By Danny Fernandez
During the first half of 2014, I decided to pack my bags, say goodbye to what I knew as ‘life’ and spend 3 months traveling around Northern India. This blog is to share my journey with you. All my images were shot on the FUJIFILM X100S and processed in Lightroom.
Varanasi, or ‘the holy city of India‘ sits on the banks of the river Ganges, in Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi (or Banaras) is known for being the most spiritual part of India, and this is reflected by the amount of devotees attending various religious ceremonies every day. Some Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation. It became my home for 6 weeks, and this is my experience of it.
My entire trip was somewhat based around a 6 week stay volunteering in Varanasi. Allow me to backtrack for a moment and explain:
A year before arriving in India I was going through a bit of a rough time, and decided that I needed something to focus on; something new, exciting and adventurous. It had been 5 years since I had last strapped on my backpack and been for a ‘big trip’. As I had always wanted to visit India, and always wanted to volunteer, I began googling ‘volunteering in India’. After getting over the shock of the extortionate price asked by many charities to volunteer, I added in the keyword ‘Free’ to my Google search. After reading through a few posts, I found an article titled ‘top 1o places to volunteer for free, in India’ (or something along those lines). At last I found a company called Fairmail. In a nutshell, Fairmail works with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, trains them in photography, encourages them to explore their creativity and take photos which are in turn made into greeting cards and sold worldwide. The children receive a percentage of the sales, which pays for their education, housing, medical etc.
I applied to become a volunteer there, and joined the 12 month waiting list.
Fast forward 12 months and I step off an 18 hr train journey tired and hungry (I had forgotten to bring snacks so had bought some spicy bombay mix which served me as lunch, dinner and breakfast).
I was met by Dhiraj, a former student and one of the managers of Fairmail Varanasi. As we were driving to my guesthouse, the first thing which hit me was the apparent lack of any kind of road rules. I had felt the same way when I first arrived in Delhi, but this was next level when it came to driving. The roads were a mess of rickshaws, excrement, bikes, potholes and goats.
It took quite a few days to adapt to the pace of Varanasi. I remember constantly being on edge as I walked around during the first few days, as at any one time you could: Get charged by a cow/get run down by a car, motorbike or rickshaw. This was mixed with the constant loud noise of the traffic, the ceaseless bombardment of flies, and the heat (which reached a scorching 47°C while I was there. Let that settle in for a moment. Forty seven degrees). Varanasi is not the place to go and relax.
I’m aware that I may be sounding negative, but for all the stresses and difficulties faced, there were many moments of beauty.
The city sits on the banks of the ‘holy river’ – the Ganga. Each morning devotees awake early to bathe in the river and each night, Aarti is performed, where priests perform music while burning incense in front of the eyes of hundreds of followers. It is truly a beautiful sight.
The first 3 weeks of my stay were spent in a guest house in Assi Ghat (Ghats are essentially temples, which line the Ganges river). During my last 3 weeks, I decided to move into the Fairmail office, in Nagwa (a village to the south of the Ghats). My experience here was great, as it allowed me to glimpse into the lives of those living in this area. As I was living in the office, I was also able to spend much more time with my students of Fairmail.
My experience volunteering at Fairmail was also excellent. Alongside other volunteers, we taught the students lots of useful tips for taking better photos. One thing which I contributed was the use of flash photography in their work.
The locals rightfully say “Full power, 24 hours”. Truer words have never been spoken.
I highly recommend a visit to Varanasi for anyone visiting India. Be prepared for a total bombardment of all your senses, but once you adapt to the pace of life, you might learn to love it.
When Fuji released this lens (75-210mm DSLR Equivalent), my intrigue questioned whether this would be an equal to the 70-200mm F2.8L series I had used on my DSLR; would the optics be as good? After trying it I could only describe the results in 2 words ‘Blown away’; the image quality was absolutely outstanding. I use this lens a lot in the studio for its narrower angle of view and the compression it applies to the depth of my images. The focusing & sharpness of this lens, even when hand held is amazing!… I had no need to question this lens, it more than equaled my DSLR equivalent and it’s much lighter too.
It’s obviously a little bigger than the other Fujinon lenses, but who cares when it delivers truly incredible results like it does.
I’ve shot on Fuji for almost two years now, but it was the release of the 50-140mm lens that really sealed the deal for me. Shooting fast equestrian sports needs a fast, longer lens – whether you are looking to capture pin sharp action pictures, or deliberately looking to include creative movement with interesting bokeh.
Even in low light the wide aperture, teamed with the brilliant OIS means I can still hand hold at slower shutter speeds. Also, shooting horses, whether on the polo field or out in the wild, means one thing – rain and mud! The X-T1 body with the 50-140mm gives me a robust weather sealed system I can take anywhere.
I shoot prime lenses most of the time, but as my primes top out at 56mm (85mm in old money), I often need the reach and speed of the 50-140mm f2.8 for music photography (especially for stage work). With a full frame equivalent of 75-210mm, this is the the classic workhorse zoom that has the beautiful look of a full frame 70-200mm f2.8. Put it together with the 16-55mm f2.8 and you have the ultimate fast twin lens zoom setup that can cover just about any type of event. The OIS is essential on a lens of this size and it does an amazing job, even allowing me to shoot handheld at 1/15th sec while zoomed all the way in.
