Capturing the Beauty of Spring’s Bluebells

Chris Upton Bluebells

By Chris Upton

Spring is sprung in the UK and nothing signifies that more obviously than a rich carpet of bluebells under a vibrant canopy of lime green beech leaves. Walk into a forest early in the morning and the wonderful fragrant smell hits you, the scene simply begs to be photographed. So, how do you capture this beauty? Well here are a few tips to help you achieve some stunning bluebell shots.

Continue reading Capturing the Beauty of Spring’s Bluebells

The Best Fujifilm Travel Lenses for Your Next Trip

By Stefano Ferro

I have been running a travel photography website for few years. In conjunction, I also run some workshops and commonly receive many photography questions; however, there is one which comes up frequently:

What is your favourite camera for travelling today?

Fair enough, people want to upgrade or just change the model. I find however strange that I almost never get this question:

What lens should I buy for my next trip? Or what lens would you suggest for my travel adventure?

It seems that lenses always come second, based on what is left from the initial camera budget. It’s not uncommon to hear “the kit lens will do” when someone goes travelling.

But is it the right choice?

Maybe not. I may be too drastic, however, I believe that lenses are even more important than the cameras when talking about travel photography. I was once watching a lecture from Prof. Marc Levoy on lenses and differences when using the same camera, it was very interesting. It was part of an 18-lecture workshop that I would suggest everyone watches if they have some spare time. From this I have one lens buying tip: if you buy only one lens then allocate a budget at least similar, if not higher, to the one allocated to the purchase of the camera.

Do not buy a Ferrari with a FIAT engine (although the FIAT Group actually owns the Ferrari brand)!

Sunset on Southgate with the helicopter surprise
Fujifilm X-T1 – XF16-55mmF2.8 – F2.8 – 1/400 second – ISO200

How to choose the best travel lens?

If it is true that the best camera is always the one with you then the best lens is the one that will help to capture the majority of your photos in your trip. 

Think about what lenses to take when travelling. For example, you should take multiple lenses that will cover a wide focal length through to a telephoto length, but also take into consideration the following:

  • Weight of the lens
  • Cost of the lens
  • Risk of theft

I am in love with the Fujifilm X Series cameras. One of the reasons beside the light weight is the compact size, for instance, I can take a Fujifilm X-T2 in my bag for a full day of shooting and almost not feel it.

This is the way I want to travel. It’s important for me to keep my gear light, which is why I take a maximum of two lenses with me. When I travel on my own I usually change location every 2-3 days. Packing multiple lenses and transporting many of them is just not an option.

When I travel with my child I usually stay in a place for seven or more days. To be honest, I already have so many things that taking several lenses is simply not ideal. There is also a simple equation to think about as well, the more lenses you buy the higher the total cost of them. The risk factor of leaving multiple lenses in a hotel room is something you simply should not do.

So what do I do nowadays?

I just take two lenses with me and in some rare cases a third one. I make sure to include an all round zoom lens, a prime and an ultra wide angle or super zoom when absolutely needed.

 

Walking through the tiles
Fujifilm X-T2 with XF35mmF2 R WR – F2 – 1/40 second – ISO800

Recommended All Round Zoom Lens for Travelling

My favourite all-round lens for travelling is in the 24-80mm or 24-100mm focal range (35mm equivalent). As a rule of thumb, the wider the aperture the better, as this typically increases the photo opportunities. Personally, I would suggest using a lens that has an aperture of F2.8 or even lower.

Why such a wide aperture for travel photography?

  1. To have a narrow depth of field. Think of photos of architectural details or simply portraits of local people with a lovely blurred background.
  2. To make photos in low light environments, as the local markets, without pushing the ISO too high. I still remember how dark the fish market was in Port Louis (Mauritius)!
  3. To shoot without a tripod at sunset or at night. The wider you can go with the aperture the more light you will receive on your sensor without the need to use higher ISO levels.

Why as wide as 24mm (35mm equivalent)?

Because it’s a nice average wide angle to capture most of the typical photos you might come across when visiting landscapes, lanes/alleys or a new city.

Why 80mm or 100mm?

