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03-17-2018, 02:26 AM - 32 Likes   #1
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Long Time No See + 20 Photos :)

Hey Everyone,

I figured a post such as this is perhaps a bit overdue - I owe way too much to the PF community to have just disappeared like I did. For those wondering what happened, it was a combination of two things:

1) Work has been incredibly busy in my unique niche in the Army. Matter of fact, I'm actually writing this while on yet another deployment.

2) I no longer shoot Pentax This is for several reasons.
  • First, I was eying the primes that were coming out for the big three and really wanted (affordable) high end glass like Tamron's 85 1.8 G2 VC (which is the sharpest lens I've used wide open to date. Period. And you all know I've played with my fair share between my own glass and then reviewing lenses here as a staff writer). I know the DFA* 85 is in the works, but my clairvoyance was telling me it would be a while combined with an estimated launch price of $1700. And that price estimate was before the DFA* 50 was a thing, much less knowing its $1300 MSRP. For $1700, I got a D750 and the Tamron 85.
  • Between the last deployment and this one, I found a lot of success second shooting weddings with a local friend whom I've partnered with. I sold all of my K mount equipment and now shoot 2x D750's, Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 VC, Sigma 24 f/1.4 Art, and Tamron 85 f/1.8 G2 VC. That's my entire kit, and because I shopped around and got them all in used/like new or refurbished condition, I was able to get the entire lot for under $3000 (!), which was less than what I made selling my K mount lot. And as an event/wedding photographer, immediately my "credibility" grew as I was no longer shooting a "fringe" brand (sad, but true ), and then I was amazed at what was now available from the 3rd party world. Upon reflection, many times I have said I would never have left if just the Sigma Art line was available. I dreamed of those Art primes like the 24 and 135 Art with the Pentax K-1 (as many of you have, and please don't bring up the Sanyang/Rokinon versions - I had the 24 in Syria and the 135 would have proven even far more difficult to use in fast-paced situations). I will say, again, that the K-1 remains the most holistically perfect body I've used.
  • Perhaps most immaturely, but I was really spurned by how the company treated me. I was really close to striking a deal with Jim Malcolm, and over the phone we had gotten so far as promising me a K-1 and the new DFA* 70-200 to be an imaging ambassador as a thank you for all the work I had done on behalf of Ricoh Imaging over the years, as well as my very vocal (and candid) desire to collaborate and enhance what I pointed out to be amateur hour marketing. He had a sudden departure and then his secretaries acted like I never existed and essentially "ghosted" me by never returning my calls or emails. For those that remember me (as this place has grown and there's a lot of new faces), you all know how I poured my heart and soul (and some Afghan sand and shell casings ) into finding ways to champion the brand.
As for what I've been up to all this time: from 2016 into early 2017 I was in Syria having the time of my life, and I cannot put into words just how fundamentally critical photography was to the success of my team. I almost left my gear home (there was a concern on whether I'd be able to use it because of the sensitivity of the environment), and then at the last minute I decided to take it under the auspices of "it's better to need and not have than be crying, wishing I had it in a place I can't just procure a new kit at the store." Competent photography, combined with my ability to write as well, elevated the quality of my reports to a level I was not prepared for, both personally and professionally. And on this current deployment, the same continues to ring true (only I was mentally prepared this time haha).

Then, I returned back to the United States, had a fast and furious train-up for the follow-on mission, and then deployed again. I've been back in the Middle East for a little while, and am actually getting ready to return home shortly. Nothing as cool or dangerous as the last one, so it's been a comforting change for both my wife as well as my professional development, as the mission and environment are quite different. Upon my return I suppose a follow-up is in order, including with photos

And since I mentioned my wife, Jenny is due at the end of June. For those that remember this, we struggled with the devastating disaster of pregnancy loss (and multiple times), however she is in her third trimester now! As I've been deployed for months 3-7 of her pregnancy, she doesn't appreciate when I tell her the pregnancy has been rough on me, too . The little boy will be our first, and I mention that and our struggles because there may be some wondering about what came of that announcement as it was several years ago.