This is strapped to the front of one of my X-T1s at all times. Sharp, fast and built to withstand some strong abuse, the XF50-140mm is designed for those who need a lens to rely on and not to let them down. With beautiful bokeh and tack sharp wide open, this F2.8 zoom has such a useful focal range that it is in the kit bag of nearly all working X-Photographers. The autofocus is able to track moving animals and it has turned out to be the game changer for many of my recent wildlife encounters.
I love to shoot prime lenses but at events and festivals you just cant get close enough to your subjects due to the crowed density, so the next best lens to a fast prime is a fast Zoom and the 50-140mm lens is just stunning. I have used top of the range glass from all the other big names when I used to use DSLR’s but nothing compares to the sharpness of this 75-210mm equivalent. What makes it even better is I can shoot with this lens all day and still not have shoulder and neck ache. It gives me beautiful out of focus areas, pin sharp subjects and the image stabilisation comes in to its own when the light drops.
The XF50-140 is a real workhorse of a lens and without doubt, a lens I am loathed to leave behind.
The incredible optics deliver superb definition and contrast throughout the entire aperture range. But for me it is not the technical specifications that make this lens worthy of the plaudits it receives across the web and throughout the photographic world.
It is the fact that in a cluttered world, I can isolate my subjects, drawing attention to them by shooting with the aperture wide open, deliver exceptional details, stunning candid portraits and most of all dramatic landscapes that have impact & power over the grace of a wide-angled image.
Shooting landscapes with a telephoto lens is a different discipline but it is one worth persevering with & utilising every mm of focal length this stunning lens offers you.
It’s ideal for shooting panoramas and the tripod mount gives it an incredibly stable base for shooting long exposures without a hint of camera shake – but for those who only shoot hand held the image stabilisation is second to none.
In short, if you want to add one zoom lens to your bag, this is the one – it is worth every penny and will never let you down.
When this lens was created there was nothing else much like it in the range. And to date, it is still the finest long lens in the line up. Tack sharp from 50mm to 140mm – this constant f2.8 lens is fast enough & stabilised enough for you to think less and shoot more. Combined with the most recent updates leaves this lens as one of the most reliable lenses – regardless of genre or type of photography.
It’s packed full of all the latest and greatest Fujifilm tech, such as nano Gi coating, LMO (corrects for diffraction), HTEBC Coating (ensuring ghosting and flare are controlled), five ED lens elements, one Super ED lens, 23 glass elements in 16 groups and then seven rounded aperture blades to create a smooth, circular bokeh. It has a massive 5.0 stop stabilisation too. Internal barrel movements combined with large rubber grips give this lens a wonderful sense of balance whilst also feeling very natural to hold.
In short, this lens is one of the most vital items in my kit bag alongside the 56mm APD & 16-55mm lens. The real world interpretation of the technology being used in this lens is simply that it does what you would expect it to as a working professional photographer. Combine this with the focus tracking in the X-T1 and you can confidentially take on any genre of photography. Whether it be a fashion catwalk, motorsports or even wildlife photography knowing you can get the shots you are looking for, every time.
Fabio Camandona became a photographer in 2007 during a vacation, twenty years after the thought “I’d like to be a photographer” first entered his head. From there he embarked on an intense independent study of the art, which led to him becoming a Master of the Nikon School in just two years, holding many high-level workshops for the company and himself. He began photographing weddings almost by chance, and with the arrival of his wife Simona Pilolla, he opened a studio called CamandonaPilolla which has had great success across the nation. Member of Fearless Photographers, the official photographer for both the Reggia di Venaria and the Torino Polytechnic University, and testimonial for Fujifilm Italia, he continues to hold numerous workshops despite the many weddings he photographs every year. He defines himself as an extremely simple person who loves life and living it.
“I’ve owned a Fujifilm X-E2 for two full months, one of the most recent mirrorless cameras to be released by a company which gave a raison d’être to the mirrorless sector and managed to win over the market.
I’ve been following this sector for quite some time now. I’ve always harboured great interest in it and have been waiting for the moment when it would become possible to sell all my reflex cameras and continue to work using lighter and less invasive bodies.
I had some requisites that needed fulfilling however:
I didn’t want any significant loss in quality compared to the cameras I was using before. I have a Nikon D600 and D700, both of which are up for sale at the moment. They’re excellent cameras. They’ve allowed me to do things that have satisfied me personally and have helped me to produce images which have received appreciation in various countries around the world. With two great lenses in front of the sensor, I knew I couldn’t accept a decrease in quality. I needed something that was at least equal. Many have asked me, “why don’t you want more?” It is because I believe that there is a limit beyond which I would just be looking for trouble. Keep in mind that I am talking about MY personal photography. With these two cameras I was able to do everything I wanted. They were exceptional.
Reactivity. I do lots of weddings in the Kabul style. What does this mean? It means that our clients know very well that they need not pay any attention to us during their special day. As such, they dart back and forth from one part of the house to another, to the church and to the location, doing exactly what they want while we race behind them. (And rightly so: it’s their day!) For this reason, I need an autofocus that is both instantaneous and precise.
High ISO. Weddings are almost always in the evening. The locations are romantic and dark. High ISO is indispensable and 6400 is the bare minimum. I don’t expect every pixel to come out clean like at 200 ISO but I want my images to be useable. The D600 gave me what I wanted, the D700 didn’t.