Because honestly, you will hardly need more than that. Let’s remember that we have legs too and we can move closer to the subject in most cases. Of course, there will be the time when you will regret that you have left behind the longer lens or you have not bought the lens that has a focal length of 400mm. Compromise compromise…

So, what all-round lens works best for a Fujifilm X Series camera?

I am personally in love with the Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR lens. This lens provides a super fast F2.8 aperture that delivers beautiful bokeh (35mm equivalent focal length of around 24-85mm). This is my favourite all-round Fujinon lens that I would highly recommend for travel photography.

City view from St.Kilda, Melbourne
Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 55mm – 2 seconds – F3.2 – ISO200

I had the lens for testing and review. I was really impressed with its sharpness across the entire focal range without compromising on the corners. The autofocus was quick and silent too, which is really a feature you want when travelling. I always try to be invisible when taking photos by not making any noise that would alarm people around me. I found the zoom and aperture rings were very smooth and easy to operate. Lastly, the combined weather resistance was also really important when travelling in unpredictable weather conditions.

The only drawback of this lens is that it does not have image stabilisation. If you really want this feature you should check the XFujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS.

If you still think that the focal length of 80mm (35mm equivalent) is still not enough when travelling I would recommend the Fujinon XF18-135mm R LM OIS WR which, with a focal length of around 24-200mm (35mm equivalent), should cover everything you want to capture. The lens also is more affordable as well, however, you have to compromise with a slower aperture that offers F3.5-F5.6.

Fujifilm X-T2 with XF35mmF2 R WR – 35mm – 10 seconds – F16 – ISO100

Recommended Prime Lens for Travelling

Why buy a prime lens with a single focal length?

These are my four main reasons:

  • Generally cheaper
  • Offers great image quality
  • Light in weight
  • Smaller in size

A prime lens essentially has only one unique focal length which usually performs at the highest professional level. When travelling, I photograph quite a lot of markets that form an essential part of my work. If you have a mirrorless Fujifilm X Series camera with a small prime lens mounted you will be able to walk around unnoticed. If you arrive at a public place like a market with a zoom lens mounted on your camera then suddenly people around you might start thinking you are a professional photographer with expensive gear. This sort of attention is not something you want, especially in some countries where theft is common.

For a prime, I would suggest going for a focal length in the range of 50mm to 85mm (35mm equivalent). This will allow the most natural portraits to be captured. I personally use a 50mm focal length (35mm equivalent) as I like to get close to my subject, possibly have a talk, even if just with my hands (my Italian background helps a lot).

Love is our truth
Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR – 35mm – 1/13 second – F2 – ISO3200

I personally suggest the Fujinon XF35mm F2 R WR for a prime lens. I used this lens with the Fujifilm X-T2 and I could only love it. The small package was great to shoot with. Fujifilm does also offer the F1.4 version, however, for travelling, I do not feel I can justify the higher price.

Resting time for the chef
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF35mmF1.4 R WR – 35mm – 1/40 seconds – F2 – ISO5000 – handheld

Alternatively, you can look also into the Fujinon XF50mmF2 R WR if you prefer a longer focal length.

Recommended Ultra Wide angle and Super Zoom Lens

I own an ultra wide angle lens and I sometimes rent or borrow a super zoom one.

Why an ultra wide angle lens?

I mostly use it for interior and architectural photography. If I am going to explore a city for a long weekend I may take it with me if I plan to visit churches, cathedrals or unique buildings. I use it also for some landscape photography, however mostly when my subject is actually in the foreground. For example a stone formation at a beach.

The Fujinon XF10-24mm F4 R OIS lens is the widest you can get in the XF range. It’s also optically stabilised which comes in handy when photographing in buildings or places where the tripod is not allowed.

Why a super zoom lens?

I need it rarely and that is why I have not bought it. It’s really mostly needed when travelling on a safari, photographing sports or wildlife. Last year, for instance, I used the super zoom for photographing a zoo safari in the middle of Australia – it definitely came in handy. The new XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens is probably all you need if you are photographing any of the mentioned subjects. An important note is that it is also a stabilised lens, something that is really a must for this focal length.

