Isolation After Snowmaggedon 2019 – Hey At Least It Is Pretty

Idaho is often confused with Iowa. I could say something, but will not go there.  For those not confused, most know that Idaho is a rugged, fairly isolated place with a relatively small population. It is in the top ten states in terms of size and the bottom ten in terms of population. As most of you know we live in Hailey and Stanley and work in Ketchum.

Sun Valley and the small towns of the Wood River Valley (Bellevue, Hailey, and Ketchum) combine for a total population of around 15,000.  Blaine County has just above 20,000 residents in 2,661 square miles or 8 people per square mile.  Stanley is in Custer County.  Stanley has a population of 63 and the county has 4,300 residents in 4,668 square miles of .8 people per square mile.  For comparison Los Angeles has 6,999 people per square mile, while San Francisco comes in at 6,299, Chicago, Portland (OR) and Salt Lake sit at around 3,600.  Seattle has 3,024 resident per square mile.  So know we have a picture of Not Crowded and Crowded.

February of 2019 brought record levels of precipitation (i.e., snow) to the region.  Sun Valley recorded 131 inches of snowfall.  During the last week of February the Weather Service predicted a snow storm lasting three days with bring 20-40 inches of snow.  The storm lasted six days and brought 48-72 inches of snow. I measured 53 inches of snow were dropped in the storm at the cabin in Stanley.  What was intended to be a 7-8 day stay has resulted a stay that will last three weeks.

Shae Dog, Sage of the Wood River Valley Dog, Willow of the Wood River Valley Dog, Linda and yours truly headed to the cabin for the weekend.  Linda headed back to the Wood River for work with the intention of returning the next weekend.  The dogs and I have yet to see Linda since she left.  Why?  Snowmaggedon 2019 ensued.  The dogs and I have been trapped in Stanley as the route to Ketchum (ID75) is closed and blocked at Galena Summit. The route to Boise (ID21) is closed and blocked at Banner Summit.  The backdoor (and three times as long) route to Ketchum via Challis (ID75\US93\US20\ID75) is closed and blocked at Craters of the Moon National Monument on the Oregon Trail.

In 2017 another Snowmaggedon occurred and I was trapped at the cabin.  I [sic. rightly] claimed [by rule] to be the first victim of the U.S. Government’s Travel Ban order.

Luckily, I have dog food, dog chews and dog toys.  I also have internet, phone service and satellite. Stanley Construction keeps our private road and the US Forest Service Road we need to use to get to the outside world clear.  We have a permit with the U.S. Forest Service to plow\snow-blow 1.25 miles of Iron Creek Trailhead Road during the winter.  It should be noted this crew is awesome.  The roads a cleared with a giant snowblower that leave them in better condition than most major-league baseball infields (except covered in snow).  Linda took the car, so I do not have one.  so the dogs and I use it for walking and cross-country skiing.

My Neighbor Doug and I headed out of the trees this AM, and I caught this image at sunrise.

Talent, Training, & Chemistry Can Overcome All: A Star Is Born

It would be easy to raise the question: why create another remake of the film A Star is Born?  The 1937 version (Janet Gaynor, Frederich March), and the 1954 version ( Judy Garland, James Mason) are of Academy Award linage and as view-able today as when released.  The 1976 version (Barbara Streisand, Kris Kristofferson) is of similar lineage and success, however it feels less powerful and somewhat dated today.

So why make an updated version?

First, the story-line about personal hardship, developing a lasting and true relationship, heartbreak, and absolution is an easily pliable and reusable one of which Hollywood can bank.

Second, and this becomes more and more obvious as this version moves through its 136 minute run-time; Talent, Training & On Screen Chemistry.

The 2018 version of A Star is Born is bursting with talented performers, makers of music, and creators of film.  Some of the performers, especially Bradley Cooper, clearly trained extensively in order to become truly skilled in the craft they portray on screen (e,g, musician, singer).  And finally the chemistry between the leads (Cooper and Stefani Germanotta a.k.a. Lady Gaga) is undeniable.  The eye contact between the two leads when they meet for the first time early in the film seals the deal for onscreen chemistry.

A Star Is Born (2018) is a musical at its core (without the dancing).  The songs and music is nothing short of superb; full of variety and breadth.

Germonatta is exceptional as Ally.  There is no hint of her (albeit successful) Gaga stage personality. Ally is gentle, natural, and vulnerable.  Ally is full of talent who is either fearful of further rejection and or unable to personally promote it.  Cooper is mesmerizing as Jack.  Jack is a gentle-soul full of melancholy due to a hard early life, one that is even more so after professional success.

The screenplay by Eric Roth (AA Forrest Gump, AAN The Insider,  AAN Munich) and Copper is a winner that takes what is best about major films, with little to none of their weaknesses.  In A Star is Born there are no trite and contrived scenes about infidelity (personally or professionally).  There is heartbreak – revisiting its past through dialogue and present through imagery.  It all seems so real and sincere in A Star is Born.

—–  Jeff’s Other Thoughts and Worthless Trivia

Have you ever been unprepared and shocked to experience something (in a good way).  I love when this happens to me – it makes life new and rich.  For me, it occurred twice in A Star is Born.

First, there is the opening scene with Bradley Cooper as Jack performing the hard-edged Country Rock song Black Eyes in what appears to be at a major country music festival before a huge audience.  What you see in A Star is Born is truly the musician and singer Bradley Cooper performing with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. For 18 months prior to filming Cooper worked extensively with Nelson learning to play guitar to and  Tim Monich  to extend his vocal range and refine his singing voice to match the character.  The Producer’s secured time at two major concerts.  The deals required no additional time requested and no retakes. Germonatta also convinced Cooper that all music and singing be performed life (i.e., no lip-syncing or fake playing of instruments).

