How to Capture the Beauty of Nature in Flatlay Photography

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By Ja Soon Kim

I was a graphic designer and an art director in advertising for many years.

I hold a BFA in fine art. Photography is my passion.

Photography is an art form in that you are able to create or captures images that are uniquely your own vision. But first, you have to have the right equipment that is perfect for what you envision.

I used to shoot with an iPhone camera until I saw the color quality in the images shot with Fujifilm cameras. I knew I had to switch in order to achieve the subtle tones, colors, textures and depth that would enrich my images.

I had been considering several cameras. When a friend showed me his Fujifilm XT100, I knew this was it.

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You don’t have to go somewhere special to find things to shoot. If you take a closer look, there are things you never noticed before that are beautiful. These are leaves I found while walking my dog.

I have been shooting with Fujifilm cameras for over a year. I started with a borrowed X100T and now I shoot with an X-T1. It is the perfect camera for me, just the right size and surface texture, not too heavy, great retro look, and it fits perfectly in my hands. It’s fun to shoot with. It didn’t take me long to learn the basics but there are endless possibilities with this camera. It has given me exactly what I was looking for in a camera.

One of the handy features I love about X-T1 is that I can transfer pictures directly, via WI-FI, from the camera to my iPhone. This is perfect for Instagram users.

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I found all this beautiful spring growth on a walk in the countryside. I arranged them with a sense of movement using a variety of plants. Against a black background, they look elegant with their vibrant green stems.

 

Flatlay, or tabletop photography, is different from landscapes or portraits in that you are creating your own subject to shoot rather than shooting what is already there. It provides a totally different experience, creative control and it shows in the resulting images. This process has been deeply meditative for me. I work alone, without a crew, as I used to as an art director.

Shooting flatlay gives us total control over the subject and allows us to be creative in our own unique way.  You can use any material you find interesting. I work mostly with found or foraged props from nature that we all see every day and are readily available all around us. I don’t purchase props for shooting.

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These fallen leaves were collected under an old cottonwood tree. I was fascinated with bug-eaten holes and the varying stages of fall colors. I used a simple arrangement for these. 

Light is everything in photography. I almost always set up my shots near a big window in my house. My typical background is a piece of plywood painted black on one side and white on the other or foam core boards in black or white. A very simple set up.  I use a tripod whenever necessary.

When I travel, I shoot on what is readily available: sandy beaches, beautiful rock, etc.

The lighting is the most important component of photography. I don’t use artificial lighting. I’ve tried them but it doesn’t have the depth and subtle variations that natural light offers. I love the shadows that appear with natural light. Shadows give depth and dimension to images.

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These wilting flowers were found in my neighborhood and in my garden. Some are wildflowers.

This is a simple grid with various stages of fresh to wilting late summer blooms. I frequently save and reuse props as they dry, mixing them with other things to make new and different images. Nothing is wasted and ultimately all goes to compost.

 

Often they are more beautiful when they dry, so be playful and experiment.

My subjects are almost always found or foraged. The process of collecting, imagining how they might look together in my mind is part of my creative process. Ultimately, they do need to be selected and arranged in your own creative way that makes the picture beautiful and compelling.

Cultivate Your Own Style

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These varieties of wild sunflowers bloom everywhere in the Southwest in late summer. All of them are collected from the sides of the road and arranged while still fresh in a very simple vertical design. I use reusable plastic containers to keep them fresh until I get home. Shot on silver PMS paper. 

Most of my pictures are shot with the XF35mmF1.4 R lens, a great everyday lens. I shoot with other lenses but I love the honesty and zero distortion of this lens.

I love shooting with wide angle lenses XF16mmF1.4 R WR or XF18mmF2 R when I am out shooting landscapes. I also shoot with the XF60mmF2.4 R Macro when I want to play with close ups or create different affects.

More recently, I’ve began shooting with the X-T2 and look forward to the types of images I can create with this beautiful camera.

Discover more of these images created with FUJIFILM X Series in my instagram feed!

 

Inspired Coastlines with X Series

X-Photographer strip BLACKBy Bryan Minear

At the beginning of December, I was on my way to California for a part-work, part-fun gig in SoCal.  Being that this was only my 2nd trip to California and my first to the coast, I wanted to take everything that I thought I might need. One of the perks of the FUJIFILM X Series system is that I’m able to bring a lot of gear without having to worry about my bag being too heavy, on account of everything being so small and light compared to a DSLR system.ona_bryanminearblog_4Gear List:

  • FUJIFILM X-T2
  • FUJIFILM X-Pro2
  • FUJIFILM XF10-24mmF4 R OIS
  • FUJIFILM XF16mmF1.4 R WR
  • FUJIFILM XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
  • FUJIFILM XF35mmF1.4 R
  • FUJIFILM XF56mmF1.2 R
  • FUJIFILM XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR
  • FUJIFILM XF1.4x TC & XF2.0x TC
  • Formatt-HItech Firecrest Holder
  • Formatt-HItech Firecrest 10-stop ND & 3-stop ND Grad
  • 13” Macbook Pro
  • 1TB SSD Hard Drive
  • Anker PowerCore 20000
  • The Camps Bay ONA Camera Bag in Smoke

ONA_BryanMinearBlog_6.jpgI’ve always had a love/hate relationship with shooting out of airplane windows. I’ve taken some beautiful shots, and some terrible ones, but regardless I always give it a shot and hope for the right combination of clouds and terrain to come away with something cool. For the first time in the sky I gave the X-T2 with XF50-140mm and XF1.4X Teleconverter a shot and it ended up being really awesome. Typically I have always tried shooting wide and always seemed to get the wing of the plane, reflections, or window scratches that made my shots unusable. But zooming in that far, and having the crazy good image stabilization of the 50-140 gave me some spectacular results.ONA_BryanMinearBlog_8.jpgWhen I finally landed in San Diego, I only had a few hours to get checked into my hotel and find a good spot to shoot the sunset before I had to shoot the event I was in town for. I grabbed my ONA bag and ran out the door to see what I could find. I just made my way toward the west-facing beach of Coronado.  This was my first “true” California coastal sunset, and it was a colorful cloudless sky. I took a few shots but mostly just took it in and enjoyed the moment.dscf5272Day 2 started when a friend picked me up and we drove out to Anza Borrego. It was an unbelievable experience for this midwestern boy; in just 2 hours, we went from beautiful rolling hills and coastline to mountainous desert. We spent some time shooting from Font’s Point which gave a breathtaking view of the terrain spread out in front of us. This was everything I always expected from California: palm trees and vast expansive desert spread out in front of me. We spent a few hours shooting the beautiful textures and colors of the desert before moving on.fxp23658Heading back towards the coast, we decided that the next stop would be the rocks of Corona Del Mar. Despite slipping multiple times and having extremely soggy shoes, I was thankful to have experienced one of the most beautiful sunsets of my entire life. Having 2 camera bodies is absolutely essential for the kind of work that I like to do. I split my time between my X-Pro2 with XF10-24mm set up on a tripod shooting long exposures, and my X-T2 with XF50-140mm combo in hand snapping away at boats, water and really fine-tuning my compositions with the compressed field of view. Having the 50-140 lens has turned me from a 100% wide shooter to a 60/40 tele/wide shooter and it has made such a huge impact on the work that I create.dscf5758The next day was spent shooting around the picturesque Laguna beach area. It was a semi-low tide so we climbed to an area along the coast that has a sinkhole with beautiful swirling water, and set up our gear. After a bit of droning and waiting to see what we would get in terms of a sunset burn, we all got a bit ambitious and ventured further out on the rocks that were exposed by the low tide. While setting up on a tripod to get some water movement shots, a rogue wave came out of nowhere and completely soaked me and my camera. There has never been a time that I was more thankful to have weather-resistant gear. I spent the rest of the night soaking wet from head to toe, but was able to continue to shoot the rest of the sunset.dscf5947After drying off at my hotel and grabbing a couple hours of sleep, I decided that my final morning before flying home was going spent in Long Beach shooting the sun coming up behind The Queen Mary. I arrived to a beautiful star-filled sky, giving me enough time to nitpick and get the composition that I really wanted. As I sat there on the rocks with my X-T2 on-tripod in front of me just waiting for the perfect moment, I thought about all I was able to experience on such a short trip, and how there is so much more of the world to see and explore. I couldn’t ask for anything better than being constantly inspired to create by my surroundings, and the gear that helps me capture it all. ona_bryanminearblog_12

Exploring Panama with the X-T1

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By Braden Gunem

I like to travel alone.  Partners and friends are great, but they can also hold you back from really experiencing a culture deeply.  Solo travel allows you a freedom and adventure rarely achievable for those rushing back home for dinner.  So when a group of friends and I booked a house in a rather touristy area of Panama, I didn’t plan to spend much time shooting.  I grabbed my trusted X-T1 and my favorite lens – the XF23mmF1.4 R.dscf3684One of the local attractions in this area is a beach only accessible by boat or a long muddy trail through the jungle.  After attempting the trail, we opted for the boat and were dropped at a small dock in a lagoon filled with mangrove trees.  A short walk across the island towards the sound of surf led us to a beautiful beach. dscf3736We were walking along the beach when a foreign couple approached saying that a man with a machete had tried to rob them, but they were able to run away.  Suddenly. I regretted bringing my camera.  We stopped walking for some time. We swam, did hand stands, and drank beer.  Eventually, the allure of discovery won over and we continued along the deserted beach.