Strobism. The technique of using flash controlled remotely via transmitter. I use it almost all the time. For me it’s fundamental.
Resilience. Ah yes, it’s important. Cameras and lenses fall, get wet in the rain and become victims of spilt martinis and flying sushi. It happens.
In short, a mirrorless had to give me everything I’ve listed above. However, I was also looking for a few extra characteristics that a reflex could never provide…
Discretion. Discretion as in not being identified as a crazy paparazzi. Discretion is something that can allow me to take NEW kinds of photographs and this is very important to me. Much more important than a crop or a shallow depth of field created by a Noctilux lens. Enormously important. New photos, new emotions.
Weight. Carrying around two catafalques for 12-14 hours was a lot. They were heavy; during the final hours I was always exhausted and a little bit aggravated. The desire to jump to my feet and photograph the bride being thrown in the air by her friends was purely psychological: my body, on the other hand, would be cursing me. We do lots of weddings but on top of that, we also engage in other services, workshops and of course, personal photography – in other words, a lot of shooting. About halfway through the season last year, I experienced a very strong inflammation of the meniscus and at the end of the season, I was completely burned out.
New incentives like the ones the iPhone gave me two years ago or the Fuji X20 (a super camera but not comparable to a reflex and thus appropriate for other purposes). There is always a need for new incentives and challenges.
Every year I tried the newest releases but there was always a missing link. Last year the X-E2 was released and as the slogan goes: the AF is lightning fast! (Well, more or less.) Interesting. The autofocus was one crucial aspect that Fujifilm always struggled with.
I wrote to Fujifilm, suggesting a one year project and they accepted. It was at that point I pleasantly discovered just how wonderful the company is. A company that keeps its promises. A company that goes above and beyond. I admit that I’m still a bit dumbfounded.
They sent me the X-E2 with three lenses: the 18-55mm kit lens, a 14mm wide-angle lens and a medium 60mm lens. I bought myself a couple of batteries and I was ready to go. I started to search for potential test shoots to verify whether or not my needs could be met.
The first: Its inauguration. A paid event similar to a wedding. The results? Excellent.
The second: A semi-sports photo feature at the Thay Boxe Mania event in Torino. A paid job. Again, excellent results.
The third: My best landscape workshop of the year, Snowscape. We’re talking serious landscapes. For the 14mm I bought ND filters, remote shooting etc. Excellent, just excellent.
The fourth: A photo feature at the fast-paced Orange Battle of Ivrea following the Devils under the floats. Excellent once again.
In between I had a few engagement, landscape and corporate jobs. The X-E2 shone every time.
In short, I’ve realised that I haven’t lost anything compared to my old gear. The images from the Fuji during the tests provided at least the same quality. In some cases, it was even better. Actually, sincerely speaking, it was always better but I repeat, going “beyond” the quality of my old gear simply isn’t important. I’m more interested in other features.
More than anything, I’ve released that I tend to take far more photos during the spare time between one service and another. It’s small, and it’s always on you. You naturally take photos with it.
One of the educational topics I often push at my workshops is just that: the act of taking photos. You have to take lots if you want to improve and this applies to anyone. With this camera, I’ve taken many more photos than I ever did before.
I tested the camera at high ISO speeds. I looked at the reactivity, the robustness, the quality of the files, the portability and its use for strobism. (By the way, the Yongnuo RF603 kit for Canon works just fine with the Fujis.)
But there was one aspect that made me reflect more than anything. I’ve always loved participating in photography groups and sites such as ArtFreelance, Shot Magazine, Full Frame, 500px, loveyourpix and so on. It’s something I do often. I measure the quality of my photos by how many times I am selected by the editors and by their placement in the various galleries some groups use. It’s useful, and the comparison continues. There are some very skilled people in these groups.
Let’s just say that since I started using the X-E2, the number of times I’ve been selected by the editors has doubled.
I’ve come to notice that I shoot much as I used to in some ways, but quite differently in others. I don’t really understand the reason but I believe it is also related to the question of chemistry. The positive attention I’ve received from Fujifilm has surely helped as well. In fact, it’s probably related to a number of things. But in the end, who cares? I’m producing better images for myself and my clients and that’s what counts. Nothing else matters.
Yes, I am selling my entire reflex system. The switch is effective as of now – I’m going mirrorless and the Fujifilm X-E2 is my camera of choice.
P.S. The question of chemistry is a fundamental one. I know many photographers (colleagues and friends) who for various reasons continue to use the reflex system. Reasons include being involved in a particular micro-sector of photography, the need for a large grip or a general indifference towards the gear used. Obviously if it works for them, then that’s fine.
Like the cliche of many photographers, I got into taking pictures by means of my dad letting me have a go on his camera, which he then struggled to get back. I ended up taking photography all the way to University, doing a degree course at The University of Plymouth and graduating with a first in 2011. I was lucky enough (and through spending my summers doing work experience at local papers) to be offered a job coming out of university for South West News Service (SWNS), one of the largest agencies in the UK, and for the last four years that’s where I’ve been, covering news and features for the national papers.