 

Sali e Tabacchi

Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF35mmF1.4 R WR – 35mm – 1/40 second – F2 – ISO1000 – Handheld

Final thoughts

An equal budget should be allocated for the camera and the all-round lens. If there is any spare money left over then I would recommend investing in a prime lens as the secondary option. Any other lens can wait or can be rented. Remember that a good lens can always be used on a newer camera. Great lenses will always stay with you.

Happy travelling and enjoy your photography.

Rachel Megawhat’s stunning flower prints on display at Herrick Gallery, Mayfair

By Rachel Megawhat

FLOWERS: Herrick Gallery, 93 Piccadilly, Mayfair

21st-29th April 2017

Image credit: Sir Tim Berners Lee

I am excited to be holding a solo exhibition, showcasing my flower photographs at a Mayfair gallery. My previous blogs for Fujifilm have focused on my press work, so I am going to explain how this show came about.

The first thing with any show is, of course, the work. In this case I started photographing flowers as a direct reaction to the news environment. As everyone was talking about fake news, and on a few occasions I had even seen my own (very genuine) news stories shared as ‘fake’, I created a film using flowers to show the difference between real vs fake.  This film forms part of the exhibition and will be on show at the gallery.

Continue reading Rachel Megawhat’s stunning flower prints on display at Herrick Gallery, Mayfair

BBC & NatGeo wildlife photographer Ben Osborne switches to Fujifilm

By Ben Osborne

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography

Photography has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I still have packets full of black and white negatives taken on 127 roll film with an old Brownie box camera – memories of family holidays and school trips from way back when. At the University of Edinburgh my interest in photography developed when I used still images and Super 8 film to back up field research on the feeding behavior of Ringed Plover, the subject of my Zoology Honours Degree dissertation. Having completed a second degree, my scientific “career” took a series of slightly disjointed steps through various biological research jobs, mainly ones with a wildlife theme. My interest in photography matured during this time until Continue reading BBC & NatGeo wildlife photographer Ben Osborne switches to Fujifilm

Fujifilm X Series WILL make you a better photographer…

By Kevin Mullins

Of course, we all know that’s not strictly true, but I do believe, indirectly, that using Fujifilm X Series cameras do empower us to be better at our craft……read on and I’ll explain. Continue reading Fujifilm X Series WILL make you a better photographer…

Experiencing Rajasthan with the X100S

By Simon Bray

I wanted to explore somewhere different, somewhere that would stretch me, show me part of the world that I’d never experienced before, and may not have the freedom or lack of responsibilities to explore in the same way again; so we chose India, specifically, two weeks in Rajasthan.


I think to say that it stretched me would be an understatement of vast proportions. Every time I thought I was getting somewhere close to understanding the place I was in, something new would throw me off. My senses were constantly stimulated, whether it was relentless traffic and horns sounding, incense or burning rubbish, the colours and constant movement, being stared at or asked for money, flavours that were totally new, the combination was overwhelming.

However, there was never a shortage of things to photograph. It was almost as if every corner demanded to be documented. Everything was new, interesting, exciting, it was like returning to when I’d just started to pick up a camera and the possibilities of making images was totally new again.

Being a tourist gave me permission to photograph, I didn’t feel any boundaries. Every time someone asked me and my wife (mainly my wife) for a portrait, I asked for one in return. My confidence to take images soon built, even if my the rest of my instincts remained unsure about everything happening around me.

I don’t think I went with any direct expectations of what I wanted to capture. I don’t think I had any direct expectations of what I was about to throw myself into at all actually! The one thing I did know was that I wanted to travel light. I took just one backpack, so taking a raft of lenses and equipment really wasn’t an option, which is why I opted for the FUJIFILM X100S, it was an obvious choice really.

It’s a camera that I’d grown to love shooting with over the past year or so. The simplicity of using it is what really drew me in, but the image quality continues to impress me, I’d go as far as saying I like working with the files over my full frame DSLR option. It’s my go-to camera for travel, to the extent that I’ve just ordered the FUJIFILM X100F, which I know will be by my side pretty much everywhere I go!

