Go forth and multiply!

The multiple exposure mode on your Fujifilm X Series cameras is probably one of those functions that you know is there, but you’ve never really tried. You might have dismissed it as a little gimmicky, or perhaps just not thought that you could put it to much use. But trust me, this function is a highly-addictive way of taking images.

The good news is, every X Series model has the feature so you’ve really no excuse not to give it a whirl. Exactly how you access it will vary from model to model, but you should find the icon – two overlapping rectangles – in the Drive menu, the Adv. setting or, as on the X-T2 I used, the Drive dial on the top-plate.

Once you’ve selected the mode, the process of picture taking is simple. Point it at your first subject and take a picture. The camera will then give you the option to Retry the shot if you’re not entirely happy by pressing the left button on the rear quadrant or move on to the next shot  by pressing OK.

When you press OK, you’ll see that the original shot appears as a ghost image on the rear LCD or in the viewfinder so you can frame the second more accurately. You may also want to change the exposure with the exposure compensation dial, so you get a decent balance between the two exposures. That, essentially, is it. Once you’ve taken the second image you again get the chance to reshoot if you’re not happy, or press OK to save the file. Images are only saved as JPEGs.

The skill (and fun) comes in working out what combinations work best and the more you use the multiple exposure mode, the more you’ll realise the creative opportunities you have. Generally speaking, I found that combining a texture on the first frame with a subject in the second frame can render great results. The textures can be almost anything – I’ve used carpets, tarmac, wood and brickwork as starting points. It’s important that these textures are evenly lit, which is why you should shoot these multiple exposures on overcast days. The other option is to shoot combinations of subjects that complement one another, or the complete opposite. You really can let your imagination run wild.

Once you’ve captured your images, you may need to apply some further tweaks in Photoshop or Lightroom. For ideas or inspiration, take a look at these images, then get out there and give it a go yourself. I guarantee you’ll have a whale of a time.

My first shot here was a concrete inspection cover, then I cropped in tightly on this thatched cottage for an old world look. In Lightroom, I lifted the colours slightly using the Vibrance slider.

This church graveyard had some tombstones covered in ivy. I captured those first, then turned to capture one of the windows – I’m really pleased with this effect, which I further enhanced using the Bleach Bypass preset in Lightroom. Don’t know how to use presets? You can find details in my recent How to video.

This spooky-looking door was created by photographing a weathered wooden door and then this entrance door. Turning to Lightroom, I then applied the Yesteryear preset to make it look like a photograph from the 1800s.

Straight from the camera, this image is a simple combination of a Neighbourhood Watch sign with a warning to motorists to slow down. It’s all rather Big Brother, but the juxtaposition of the two shots works nicely, I think.

A night with the stars

There’s something very special about taking photographs at night. Aside from the challenges of working in low light, successful images reveal things that our eyes don’t ordinarily see; the result of working with lengthy exposures that can run into seconds and often minutes. For me, the ultimate example of this is a star trail, which is why you’ll often find see me heading out when darkness falls.

Before you shoot a star trail, you need to do some groundwork. First, Continue reading A night with the stars

(Soft)box of tricks

How a cardboard box can be turned into a useful light modifier for the grand sum of 60p

I was in my garage the other day and realised something; it’s full of empty cardboard boxes. It’s a shocking confession I know, but what with eBay and other things you just never know when you might need a box, right? The 53 I counted, however, maybe considered a little excessive. I started to think whether I could trim the numbers down a little and my mind drifted to the fact that I’d been taking some flash images a couple of weeks earlier where I’d been a little disappointed by the harshness of the direct flash light. Within moments, a plan was hatched.

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After a root around in the section of the garage not populated with cardboard, plus the kitchen drawers, I ended up with this selection of goodies with which I decided to make a softbox:

  • 1x small cardboard box
  • 1x roll of kitchen foil
  • 1x roll of electrician’s tape
  • 1x pair of scissors
  • 1x flashgun (I’m using an EF-42)
  • 3x sheets of tracing paper at 20p a sheet
  • 1x bottle of glue (optional)

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I started by placing the flashgun in a central position on the box and drawing around it to give me an approximate shape of the flash head.