One of the highlights of being a press photographer in the South West of England is having the opportunity to shoot Glastonbury Festival each year. If ever there was an event that you could fill your entire photography portfolio within a matter of days, this would be it. Everything from portraits, to music, to all the quirky stuff that happens there, it’s a photographers dream. The last few years I had been shooting on my Canon gear, and believe me, after 5 days of lugging it around a mud strewn festival site that spans the size of a small City, you start to feel it. So this year I planned something different, I thought I would try using the Fujifilm X-T1 system to cover the festival. Armed with the X-T1, 16-55mm 2.8, 56mm 1.2, 50-140mm 2.8 and the 23mm 1.4, I took to the, for the most part, sunny fields of Glastonbury for one of the biggest festivals of the year.
The first obvious thing I noticed was just how light the little X-T1 was, even when paired with a long, fast zoom. It made light work of the arrival shots, which was of course the somewhat predictable shots of guys and girls arriving with too many bags and crates of booze.
That evening, it was a trip up to the stone circle as thousands of people watched the sun set over the massive site by the Glastonbury sign. I tried out a few panoramas here using the built-in mode on the X-T1, which worked perfectly and really gave a good sense of scale to the site, which is the size of a town!
Throughout the rest of the festival, it was a classic mix of music and colour shots. Come rain, shine, night or day I was out and about with the camera. And, the size & weight of the camera really meant I didn’t feel like crawling into my tent for a rest. Well, at least not until the wee hours of the morning. I was also blown away by the quality of the images produced as well. For a non full frame camera it was fantastic in low light with very usable high ISOs, and when it came to editing some of the built in film emulation presets made it easy to give a stylised look to the images.
After using the camera and lenses for the best part of a week, I found my favourite lens to be a fight between the 16-55mm and the 56mm. But the 16-55 might have just stolen the show with its weather sealing. It was much needed come the Friday when the heavens opened for the first of two deluges that weekend. I was confident enough that the camera and lens wouldn’t give up, even though the rain really was coming down and the mud started to build up in true Glastonbury style.
I think the key to photographing Glastonbury is to approach it with an open mind. There are pictures everywhere you look. Interesting people, music, and just the vast site that the festival is based on. Having a camera with you at all times means you’ll never miss a shot and that’s what I really loved about the Fuji system. I could carry around a body and a couple of lenses and not feel like I needed a trip to the chiropractor afterwards. Oh, and of course the main thing to remember when covering Glastonbury…wellies. NEVER forget your wellies.
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Recently we teamed up with Amateur Photographer (AP) to create an experience day for 60 of their lucky readers.
While we were there we interviewed our three guest speakers and asked them all to tell own story as to how they made the switch to Fujifilm. Check out what made Damien Lovegrove, Matt Hart and Paul Sanders switch to the Fujifilm system, and also what has made them stay using it.
Portrait & lighting guru Damien Lovegrove talks about how he made the switch to the Fujifilm system and how using the smaller system helps him connect more with his subject. Can you guess which Fujifilm camera first caught his eye?
Street & event photographer Matt Hart tells his system switching story and praises the benefits of using the Fujifilm cameras; from the exposure previewing LCD screen, to the discrete ergonomics and quality of the final imagery.
Former Picture Editor of The Times Paul Sanders explains how DSLRs created a barrier between him and the landscape and how using the smaller Fujifilm system brought back his passion for shooting. Not only that, he also shares some excellent philosophy to shooting pictures.
The day itself was a perfect opportunity for Amateur Photographer readers to get hands-on with the Fujifilm X system and to learn from our very own Fujifilm X-Photographers. Throughout the day, multiple workshop sessions were held, allowing the experienced professionals to pass on their photographic tips & tricks covering long exposure landscapes, single light portraiture to the in-the-moment street photography.
Official X-Photographer Kerry Hendry was recently asked to shoot a product-lifestyle photoshoot for a very special client – us! Here she shares some useful tips and techniques to help you produce similar, stunning results.
Shooting the ‘X-Lifestyle’ was the brief – featuring lovely creative hipsters, out and about with their beautifully styled beards and retro looking cameras. The desired outcome: a collection of images that can be used worldwide for marketing the (fabulous) X-series cameras.
My mind was immediately racing with ideas – where, when, models, styling – what if it rains?
I love the creative side of life – and working out how you can translate the images in your mind into reality. What look am I going for? Styling? Locations? Where to capture the best light – and how?
Aim high – super ambitious ideas will challenge and stimulate your creativity. Get out of that comfort zone and work out the ‘how’ !
And so it began – working up a mood board of ideas, selecting outfits, booking models, styling and location ideas. For that true ‘hipster’ style Cheltenham was perfect, and as I only live a few miles away I know the town like the back of my hand.
Know your kit – I probably shouldn’t say this but I only ever read the manual if I get stuck or if I’m working out a new feature. Fuji X-Series are very intuitive and once you ‘get’ the Fuji way – you’ll never look back. Make sure you know all the key features to squeeze the very last drop of performance out of your camera
Making it Reality
Models were booked, outfits agreed, hair & make up booked, locations recce’d – and double recce’d! We were super lucky to have a two very special locations on board to work with.
Light & Locations – ensure you recce your locations at the time you want to shoot them. We deliberately ended up at the boating lake as late in the afternoon/evening as possible to get the best light
For the first day we shot at The Boathouse & boating lake at Pittville Park in Cheltenham and for our second day of shooting, I managed to arrange early morning access to one of the most beautiful locations in town – the Sandford Park Lido – a 50m Art Deco open air pool in the centre of Cheltenham.