On my extensive travels, I often have a specific image in my mind when I’m shooting.  Sometimes, the search for this image blinds me from all the other potential shots present.  It’s refreshing to go out with no expectations and see what organically appears.  When I saw locals on horseback approaching, I sank into the jungle looking for a frame to contain them as they passed.  They had ridden the muddy trail, and were headed to the far end of the island to go hunting.Beach HorsesThis long strip of sand is interrupted occasionally by large trees overhanging into the ocean.   They are a natural jungle gym, and soon we were climbing all over them.  From the trunk of a tree,I realized there was a good shot and picked up the camera again.  I tilted the LCD to get super low to the ground and avoided wallowing around myself.MonkeyAs my friend Laura was working on a new route for this particular tree, I switch on the Cinematic Mode; it’s accessible on your camera by turning the mode dial to CH and holding down the shutter release button.  As it’s clicking away, I’m able to make  slight adjustments to the composition.  But, I’m mostly waiting on the subject to look at their best.  Yes, it fills a memory card really fast.  That’s why I use Lexar 128s, so I don’t have to worry about changing cards very often.TarzanBeyond the beach, we came across some boys walking around with machetes.  They seemed to be out honing their skills with these essential jungle tools.  One boy was carefully opening a coconut to drink the water.  I sat my X-T1 on the ground near his feet, using the tilting LCD to compose.  It must be great to grow up in a land where snacks fall readily from the trees.Snack TimeIn the evening, we returned home to discover the hunt had been successful. DinnerIt’s rare that I do a trip with no photographic objective.  It’s refreshing to travel light and go with the flow – and it’s authentic and easy to capture with FUJIFILM X Series. On to the next adventure!

 

 

 

X-T2: The Game Changer

 

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By Namour Filho

You might be asking: what’s the point of another FUJIFILM X-T2 review if reviewers all talk about the same things? Luckily for you, I wrote a different kind of review.fotoi%c2%81grafo-de-casamento-sp-namour-filho-04_-13To start, I need to talk a little bit about my experience with this camera. I’ve been working and playing with Fujifilm cameras since the X100S. During the past few years I’ve also shot with the X-E2, X-T10, X100T, X-T1, X70 and X-Pro2.Namour Filho _X Photographer_X-T2 images_0004.JPGAs a curious photographer who gives classes and lectures about the mirrorless revolution all over Brazil, I’ve also tried on Olympus, Samsung and Sony gear together with many a variety of lenses for weddings and portraits. I did this because, as an X-Photographer, I can’t be fully knowledgeably about Fujifilm without also experiencing other brands. I have had great experiences with DSLR cameras, too. I first used Canon cameras back in 2001, testing many different models and lenses.With that brief history, let me begin my X-T2 review.Fotógrafo de Casamento SP Namour Filho - 04_-6.jpgSeveral months ago, I put my hands on the X-T2 with the Vertical Power Booster. My first impression was that I would never use this booster: I hate weight and big cameras, but as I was going to travel for 21 days, I would have time to experiment.Namour Filho _X Photographer_X-T2 images_0028.JPGThe first part of my trip was Portugal. There, I attended a workshop group at “Quinta” in Viseu, a wine farm. I tried the camera in different situations: on hot days and situations of high contrast, on overcast days with softness, and also during times of balanced light. I began testing the advanced filters, film simulations, and the drive modes. namour-filho-_x-photographer_x-t2-images_0023I headed to Paris, where I shot in mixed lighting situations, such as: contrasting scenes and scenes at twilight in the city. Some images were also made with third party lenses with manual focus and an adapter.Namour Filho _X Photographer_X-T2 images_0029.JPGThen, I returned to Brazil and photographed two weddings. I took along my X-Pro2 and shot the weddings with both cameras, just to feel the differences in action. And not surprisingly, I did feel it.namour-filho-_x-photographer_x-t2-images_0012So, l will talk about my recent experiences by making X Series-specific comparisons.

X-T2 versus X-T1

The new camera wins by far when we talk about resolution. With more megapixels, you can crop more, and you can do this without any fear. I know other wedding photographers like that fact as much as I do.

The new LCD screen with vertical movement: when I first heard about this feature, I thought that this wouldn’t be very useful, but with this new dimension of articulation, I challenged myself with the feature many during my street photography, travel photography and in the midst of weddings. This is, surprisingly, a really cool and useful feature.

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The new ISO and Shutter Speed dials are proof-positive that a little change can make a huge difference. Fujifilm is always open to photographers’ feedback and they make the proper changes most of the time. This dial took my workflow to a higher level at weddings. Now, all I have to do is just press the button in the dial to lock or unlock it, and I’ll be rest-assured that my settings are perfect.