Second, there is Germonatta/Gaga transforming into Ally.  It is Butterfly like.  With little makeup, a natural hair color, and simple clothes Germonatta seems like a real person.  Ironically the story of A Star is Born has self-serving handlers and promoters move Ally directionaly towards a plastic and unnatural stage presence (bright red hair and 8,432 dancers as backups).  Ally ultimately is not comfortable with all of the changes.

The 2018 version of A Star is Born has something in common with its 1937 and 1954 cousins – great screenwriters.  Dorothy Parker created the 1937 version.  Moss Hart created the 1954 version.  Eric Roth has lead credit in the 2018.  All three are considered some of the very best at their craft in history.

 

What You See and What You Miss

Every once in a while I will walk to a destination for which I normally drive my vehicle. Sometimes, I will take an alternate route to take in a new perspective on the way to one is that is known.

For example, it is 4.25 miles from our cabin to Stanley.

When I walk,  I usually take the normal route – our private road to the U.S. Forest Road to State Highway 21 to town.  Occasionally I leave the cabin and take a short-cut across the floor of the Sawtooth Valley to town.  This route while much shorter and stunning in its natural beauty also offers boggy land, known creek crossings, hidden creek crossings, electrified fence, and large Bulls who dislike other males encroaching on their domain.

The advantage of taking the normal route in winter is the first 2 miles to Highway 21 are maintained via a large Snow Blower.  We (the small group of land-owners) that border the Sawtooth National Forest, National Recreation Area, National Wilderness pay to keep the Forest Service Road and private roads open.  The Snow Blower is not a Snow Plow.  It is a medium sized device with a drivers cabin, on tracks with a huge slow-blower upfront. The implication is the road-beds are actually better in winter than at any other time of the year.  Stanley Construction – whom performs the work – has refined their approach to levels of art-form.  The road-beds are like travelling over the best rack-track the world offers.  I call them the best roads in Idaho.

On this day I take the standard route.  The weather is snowy with a grayish overcast tone, and the sun desperately trying to show itself.

A funny thing happened on the way to town starting on State Highway 21.  This highway that is normally 100% free of litter or debris was covered with broken junk.  I could not believe it.  It reminded me of driving on the freeways through metropolitan Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York & New Jersey.  I was certain I was about to come upon a sign that indicated I was on the I-95 New Jersey Turnpike and 1/4 mile away from the Vince Lombardi Rest Area and the next Toll Booth.

I snapped out my fog and came back to the realization that I was home in my favorite place in the world.  I gathered things like caution tape and old newspaper likely used as wrapping.  The remainder I propped onto the snowbank in order to retrieve at a later time.

After about a mile it dawned on me that someone had portions of their load fall onto the highway on the way to the dump for disposal.  Sure enough, less than five minutes after coming to that conclusion a pickup truck headed towards me and my newly found artifacts.  It was Jeremy and Geoff in their truck.  Both are remodeling a cabin near town.  Their trailer broke down on the way to the disposal station.  They were returning to pick up the final items that had fallen onto the road.  Between us we made sure every item made it to the truck-bed.

I am not sure that followup would have occurred in my native Detroit or former residences of Chicago, Los Angeles and possibly even today’s Seattle.  Thanks Jeremy and Geoff.

I wonder if I can piece together all of the items back into being a full cabinet?

I would have kept the shoes. However, they were not my size.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This newspaper is from 25 years ago. The Europeans own the the Ryder Cup back then and as of today.

Jeremy (Left) and Geoff (right). Our responsible and considerate hero’s/remodeler’s

A Champion Maybe, A Winner For Sure: Bohemian Rhapsody

The music group Queen made its mark with an uncanny number of Anthem type songs at the height of Stadium Rock and Roll in the later 1970’s and 1980’s.  We Are Champions, Another One Bites The Dust and other Queen songs play at sporting events to this day.

Bohemian Rhapsody the Brian Singer (The Usual Suspects) Directed film brings the story of Queen and its music to life in a powerful and dynamic manner. Rami Malek (Night At The Museum, Pacific, Mr. Robot) as Lead Man Freddy Mercury is as compelling a watch as recent films can offer.

However, Malek as Mercury is hardly the only exciting or quality aspect of Bohemian Rhapsody.  The story of the band as written in the screenplay by Writer Director Anthony McCarten (AAN The Darkest Hour, AAN The Theory of Everything) and Writer Peter Morgan (AAN Frost\Nixon, AAN The Queen) is lush and makes things feel genuine without being trite.  A true surprise is Gwilym Lee (Isle of Dogs) as Queen’s Lead Guitarist and Arranger Brian May. Gwilym looks, sounds, and appears to play just like May.

Queen was panned by the music critics and adored by fans.  My guess is this film will be appreciated by all.

—–

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia and Other Thoughts

Queen’s Lead Guitarist and Sound Engineer Brian May was superb in creating Queen’s sound.  Your response could like be “yeah but its not like he is a Scientist or something.”  Well, you would wrong. Dr. Brian May is in fact a world renown astrophysicist that was the Chief Collaborator of NASA’s recent mission to Pluto (New Horizon).

 

Snow, Clouds, Sun, Cold, and Moisture Mixing It Up in February

Moody AM on Decker Peak Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC. – all rights reserved.

Thompson and Williams Peaks in the Pink. Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC. – all rights reserved.