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Grabbing the scissors, I cut the shape out, going slightly inside the lines I’d drawn to make sure that the head fitted through snugly. 

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Confident my cutting skills had progressed from primary school, I taped the sides of the box down. They could have been cut off, of course, but I preferred to tape them down to create slightly more robust sides to the box.

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I used a couple of lengths of foil to coat the inside of the box. This could be glued down if you wish, but the nature of foil meant that it moulded to the shape nicely and stayed put. There’s no need to smooth it down, just as long as the light can happily reflect around, you’re fine.

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Having covered up the hole in the box, I then cut a second hold through the foil and pushed the flash head back through.

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Putting the box to one side, I took a sheet of the tracing paper and folded it in half to provide the diffusing panel for the front of my softbox. As it transpired, I only needed the one sheet, but you could use more if you wanted an even softer result.

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The tracing paper was then taped on all four sides of the box leaving it ready for action.

Now, it’s pretty evident that my box had a flaw in that it covered up the AF illuminator. As I was only working in dim light, this wasn’t an issue, but if you want to shoot in pitch black you’re going to struggle. There are no worries about metering, though, the X-T2 I was shooting with has TTL metering so I could be sure of accurate exposures.

So, just how good was my softbox? I’d say the results speak for themselves:

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This first image was taken without the softbox attached. As I was close to the subject with the EF-42 flash mounted on the camera’s hot-shoe, there’s an issue with coverage. The flash hasn’t illuminated the bottom part of the frame very well, plus the shadows behind the soft toy are very harsh. All in all, not the best.

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With my softbox in place, however, there’s a real improvement. The coverage is much more even and the shadows are far less harsh.

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But this shot is arguably even better, created by pointing the flashgun, with softbox attached, straight to the ceiling. It’s created a lovely even top light to the toy, which looks more like studio lighting than a flashgun with a cardboard box stuck on it.

Not bad for 60p and 30 minutes of my time, is it?

Throwing some shapes

Black card, tape and Velcro are all you need to add extra creativity to out-of-focus highlights.

If there’s one thing that Fujifilm XF lenses are well known for it’s bokeh. Some folks mistake this term as referring to purely out-of-focus highlights, but in reality it means the whole out-of-focus area of an image and how appealing it looks. But there’s fun to be had with highlight areas, particularly pinpoints of light the likes of which are created by fairy lights. Take a look at the two shots below, the one on the left is a defocused shot taken with an XF55-200mm at the 200mm setting and its widest aperture. The shot on the right was created by slipping a piece of card with a heart cut in it in front of the lens. Cute, eh?

And it’s easy enough to do.

First up, you’re going to need some materials. I used the following:

  • 1x sheet black card
  • 1x scalpel
  • 1x scissors
  • 1x roll of electrician’s tape
  • 1x pack of Velcro strips
  • 1x Fujifilm camera and lens

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The more eagle-eyed among you will also notice there’s an X Series box inner as well. More on that later…

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Start by taking the card and a pencil and drawing round the lens you want to creating the bokeh shape for.

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Once you’ve got a nice outline (not wonky like mine), cut it out using the scissors, then place it back on the lens to make sure it’s the right size.

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Measure the diameter of the card and then use the scalpel to cut out a second circle that’s approximately 1cm across.

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Once you’ve done that, cut a strip of black card and apply the electrician’s tape to one edge of it.

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Slowly wrap this around the circle you’ve already cut out, creating a shallow holder in the process.

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The holder should now slide neatly over the front of the lens.

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Take the Velcro and cut two short strips, sticking them on either side of the small hole.

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Finally, cut a final small piece of card and then either the scalpel to cut a shape you want to appear in the bokeh. A heart is easy enough to cut by hand, but if you want something more intricate shaped punches are available in craft stores and provide a smooth edge. Stick the other part of the Velcro on this card and attach. This way you can easily make other shapes and remove/attach as you wish.