Dual card slot: this is another change from the X-T1 that made this body more pro. Dual slots are essential for backup and to separate RAW from JPEG.Namour Filho _X Photographer_X-T2 images_0007.JPGIn my opinion, the compensation dial was a negative change from the X-T1 to X-T2. The dial now takes 2 fingers instead of one like with the X-T1. I know Fujifilm engineers changed it by listening to the demands from photographers, but I prefer the old way.

Continuous Autofocus is a huge improvement. With this advancement in AF, the gap between Fujifilm and DSLRs is gone. I’ve noticed great improvements with 80% to 90% precision. I like that this camera has more focusing points, which helps a lot with face or eye detection on single focus.

ACROS film simulation allows photographers more freedom to create unique JPEG files.namour-filho-_x-photographer_x-t2-images_0026Two good things that I loved were the inclusion of a joystick, which helps a lot for many uses and the continuous shooting that was changed to a controlled one by your finger, so you can shoot even one image on the continuous if you want.

X-T2 versus X-Pro2

Many photographers ask me this question every day: Which is one better: X-T2 or X-Pro2? Which one do I choose?

My answer is: either gives you the same final quality. It is the same sensor and the same processor, but mounted in different bodies, with different design and operational functions.Fotógrafo de Casamento SP Namour Filho - 04_-19.jpgI always say that the X-Pro2 is a camera for rangefinder lovers, documentary or street photographers. In my opinion, it is prettier than the X-T2, but, according to complaints of most users, it lacks an articulating LCD and the ISO dial is also a negative aspect. I suggested that Fujifilm give photographers the option of setting the ISO with the front or back command dials..

The X-T2 is a perfect camera for wedding, sports, outdoor and wildlife photographers. It has a very ergonomic design, everything is reachable and it has a DSLR look, which many photographers still seek (I do not mind it).

The technological advances are not a reason for you to choose between one and the other. Fujifilm takes care about it with constant firmware updates that give both cameras equivalent capacity.namour-filho-_x-photographer_x-t2-images_0003Another important thing is the vertical power booster that is available for the X-T2 allows much longer battery life: the grip adds the power of two more batteries, so it raises to three the number of batteries; which, for me, is enough for my entire wedding. The commands in this new booster grip are very well situated and even include the joystick. This booster grip also increases the number of shots per second in the high-speed drive, and this is a very good thing for sports and wildlife photographers.

The negative aspects are the weight and size that are increased and you must turn it off when not using the grip in order to avoid pressing the shutter button accidentally. This can be a mess if you are in the middle of a wedding.

X-T2 versus DSLRs

This is a difficult comparison to make, because we talk about different systems and, in this case, Full Frame, different sensors sizes.

But I think now is the right time for me to compare.namour-filho-_x-photographer_x-t2-images_0015The lacks that many photographers used to talk about Fujifilm cameras were mainly related to the resolution (that the sensors were 16 megapixels), autofocus speed, sensor size, dual card slots and flash system.

I believe that, with the release of the X-T2, Fujifilm has reached a point of change.namour-filho-_x-photographer_x-t2-images_0010This camera has 24 megapixels with huge quality and increased resolution – the size of its rich RAW files can reach up to 60 megabytes. This size is ideal for photographers who normally crop their images.

Concerning autofocus speed, it is a notorious fact that Fujifilm worked really hard on improving AF: now featuring very good face and eyes detection, as well as 5 different modes of continuous autofocus. I tested it under some situations – including weddings – and it worked very well.continuous-focusIn regards to the sensor size, everybody knows that nowadays, technology has been advancing incredibly fast and that the latest APS-C sensors can now achieve beautiful results at high ISO levels and wide latitude. Fujifilm’s latest generation sensors are very competitive in the DSLR market.

With the unique engineering of the X-Trans sensor, the results reached by the X-Pro2 and the X-T2 are even better – arguably better than many DSLRs.Namour Filho _X Photographer_X-T2 images_0018.JPGThe adding of the dual card slot helped a lot for the wedding photographers who need instantly back up.

Verdict

I always tell my photographer friends that we pay too much attention to irrelevant details about photography gear.

Of course, Canon offers very good cameras and lenses – the same for Nikon, Pentax, Sony, and others. But, the most important thing for me – and the factors that caused me to switch over to Fujifilm were the ergonomic bodies, lightweight design, and very good prices.  Namour Filho _X Photographer_X-T2 images_0017.JPGIt was unthinkable that we could have such great and competitive system with this price and such high quality some years ago.

