I let them.

That said, I still have the desire and intention of posting here on this site regularly. I suppose that means I need to set a regular reminder in my calendar that posting day is coming so you better get writing and then dig down and do that work.

I make no promise, although I have the intention of writing regularly. I think it is an important part of what I do and I also think I still have plenty of words left in me. Stop laughing…

While walking The Girl this morning we came upon these large wasps working the flowering plants along the path. I think this specimen was nearly 50mm long. The striking contrast between the black body and orange wings caught my eye. So, I made a few captures with the Fuji X-T1 and the Fuji 35mm f/2 lens. Of all the captures, this one I like the best.

I did give them some space. They did not seem particularly aggressive, but the orange wings looked like a warning to me. “Danger, Ruminator!”

When we returned home, I made some lunch (green salad with some ham, turkey, Jack cheese, avocado, and a Roma tomato) and relaxed a little. Then I looked up the wasp. I think it is a Tarantula Hunter, or Pepsis wasp. It was consuming nectar from a milkweed plant, along with a couple of butterflies.

Wrong!

No, I did not kill this snake. I found it at Grimes Point when I stopped for lunch.
On my way east, I stopped at Grimes Point for a break and to make a sandwich. As I sat under the shelter munching a sandwich, drinking a bit of Diet Mellow Yellow, and snacking on some potato chips, I played with the chipmunks begging for bits of my lunch. One of them nearly took a bite of chip from my hand, then shied off. I noticed him creeping up on something a dozen feet away, very carefully. I noticed his attention was focused on a snake. A piece of rebar lay atop the dead animal, the implement of its destruction.

It looked like a Great Basin Rattlesnake to me. Its head was destroyed and the rattles were taken, I suppose as a trophy or souvenir.

This made me a little sad. Yes, rattlesnakes can be dangerous. They do not generally bite unless injured or cornered. They serve a function in the desert ecosystem. They are beautiful animals.

The snake was there because of the rodent population, I’m sure. It was just doing what rattlesnakes do — hunt food. They are where the food is.

It would have been easy to move the snake away from the picnic area without killing it. I would have either left it alone or moved it. They can easily be encouraged to move along without risk. It just takes a long stick and some patience.

There is something wrong with killing an animal needlessly. I have no issue with pest control, hunting for meat, or caring for livestock. But the wanton destruction of this animal was unnecessary and wrong.

What a shame.

Metaphor

This boy is the victim of a couple of bad spinal disks. However, in the water, he’s just a dog — his land-gear left behind.
The Girl and I walk the Carson River often, almost every day. At this time of year, I really prefer to be near the water, particularly on hot days when we don’t leave the house very early.

One day we walked up a couple of women. One sat on the bench at this favorite stop while the other played with her dog in the river. Bench-woman told me that the dog has a couple of bad spinal disks, such that his rear legs are not really functional. However, with the carriage he gets along just fine.

I stopped, knelt in the sand (while the Girl snuffled about, got her feet wet, and got a drink) to get a capture of the carriage and the players in the background. On land, the dog is crippled — not fully able to use his body as intended. However, as I watched him play in the water with his friend, he was just a dog swimming and playing like all the other dogs seen in the river. Had I not known of his infirmity, I would never have guessed that his rear legs don’t work.

This struck me as a metaphor that applies to so many of us. Out of our element, we are crippled and not fully functional as many others are or might be. However, when in our element, we are just like all the others — able to work, play, and live like any other dog.

Rocks on Driftwood

I found these stones stacked on a piece of driftwood on the Pacific Coast of Oregon.

A couple of years ago I drove up to Washington state to visit some friends and wander around. On my way home, I drove through the Olympic Peninsula, spending a few days working my way back south. I camped some and I stayed in hotels.

As I drove one morning, I came upon a bit of state beach on a cool, foggy morning. The Girl and I wandered down the path to the beach, enjoying the cool, moist sea air. Once on the beach, we found a lot of driftwood piled up from recent storms. I supposed we wandered around the beach for an hour, interacting with some fishermen working the surf and making photographs.

On the way back to the rig, I came on this group of stones that someone stacked on a log. In many ways, it is a stock image. I have seen many similar captures. But there was something about being there on that Pacific beach, finding something that someone else left behind. The image was not staged. The fog provided a wonderful background.

So, I made the capture. It was a good day.

Adjusting My Workspace

After a couple-three months of not writing/posting here, I decided that my weblog is still something I want to do. Since my last post (back in February), I have been plenty busy with work and other things. I have enough work to pay my bills. For that, I am truly thankful and give God the glory for his provision. I have more than I need and most of what I want. I spend some time every day outside with The Girl. It is a good life and I am grateful.

In addition to opening up space for my iMac, I was able to move the PC workstation from the floor to the top of the original six-foot worktable and move the monitors to the left. That left me space to center the keyboard. I also moved my B+W MM-1 speakers to the PC so that I can video conference from the PC workstation while sharing the screen with results.
So, with a break from work and travel, I elected to rework my home office. I found myself cramped with a 27-inch iMac and a new PC workstation with a pair of 28-inch Samsung 4K monitors. So Saturday I tore down the iMac, the PC workstation, and the peripheral support and set them all aside. I turned over the existing six-foot and fastened 1/2-inch cable clamps to the underside of the table and set screws to hold one of the surge protectors. I righted the worktable and moved everything to it and removed the other worktable, a five-foot unit I was using for the base of an L-shaped.

I then retrieved my other six-foot worktable from the garage and cleaned it up. I turned it over and mounted four more 1/2-inch cable clamps to the bottom and screws to mount two surge protectors. With that task done, I righted the table and set it next to the other.

The reorganization of my workspace includes exchanging the five-foot worktable with a six-footer. The iMac was moved from the adjacent six-foot worktable, opening up the workspace, providing me space to write (yes, handwrite, with a fountain pen), and work on small projects. I also added the Audioengine A5+ speakers and a 24-bit DAC to the workstation.
The hard work of lying on my back and wiring everything commenced. It took me an hour to route all the cables to their respective locations. I used cable ties to tie the cables to the clamps on the underside of each table. This keeps the cable mess under control and off the floor. I like having no cables on the floor for two reasons: 1) It makes keeping the floor much easier and 2) The Girl cannot get caught up in the cables and cause a disaster. She loves to curl up under that table when I am working and often walks under the table that sticks out from the wall to interact with me.

I added a set of Audioengine A5+ powered speakers to my iMac. I listen to music (a lot) and prefer speakers when working. I have not found a set of wireless headphones that do not have dropouts. (The exception is my Steelseries Arctis gaming headphones, but they are not really for music.) There was nothing wrong with the B+W MM-1s that I have. But I also want a set of speakers for my PC workstation because I use it for video conferencing through Skype and Google Hangouts with clients and colleagues. I do not want to use a headset for that interaction, so the B+Ws went to the PC and the Audioengine speakers are being given a workout on the iMac.

They are BIG, probably eight times the volume of the MM-1s. The larger drivers and increased volume of the cabinets makes a difference — a BIG difference. I am on my 30-day audition of the new speakers and will give them a real workout over the month. However, my initial impression is very good.

So, that is a summary of what I am up to. I have more images to post and more stories to tell.