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You’ll need to do some experimentation with different lenses and aperture settings. Naturally, the wider the aperture the better, plus you’ll find that manual focusing is better. After my initial tests with this shape to produce the shot at the top of this blog, I created a second slightly fatter heart shape for the shot below, which I prefer. To add a bit more interest, I also added a lily as it’s my wife’s favourite flower and I thought it fitted the heart theme.

And the X Series box inner? Well that was used for the shot on the right. See, Fujifilm even produce creative packaging as well as great cameras!

Making room for zooms

Which XF zoom lenses are regulars in your gadget bag – and why?

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You join me in the midst of a fascinating experiment. The kind folk at Fujifilm UK asked me to write a couple of blogs on which lenses you should you use for what subject, but I think that’s been done a few times already. So, as an alternative, I’m using the power of Lightroom to uncover which lenses I use the most and explain why. My last blog, which you can read here was all about my favourite primes, I was somewhat surprised to find which my most popular prime lens choice actually was. This time, I’m turning to my XF zoom options.

If you’re a Lightroom user and fancy trying this experiment yourself, it’s easy enough to do. Just select the Library Module and then in the Library Filter bar at the top, choose Metadata and you’ll be presented with a series of drop down menus that you can further refine. As with the primes, I’ve used a fair few of the XF zooms; all of them, in fact. But Lightroom showed that four stood out more than others and, as with my prime selection, there’s nothing saying that I’m putting the lenses to their optimum uses shooting what I do. From widest up, they were as follows:

1) XF10-24mmF4 R OIS

It’s no surprise that this is on my hot list as it’s such a versatile lens and – in the 10mm setting – reaches extremes that XF primes lenses currently can’t touch. Compact, lightweight and capable of outstandingly good results even in my hands, it’s a go-to lens for landscape and architecture photographers. Naturally, I’ve shot both of these subjects regularly with the XF10-24mm, but I’ve also pressed it into service when I’ve been overseas; it saw a lot of action on the streets of Rome and San Francisco, for example. Some may bemoan the F4 maximum aperture, but the addition of OIS cancels out any drop in light gathering capabilities and it’s often one of the first lenses in my gadget bag.

Find out more about the XF10-24mm lens here. 


2) XF18-55mmF2.8 R LM OIS

Surprised not to see the XF16-55mm? Yes, so was I, but although the wider and faster premium zoom was used, this more modestly sized optic saw many more frames rattled through it. Normally, I’d be reluctant to use a standard zoom lens to capture images, but the quality of this compact optic really is everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s a true all-rounder, too. As images below show, I’ve used it for a range of images from shooting on the street to shots of architecture and the optical image stabiliser gives low light confidence, too. In my opinion. No X Series user should be without this lens.

Find out more about the XF18-55mm lens here. 


3) XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR

The zoom that thinks it’s a prime, the XF50-140mm is a real favourite for me. It can be used for some many different applications and, with the added versatility now offered by the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, can be used to capture pretty much anything from sport to distant details. Before I did my Lightroom test, I would have thought my shots with this lens would be very portrait heavy but, in reality, I couldn’t have been more wrong – I’ve shot pretty much everything but portraits with it! Time to line up some models and redress the balance!

Find out more about the XF50-140mm lens here. 


4) XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Much like the XF90mmF2 R LM WR which has become a recent favourite in prime lens terms, so too has this monster. It’s the lens that X Series users had been crying out for and although the mainstay of the lens’s capabilities are primarily sports and wildlife that I’m hopeless at, I’ve just modified my shooting and tried it on other subjects – including landscapes. Picture quality is tremendous and with the extra power from the compatible teleconverters, I can see why this lens has quickly become a favourite for many. Despite my having the XF16-55mm for longer, the XF100-400mm has seen many more frames!

Find out more about the XF100-400mm lens here. 


So, which one have I used most?

Again, I was a little surprised. I expected it to be the XF10-24mm, but Lightroom told me otherwise confirming the XF18-55mm as my most regularly used zoom. It’s no surprise, it’s a great little lens, but what this exercise does confirm is that my photography is largely working in rather tight parameters, lens-wise. I think I need to branch out a little more and see the world from a slightly wider (and more telephoto) viewpoint.

