Last week, a couple of yuuuuge events took place in my neighborhood: GLORY 37 and Womens March Los Angeles. I rented my dream lens combo (Sony 24-70mm G-Master and Mitakon 50mm 0.95) for the fights and the march, and I also played around with a multiple exposure idea that once woke me up in the middle of the night.
Before falling asleep one night, I saw a photo my friend posted on Instagram that she took with her iPhone that had a double exposure of the beach and the silhouette of a woman layered over it. I fell asleep thinking, "hmm... I wonder how she got two exposures in one file? Digital isn't like film, you can't double expose without some special app or photoshop... Also, hmmmm... these blankets are so warm... still, I wonder...zzzzz... fart (I assume)." In the background, The Princess Bride was left streaming on Netflix. The soft glow of a familiar movie on television serving both as night light and bedtime story. The low rumble of our dryer.
MY EYES OPENED WIDE. "Bulb mode. Like pinhole cameras! EUREKA-BOOM-BOOM-DOWN."
Whenever I've shot along side James Law in his studio shoots for GLORY, his strobes always end up giving him amazing results, where I'm in the same room standing next to him taking photos using the ambient light of a hotel meeting room like a jackass. Needless to say, my shots have always been garbage. So with my new idea, I thought I could open up my shutter set to bulb, listen for his camera to beep every time he got his focus, and opened my "shutter" to catch his flash. After getting a few exposures with stolen light, I'd let go of the shutter button and voila-- in-camera, multiple exposures. 'Fuck you, photoshop. Haters gon' say it's you.'
On the day of the fights, I busted out the lenses I rented from LensProToGo. I had been lusting after them for quite some time, but being the anti-baller tightwad prone to buyers remorse that I am, I rented them instead. Long story short, I want them. I want them bad. Real bad. Like, I would do things.
I mounted the Sony 24-70mm F2.8 G-Master onto my A7rii and the Mitakon 50mm F0.95 Dark Knight onto my A7s. When spun the lens onto their mounts, I'm preeeetty sure a choir of angels sang in the distance. I showed up to the venue and found it to be quite a different setup than I've become accustomed to in my short career in fight photography. The ring was setup on a stage, so effectively, one side of the ring couldn't be occupied by anyone, which of course meant that the ringside photographer's apron would be sacrificed. I sometimes forget that even though I come off very happy-go-lucky in life, I'm actually pretty moody when it comes to my creative endeavors. I felt let down that I'd rented these lenses thinking I could do what I always do, stand exactly where I always stand, and then be able to make a fairly scientific comparison to my usual lens combo; the Zeiss 24-70mm F4.0 and the Zeiss 55mm F1.8. No dice. I don't know if anybody saw, but I think I pouted at the news that I wouldn't be comfortably nestled ringside. What a bitch. Anyway, after a couple of beers and a lot of great advice from James Law, Ryan Loco, and Phil Lambert, I said 'fuck it,' and decided to do a lens comparison between apples and oranges. It would be G-Master vs. Dark Knight. All-purpose king of sharpness zoom vs. All-manual shallow DoF prime. Results vs. Process!
Below are some side-by-side examples of comparable situations that I shot out and around the ring with the G-Master and the Dark Knight. They aren't edited to match, this isn't scientific whatsoever, but it's a pretty good comparison of what each lens is all about. The photos on the left are all G-Master and the photos on the right are all Dark Knight.
It pretty much goes without saying that the G-Master is the better performer in nearly all categories on a website like DxO Mark. It's ridiculously sharp wide open and at all focal lengths. Compared to my Zeiss 24-70mm F4, obviously the extra stop of light is the difference on paper, but the biggest improvement I saw is the color rendition. The colors just look 'right.' If in some crazy scenario where the fate of the world hinged on me to taking photos of an event in an undisclosed location with unknown variables; this would be the lens I'd take (this is another place my mind goes at night).
On the other hand, the Mitakon is very prone to flaring which makes the contrast lie somewhere between milky and a hazy shade of winter, the lens even at the same F-stops is probably less sharp than the GM even when closed down, and they weigh almost the same. That being said, shooting sports with a manual lens and a razor-thin depth of field is waaaaaaay fun. Even completely missing focus looks like a purposeful artistic choice. The challenge of nailing the focus in the viewfinder without focus peaking made me go from feeling uninspired to feeling on fire and anxious to capture moments. There is no way to passively use a lens like this. To paraphrase ol' Jim Gordon, "The Dark Knight was the hero I deserved, but not the one I needed."
The next morning, our friends came over and we participated in the Women's March which basically took place at our doorstep in DTLA. I had a camera on me, but was struck with a feeling that I wanted to be there as a participant and a supporter, not as a photojournalist. I took maybe 15 photos, and this is the one that speaks for me and my feelings at the march:
Later, after we had gone back to our apartment, my friend asked me to show her how I got those multiple exposure shots of kickboxers that I'd shot just a couple of days before. I realized that I'd never told her that I was actually inspired by her multiple exposure instagram post. Apparently, it was a happy accident caused by an HDR app that takes multiple bracket exposures. Someone quickly walked past as it happened and voila, a lost night of sleep for my ever-spinning brain.