Steely Morning on the Northside. Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC. – all rights reserved.

Baldy on a Sunday Morning in Winter Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

February in the Northern Rockies of Idaho has experienced a remarkable mixture of winter weather.  Systems from the north, south, and north and south at the same time hit the region in a line of succession over a period of two weeks.  We received as much as 29 inches in less than 24 hours and 1-5 inches for seven straight days.  The moisture content varied from fairly heavy to super low.  While there was no Pineapple Express there were a few period were the temperature did sit a few degrees above freezing.

From a photographic standpoint the breaks in the weather systems provided a wonderful opportunity to capture images of my favorite spots in different light and color settings.  Each of these images were captured within a few miles of the cabin in Stanley, Idaho on the same morning in a 90 minute period.

First Man is Grade A

It takes great talent and skill to tell a story we think we already know with an outcome that is also believed to be well known and make it compelling. With the film First Man Director, Damien Chazelle (AA Whiplash, 10 Cloverfield Lane, AA La La Land) demonstrates he has the talent and skill on this front.

First Man presents us the life of Astronaut Neil Armstrong and the American Space Program through his eyes from 1961-1969.  First Man is superb if only viewed for the production values, visual effects, sound, and music score.  However, that would be underselling First Man to a great degree.  All of the actors playing the roles of people involved in Gemini and Apollo Mission are believable and additive. Josh Singer’s (The West Wing, AA Spotlight, The Post) screenplay provides just enough depth and breath to pull this off.  Singer accomplishes the same with injecting aspects about what was  going on with America in general at the time as well.  Singer also provides in a nuanced manner aspects about the relationship between Armstrong and his Wife (Janet).

Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, Fracture) is superb as Armstrong.  Neil Armstrong was ultimately known as a person of strong internalized belief in one’s self that was constantly challenged with melancholy.  As in Lars and the Real Girl, Gosling pulls this aspect off with outstanding effect.  Gosling is so understated in the role, his successful portrayal is at risk of going unnoticed.  Claire Foy (The Crown, Unsane, The Girl in the Spider’s Web) plays the role of Janet Armstrong with equal effect.

However, the production values of First Man is what shines brightest.  Chazelle and the Production team have created a film that is highly immersive and convincing. You often feel as if you are the one in an out of control test vehicle, sitting strapped into a space ship experiencing the G-Force associated with being on top of the the most powerful rocket ever built to this day (Saturn V) or landing on the moon.  What may also jump out in this era of IPhone’s and self driving cars, is the archaic nature of technology in the 1960’s versus today.

The combination of all factors important to the success of a film exist in First Man.

——

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia and Other Thoughts

I am fortunate to possess the signatures of the three astronauts involved with the 1st Moon Landing on the same piece of paper; Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.  It was given to me by my father.  I was infatuated with the Manned Space Program as a young boy.  My Dad, given his position as Managing Editor of the Detroit News, loved what the space program was about and devoted big coverage to it. After quarantine was completed, he asked the three of them to sign it for me.

Tough to Follow Brilliance: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

The film The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a solid conventional Hollywood production.  And now comes the but…

It follows the original three The Girl... novels of the Millenium Series. The Millenium TV Series in Swedish. The Girl movies in Swedish starring Naomi Rapace. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in English starring Rooney Mara. All brilliant bodies of work.  Steig Larsson, the creator of these works, died in 2004.

David Lagercrantz was contracted to continue with the Millenium Series novels.  He has produced two with favorable results in terms of reviews and sales.  The first novel: The Girl in the Spider’s Web was published in 2015. The second novel: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye was published in 2017. I have read both books, and they are good reads.

If you know nothing of the original works and have not viewed the movies, The Girl in the Spider’s Web would be considered a pretty solid worthwhile watch.  It is a thriller made using good, predictable, and reliable Hollywood playbook formulas for the genre.

Unfortunately viewers who are familiar with the original works (like me) may feel cheated and or deprived by this latest installment. With The Girl in the Spider’s Web there is no exotic otherworldly Lizbeth or tawdry pot-boiler storyline that contains a dash of naughtiness and sin added for extra measure.  There is no eclectic and memorable musical score such as that by Trent Raznor.  Director Fede Alvarez creates no riveting feel to the presentation when compared to what was accomplished by David Fincher, Niels Arden Oplev, or Daniel Alfredson.

Instead The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a by the book and by the numbers production.  For example, Claire Foy (The Crown, Unsane, First Man) plays the role Lizbeth.  Foy is becoming Hollywood’s choice for Leading Lady in films – with 3 releases alone in 2018.  Foy is girl-next door “pretty.” In First Man, Foy is superb as Janet Armstrong.  In this film it is as if 10 minutes of makeup and a few clip-on nose and earrings were used to make Foy look like Lizbeth.  However in comparison, Rapace and Mara transformed every aspect of their being and turned into Lizbeth.

Sverrir Gudnason (Borg vs McEnroe) as Mikael Blomkvist and Vicky Krieps (Hanna, A Most Wanted Man, Phantom Thread) are excellent actors with great performances on their respective resume’s.  However, both in this film feel as if they are mannequins when compared to the other actors who have played these roles.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is worthy of a viewing, just do not expect it to be similar in any fashion to the earlier works.

The Choices We Make In Life: The Wife

Viewing the film The Wife is like watching a superb stage play with legendary lead actors afforded unrestricted freedom to perform their role to “A” Game level.  Glenn Close (The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction) and Jonathan Pryce (Evita, Tomorrow Never Dies, Game of Thrones) are the lead actors in The Wife and Director Björn Runge (Daybreak, Mouth To Mouth, Happy End) lets them run free.