The primes of my life

Do you know which prime lenses you use more than any others? I do.

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Things you and I already know about the Fujinon XF lens range:

1) They’re as sharply designed and as beautifully well made as the cameras they attach to.

2) They can, without exception, deliver outstanding results.

3) There’s already a superb line-up and it’s only going to get better.

But there was something that I didn’t know about my own use of XF lenses and felt that I really should; which lenses did I use for what subject and, perhaps more importantly, why. In order to find out, I decided to apply a small amount of science to this with the aid of Lightroom.

If you select Lightroom’s Library module, you can quickly see which lenses you’ve used and how many shots you’ve taken with them by selecting the Metadata option in the Library Filter bar. Once this option is selected, you can use the individual drop down menus below this bar to further refine your search. I did this and quickly discovered that I’d shot with a wide variety of XF lenses, but some definitely got more use than others. What follows here are my top five prime lens choices, in focal length order, what I use them for and why I love them. It’s worth pointing out before we get started, of course, that my suggestions may or may not be up your street. You can use the XF16mm for portraits just as much as you can use the XF90mm for landscapes, so be sure to experiment!


1) XF23mmF1.4 R

This is a firm favourite for plenty of X Series users, but based on my Lightroom-based search my primary usage seems to be in two main areas: landscapes and travel. Both of these are pretty obvious, I guess. The lens offers a modest, distortion-free wide-angle view that suits a whole range of subjects and flicking through my images it’s easy to see the appeal – the XF23mm is spectacularly sharp, right from F1.4. Delving a little deeper into the metadata, I discovered that I rarely used the lens at its minimum aperture, favouring the wide apertures more, except when I was striving for plenty of depth-of-field. I expect the new XF23mmF2 to get similar levels of usage once I get my hands on one (hint, hint…)

Find out more about the XF23mm lens here. 


2) XF27mmF2.8

Given my regular use of the XF23mm, I was surprised to see that I also gave the XF27mm plenty of outings, too. Looking at the resulting shots, though, it was evident that I shot very different subjects with this more compact lens. It’s definitely the one I pick when I head into a city or town to shoot street images, or just want a lens that I can pop on a camera body and head out. There were an inordinate number of pictures taken with the XF27mm when I was out walking my dog (see the shot at the top of this post) and it was interesting to see that my use of the XF27mm had greatly increased when I was testing the X-Pro2. This duo make a killer combination in both portability and image quality.

Find out more about the XF27mm lens here. 


3) XF56mmF1.2 R

The 35mm focal length lenses barely registered on my Lightroom search, so the next in my top five was this beauty in its non-APD form. Compared to the XF23mm and XF27mm, this is a real lump of a lens, but in a good way. It’s supremely well made and the optical quality is truly exceptional – if you’ve ever used one, you’ll know exactly what I mean. My use of it, however, was a little more surprising. Sure, there were a few portraits in the selection, but the majority of my shots were taken with the lens at its widest aperture (or thereabouts) to make the most of the tremendous bokeh effects it offers. Less than 10% of the shots were taken at an aperture of F4 or smaller.

Find out more about the XF56mm lens here. 


4) XF60mmF2.4 R Macro

Another surprise, given its proximity in focal length terms to the XF56mm but, as with my 23mm/27mm lens scenario, the XF60mm gets used for a different set of images. In fact, I’ve shot a great deal with this lens, probably because it remains one of the sharpest in the XF line-up, despite being one of the first introduced with the X-Pro1 back in 2012. Weddings, portraits, still life images, close ups and product shots have all been shot with the Macro, and on a variety of X Series bodies, too. I even took some street images with it, but I guess it’s because I left the XF27mm at home that day…

Find out more about the XF60mm lens here. 


5) XF90mmF2 R LM WR

A late entry into my list of top five primes largely because I’ve been shooting with it so much of late. This is an absolutely stunning lens that has a look all of its own and delivers outstanding image quality. I used it for a lot of shots in my Fun in the Sun blog from a couple of months ago and since then it has stayed pretty much permanently on a Fujifilm X-E2S body. Yes, it’s great for portraits, but I also found that I shot lots of close-ups and detail images with this lens, making the most of its fast focusing and high quality optics.