As for what's next in store for me - I'm obviously still in the Army, and I was hoping to be an instructor at one of our courses, however it appears that opportunity fell through . I'll know in a few months what I will be doing, but then that quickly is followed by graduate school. I haven't applied yet, although I am interested in pursuing an MBA. As a small side note - if anyone has experience in the post-MBA world, can you send me a PM? I have some pointed questions that I'd like to ask...

Lastly, Pentax still holds a place in my heart, and I still lurk in the shadows here from time to time. I recommend the brand for anyone who asks for advice on a starter DLSR, as I literally cannot find anything to beat the K-S2 for the money. I carried one in Syria along with my Pentax K-1 and K-3, and man, what an incredible camera - there's nothing out there that even comes close to the features for the price when coupled with a few lenses like the 18-135 WR, DA 10-17 FE, and DA 50.

I'll include just a small snippet of photos from my time in Syria, however the rest deserve a more dedicated post:

I loved photographing the children when I was there, and these are some of the highlights:

We were driving back home and it was about sunset, so we stopped to take some photos and a local family was doing the same. I was able to get this shot of this boy (Pentax K-3, DA 16-85 WR):



I couldn't decide on whether I liked the color or B&W more (Pentax K-3, DA 16-85 WR):





Visiting IDP camps were always an incredible experience for me. As a small aside to explain that difference, IDP's, or Internally Displaced Persons, differ from refugees in that they don't cross a border. The moment they cross from Syria into any other country, they are then refugees and no longer IDPs.

This teenage girl was sitting in a tractor and smiled for me (Pentax K-1, DA* 55):



For this shot, we had just turned a corner while exploring the camp and and I couldn't take my eyes off this beautiful girl and how out of place she seemed with her striking blonde hair and emerald eyes (Pentax K-3, DA 16-85 WR):



Children will always find a way to entertain themselves, and in this case some tires, sticks, and soda cans fit the bill (Pentax K-1, DA* 55):



Displaced and dirty survivor of the conflict (Pentax K-1, DA* 60-250 in FF Mode):



These girls were playing outside against their makeshift house in one of the camps (Pentax K-3, DA 16-85 WR):



Not in a camp, but rather in a small town, these girls were among the most jovial and playful I came across (Pentax K-3, DA 16-85 WR):



We visited a hospital, and its hasty fortifications--built by ISIS when they were in control of the area in the year prior to this image being shot--struck a jarring juxtaposition with the refuge of what a hospital should represent (Pentax K-3, DA 10-17 Defished):



The inside of the hospital, which ISIS fighters burned (Pentax K-1, DA 10-17 in FF Mode Defished):



A different medical facility, but arguably the nicest and best equipped operating room I came across (Pentax K-3, DA 10-17 Defished):



Upon my return, I immediately had withdrawals from missing the food. For those that have never visited a high quality Middle Eastern (specifically Levantine) restaurant....do yourself a favor and make it a point (Pentax K-3, DA 16-85 WR):



Another chef making kebob skewers in a different restaurant, with the hanging meat also on display (Pentax K-1, DA* 55):



Sadly, an all-too-common sight - sheer devastation (Pentax K-3, DA 16-85 WR):



A break during a patrol leads to an unexpected encounter (Pentax K-1, DA* 60-250 in FF Mode):



One of my favorite selfies (Pentax K-3, DA 16-85 WR):



And lastly, the Euphrates River Valley, as shot from atop a mountain (Pentax K-1, DA 10-17 in FF Mode):



Very Respectfully,
Heie


Last edited by Heie; 03-17-2018 at 02:59 AM.
03-17-2018, 03:10 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Great pictures,thanks for sharing them.
03-17-2018, 03:41 AM - 2 Likes   #3
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Thanks for your post, sharing your pictures and sharing your story.

I can't begin to imagine what you've seen in Syria. Unbelievable that there are still smiles anywhere in that fractured country...the images you've shared are wonderful photographs that carry some heavy emotional weight.

Congratulations on your impending arrival and all the best.