As Joan and Joe Castleman, Close and Pryce are exceptionally good – together and separately – in every scene of the film.  They are wife and husband of 40+ years.  The script from Jane Anderson (It Could Happen To You, How To Make an American Quilt, Mad Men, The Wonder Years) based on the Novel by Meg Wolitzer provides Close and Pryce the vehicle to be their very best.  They are successful to such an extent that you would think Close and Pryce had actually been married for 40+ years.

Joe has a big event occur that is effectively a crowning achievement in a career full of major success and public notoriety.  Joan is clearly the behind the scenes person supporting Joe.  When together and out of the public eye Joan has her own voice and persona and for the most part it is used to protect Joe from himself (e.g., eating, memory lapses, etc).  In public Joan has a highly muted voice that is deferential to Joe.  The Castleman’s have two adult children in various stages of their life that Joan and Joe do not necessarily agree upon as to the method of treatment as aging parents.

Through flashbacks, we learn how Joan and Joe meet, fall in love, get married, struggle, and eventually prosper.  It is clear that Joe is the outgoing dreamer who – while appearing to be considerate – is hyper focused on his own persona and success (private and public).

Joan on the other-hand accomplishes much early in the relationship; she is recognized by Joe (private and public) as a promising disciple in their chosen profession and determines she wants and gets Joe as her husband – although he is married when they first meet.

As Joan and Joe struggle after going out on their own, choices (based on the reality of the situation) are made that influence and ultimately determine their respective career paths.  The Wife is superb at peeling back and revealing layers of the life and relationship of Joan and Joe.  The Wife is adept in presenting the character of Joan and Joe without falling victim to easy gross over characterizations.  Because of the quality of the screenplay and the skill of the actors, Joan and Joe are shown to make career choices that while not ideal, and not known outside the two of them, adapt to reality and allow for them to stay together, have kids, and prosper financially.

The Wife pushes and pulls, and tugs and tears at the fabric of a 40+ year relationship, and the dilemma involved when considering, let alone actually changing your role in the relationship.

————–

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia and Other Thoughts

Annie Starke (South Pacific, Albert Nobbs) plays Joan in college.  She looks like a young Glenn Close.  The reason being Starke is the daughter of Close and Producer John H. Starke (Deadpool, Sicario, Prisoners).

Glenn Close is clearly deserving of an Academy Award Nomination in the role of Actress in a Leading Role – which she received.  What surprises me is that Pryce and Anderson were not nominated as well. Their work in The Wife was, in my opinion, near or at the top for all films in 2018.

The PHASE ONE IQ4 151MP Camera System: Technical Camera and IQ4 150

Pine Tree in Fresh Wet Snow – Cambo WRS 5000 and PHASE ONE IQ4 151 using Electronic Shutter ISO 50 1/400 f5.6 (Meta data).

 

In the early days of PHASE ONE’s move to take control of the Medium Format Market it had to navigate the decision making process as whether to purchase existing medium format product lines, build from the ground up, or partner. PHASE ONE took steps that included all of the scenarios. While PHASE ONE has moved boldly with its IQ digital back, it moved carefully on the other fronts. Mamiya’s camera body was brought into the fold and retro-fitted to work with the IQ while PHASE ONE developed the XF Camera. The same was done with lenses until PHASE ONE began collaborating with Schneider and ultimately creating the Blue Ring line.

Note: The subject matter and application chosen by a photographer influences what equipment should be chosen to succeed. While stating the obvious it is crucial this is considered when reading this Post. The iPhone is a wonderful piece of photographic equipment that serves 100 percent of my need for grabbing images of everyday life at a moments notice. It is great for many other photographic applications. However, if I am going to hike (or ski with skins) for three straight days into the wilderness (which includes multiple thousands of feet of elevation change two miles high in the mountains) then I want the best equipment at my beck-and-call. Yes, I understand the IPhone weighs little to nothing and my camera kit with tripod comes in north of 52 pounds.

During this period Technical Camera manufacturers and lens makers were encouraged by PHASE ONE and others to work with and have their equipment operate with the digital backs. The results from Technical Cameras and their associated lenses during this period remained far superior (for certain applications) than what PHASE ONE offered.

River-rock Column – Cambo 5000 and PHASE ONE IQ4 151 using Electronic Shutter ISO 50 1/25 f5.6 (Meta data).

In simple terms, in 2012 – on a scale of 1-10 – my top of the line line 35 MM equipment (the very best from Nikon and Nikkor) was a 7.0,  PHASE ONE gear with the IQ was an 8.5, and my Cambo WRS 5000 with the best lenses from Rodenstock and Schneider coupled with the PHASE ONE IQ was a 10.

I have been exceptionally fortunate, that many images I have captured have proven to be rewarding personally and a commercial success.

All of my my current gear (iPhone, Sony, Nikon, PHASE ONE and their related gear has delivered at one time or another). However, a handful of images have single-handedly covered the cost of my entire camera related equipment expenses (2012-2018) plus needed return on investment.  All were captured with the Cambo WRS 5000 as the camera body.  The results from the other configurations have been gravy.

With the advent of the PHASE ONE XF Camera and Blue Ring Lens series, the difference between the PHASE One XF package with the IQ digital back versus my Technical Camera kit shrank dramatically.  The perceived (or practical difference) became so small that I decided to stop bringing my Cambo WRS 5000 on my long backcountry shoots – given the extra weight and challenge of using the equipment in trying conditions (e.g., materially cold temperatures, sitting on top of a mountain peak after a climb – exposed to the elements).