Find out more about the XF90mm lens here. 


So, which one have I used the most?

This surprised me. Based on this Lightroom search, my undisputed king of prime lenses is the XF60mmF2.4 R Macro which beats the second most used lens (the XF23mmF1.4 R) by almost two to one. I’ve always loved the 60mm, but I never realised that I used it quite as much as I evidently do. It may not be the fastest focusing lens in the XF line-up, but it’s an optical gem which must be the reason why I keep on going back to it. Right, I’m off to do the same experiment for zooms…

Crafty little number

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One of the reasons I turned to photography is because I was completely hopeless at any other form of art. My paintings look like they’ve been done by a three year-old and even my stickmen are proportionally challenged.

My wife, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Anything she turns her hand to creatively, she’s very good at. Recently, that creativity has been directed towards old pieces of furniture that she’s revived using the ‘shabby chic’ technique. Don’t worry, she’s not taking beautiful mahogany pieces that she’s daubing in chalk paint and then sanding them to within an inch of their wooden lives. Nope, we’re talking unloved bits of furniture that most people would just take to the skip.

I’ve suggested to her on more than one occasion that when she creates these pieces, she should photograph the progress and blog about how they’re created. So when she tackled her latest project, I offered to shoot the images for her – using a Fujifilm X-A2 – just so she could see what was possible.

Here’s how the shoot evolved…

DSCF9371Getting established

The work is normally carried out in our garage, but given that various rusting bicycles, cardboard boxes and garden equipment don’t create a very flattering backdrop, I convinced her to do this little milking stool in our back garden, wrestling the kitchen table out there to provide her with a working surface. Once that was done, I quickly set up this establishing shot, which shows the constituent parts and the stool before anything was done.

DSCF9363Going through the motions

Over the next couple of hours, my wife went about weaving her artistic magic on to the stool and I busied myself taking photographs every step of the way. Naturally, these shots could be put into a specific order for a detailed blog, but this selection primarily shows some of the steps and the different angles I chose. I rarely asked her to pose, instead it was just a case of observing what was going on and moving into the right position to get the best angle.

Pass the time shooting incidentals

Although the chalk paint she used dries very quickly, there was still time to capture some incidental images as we waited for the paint to dry properly. This gave me the perfect opportunity to capture various detail images that add a lifestyle look and feel to the shoot. There was no setting up, I just shot all these objects as I found them, opting instead to change lenses and vary viewpoints to create interest.

Finished work

Once she’d done, I took a final shot in the same place as the starting shot and then took a second shot using a chair that she’d created a few days earlier. All ready to blog and sell!

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DSCF9480The camera

xa2 screenV2Along with the Fujifilm X-A2, I shot using three lenses – the standard XC16-50mm, the XF60mm macro and the XF35mm F2. I think the results speak from themselves. Minimal post production was required and the images are bright, vibrant and super-sharp. The flip out screen on the camera was ideal, giving me the option to shoot down low and also hold the X-A2 above head out and shoot straight down on to the table. The version I used – black & silver – appealed to my wife’s artistic eye too, plus with the WiFi functionality, she was able to transfer shots to her smartphone and share them quickly and easily on social media.

Funnily enough, a couple of days after I took these images, I found my wife using the camera and it has since been found along with her paints and brushes. I’m expecting a blog to be started imminently!

Fun in the sun

DSCF9203Is there anything better than a family day out at the seaside? For kids it’s an opportunity to run, jump, swim, dig and generally mess about. For adults, it’s an opportunity to sit around, chat, eat, drink and watch kids do all of the aforementioned. Perfect. 

As all of our  ‘kids’ are now old enough to drive themselves to their own day out, I had to borrow someone else’s to take these photographs. So say hello to Harrison (white T-shirt) and his younger brother Oli, and thanks to Paul and Nicola for letting me use them as subjects during our day out.