Cheers
Dean
03-17-2018, 03:42 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Shots that tell a story , it's a pleasure to see and we forget about the camera model used to take the photos.

03-17-2018, 03:42 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Great to hear from you, Alex!

I'm pleased to hear things are going well with your service and career, and especially delighted to learn that Jenny is pregnant! That's fantastic news. I sincerely hope everything goes to plan this time.

I understand your reasons for switching to Nikon. It's all good... some people get way too emotional over brands, something I've never really understood. It's just gear - the important thing is how you use it, and those photos are super!

Stay safe, and come see us again soon!
03-17-2018, 03:55 AM - 2 Likes   #6
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A great set of pictures that tell a very poignant story. Children always seem to smile in adversity, wish we adults could do the same.

ps I prefer the colour version.
03-17-2018, 04:06 AM - 3 Likes   #7
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Welcome back, Alex. Whatever you shoot, your images show what it means to be human.
03-17-2018, 04:09 AM - 1 Like   #8
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This is not the first story I hear about Pentax/Ricoh being so short-sighted...

Nice photos, and hope Nikon floats your boat ;-)

03-17-2018, 04:15 AM - 1 Like   #9
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Sorry to hear you've left the fold Alex, but great to see you posting here again.
Best of luck with #1 son
03-17-2018, 04:51 AM - 1 Like   #10
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Best of luck with everything that's coming.

We'll be interested to hear from an experienced and sympathetic user of Pentax exactly how the D750 compares.
03-17-2018, 05:58 AM - 2 Likes   #11
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Glad to hear from you. Sad to hear you left the cool kids - lol. Nikon is a good brand, it was my first love in photography.

As for brand ambassador, Pentax well Ricoh dropped the ball when they failed to recognize your accomplishments.
03-17-2018, 06:52 AM - 1 Like   #12
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Thanks for the update, great photos from a sad situation. i have not made it to Syria, but I have been close a few times recently. This part of the world is hardly picturesque, the only thing worth taking pictures of there are the people. I hope one day soon they will have peace and stability, but almost 15 years since my first tour there, I cannot imagine when that will be realized.
All the best to you in your career, and with your family.
03-17-2018, 06:54 AM - 1 Like   #13
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Good to hear from you, really touching photos. What goes for gear, what ever works for you, is the best for what ever reasons.
03-17-2018, 07:03 AM - 1 Like   #14
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Good to here from you again, thanks for stopping by.
03-17-2018, 07:11 AM - 3 Likes   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Heie Quote
Lastly, Pentax still holds a place in my heart, and I still lurk in the shadows here from time to time
Heie, good to hear from you. I was really sad when I heard you were selling your Pentax gear. I knew you were moving on to another brand but did not know why. Now I know. I for one, have shared your Pentax "desert camera abuse!" video with so many people. Your post are always inspiring and your images are priceless classics.

Being a marketing guy for so many years, I have watched closely how Pentax has handled PR and marketing. I question the Pentax executive's decisions for not taking advantage of you as an ambassador. I have seen and heard a lot of the so called brand ambassadors for other brands. Non of them comes close to what you bring to the table in terms of your unique position as a field photographer, your authenticity and your genuine love for the brand. Jim Malcolm was a breath of fresh air in a company tangled in mothballs! His departure (which I learned of recently) signals to me that even a person as qualified and outgoing as he, could not get these Pentax "geniuses" to get off their high horse and try to save the brand. Having you as an ambassador for the price of a few pieces of gear, would have been the bargain of the century and these "geniuses" did not recognize it.

On the brand switch, I have shot my buddy's 750 and it is a gem of a camera. I love the lenses you have chosen for the 750. I long for the recent Tamron and the Sigma primes but they are not and will never be available for the Pentax platform. So we are left with an upcoming 50mm and a promised 85mm priced in the outer space for Pentax, "the affordable!" brand.

Last but not least, congratulation on your baby boy. So happy for you. Do share some pix.

BTW, your writing is not too shabby either! Your images, your stories and your writing, I can see some possibilities there!

Good luck to you and your family. I wish you the best as you are one in a million, possibly a billion!
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