Pittville Park Boathouse
Sandford Park Lido
Be clear what you want to achieve with styling, less is often more – better to have 2 or 3 key outfits ready to go than a room full of clothes to wade through. Think accessories – shoes, jewellery, hats – all great props
Location, location, location
Some locations are perfect – no outside interference, no people in the background, no traffic, no kids playing football around you. Others – you have to be a bit more creative, or dodge the traffic at least!
Engage & Direct – unless you have the luxury of a seasoned model (and sometimes even then), you will need to direct the shoot. If you can’t find the words to describe what you want, show them! It’s always entertaining to see a photographer try and model, which always breaks the ice
We shot in peaceful parks, standing on a traffic island on a busy road, shooting across two lanes of traffic, waist deep in wild flowers – not to mention balanced on the edge of the boathouse deck trying not to fall in. Boats drift artfully, photographers just sink.
Experiment with depth of field – we all love the fast Fuji lenses with the delicious wide apertures, but do experiment. Putting your subject in context for a commercial shoot can be important, so look at your backgrounds and stop it down from time to time
Work it – if you are just setting out, don’t be afraid to use some of the assisted options – face detection, the tracking autofocus, it’s all there to help you achieve the best photos possible
Deliver – rule No 1 of any commercial shoot – deliver what the client needs. Listen, plan, deliver – only then cut loose and add those bonus images
Above all have FUN. Fuji to me is freedom – freedom to be individual, freedom to create, freedom to experiment.
After two days of shooting the team was exhausted – most important thing of all – one very happy client (and no one fell in the lake!)
I hope you find these tips helpful and may they inspire you push the boundaries a little more and try something new in your own photography. Go on, sprinkle some Fuji magic!!!
Kerry Hendry is a fine art equestrian photographer who is passionate equestrian commissions and adventures. Her equine images have been widely published in national media and sell worldwide. A keen rider from a very young age, Kerry combines her three main passions in life: horses, photography and travel.
The 10th July 2015 was a landmark date in the history of Nottinghamshire. When the last shift at Thoresby Colliery finished on that day not only did it mark the end of 90 years of mining in the village of Edwinstowe but it signals the end of mining in Nottinghamshire.
The pit opened in 1925 and over the years has employed tens of thousands of local people. It was one of 46 coalmines in Nottinghamshire, which supplied more than 14 million tonnes of coal per year at their peak in the early 1960s.
The first two shafts were sunk to 690m in 1925 and subsequently deepened in the 1950s to the current pit bottom at around 900m depth.
Thoresby Colliery was the first to have fully mechanised coal production and also the first to achieve an annual saleable output of more than a million tons, it became a star performer in the British coal mining industry.
In the late 1980s it raised output to exceed 2 million tons, regularly smashing it’s production records, and the colliery became known as the Jewel in the crown of Nottinghamshire mines. A crown sits proudly on the headstocks in recognition of this achievement.
When the coal industry was nationalised in 1947 it employed a million men at 1,503 pits; prior to the miners’ strike in 1984, there were 180,000 miners at 170 pits. Today there are just two deep mines left, employing about 5,000 men, at Thoresby and Kellingley in Yorkshire. Kellingley will suffer the same fate as Thoresby and closes in the autumn.
UK Coal say market pressures have led to the closure of Thoresby Colliery. Coal generates more than a third of Britain’s electricity, but it is cheaper to import coal from countries such as Russia, South Africa and Colombia than to mine it in the UK.
For the past few months I have been recording the colliery, it’s buildings, plant and people for posterity. It was my aim to create a comprehensive record of the pit at a specific point in time immediately prior to its closure.
It was a chance conversation after giving a camera club lecture that started the ball rolling. A chap in the audience worked at Thoresby and was unfortunately in the first wave of redundancies. He asked if I would be interested in visiting the colliery to take a few pictures. It was a fantastic opportunity and I jumped at the chance. He put me in touch with the Health and Safety manager, I explained what I would like to do and we were off and running. It was at this point, after I had gained their agreement to document the colliery, that the full extent of the task dawned on me.
Starting the project
I visited the colliery on seven occasions, at different times of day, in different lighting conditions, including dawn and dusk. I planned each shoot but found that an outline plan whilst retaining a degree of flexibility to react to opportunities worked best.
At the outset I just toured the site to give me an understanding of the buildings, the machinery, the operation and the people. I took snaps to create a digital scrapbook to help me plan my approach. Essentially I was imbibing the atmosphere much as I would do when visiting a foreign destination for the first time. I wanted to get a real feeling for the place before I started the photography in earnest.
Health & Safety manager Grant was so supportive of my visits giving me more time than I could have wished for. Even coming in at 3.30am for a dawn shoot and returning to work late in the evening to get “the best of the light” didn’t diminish his enthusiasm. In fact he joked that, after watching me, he would now be able to take the best holiday snaps ever! I hope he does.
All of the images were shot on a Fujifilm X-T1 or X-E1 camera using a selection of Fujifilm XF lenses including the 10-24, 18-55 and 55-200 zoom lenses and 14, 23, 35 and 56mm primes. I also used a Nissin i40 flash for some shots, though preferred to use natural light wherever possible.