Along comes the IQ4 151 from PHASE ONE.  At first, I am thinking that all of the computing power now in the IQ back combined with the XF Camera and Blue Ring lenses will make me seriously consider selling my Technical Camera gear.  As the IQ4 151 moved towards production, my trusted collaborators and consultants Steve Hendrix and Brad Kaye from Capture Integration suggest otherwise.  How about trying to get this reliable expertise and insight on a reliable and dependable basis via reviews on a on-line website.

Steve and Brad tell me they are astonished with the images from the IQ4 151 combined with a Technical Camera.  These guys do not throw around the word astonished very much, if at all.  While PHASE ONE was behind schedule towards ensuring all adapters and plugs would work on day-one with a Technical Camera, the basic operation did work.  Both Steve and Brad suggested that the IQ4 151 would actually breath new life into my WRS 5000 kit, given what I photograph and my exacting nature.

Steve and Brad know their stuff in a big way.  The same can be said of CI Founder Dave Gallagher.  I am just a guy from Idaho who takes photographs and each of these three guys have saved me from myself since December 2011.

Here is a really good article by Brad on the IQ4 151 and Using the IQ4 151 with a Technical Camera [HERE].

If you want to look at the entire Lineup from PHASE ONE go here [HERE].

The Cambo WRS 5000 Technical Camera with the Schneider 60MM Lens.

the PHASE ONE IQ4 151 attached to the Cambo WRS 5000.

The Electronic Shutter and cable (along with tethering cables) that attaches to the IQ4 151

This week I finished my initial test of the PHASE XF IQ4 151.  The test was used to compare PHASE ONE’s IQ3 100 versus the new IQ4 150..  The story is [HERE].

The next test involved two steps.  First, was to compare the PHASE ONE IQ4 151 digital back using the PHASE ONE XF and the Cambo WRS 5000 Technical Camera. Second, was to compare the PHASE ONE IQ4 151 digital back versus PHASE ONE IQ3 151 digital back using the Cambo WRS 5000 Technical Camera.

Backstory

PHASE ONE is proving to be a determined development company that happens to be in the photographic equipment and software business.  The IQ4 151 is no exception.  PHASE ONE is pushing the envelope.  That can be a bad or good thing – depending on execution.  Seeing the IQ4 151 is effectively a ground-up new device that just happens to fit inside the same box would be a challenge for any company to deliver all that has been promised on day one.  PHASE ONE chose not to delay the delivery of the sensor and a decent portion of the programming features of what has been promised.  The downside is that many other features and functions need to be delivered in updates.  This is the world of commercial electronics in 2019.  PHASE ONE is not unique on this front.  Unfortunately, for example, full functionality with every type of cable and synchronization that can and should work with the third-party Technical Cameras offerings was not incorporated into the first production delivery of the IQ4 151.

The implication to me personally is fully synchronized cables for the Cambo WRS 5000 Technical Camera are not available at the moment.  That is disappointing. However, Electronic Shutter shooting and black card virtualization is in place for the PHASE ONE IQ4 151. The IQ3 100 has similar functionality, but it involves more time and steps to complete. What that means is the type of shooting I would want to perform is ready, able and highly efficient with the PHASE ONE IQ4 151.

When advising me on the topic of ES, Brad says that some undesired artifacts might appear (e.g., strange pixilization of some colors or people contorted) in the image is there are fast moving objects involved in the composition. When advising me on the topic of ES Steve suggested the better result might be with the ES, because there would be no moving parts (i.e, shutter).  Both guys prove to be correct, and helps greatly in the decision process of whether to use ES or synchronized cables.

The Results of the Second Test Go First

Headline: Casting in images is as important as it is on Broadway and in Hollywood

An X/Y Technical Camera allows you to adjust image capture to the Left and Right and Up and Down without change to the point of focus.  If you purchase the capability, a lens for a the Technical Camera can ad tilt and swivel to change point of focus dependably without introducing body movement or vibration.  These aspects are material if you desire an optimized composition and want a spectacular panoramic image. Why? You can take the time to tweak the composition of the shot while mitigating (or eliminating) the risk of losing shot quality given distortion, vibration, and or an unintended dramatic change in focus and angle. For me, this means I have the tools and can spend the time to get the shot(s) dead-to-rights. Note: after traveling for multiple days to get to a location, I want these options available to me.

As discussed earlier, the Cambo WRS 5000 and Rodenstock 32MM HR Lens are using the Electronic Shutter feature of the IQ4 151 with built in Black Card Substitution in my comparison shots.  In comparison the IQ3 100, requires a Black Card Substitution be built after each shot – and while really important – this takes time. Some experts would say that synchronized cable shooting with an LCC profile created from a White Card shot (as I normally would do with the IQ3 100) is a logical alternative and would produce a better result for the TC.

So why all the hub-bub?  Color Casting.  Okay everyone, say it with me; Color Casting.  In short, the TC and lens are manual devices with no electronic capabilities to deal with the angle of light, imperfections in the lens, and other factors.  While moving the TC up and down and left or right can be a huge factor in enhancing the composition of the image, the implication is a potentially negative casting of color can be introduced.  The Color Cast is eventually eliminated by taking an additional shot with a translucent white card in front of lens and applied during post processing. For details and a better explanation read Brad’s article [TC with IQ4 151]

The IQ4 151 virtually eliminates Color Casting and the time needed for Black Card substitution. Hmm, lets see… reduce time delay and eliminate extra shots?  This is a material advantage for the IQ4 151.