There are, of course, some extremely talented kids photographers out there who make a living out of creating stylised images with the subjects looking straight at the camera. I have great admiration for people who can do this but I didn’t want this fun day out to turn into a boring photo shoot. So, with Fujifilm X-A2 in hand, along with the XC16-50mm and XF90mm, I chose to adopt a more candid approach, snapping away as Harrison and Oli got busy enjoying themselves.

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Creative candids

The X-A2 proved ideal for capturing candids. It’s small and discreet so the boys probably don’t notice me taking half of these images. The camera’s fold out screen was an absolute godsend as well, helping me to get some low angles. Despite the bright conditions, I didn’t miss a viewfinder one bit. I did have to turn up the screen brightness a little as it was a very bright day, but this made the screen easy to view even when the sun was out.

Don’t forget the details!

While it’s great shots of your kids that you’re after on a family day out, it’s often the little details that get forgotten, so I concentrated on getting those shots as well. For this, I think anything goes, just as it would if you were photographing details at a wedding. You’ll soon start seeing images everywhere.

Keep shooting

When we’d finished at the beach, we headed to the pub, but rather than put the camera away, I kept taking pictures of the boys. The clip on mouths, by the way, came on a birthday card and I knew they’d make for some great shots of the boys. By the time we get to the pub, they were more than used to me taking pictures, so I just fired away as and when I saw a nice shot.

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The camera

xa2 screenV2I hadn’t used the X-A2 before our trip to the seaside. Admittedly, this was largely because it doesn’t have a X-Trans sensor in it, but I was truly impressed with the quality of images it delivered, even with the standard XC16-50mm lens. Just like other X Series cameras, it produces superb images packed with colour and detail and the images you see here are virtually straight from the camera. I’ve only made minor crop changes, plus added a minor boost to the shadows and contrast here and there.

When I showed the resulting shots to Nicola and Paul after the day they both said the same thing: ‘Nice shots, great little camera’. Says it all really.

How a frying pan can help with your picture taking

After my last blog encouraged you to make a tripod using a piece of string, I’m going to go a little more surreal this time by explaining how an old frying pan can be used to get dramatic low angle images. The standard route to getting a low viewpoint is either to lie on the floor, use a camera with a tilting screen or mount the camera on a tripod that can be dropped to ground level. The first two options can involve you getting wet and don’t work if you want to use a longer exposure as you’re hand-holding. The latter can be a real fiddle. My frying pan groundpod, however, overcomes all of those issues.


So here’s what you need. An old frying pan, a tripod ball & socket head, a nut & bolt and tools including a drill with a 10mm bit that is suitable for going through metal.

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First up, you need to check what size screw thread the ball & socket head has. The standard size is ⅜” but you can also get little inserts – as I have here – that converts the thread to a ¼”. In either case, these imperial sizes are not readily available in DIY stores as the world has gone metric, but they can be found online. You’ll need both nut and bolt.

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Raise the frying pan off the ground and drill a hole in the centre. It doesn’t have to be absolutely central. Take care if you’re drilling through a Teflon-coated non-stick frying pan like me and, as you’ll discover, this can take some time as frying pans are pretty tough. Once you’re through, tap any sharp edges of metal down with a hammer.

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Now take your tripod head, pass the bolt through the hole and screw it into the base of the head. If you have a long bolt like me, cut the excess length off with a hacksaw and then secure it all with the bolt. Your frying pan pod is now ready for action. Obviously, with a bolt in the base, this can’t be used on a solid surface, but it’s perfect for grass, soil, pebbles, mud and sand. I headed to the beach to try mine out.

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With an X-T10 attached to the tripod head and its LCD screen flipped out it was easy to frame up my shots exactly as I wanted them at the water’s edge. The sides of the frying pan kept both sand and sea away from the camera so I was able to try a variety of images.

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Here’s one of my favourites, I think the sail on the horizon makes it.

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Finally, just a couple of notes. While the groundpod can help you get some great low angle images, I can’t be held responsible for any funny looks you might get while using it – it does look as though you’re frying your camera! Also, if you are taking pictures at the sea be aware that cameras and saltwater are uneasy bedfellows.


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For more information on the Fujifilm X-T10 click here.