For my portraits, the unobtrusive Fuji equipment allowed me to concentrate on building a rapport with my subjects rather than intimidate them with a large DSLR and f2.8 lens combination. Miners might be tough guy’s and supermodels they certainly are not but they seemed to relax pretty quickly in front of my Fuji lenses.
There were several challenges to overcome not least the light levels that were typically pretty low in all of the buildings. Because of the poor light I used a tripod fitted with a ball and socket head for as many shots as possible. My cameras are fitted with arca swiss type plates so that I can switch from landscape format to portrait very easily and without having to waste time readjusting the tripod.
The mix of different light sources from tungsten, to fluorescent and natural meant it was difficult to assess the ideal colour temperature. However the decision early on to convert all the images to black & white certainly helped counter that problem!
In a coal mine dust was another inevitable and unavoidable issue. As the miners told me it’s not only the dust you can see that is the problem and I was very careful when changing lenses and using two bodies certainly helped. Thankfully the in camera sensor cleaning worked well and I was pleasantly surprised at the minimum amount of dust spotting required.
Working on a project
As my photography has progressed I have found that I prefer to look at a series of images that tell a story rather than seeing individual impactful pictures. Whilst I have adopted this storytelling approach in my travel and landscape photography this project was a whole different ballgame. This wasn’t going to be a six or ten image set but a large body of work that had to be planned and created in a certain style. I found this experience fascinating, though at first it was pretty daunting. However after a couple of visits I had captured some shots I was very pleased with and the plan started to fall into place. I think the discipline required in a project such as this has helped me to improve my photography and it felt good to be succeeding in this new genre of social documentary photography.
In an attempt to capture the “feel” of the colliery, and to bring completeness to the project, I also recorded various sounds around the pit and organised a series of interviews with miners past and present. I will be producing mini AV’s including these sounds and using the miner’s comments in my presentations.
It is very easy to stick to what we know in photography and limit yourself to a particular genre. Whilst my experience as a travel photographer, where you are required to be adept at many different genres, undoubtedly helped me there were aspects of this project that were not so familiar. As a result I feel I have grown as a photographer and I would urge you to move out of your comfort zone and try something new. There will be similar opportunities in your area, seek and ye shall find!
Capturing a piece of history
As I progressed through the project I realised that I was not only taking pictures for myself but that I was actually recording a piece of history, an enduring record of a place that, in just a few months time, would be gone forever. With that came a feeling of responsibility, not only to do myself justice but also to represent the life and work of the mining community. Apart from my family photographs, this project is the most important and worthwhile piece of work that I have ever created. Whilst there is clearly interest in the work now, what will its importance be in another 10 or 20 years?
A personal perspective
This project has been a fantastic experience. It has improved my photography, taken me into a different genre and enlightened my knowledge of an otherwise mysterious industry.
It has been a pleasure to work with the team at Thoresby, without whom I would not have been able to produce this body of work. Whilst the colliery may not draw its workers from the immediate village area, as in years gone by, their camaraderie, team spirit, hard work and no nonsense attitude in this tough and uncompromising industry epitomise the best of British workers. The closure of Thoresby truly is the end of an era.
I feel it is important to showcase my images to as wide an audience as possible, especially in the local area. Therefore, after securing feature in the local and national press, I will be staging a major exhibition in Nottinghamshire and am planning to produce a book – more details to follow.
As I took the final few steps and reached the peak of the hill, the Himalayas came into full view for the first time, and left me speechless.
But let’s begin the story several hours earlier.
I had been staying in Dharamkot, in the foothills of the Himalayas, for an incredibly relaxing 2 weeks. My days had been spent walking through beautiful forests, reading in a hammock and eating delicious organic food.
But before leaving Dharamkot, there was one thing left that I had to do; spend a night on Triund Hill (don’t let the name ‘Hill’ fool you, as for me it seemed more like a small mountain, casting a shadow on the village of Dharamkot and standing at 2,875m high).
On the morning of the trek I left my guesthouse and began the ascent up the hill. The beginning of my trip did not go smoothly. There are 3 things in life which I suck at: singing, playing football and following directions. Somehow, I managed to get exceptionally lost – before I had even found the path which takes you up the hill. The problem began when I came to an intersection along the track which I was following. I glanced in both directions as I tried to remember the directions that the lady at my guesthouse had given me, and then took the path leading to the right. I passed through the garden of a house, and asked a young girl if I was walking in the right direction. She said that I was, and gestured to me to continue walking up the side of the hill (which was essentially a pathless mountain covered in thick, and at times impenetrable vegetation). My instincts told me that this couldn’t be the right way, and I debated turning back and starting again, but as I had already been walking uphill for most of an hour I chose to continue up the side of the mountain.