Below is a visual example.  I took a wide panoramic shot that was comprised of six images.  The first three: 15MM is to the left of center, center, and 15 MM to the right of center all at 0MM elevation change with the TC. The next three: 15MM to the left of center, center, and 15 MM to the right of center all at 10MM elevation change with the TC. I have provided a chart below for assistance better understanding the six shots taken.

Left Center Right
15MM to Right (#1) 0 MM (#2) 15MM to Left (#3)
15MM to Right and 10MM To the Top (#4) 0 MM and 10 MM To the Top (#5) 15MM to Left and 10MM To the Top (#6)
The shots below are with the IQ4 151 on the left and IQ3 100 on the right. Using the chart, the shot displayed below is the one on the lower left (i.e., #4 of #6).

The shots processed.

The shot after processing (including White Card).

at 100% after processing (including White Card).

As is evident the IQ3 100 has a significant cast of color to it.  The IQ4 151 has none.  To be clear the Color Cast can be eliminated with the image from the IQ3 100, but many more steps and time are involved.

Camera Position and Practical use of a X/Y TC

So is the ability to quickly adjust the composition of the photo to be taken via the X/Y TC (enhanced with a tilt and swivel lens) that big a deal?  Can’t you just move the tripod or where the camera points? In many shots it is not a big deal and the location of camera and tripod can simply be changed with little downside to the result.  However, there have been many times were it is a big deal.  For example, attempting to moving back 10 feet (to get more sky above the mountain top being photographed across from the peak you are shooting from) will result in a 1,284 foot fall to your death.  For example, spending 10 minutes to find the better spot in rugged terrain often can result in the shot being missed altogether.

Vignetting

Vignetting (darkness at the edges) still occurs about equally with both the IQ4 151 and IQ3 100.  This aspect is a function of the lens and not the digital back.  The implication to me – at least at this point in my understanding of the capabilities of the IQ4 151 – was to apply the use of the White Card and an extra shot.

The Results of the First Test Go last

Headline: Heavyweights go toe-to-toe

For the sports oriented person, this is test is like Heavyweight Boxing at its peak and the match is Ali versus Frazier with Howard Cosell making the ringside call.

I took the XF Camera with the Blue Ring 35MM 3.5 Lens and compared it to the Cambo WRS 5000 with the Rodenstock 32MM HR Lens.  I shot all the images below using manual focus.  Two sequences are not included. One I focused way better with the Cambo and the other way better with the XF.  As a backup I shot all sequences with the XF on Auto-focus at 3 and 6 feet away.  One sequence was more accurate for the XF versus the Cambo, the other was not.

The IQ4 150 with the 35MM Blue Ring is utterly superb.  However, their are times when the Cambo WRS 5000 with the 32HR lens takes the crown.

Note: These comparisons reveal directional differences given my shots were not taken in highly controlled environments.

Message to PHASE ONE… deliver the synchronized cable capabilities for Technical Camera’s in your next firmware update.  You are On The Clock!

Final Note

Please do not let Linda know that you noticed all the dead bugs and spider webs in between the stones on the River-rock Column images at the front of the house.  I will argue it is FAKE News!

Disclaimer

It should be noted that I am my own guy and have not been remunerated (I love this term) by PHASE ONE, Steve Hendrix, Brad Kaye, Dave Gallagher or CI in any form or manner for my comments or remarks.  I continue to use, purchase, and enjoy 35MM related camera gear (from Nikon, Sony and Sigma) and encourage you to to do so as well if it is best for your situation.  The Mirrorless platforms are pressing the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) platforms in a big way. I also shoot with my Apple iPhone if the situation warrants – and make no apologies or condescending remarks when doing so.  I mean what I suggest and imply.  While I think highly of PHASE ONE gear, photographing Mother Mountain Goats and their babies (less than 10 days old) in the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains without disturbing them called for the Nikon D8XX camera bodies and the Nikkor 1000MM Lens.  We brought along PHASE ONE Gear as well on the climbs that entailed 3,000 – 4,000 vertical feet of ascent with the starting point being 7,000 feet elevation.  Having both platforms available served us well.

The PHASE ONE IQ4 151MP Camera System: Is It Worth It?

Lunch in Lower Stanley © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

And Who Might You Be? © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Seating Available Upstairs © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

PHASE ONE is now delivering production versions of its latest Flagship offering – the XF IQ4 151 Camera System.

The Danish manufacturer announced the system upgrade in August 2018, with the intention this new offering would further widen the gap between themselves and the competition as the provider of the best and most powerful commercially available camera system in the marketplace.

It is not my intention to duplicate specification sheets of the offering.  The nuts and bolts are located [here].

Founded in 1993, PHASE ONE has been on a relentless mission to create the best high-end offering available in the world for almost 10 years running.

The Bottom Line

Has PHASE ONE met their goal of creating the new Standard Bearer? Is the price of entry worth it?

After 30 days of use, the answer to the first question is – at least in my opinion – yes.  As each day passes I get more comfortable with this determination.  However, I could change my mind over the next few weeks of heavy duty field testing. Another aspect that could change my mind is the timeliness of delivery of features and functions promised by PHASE ONE.  In my opinion, PHASE ONE is clearly pushing the envelope (which if implemented correctly is a great thing) and has missed some deadlines on providing features and functions from a firmware perspective (which is a bad thing).

The answer to the second question is a qualified yes. If the money you make for selling a fine art photographic work or a body of work from a photo shoot will ultimately pay for the disproportionately initial high investment – then yes.