In just 5 years, FUJIFILM X Series has built a solid system with 22 exceptional FUJINON lenses. FUJINON is known by its superb quality glass in medical diagnosis and broadcasting lenses. This legacy experience is now being used within X Series lenses. And, very importantly: at a very good price.namour-filho-_x-photographer_x-t2-images_0005To sum this review up, I must emphasize that Fujifilm is a brand that listens to their users very carefully, and that is the secret behind their huge success. You can list some cons about them, but they will be happy to listen, take notes and fix them, maybe even in a simple firmware update.Namour Filho _X Photographer_X-T2 images_0016.JPGNowadays, people make decisions based on details. The competition in the camera industry is tremendous. For choosing the best photography gear, we must also make our decisions based on details. Fujifilm has paid attention to the critical details, and the X-T2 is a perfect example of a beautiful result.

Leave Nothing To Chance

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By Omar Z Robles

A good friend once told me that success often comes when two things take place: chance and readiness. I am a firm believer that it takes more of the latter than anything else. Chance…well, that could be a matter of perception. Too many people believe that situations must be just right in order to be successful, only to end up disappointed and frustrated.

Let’s rethink that approach. Replace chance with persistence, and see how that goes. Don’t worry; this is not solely a self-help post…photography, coming right up.dscf1650On my recent trip to Mexico, there was a multitude of moments where things were not how I planned – or, where circumstances changed unexpectedly. When you are traveling into new territories, you are most likely going to run into these types of scenarios. What’s important is how you handle them. I’d like to share just a two examples with you and how persistence and readiness help me pull through.dscf3393A few local people had told me that I should consider shooting in Xochimilco due to the colorful “trajineras”. Trajineras are boats colorfully adorned which take groups of people along the canals. I did a little research and thought it was a great idea. I consulted it with one of the dancers and she was thrilled with the concept. The excitement grew alongside my expectations. In order to make it there, we had to travel nearly an hour outside of the city. Upon arrival, my heard sank. I soon realized that shooting at this location was going to be more than challenging. The place was PACKED with people and to make matters worse, light was fading fast.dscf2061My initial idea was to photograph the dancer on a floating boat with other boats on the background. It was going to look AWESOME, or at least it did in my head. Unfortunately, the canal was overcrowded and we would be unable to execute the initial plan. Light was still fading and we were too far away from the city to turn back and find a different location. I would have to make due.dscf1324The important thing is that I had already been rolling with the punches. Since I arrived on location, despite the location being less than ideal, I was constantly shooting. I wasn’t waiting for the perfect setting; I was ready to make the setting work for me. We continued scouting a few locations around the area and shooting simultaneously. At the end of the day, I was really satisfied with the images we achieved.dscf2022The next example had even higher expectations. It was the Day of the Dead. The plan was to visit two cemeteries with two dancers and use with the festivities happening as part of the backdrop for the images. Again, it all looked incredible in my head. This time we had to travel even farther away, about 2 hours, to Cuernavaca.dscf3419When we arrived to the first cemetery, I quickly knew the day would be not as I had imagined. Did I quickly pack up and leave? No, I told the dancers to get ready and we shot a few frames. After some time, I decided to move to the next location. As we were approaching the next cemetery, we diverted into an interesting alleyway. We shot some frames and as we headed back, I stopped to shoot once or twice along the way.  I saw the sunset starting to break and made the decision to keep shooting on that street. After a few minutes passed, an adjacent street caught my eye …so we kept shooting.dscf3873I felt a few drops of rain as the sunset came into full effect. I changed my lens to XF90mmF2 R WR just in case, even though I didn’t see many clouds. What happened next none of us was expecting: a heavy storm broke and the day transformed into night almost immediately. Thanks to the X-T2 and XF90mm’s solid weather sealing, we were able to push on and continue shooting.dscf4100In both of these examples, the reality of each situation was nowhere near my expectation. Yet in both cases, I was able to capture some beautiful images beyond my imagination. We weren’t quite able to shoot at the locations we had set out to shoot. That didn’t stop me. I was persistent and kept shooting, making the circumstances work for me and not the other way around. I took control of my “fate” and didn’t allow the obstacles set the tone or disappoint me.dscf4065Shooting with the X Series system also contributes greatly in these moments. Being able to see an exact preview of how my images are going to look like on the EVF and rear screen helps me visualize what is going on and make sound decisions towards my goal. The weather sealing and excellent high ISO performance also keep me confident in all sorts of tricky moments. In those moments, I know I’m capable of capturing the perfect shot, but it’s up to me to persist.

Perfecting Food Photography with FUJINON Lenses

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By Nicole S. Young

One of the most common questions I receive from new photographers is which lens to use when photographing food. When choosing gear there is never a correct choice; it all boils down to the type and size of the food, your workspace and setup, the style you hope to achieve, along with how you want your final image will look. Each lens will have advantages, and even disadvantages, depending on your setup. Here is a list of a variety of lenses, along with why you might choose each type of lens for food photography.