The bush became thicker and thicker and started cutting at my legs, but stubbornly, I refused to turn back. After a long struggle, I eventually crossed a foot-wide, crumbling flint ridge, which then opened into an area of flat ground which I thought offered some hope in leading me to the top of Triund. I carefully paced back and forth through the labyrinth of plains, but I kept facing dead ends; thick wild bushes that required a machete to pass through. After about 20 minutes of trying to find a walkable route, I decided that this had been one big bad idea, and turned around, attempting to retrace the steps that had led me to this next level of lostness. I walked along the ground on which I thought I had trodden, but to my frustration, I was hit by another dead end. I walked back and tried again and faced another dead end. I began to panic as I remembered those basic tips you hear when doing things like walking up a mountain. Things like “tell someone where you’re going”, “make sure you have a phone” or “make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing”. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going (other than the lady at my guesthouse), I didn’t have a phone and was wearing a pair of old beat up Nikes with barely any tread left.
It was one of the first times when I’ve felt truly scared and alone in the wilderness. I thought about how this is how people probably end up dying on mountains, and became annoyed at myself for getting into this situation. I was frustrated, scared and felt defeated. I decided that as soon as I found my way out, I would check into another guesthouse (as I was too embarrassed to return to the guesthouse where I had been staying – as it was supposed to be an easy trek), spend the night in a bed, and then leave Dharamkot the next day without reaching the top of Triund Hill.
I knew that I had to remain calm, and took a few moments to recompose myself and look over the way which I thought I had walked. I tried to logically plan a route back to my starting point and to my relief, I eventually came across the narrow flint path which had led me into the labyrinth. From this point, it was easy to return down the side of the mountain and past the house with the garden.
I finally relaxed and felt an extreme sense of relief. My negativity began to lift as I walked towards familiar territory and came across a path which actually looked walkable. I came to the crossing that had been the origin of my nightmare, and after a few meters saw a spray painted sign reading ‘Triund’, with an arrow next to it. After my brief ordeal of getting lost, I finally felt safe again, and made the decision that I would not return to Dharamkot today, but would trek to the top of Triund Hill.
I soon crossed paths with two American girls who were also walking to the top, and shared the journey with them. The trek to the top was a breeze in comparison to my first attempt. The walk took about 3 hours and took us though some incredible scenery. Hand built wooden Tea shacks were dotted along the route where trekkers could rest and stock up on supplies. Occasionally we would have to squeeze to the side of the path as a drove of donkeys passed, hauling supplies to the top of the mountain.
After a few sweaty but exciting hours, I approached and took the final few steps over the peak of the hill, and as I did, the Himalayas came into full view for the first time, and left me speechless.
I was extremely satisfied with reaching the top, and after walking along the ridge of the hill taking in the beautiful views, I needed to organise my night’s accommodation as well as get something to eat. I entered one of the few huts at the top that supply tents and food to tired and hungry trekkers. As I rested and ate a snack there was a middle aged man sitting opposite me. He was smoking a cigarette and had an incredibly interesting face. His looked different to most of the Indians I had seen until then, with light eyes and thick skin. My X100s was in my hand and after a few minutes, I began taking photos, firstly of the hut and the area, to allow him to get used to the camera. After a few frames, I gestured to him to ask if I could photograph him. He agreed and continued doing what he was doing, and looked lost in his thoughts. I shared my food with him and then left, as I didn’t want to be intrusive.
I hired a tent, found a clear spot on the ridge and set it up. My view overlooked a part of the Himalayan mountain range. I was blown away by the beauty.
The mist that was present as I approached the peak subsided and the golden light of the setting sun began to illuminate the mountain. I became excited as I was basically in landscape heaven and everything I saw looked astonishingly beautiful.
I decided to take advantage of the golden light and explore the length of the ridge. As I passed the other campers and approached the elevated side of the hill, I could hear the bleating of mountain goats in the distance.
I continued walking up the hill and came across the goats. There were lots of them, grazing and playing on the rocks. I enjoyed quite some time taking pics of them. They were very fun and cute to watch and I found their noises very entertaining.
After a few minutes I saw the man from the hut. I now realised that he was tending to the goats, and had taken them to the other side of the ridge to graze. He had made a fire and was drinking chai tea. He had seen me taking photos of the animals and after a while I approached him with a smile. He invited me to sit down and poured me a cup of tea. With few words being spoken we shared each other’s company, and again, he allowed me to take some photos of him. He seemed extremely peaceful.
The sun was going down behind the mountain and I was excited to carry on shooting. I shortly came across another animal herder, this time a man who was shearing some of the goats.
After maybe an hour with the goat herders, I walked back down the hill as dusk approached.
On the horizon the reddest moon that I have ever seen began to rise. I watched in astonishment as it peaked over the mountains and into the sky. I chatted to fellow trekkers about the colour of the moon.
As night fell, small bonfires lit up the hill to keep the trekkers warm. I joined a group of Indian guys around the fire for food and tea, but decided to get an early night as I knew I wanted to be up before sunrise to take photos.
After a pretty bad night of rest (due to a lack of warm clothing) I crawled out of my sleeping bag, unzipped my tent and walked into the fresh mountain air. It was still quite dark as the sun had not yet began to reach over the mountain top. I decided to walk to the far end of the ridge that I hadn’t ventured to the day before. I had my mini tripod with me and began taking photos. In a distant tree I saw a huge eagle, which was another first for me. After about 40 minutes, I heard the familiar bleating sound that I had heard the day before coming from behind me. As I turned around, I saw lots of goats (perhaps more than 100) running and jumping towards me. This instantly made me smile and as they ran past me, I climbed onto a rock so they could pass without knocking me down. The goats raced past playfully.