In my case, people can walk into MESH Gallery and view the image above (Lunch in Lower Stanley) at 72 inches – On Canvas Framed.  They can purchase a Limited Edition version from 24 inches to 144 inches in size.  When the artwork is larger than 40 inches the IQ4 150 is proving to make a a material difference in the quality of the results.  Less than 40 inches? – not-so-much.

The answer to the second question is yes – if money is no object and ego, or the desire to own the latest shiny new object rules the day.

When PHASE ONE announced its new offering, the advancement being suggested was material if not astonishing:

A new sensor architecture

A material increase in resolution (101-151 Megapixels)

A new technology platform to support the sensor

Capture One Image Processing Software embedded into IQ device

While I am a person willing to consider new propositions, I do become skeptical when major hype is included in the announcement (e.g, seamless, future-proof, promotional material includes pictures of female models boxing in Cuba).

When PHASE ONE stated their new platform was named “Infinity” – I will admit I rolled my eyes with a bit of sarcasm.  Well… I have the product in hand and after 30 days so far so good – so I may have to eat some crow.

However, from a Risk Management perspective, a ground-up product change is highly challenging from delivery perspective and PHASE ONE is doing so with the IQ4 150.  However, the risk is materially mitigated given my relationship with my vendor.  I have my IQ3 100MP for the A-B Comparison and until then, I feel I am good to go.  This situation has always been the case.

My plan is to field test and post my thoughts on the new system over the next few weeks.  My goal is to provide observations and opinions based on real-world use of the product.  I will attempt to provide a narrative that is not drowned out by pixel peeping, while at the same time is not filled with generalities and platitudes.

Backstory

I am an early Adopter. VHS over Betamax (although Betamax was better technically, licensing would favor VHS). I bought into and enjoyed Laserdisc and DVD from the start.  I chose Bluray over HD-DVD (although HD-DVD and Bluray were similar, politics would favor Bluray).  I bought into the Macintosh and MS-Windows graphical user interface platforms since their market introductions (actually prior to). I use both platforms to this day, but also have Chromebooks and Android devices.

In 2012, as the owner of the best Canon, Nikon and Sony 35 MM formats could offer in the marketplace, I considered, evaluated, and chose to invest in PHASE ONE and the larger sensor 645 format system they advocated.

The choice to move to the 645 platform was not easy.  The decision was compounded by the fact that the PHASE ONE offerings are expensive.  Before making the move, I carefully evaluated and field tested the offerings from Leica, Hasselblad, and Pentax.  The problem for Leica, Hasselblad, and Pentax is they licensed cropped, non-full-frame offerings based on older technology digital CMOS Sensors.  PHASE ONE chose to go 645 Full Frame and then developed with Sony the next two generations of digital sensors – 16 Bit, 101MP 54mm x 40mm Frontside CCD and 16 Bit, 151MP 54mm x 40mm Backside CMOS.  The three Letter Acronyms and terminology is gobbledeegook to 99 44/100 of the population.  So where do I sit?  I chose to make the jump and have been rewarded handsomely on a variety of fronts since.

Over the past number of years, PHASE ONE bought out and brought in house one of the standard bearers of the 645 body and camera lens makers (i.e., Mamiya). For the past 10 years, PHASE ONE has worked with Schneider-Kreuznach to create the best lenses available for their 645 offerings.  The PHASE ONE work with Sony on the digital sensor has already been pointed out previously.  While there have been hiccups along the way, PHASE ONE made it clear their XF (Camera Body) and Blue Ring (Lenses) and IQ (Digital Back + Sensor) were to be the very best available in the market.  At the same time PHASE ONE – in my opinion – remained smart and savvy, and continued to support the Technical Camera Body manufacturers (i.e., Alpa and Cambo) and the lenses they used (e.g., Rodenstock) that work with the PHASE ONE Digital Back offerings.  I own a full WRS 5000 Technical Camera kit from Cambo and supported lenses.  While the margin of difference is shrinking, if I need a 10 out of 10 from a photo-shoot and shot – the WRS 5000 Cambo Tech Body, Rodenstock or Schneider Lens, and IQ Sensor is Paper Money Daddy!

Another crucial aspect is having a resource to assist in identifying and selecting equipment and or upgrades that ultimately will prove to be in your interest.  Equipment such as we are discussing should not be bought without it.  I cannot stress this point more empathically.  For me, that means Steve Hendrix, Brad Kaye, Dave Gallagher and Capture Integration of Atlanta.  The relationship is in year seven and is stronger today that when it started in December of 2011.   Steve, Brad, Dave, and CI have advised, consulted, represented my best interest, and most importantly protected me from myself.  Your voice activated auto advisor does not meet that standard.  In short, do not fool yourself; you get what you pay for and there are no free-lunches.

It should be noted that I am my own guy and have not been remunerated (I love this term) by PHASE ONE, Steve Hendrix, Brad Kaye or CI in any form or manner for my comments or remarks.  I continue to use, purchase, and enjoy 35MM related camera gear (from Nikon, Sony and Sigma) and encourage you to to do so as well if it is best for your situation.  The Mirrorless platforms are pressing the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) platforms in a big way. I also shoot with my Apple iPhone if the situation warrants – and make no apologies or condescending remarks when doing so.  I mean what I suggest and imply.  While I think highly of PHASE ONE gear, photographing Mother Mountain Goats and their babies (less than 10 days old) in the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains without disturbing them called for the Nikon D8XX camera bodies and the Nikkor 1000MM Lens.  We brought along PHASE ONE Gear as well on the climbs that entailed 3,000 – 4,000 vertical feet of ascent with the starting point being 7,000 feet elevation.  Having both platforms available served us well.