Macro

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FUJIFILM X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R MACRO Lens at 1/7 sec at F4, ISO 200

A macro lens is an obvious choice for photographing food. You can get really close to the food to highlight certain elements, and also easily photograph and fill the frame with small items, like berries or tiny bites of food. Depending on the camera you use, macro lenses come in different ranges of focal lengths.

Keep in mind that a macro lens is not always necessary to photograph food. With full-frame cameras it is sometimes necessary to use a macro-capable lens in order to get close enough and fill the frame. And, in some cases, getting too close to your dish may not be the best way to photograph it. With crop-frame cameras, such as with the FUJIFILM X-T2 used for this photo, a macro lens is not always a requirement. Because of the crop factor there is the perception that the camera is closer to the subject, and so a macro lens is only a real necessity when you want to get really close and fill the frame with small items.

Wide-Angle (12–24mm)

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FUJIFILM X-T2 with XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens at 1/4 sec at F6.4, ISO 200

In most cases a wide lens will be best for overhead setups. The space I use to photograph food in my home is too small for a wide-angle lens to be used without including other elements, such as the window or reflectors. Instead I reserve the wider focal lengths for overhead shots.

Mid-Range (35–75mm)

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FUJIFILM X-T2 with XF35mmF1.4 R Lens at 1/20 sec at F2.8, ISO 200

A mid-range lens, especially one that has a close focusing distance, can be a good option for food in any environment. I like to use this type of lens when I know I will want to photograph my dinner while traveling (for example). It is long enough to compress and blur the background, but narrow enough to not include too wide of an angle of view. I can also still sit quite close to the food; with a longer lens I need to move back a few feet, which can be difficult when sitting at a dinner table.

Medium Telephoto (90–120mm)

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FUJIFILM X-T2 with XF90mmF2 R LM WR Lens at 1/9 sec at F4, ISO 200

The medium telephoto lens, also known as a good range for portraits, is also a great focal length range for food photographs. One of my favorites is the FUJINON XF90mmF2 R LM WR; I can get in close to the subject, and also compress and blur the background quite well.

Telephoto (140mm+)

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FUJIFILM X-T2 with XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens at 1/10 sec at F4, ISO 200

When you have a lot of space to work in and really want to compress and blur your background, then a telephoto lens might be a good option for you.  This type of lens will typically work well with crop-frame cameras, which is great news for Fujifilm users! On full-frame cameras, however, you may find that the focal length will not allow you to get close enough to the subject to get it in focus. However even with this setup (a small item of food) I was unable to get a tight shot of the bruschetta with my FUJIFILM X-T2 because of the limited focusing distance, but with a larger dish this lens might work well.

Discovering The Unknown: A Journey Through Mexico

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By Omar Z Robles

My work as a photographer has been characterized largely by my choice of subject matter and composition. Best known for photographing dancers against uncommon backdrops, I frequently get asked why and how I choose the backdrops that make it into the final frame. The truth is, when I travel (other than researching photography laws in each respective country), I don’t spend much time researching the “best places to photograph”.

Why not?dscf3772I prefer to be surprised by the places I visit and let them speak to me as I make my way into the unknown. Avoiding preconception of a physical location helps my process: I believe it helps me to create more honest images. Honest, because the final output reflects my own discoveries as opposed to try to emulate what I have seen others do – even subconsciously. This can be frustrating at times, but frustration is a part of the creative process which welcome with open arms. Much as necessity is the mother of invention, frustration can be the propeller of creativity.dscf3253I found myself traveling in Mexico City, where I was able to enlist and schedule several dancers before my trip. I had a full schedule of shoots before landing. Yet, I had no idea where was I going to photograph. While the thought frightened me, it also motivated me. Throughout the trip, I relied both on the advice of my dancers and local Fujifilm X-Photographer Jaime Ávila who, out of his own initiative, pre-scouted a few places for me (thanks a lot, brother!).DSCF9215.jpgHowever, seeing is believing. In spite of their local knowledge and willingness to help, it is not until I am at the actual locations that I face the real challenges: Will this location work for me? How can I make this place my own? How can I translate it into my visual language? My mission is to make the dancer the protagonist. It’s my responsibility to feature him or her in the location while creating a narrative evocative of the city. I can only achieve this through patience and observation.

No matter where I am, I need to observe what makes each place unique. And, more importantly, what is unique to me at that particular moment in time. That takes time and some trial and error – that’s where patience needs to kick in.

Here in Mexico City, more so than architectural elements, the one thing that has caught my attention is its density. LOTS of it. There are as many people in the streets as there are cars. While the density initially felt like a hardship, I took the time to discover how to use it to my advantage – and more importantly, how to use the density to tell the story of my experience here. Instead of running away from it, I decided to place the dancers between congested areas of people and between heavy traffic lanes.