I have compiled the images I took during my time in Rajasthan into an 86 page book, co-published by Let’s Explore Publishing and myself. It’s an exploration to experience a culture that is different to my own. Different values, commodities, traditions, history, religions, customs, food, politics, economics and yet so much to be shared together along the way.

If you would like to pre-order a copy of the book, please visit: http://www.simonbray.co.uk/prints-publications/the-limited-findings-of-a-westerners-short-stay-in-rajasthan


About Simon

Simon Bray is a Manchester based documentary & landscape photographer. He began taking photographs when he moved from Hampshire to Manchester as a means of assimilating into his new surroundings and adjusting to city life. His work has been exhibited at The Whitworth, Manchester and Brighton Photo Biennial and displayed at The Southbank Centre and Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. His work has been published in The Guardian, BBC In Pictures and Outdoor Photography.

Website: www.simonbray.co.uk
Instagram: www.instagram.com/simonbray
Twitter: www.twitter.com/simonbray

Orcas. An Arctic fairytale of whales (which are actually big dolphins)

By Tommy Simonsen – Northern Norway, January 2017.

The air is crisp and cold, and the light is about to break as we speed through the strait, heading north. We freeze a little in our yellow safety suits; we are after all in an open boat hurtling through the winter darkness at 69”N. The 12 meter long black R.I.B. (rigid inflatable boat) is perfect for these arctic waters, and the feeling of cold doesn’t bother us too much on our way to a great annual adventure: the Arctic Orca Safari!

The dark season is about to come to an end at these latitudes. The region has been engulfed in darkness and passing winter storms since the end of November, when the sun broke above the horizon for the last time. The further north you get, the longer the darkness lasts. Today we got a vague sort of daylight between 11.00 and 13:30.

I have been tracking the weather forecast, and noted that the clouds are supposed to clear around this time. As the sun is about to make a return, that is an extra reward, whether or not we find any orcas. At this time of the year, sky at the top of the world turns a special shade of pastel pink.

Orcas and other whales arrive in the northern coast of Troms county from the end of October to February. They follow the large shoals of herring that come from the open waters into the fjords. Herring is food, so where there is herring, there are whales.


After an hour the R.I.B. suddenly slows down. It lies quietly in the water, with snow covered mountains rising in the distance. The light has turned an intense yellow in the southern sky, and in the north, deep blue has given way to pastel pink.

P-Tchhh!  I look around; it’s close.

 

P-TCHHH!!!

 

It’s really close!

 

An orca pops up right next to our R.I.B., exhaling explosively, filling the air with the smell of digested fish.

There’s nothing like the smell of herring in the morning!

As the light gets stronger, we realize that it is a large family group we have found. A shoal of herring is present, and the family is in hunt mode, ignoring us completely. They work like a wolf pack, confusing the fish by blowing bubbles, working to keep the panicked herring close to the surface and then barrel through them, filling their great mouths with stunned prey. It is clamour and carnage on the surface, with seagulls and sea eagles swooping in to join the feeding frenzy. Pods of orcas zigzag, coming right towards the R.I.B., dorsal fins slicing the water.

P-Tchhh!
Orcas are everywhere. They dive under us, emerging on the other side of the boat. Close by us. Far away from us. Everywhere. It’s intense. I remind myself to breathe, to not forget why I am here.

To get extraordinary pictures.


How I create my orca pictures from a boat

Type of boat

I prefer to work from a small boat, so I can shoot from lower angles. But remember: salt water is certain death to your expensive electronic camera. It is extremely important to pack your gear in a waterproof Ortlieb, Lowepro or similar bag of another brand. And I mean really waterproof! If you’re not used to shooting from a small boat, keep the bag properly closed during transport. Learn to read the waves and how the boat responds to them. The waves might not splash you from the front, but come at you from the sides, or elsewhere unexpected.

When you use your camera, keep the bag closed. And NEVER leave the bag unattended on the boat deck. When I need to, I cover the camera under my arm or in a plastic bag when I wait for something to happen. Don’t put the camera against your body under the jacket. Remember it’s cold outside, and you are warm. When you take your camera out again, the lens and viewfinder will fog up.

