That Special Pop

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) – Wheaton, Maryland

One of my all time favorite lenses is the Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM, which produces an amazing “pop” to a subject when used with the aperture wide-open. It’s very light and quite compact for its specific focal length and aperture, comes with the renowned Zeiss T* anti-reflective lens coatings, has the Leica M-mount which can be used on a wide variety of camera bodies, and creates that special “pop” that some Zeiss lenses are legendary for. For a good example of what I’m describing, check out an earlier post of mine here.

Usually one can get good separation between the subject and the background by using a telephoto lens, but that gets more challenging as the lens focal length gets shorter, even with bigger apertures. It also gets even more challenging when using digital cameras versus 35mm film, because digital is so unforgiving. When using digital cameras, my all-time favorite 50mm lens is the Leica Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH, which produces the smoothest, most buttery-gorgeous bokeh I’ve ever seen in a lens. It’s also horrifically expensive ($4,795). When using 35mm film cameras, my all-time favorite 50mm lens is the Zeiss Sonnar that I already mentioned, at a much more reasonable cost ($1,261). However, the Zeiss Sonnar is a classic lens design dating back to the 1930s that doesn’t play well with color digital images, due to pretty severe chromatic aberrations. If the digital image is converted to monochrome, then the Sonnar 50/1.5 really sings with its beautiful separation between the subject and the background. But color imaging remains problematic for it.

Enter the Voigtländer APO-Lanthar 65/2.0 Macro lens.

Unlike the prior two lenses that I already mentioned, the Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO was designed from the ground up to be specifically used for Sony digital cameras. Even though the 50mm focal length has been a longtime favorite of mine, I love the results from this slightly longer 65mm lens even more – because I can use it as an all-around super lens. The APO in the name denotes that this is an apochromatic lens design, which focuses light so precisely that it virtually eliminates chromatic aberrations. Likewise, when shooting this lens wide-open, it delivers that “pop” between the subject and the background that’s so reminiscent of the classic Zeiss Sonnar look that I love, along with creamy bokeh that is reminiscent of the Leica Summilux that I love. But wait, there’s more! It’s also an APO macro lens that focuses down to a reproduction ratio of 1:2, and – the best part yet – it’s very affordable ($949). Quite the package for just one lens.

At any rate, I plan to introduce more images shot with this fantastic lens over time, as I get more comfortable with using it.


Photo info:
Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
Brookside Gardens
Wheaton, Maryland
July 2021
Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO Macro lens
Sony a7 III digital camera

The Florida Keys – Day 5

The Pelican – Key Largo, Florida

On our penultimate day in the Keys, we decided to move further back up the coast – both to get a head start for when we actually headed home, and also to see and experience new sights and eats. We left our wonderful suite at the Gulf View Waterfront Resort in Marathon, and switched it up for The Pelican cottages in Key Largo. Whoa. There was barely enough room for us to park, let alone with a long trailer and two kayaks. The cottages were perfectly fine, but the entire operation was extremely cramped and short on space all around. And it wasn’t just this place – all of the other rental places around us were equally cramped and short on real estate. However, they did have nice landscaping to make up for the lack of space.

Tropical blooms – Key Largo, Florida

As soon as we got checked in and settled, we worked to get out on the water. It was a challenge, but we got there eventually – and Cindy was able to see all sorts of new things underwater.

The underwater bounty – Key Largo, Florida

We had a great time out on the water, exploring amongst the mangroves and seeing completely new critters under the surface – but eventually the weather turned on us and we had to run for shore, due to a pop-up squall. Once we got the kayaks secured, we walked to the end of the resort driveway to one of the highest rated seafood eateries on Key Largo – Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen.

Dinner at Mrs. Mac’s – Key Largo, Florida

Mrs. Mac’s was everything the glowing reviews said it would be and then some. The food was absolutely superb. So much so that we ate every meal there during our stay in Key Largo. When we finally pushed ourselves away from the table, we strolled down to the end of the dock at the resort for one last photo of the day.

Last shot of the day – Key Largo, Florida

Photo info:
All photos taken with an Apple iPhone 5S
Video taken with a Sony waterproof digicam

Best Seafood Dive of the Chesapeake

Courtney’s Restaurant – Ridge, Maryland

Down near the southern tip of Maryland, at the very edge of the water bordering the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, is a personal Mecca of ours – Courtney’s Restaurant. We used to keep our boat at a marina that was within walking distance of the restaurant, so we became regulars over time. Breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, brunch, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, supper, whatever – it didn’t matter what time or occasion, Courtney’s was the place for us. Why? The amazing seafood.

In truth, the entire operation is the very definition of a classic seafood dive – the restaurant itself is a no-frills cinder block construct that was once an oyster shucking house from an earlier era with worn interior furnishings, surrounded by several of the original buildings that are in various stages of weathering and disrepair, with an uneven parking area that’s partially flooded at high tide, and a small RV campground that obscures the beautiful and expansive views of the water – but helps to pay the bills when business at the restaurant is slow.

The dining room – Ridge, Maryland
Decrepit out building – Ridge, Maryland
The parking area – Ridge, Maryland
After high tide – Ridge, Maryland

Unlike most other seafood restaurants in and around the Chesapeake Bay, this dive is owned and operated by 75-year-old Chesapeake waterman Tom Courtney and his wife, Julie, with increasing assistance from their younger family members. Here’s a video of Tom at work on the water.

Tom goes out on the water early every morning and catches, cleans, and preps all of the fish on their menu – before handing them over to Julie, who does all of the cooking. The dishes are simple and rustic, but the freshness can’t be equaled. The place is a long way from nowhere and the service is slow, but the food is totally worth the experience.

Braised fish – Ridge, Maryland

Photo info:
Courtney’s Restaurant
Ridge, Maryland
June 2012
Sony 18-55/3.5-5.6 zoom lens
Sony NEX-5N digital camera

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Food
Courtney’s Restaurant
Ridge, Maryland
August 2015
Sony RX100 IV digicam

Photo info:
Dining room
Courtney’s Restaurant
Ridge, Maryland
February 2015
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

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Decrepit out building
Courtney’s Restaurant
Ridge, Maryland
May 2014
Apple iPhone 5S

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The parking area
Courtney’s Restaurant
Ridge, Maryland
January 2012
Apple iPhone 4S

Photo info:
After high tide
Courtney’s Restaurant
Ridge, Maryland
August 2015
Sony RX100 IV digicam

Photo info:
Food
Courtney’s Restaurant
Ridge, Maryland
May 2014
Apple iPhone 5S