To my advantage, working with FUJIFILM X Series gear has been a great blessing in these types of situations. Surfing waves of people, I was carrying equipment so light that I was able to move easily through the crowds. Having lightweight gear and fast autofocus, I jumped in and out of traffic swiftly (and safely).

Also, I have used the lightness of my X-T2 in combination with its burst mode to create slow exposures in areas where there are a lot of people moving. The result is an image of a magnificently elegant dancer standing strong with a blurred sea of moving people. I rarely carry a tripod; these images were easily created handheld.

I have been using the tilting screen quite often to shoot from extremely low angles. Shooting from low angles often helps in diminishing visual background noise.

My journey in Mexico City started with many revelations about my own process and creativity. I found myself slowly unraveling the unknown with the help of X Series and a true sense of adventure and exploration…

24 Hours in Yosemite

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By Bryan Minear

As I sat on a plane bound for San Francisco, staring down some 40,000 feet to the clouds passing underneath me, excitement and anticipation filled my soul. It was the beginning of a journey – an epic adventure creating unique images and memories. I hoped that this pilgrimage with fellow photographers would live up to my expectations, and further inspire me to follow my dreams.bm_7After being awake for 30 hours, we arrived at dusk. On the way into Yosemite, we stopped off at tunnel view. It was my first glimpse of California that wasn’t being hidden away by the night. The rock faces lit up underneath a sea of endless stars. In that moment, it all felt like a dream. I was now experiencing this miraculous destination that I had experienced so many times before through someone else’s eyes. We spent an hour shooting before heading to drop off our bags and get settled in our condo. At 4:30 AM, we were off to glacier point to prepare for our first sunrise.bm_5I stared into the face of half dome, brilliant and gleaming in front of me. In some ways, I was taking a photo that millions of people had taken before me – but at the same time, I took pause to remember that the beauty of photography is that each moment captured is infinite and unique in its own way.bm_2The sun began to glow, and I was able to catch the last few stars in the sky over half dome.  My X-Pro2 clicked away on a timelapse and my X-T2 shifted in my hand as I tried to find my perfect composition. I was awaiting the shot that I was planning on taking since the trip’s inception.

“First light over half dome” is something that I had wanted to see for myself since I knew Yosemite existed. My lens of choice for the perfect capture was the XF10-24mmF4 R OIS. It gave me the versatility I needed to grab a few shots at various focal lengths in order to choose my shot in post.

After a short and much-needed nap, we ventured down into the valley to see the golden light as it passed over us. Fall color was in full swing and there was a slight chill to the air, only further enhancing the experience. We found a spot along the Merced River with a beautiful view of half dome reflected in the water. Along a nearby boardwalk, we took in Yosemite Falls as it towered above us. The falls were not supposed to be running at this time of year, but luckily, a storm passed through the night before we arrived, giving the falls a second wind.bm_6I framed up a shot with a 10-stop ND and 3-stop ND Grad to get some cloud and water movement. Shooting long exposures during the day is one of my favorite things to do because it gives me some time to enjoy the scene around me. Oftentimes I get so caught up in getting the shot that I don’t “see” things for myself. The photos are the best way to relive the moment, sure. But it’s equally as important to live in the moment and enjoy your surroundings.bm_4As the light started to drop in the sky, I shifted into creative mode trying to make the absolute most of the light that I have left. I set up another timelapse in front of the half dome with my X-Pro2, and with my X-T2 and XF16mmF1.4 R WR attached, I began walking around finding different compositions to maximize my last few moments.bm_1Over the course of the next few days I experienced close to all that Yosemite and the surrounding area had to offer: Taft Point, the 7,503 ft lookout point, Tioga Pass, and the desert-laden Eastern Sierras that lie just outside of Yosemite proper. The trip was full of friendship, laughter, and best of all, amazing scenes to photograph.