If you have aspects you would like for me to test and comment or you would like a link to my Dropbox page for the actual image files to review yourself:

Test #1 – Compare the image sensor capture of the product to one of its predecessors: IQ4 151MP versus IQ3 100MP

I decided to compare the IQ4 151MP against my current back the IQ3 151MP by performing an A-B Comparison using the same XF Camera body, and Phase One lens with all settings being equal.  The camera profile was to capture the image using the default settings of Outdoor daylight and Film Contrast.  The images are displayed side by side in Capture One without any adjustments.

Note:  Click on the image to view in larger size. For review on a web-page the comparison result is more directional than comprehensive.  RGB images in 72 dpi will not yield anything definitive.  Therefore, all the the actual images in this test can be made available to you if desired.

IQ4 151MP image starts with a P

IQ3 101MP image starts with a CF

Scene #1: The entrance to my home.  AM 22 minutes after sunrise in January Temperature 12 degrees Fahrenheit

The images at 100%

Scene #2: The entrance to the Lift Tower Lodge.  AM 60 minutes after sunrise in January Temperature 14 degrees Fahrenheit

The images at 100%

Scene #3: The entrance to the Sun Valley Lodge. AM 45 minutes after sunrise in January Temperature 14 degrees Fahrenheit

The images at 100%

Scene #4: The entrance to the Kentwood Lodge. AM 50 minutes after sunrise in January Temperature 14 degrees Fahrenheit

The images at 100%

Scene #5: The entrance to the Sisters Store. AM 50 minutes after sunrise in January Temperature 14 degrees Fahrenheit

The images at 100%

Scene #6: The office lamp. 22 minutes before bed in January Temperature 70 degrees Fahrenheit

The images at 100%

Scene #7: Winter on the Harriman Trail. AM 3 hours 10 minutes after sunrise in January Temperature 27 degrees Fahrenheit

The images at 100%

Scene #8: Lunch in Lower Stanley. PM 4 hours 20 minutes after sunrise in January Temperature 25 degrees Fahrenheit

The images at 100%

The Digital Sensor Considered in Context to Film.

The images from the eight scenes above are compared as captured and unprocessed. Digital images like their film counterparts do need processing to achieve an accurate, acceptable end product.  There are (in history) about 32 major makers of still-camera film for print.  Each offers/offered various products that were created to handle different ISO levels, light sources, grain, contrast, tint, and other aspects.  As a photographer you needed to pick from one of them when shooting and take advantage of or be subject to its design bias. The beauty of the digital sensor is you do not have to pick as it captures an image and can be processed for basic aspects such as White Balance, Color Balance and Levels.  It can be processed further given the ISO as shot and light source. The image can be processed further to achieve a desired effect that is available given the sensor’s dynamic range and levels of gray scale/color depth.  The image can be processed (or edited) even further in what most people term photo-shopped; (e.g., change color from red to blue, make the moon larger, add or remove something such as a fence or person, etc.). All from the same single image.  I do enjoy it when a proper noun (Photoshop from Adobe Systems) becomes a verb in practical conversation.

A list of photographic films is [here]

The PHASE ONE IQ4 150 Device provides a tremendous advantage to a photographer.  The IQ4 150 offers 151 megapixels of 16Bit Color uncompressed RAW natively.  Virtually no other commercially available digital camera provides such a capability.

PHASE ONE 16Bit (and lower with and without compression if desired).

Nikon: 8Bit, 12Bit and 14 bit

Cannon: 8Bit, 10Bit and 12Bit

And what is the implication of xxBit color –

16Bit: 65,536 available colors and tone

8Bit: 256 available colors and tone

Below is Winter on The Harriman Trail using some basic White Balance and Color Balance (processed via Capture One 12)

Image at 100%

Jeff’s Crib Notes and Comments
Subject Plus Minus Comment
Sensor Size 22 or 28% larger than IQ151 depending on how you measure None really No visible difference in sharpness over IQ3 100.  Difference starts to reveal itself at 40 inches and bigger given larger image size.  This aspect is an important advantage for my work.
Sensor color capture Seems to be much more natural than IQ3 100 A bit too much magenta at times. In general I like the results more than the IQ3 100 except for whites at times being too magenta.  IQ3 100 a bit too much cyan at times.  This is the trade-off with sensors.  Would be interested in how it compares with Tri-Color
Time from Boot to Shoot Ready to shoot in 10-11 seconds vs 23 seconds for IQ3 100 Occasionally comes into play and has reduced some levels of wait-time frustration.
Cold Weather Operated at 4 degrees Fahrenheit when IQ3 100 did not fire off a shot during test. Occurred on three different occasion.  If device is effectively better in colder weather, this is a big deal to me.
Storage No more CF cards Only one of two slots operating until firmware update Much faster operation and has reduced some levels of wait-time frustration. Always worried about Sony controlled memory structures.
Features and Functions Big upside Some Features and Functions I like are promised but yet to be delivered. What is missing are nice to haves at this point – at least to me. I have been promised they will be delivered.  For seven years PHASE ONE has kept its word,. At this point, I have no reason to believe otherwise.
Electronic Shutter & Cable For Technical Camera Crucial for long-term shooting I have a work around in place thanks to CI that will test next.  Do not use in the winter on the top of a 12,000 peak in 4 degree Fahrenheit weather after a full day of climbing. Will need as spring appraches.

Next POST:  The IQ4 151 Digital Back used with a Technical Camera