Cuba with X-Photographer Chris Upton

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by Chris Upton

Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean is a stunning and diverse location. The noise, hustle and bustle of Havana, teeming with brightly coloured vintage American cars contrasts with the quiet verdant plantations and gorgeous beaches. The wonderful Spanish architecture is at odds with the decaying beauty of some of its poorer areas.

Cuba has had a turbulent history from Spanish colonial rule and the slave trade to Batista’s dictatorship and overthrow by Fidel Castro and it’s subsequent economic struggle. Throughout this it’s culture, music and arts have remained as colourful and vibrant as ever.

I have recently returned from a trip visiting Havana, the plantations in the west around Vinales and the towns of Cienfuegos and Trinidad on the south of the island.

What you were looking to capture?

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Cuba is simply a photographer’s paradise, there is so much to photograph. I wanted to capture the spirit of the country, it’s unique feel, from it’s people, architecture, landscape, crumbling urban beauty, to it’s political heritage and, of course, the wonderful array of vintage American cars.
From my research, the colour and the vibrant feel to the country captivated me and my goal was to reflect this in my images.

There was clearly going to be an emphasis on Street, People and Architectural photography whilst in Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad with more traditional landscapes when in the west of the country around Vinales.

I also wanted to capture the incidentals, the detail shots that “shout” Cuba. The American cars topped that list, but signs, revolutionary slogans, images of Che Guevara, graffiti and of course the famous Mojitos and Daiquiri’s were in my plans too!

How did you plan your adventure?

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Of critical importance to successful travel photography is the research before you go. The more planning you put in the greater the chance of capturing great images. Having the best technique is no use if you’re not in the right place at the right time or you return home and realise you have missed some great locations.

Before I discuss how I planned the trip it is important to understand the objective. You need to be so well planned that when you arrive on location you should feel like the place is familiar, as if you’ve been there before. You will then find that you are comfortable in your surroundings, already having some shots planned in your mind. You can then concentrate on shooting those and then look around for other shots, for your own personal interpretation. This approach saves you time and helps ensure that you don’t miss important shots.

Not surprisingly the first port of call when planning is the internet. Whatever did we do before?! I will look at Tourist information / Government sites, Google images, Flickr, 500px and Stock Libraries. It is important to note that this is not to simply copy pictures that have been shot by others but to give you an idea of what is possible and to help you then put your own stamp on a place.
Good guide books are also an invaluable source of information and offer plenty of hints, tips and recommendations, especially for food and hotels. Well you’ve got to be comfortable when you’re out shooting all day! They also provide you with some basic language, very important to break the ice with the locals. I prefer the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Guides as they have sufficient historical and background information but are also much more visual than some of the other guides.

Not only is it imperative to have a list of planned shots but you also need to have locations for sunrise and sunset. The best source for these timings is the Photographers Ephemeris, a web app which shows you not only what time the sun rises and sets for any place in the world on any particular date but also the direction of the sun. This makes it an invaluable tool in your planning armoury. I planned my pictures taken on the Malecon (seafront) by using this app.

I also looked at Travel brochures and the Travel sections in newspapers.

You will also need a good Weather forecast so that you can amend your plans to suit the conditions. If the weather is really bad spend time inside buildings or churches though don’t miss out on the opportunities that bad weather presents by shooting outside, you might be really surprised at what you achieve and it will most likely be very different from the standard shots.

From all this information I prepare a Shoot List including all the details. This is invaluable and I check it every night. I always buy a decent street map and mark the key locations to ensure that I cover all the shots when in that area.

What kit did you take?

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One of the most common questions when I give my Travel Photography lectures is: “What kit do you take”?