Discovering Cuba with X Series

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By Daniel Malikyar

Wandering the streets of Havana felt like I had hopped in a time machine and turned the dial back 50 years. Avoiding tourist areas at all costs always provides an interesting experience, and we did all we could to experience the real side of the city each day.dscf1567My favorite part about Havana was the wide variety of subjects scattered throughout the city. It seemed as if every corner I turned there was something new, whether it was a Dalmatian contently sitting on a gritty front porch or a bike taxi that seemed to ride by just in time for perfect light, it seemed as if there was always something that caught my eye.dscf1810I particularly enjoyed shooting the neighborhoods that surrounded the capitol building, Capitolio. I did just about everything in my power to capture the lifestyle of the locals with this interesting structure in the background. From persuading locals two stories above to give us permission to shoot from their balconies, to running behind cars, to playing soccer with local kids to get their approval, I took all measures to capture various perspectives of the Capitolio with fresh subjects in the foreground on each occasion. Thankfully I had a wide variety of range of FUJINON glass to pair with my X-Pro2 and X-T1; the XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS and XF10-24mmF4 R OIS were my go-to lenses for these photos.dscf8130Another one of my favorite locations in Cuba was Barrio Chino, or China Town. This area was very unique and boasted what I called the Cuban version of New York’s iconic Flat Iron building. I immediately loved this spot after catching an incredible golden hour that saw the sun light up the surrounding area of the building with a warm, glowing light that made for some of the best shots on my X-Pro2 XF10-24mmF4 combo from the trip.dscf1644One of the most noteworthy elements of Havana are the many random puddles that form throughout alleys that provided mirror-like reflections of the colorful cityscapes, classic cars, and great city vibes. The locals would stare at me in confusion when I would stop traffic to kneel down and use the tilt-screen on the X-T1 XF10-24mmF4 combo to capture perfect angles of the glassy puddle reflections.dscf1990As I was composing a reflection shot with my X-T1 on an overcast afternoon among a vibrant alleyway, my cousin called for me and told me I had to stop whatever I was doing and see how beautiful a baby was down the street. My first instinct was to continue to try and get my shot as that sounded a little off, but I got up and quickly walked around the block to catch the little girl and her father just before they were going to enter a home. The young dad had his daughter in his arms, and we she turned around she looked like something out of a National Geographic cover. I had never seen eyes like hers. They had a bright aqua tint of blue that could be seen from a block away. He kindly let me snap a few photographs, and I every time I looked into my electronic viewfinder of my X-Pro2 and I couldn’t believe how stunning this little girl’s features were. Cuba is full of surprises… this experience was a sure reminder of that.dscf1186I’ve never really been an advocate of guided tours under any circumstances. Cuba is one of those destinations that only has so much information that can be found online. In order to experience and capture it properly, you can’t really have a comfort zone. You have to be willing to put yourself out there with a positive and friendly vibe and hope for the best in most instances. We were even invited into a family gathering for drinks in a broken down backyard after approaching a couple locals in hopes of entering their compound to find something interesting to shoot. I lost count of the amount of complexes, homes, and lots we entered (all after asking what seemed like owners or tenants). These were the best memories, and provided some of the best perspectives that will be extremely difficult to replicate.dscf1189One hot afternoon the sunset was quickly approaching, and we were determined to find a rooftop vantage point to capture the moment the light brought warmth to the tattered cityscape of old Havana. After entering a building and passing by locals on each story, all with wide smiles of confusion but acceptance on their faces, we made it towards the top floor. When I looked down, there was the unique spiral staircase I had ever seen. I captured an organic image of the staircase with my X-Pro2 XF10-24mmF4 combo and we made for the roof. Unfortunately there are not very many tall buildings in Cuba; making it a bit difficult to get a great view of the sun setting on the water with the cityscape in the foreground. I completely forgot about the shot I had anticipated when several kids entered through the roof and showed us their pigeon traps, introducing us to some of their birds. I had never seen anything like this, and it really made me appreciate how a simple lifestyle brought joy to these kids. There were no iPads, no PlayStations, it was all about going out and having fun with the neighborhood kids like the old days.dscf1582Growing up, I’ve always loved the game of soccer. I’ve played my entire life, and jumped in on just about every pick up game we came across. Towards the later end of the afternoon we decided to check out a neighborhood called Citio just outside of Havana. Apparently this neighborhood was extremely dangerous for tourists, and upon entering all eyes were on us. After passing by a few young kids playing soccer, I hopped in passed the ball around with them. The ball they had might as well have been a rag… it was completely trashed and lopsided. I offered to buy the kids a new ball, and the look on these kids’ faces was something I’ll never forget… we walked almost 2 miles looking for a store that was open. Along the way, the kids seemed to know all the other youngsters in the area, and our group grew with every few blocks we walked. When we finally found a store with someone inside, we begged the tenant to open her store for us to buy the ball for the kids. My friend Joon and I each bought them a ball that were less than $20 USD each, but it may as well have been a brand new MacBook Pro for these kids. They couldn’t believe it and were so excited to get out and play with one another. Even though we skipped shooting for a couple hours, that was one of the best memories from our trip.dscf1381In conclusion, I highly recommend giving Cuba a visit before it becomes increasingly commercialized. Your experience in the country is up to you. I spent the majority of my time in Old Havana in hopes of capturing an unseen photo, and there are tons of interesting places to see. I was lucky enough to capture my experiences behind my FUJIFILM X Series gear, which never disappointed once. With all the impromptu moments, seconds of good light, and organic situations the X-Pro2 and X-T1 paired with a wide variety of FUJINON glass executed everything I could have asked for.