It was around this time when the sun began to appear over the mountain, bathing Triund Hill with glorious golden light, which also brought a warmth to the brisk mountain air.
I followed the herd of goats and whenever possible, climbed upon a rock to get a better view of the scene. There were different goat herders from the previous day, and I followed them along the length of the ridge, snapping away. As the other trekkers were sleeping, I was grateful to be witnessing this unique moment and felt invigorated to be there.
The walk along the length of the ridge took about 30 minutes, and on my part, it was a process of running ahead, stopping, shooting, and then running ahead again. These leap-frog manoeuvres lasted until we reached the elevated end of the ridge.
I gestured to one of the herders with my camera, and he stopped for a moment to allow me to take his photo.
After reaching the high end of the hill, the herders stopped and allowed their animals to feed. I thanked the herders and returned to the camp feeling extremely grateful and happy with the events that I had just seen.
After some breakfast, I began my descent back down Triund Hill, with extremely high spirits (and an increasingly swollen ankle – which later turned into an infection). My experience on top of the hill was fantastic, and reminded me how nice it is to be surrounded by nature and simplicity. I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on the trek after my bad experience at the start, as Triund Hill proved to be one of the most memorable events of my trip.
Danny Fernandez is a creative photographer living and working in Barcelona. He likes cycling, records and vegetarian food.
To see more of his work, please visit:
My style of photography is social and intimately in your face. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t feel close enough with my 18mm f2 lens. My goal is to capture your alter ego raging or to strip you of it to show a contrast between you and the environment. Depending on the parties, I aim to capture shots that one may never want to show their parents. I have heard a comment that my work is a cross between the board game candy land and blade runner. I love neo-noir and post apocalyptic films and I am a drop out toy designer so maybe that explains? Other inspiration draws from the 90’s X-Men cards by Fleer company, the color on those illustrations just popped.
My weapons of mass (“Oh god, can you please take down that pic! I don’t want my boss seeing that”} destruction!
I use Fujifilm X series cameras for all my EDM adventures. I shoot manual and control my flashes manually as well. I started out with a Fuji X10 because I loved the manual look and feel of the camera.
I soon followed with an X-E1 and recently to an X-T1. The X-E1 really gave me the results I was looking for and though the focusing was not as quick as it’s successor it still gave me satisfying results.
I currently use a X-T1 and the results are just art. This camera really gave me the courage to shoot on an ISO higher than 400. There are photos I do not have to adjust color or clarity. This camera is so on point that it locks on to the subject quickly and the results of the shots are crisp and clear.
On average my settings on the X-T1 are currently ISO 640, F5.6 at 1/4 on Velvia film simulation mode. My two flashes are set to 1/4 @ 23mm as my main light and my fill light set to 1/8 at 23mm (I set my second flash to 1/8 so the light fills the bottom of the portrait but not as bright as the main light on the subject). I always direct the main light on the upper body as one might usually do when shooting a portrait with an external flash. If the subject has an amazing outfit I set both my main light and fill light to f1/4. Mind you, these settings work for me in a dark venue that has disco lights and it also depends on how great the venue’s light is.
I use an assortment of light diffusers and pieces from old video rigs I have acquired over the years. However, nothing beats having an assistant to help you out with positioning lights.
I use X-T1’s new WIFI connection and use it with the Fuji apps along with an app called shutter snitch. I use these apps to beam a photo to my iPhone in which I can upload to instagram immediately. An event photographer is like a journalist and a club promoter. You can upload a photo to social media with a hashtag and convince people to say “This looks wild and crazy, we’re going there for the night.”
As mentioned earlier I shoot with an 18mm f2 lens and it’s really made me a better photographer than any 50mm on a crop sensor. The lens has made me get up close and personal with my subjects because there is not much room to move around with in a packed club or concert.I had a 35mm f1.4 but that was stolen off my belt one night during a DJ set. I used it only a few times for those moments where I had space to focus on a portrait. I am currently taking in donations for a 56mm 1.2 lens so I can achieve some “bokehlicious” photos and take my work to new places!
Shooting night life and what I’ve learned “so far”.
Night life is so fast paced, the emotions and energy people bring out with them are intense. What is not intense is their attention span.
Situations escalate and fade out quickly so pay attention because you may miss out on interesting photos.
You have at most 15 seconds to compliment your subject, tell them what you like about them, and be their friend. The faster you can relate with your subject and construct a relationship the better your love life might be (Just kidding, I mean your photos).
Also, get lost on tumblr, pinterest, soundcloud and see what is inspiring people to express themselves. This will also inspire you and your work.
Use a prime lens. You aren’t shooting wild life. Night life is a social activity, get in there and meet people.
Want to take a photo of a hot girl with a boyfriend who doesn’t seem too excited to be out? No problem! Respectfully make your intent clear that you would like a portrait of the lady followed by a photo with her boyfriend. This will almost work 99% of the time and smooth out any uncertain feelings.
Have a side pouch to store extra batteries, gum, mints, and SD cards.
Smile and look relaxed. If you’re nervous and timid this will reflect on your subjects and onto your photos like a mirror. Keep positive and remember that your goal is to get great shots of the night.
If you don’t want to take someone’s photo just tell them you’re out of film and walk away like you really got to reload film.
That’s all for now!
happy shooting and partying X-Toggies! <3