Keep your gear cold. Only spare batteries should be kept warm in your inner pockets. On a trip like this, you should bring several batteries.


Position in the boat

Where you sit on an R.I.B. during a tour is important. If you occupy a front seat in the bow, you get a wide, panoramic view with no obstructions. But the bow gets the worst beating from the chop, and is also the one position where you are almost guaranteed to get wet if the sea is anything but calm.

On an R.I.B. during a whale safari, I prefer a seat at the rear, as close to the pilot / guide as possible. It makes communication easier, and is also the place where the boat’s rail is at its lowest, so I can lean over the side in calmer conditions, to get the lowest angle possible. Capturing whales high above the horizon line adds to the drama of my images.


Cameras and settings

I have two FUJIFILM X-T2 camera bodies with two 32 or 64GB SD cards in each. One with the XF50-140mmF2.8 WR on it, and the other with the XF16-55mmF2.8 WR.

Both bodies and lenses are weather sealed, which is necessary because you get a little wet working around waves and whales, and this equipment can take some some sea water without damage. And I always have the ever important, absorbent microfiber lens cloth. I have a couple of them in different pockets, so I can switch when one of them gets too wet.

The X-T2’s tilt screen is one of the reasons it is my preferred field camera. It’s perfect for shots at lower angles, especially with the vertical tilt for portrait oriented images.

Shutter speed and reaction time are vital to shooting whales. I prefer 1/2000 sec. If the sea is rough, shutter speed has to come up. All of these shots were made under lower lighting conditions, so my shutter speed varied from 1/500 to 1/1000 sec at ISO 1600 to 2500 in all of them. Imagine how the colors would have turned out at ISO 200? Fast lenses are certainly critical in these conditions.

Responsive auto focus is also important. I often use “single point” or “Zone” AF mode, normally on Single or Continuous tracking focus. Typically, I use “CL” or “CH” burst modes for whales. The AF point joystick is most important to me for quick composing and shooting.

 


Don’t forget to have fun

Remember to put your camera down once in a while. These Arctic orca safaris have a special place in my heart. I work very hard on these trips, but remind myself to put my cameras away sometimes, to fully enjoy the spectacle of these magnificent creatures in action.

Thanks for coming along on this Arctic journey with me.

Tommy


Arctic Orca facts

  • The Orca is the largest of whales in the dolphin family, and like most other dolphin species, they live in social groups.
  • There are about 3000 orcas in the Norwegian and Barents Seas.
  • Females can be up to 7.7 meters, and weigh 3.8 tons, with an average life expectancy of 50 years, and a maximum of 80-90 years. After being pregnant for 15-18 months, a female gives birth in the late autumn to a 2.3 meter long calf that weights about 200Kg.
  • Males can be up to 9 meters, and weigh 5.5 tons, with an average life expectancy of 30 years, and a maximum of 50-60 years. The dorsal fin is much larger on males.
  • They live in family groups of females and calves, with only one or few adult males.
  • Each group seems to have their own dialect for communicating.
  • Orcas often collaborate to capture prey, which can be small fish like herring, or the large species like other whales. They have been observed herding fish into tight corrals, while other members of the group swim into its midst, stunning the fish with their tails to make feeding more efficient.

Facts source: Norwegian Polar Institute.


 

Sports Photography as a Spectator – Rally

In a series of articles X-Photographer Jeff Carter will be shooting at sports events in the UK and showing how to capture great images with the Fujifilm X Series without the need for a media pass Continue reading Sports Photography as a Spectator – Rally

Road tripping the USA

wild-west-adventure-01

X-Photographer strip BLACK

by Damien Lovegrove

As I finish my preparations for another epic road trip adventure it gives me a great excuse to share with you my passion for what has to be one of the finest locations for photography on the planet; The Wild West of the USA. The high deserts of Arizona, the Canyons of Utah and the rock formations of Nevada deliver a spectacular backdrop while Route 66 and small town America provide us with a texture and cultural heritage to be cherished and immortalised on camera. Continue reading Road tripping the USA