So here is a list of the equipment I took:
• Fujifilm XT1 and XE1 bodies
• Fujifilm Zoom lenses XF10-24, XF18-55, XF 55-200
• Fujifilm Prime lenses XF35 f1.4 and XF56 f1.2
• Nissin i40 flash
• Lee Seven5 filters
• Cable release
• 6 spare batteries
• 80gb SD Cards in a Think Tank Pixel Pocket
• Giottos Vitruvian Carbon Fibre travel tripod with Really Right Stuff B30 ballhead
• Gorillapod
• Cleaning cloths, rocket
• Headtorch
• Think Tank Urban Disguise 50 shoulder bag

• 13” Macbook Pro and Lacie Rugged Hard Drive
• i-phone
• 4 gang adaptor.
• Twin Battery charger

Here is some background to my choices.
I always take two bodies with me, primarily for insurance in case one fails or doesn’t survive being dropped onto a marble floor as happened to me on this trip! Thankfully the XE1 and 55-200 must be made of sturdy stuff as they survived and continued to work perfectly, but it just goes to show how important this is.

My lenses needed to cover wide angle, for interiors, to long telephoto to capture detail or compress the perspective. My three zoom lenses 10-24, 18-55 and 55-200 zooms are ideal for this. On this trip I also took along the XF35 f1.4 and 56mm f1.2 primes. These are stunning lenses superb for portraits, with their wide apertures, and great when the light is low.

The Nissin i40 flash is a fairly new acquisition and complements the Fuji form factor superbly, being extremely small and light and with enough power for most tasks. I tend to use it mostly for fill in flash on portraits.

My Lee Seven5 filters include a polarizer, ND Grads and ND filters for long exposures.

Tripods usually cause much debate. There simply isn’t a perfect tripod as the conundrum of size, weight, robustness and price cannot be solved! That said I am very happy to pair my Fuji cameras with the Giottos Vitruvian tripod (a few years old and I think there is a newer version) and Really Right Stuff Ball head. This tripod packs down small, with it’s legs folding back over itself, is light and sturdy and best of all weighs little over 1kg. The RRS ball head is superbly engineered and holds the camera in position really well with no droop even with the 55-200 lens.
In certain places the tripod police are only too keen to assert their authority preventing you from using your large tripod. In these situations I have a Gorillapod which I can attach to a support, chair, barrier or even place on the floor.
I use the Arca system of quick release L brackets on both my cameras for ease and speed of use.
When the power supply is unreliable it’s vital you have sufficient battery power. Therefore I took 6 spares plus the ones in my camera. I always take a lightweight 4 gang adaptor and a twin battery charger. When you need to charge your batteries quickly, together with your phone and laptop you need the extra sockets and hotel rooms usually have a dearth of wall sockets.

All of this packs into my Think Tank Urban Disguise bag and weighs in at less that 10kg! Think Tank products are superb, so well made, extremely functional and they are like the tardis, you can just keep filling them up! On this type of trip I prefer a shoulder bag to a backpack both for security reasons and ease and speed of use.

Any general tips?

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When you arrive at your destination familiarise yourself as quickly as you can, good planning will help here. Look for interesting viewpoints and check to see where the sun rises and falls. In Cuba the streets are laid out on a grid system so I found streets that ran east / west where the sun would backlight my subjects early or late in the day.

When you photograph buildings or churches always snap the sign when you finish, you won’t remember the names of the places you visited.

You will need to work quickly, the lighting is challenging, very contrasty in the middle of the day and the sun rises and sets very quickly so you don’t have too much time to get your shots. Be in place an hour before sunrise and stay at least 45 minutes after the sun has set.

It will help if you have practiced other techniques that you might find useful such as panning. You don’t want to be learning and missing great shots whilst old American cars are speeding by on the Malecon.

If you are shooting a panorama to stitch together later I always shoot a frame first and last of my hand so the pictures in between can be easily identified as a pano set.

Walk, walk and walk more. If you find an interesting background in the streets, wait a while until someone interesting walks into the frame, it will happen.

Finally, the most important tip, always carry a camera. You never know what might present itself at the most unexpected time!

How did you get those stunning portraits? Did you ask them. etc.

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The people in Cuba were full of character and life and capturing this is a must.

There are various ways of approaching this. A street approach using wide lenses and getting amongst the action to achieve reportage type, unposed, images. Using a long lens and shooting without the subjects knowledge or getting posed shots after asking permission to take a photograph. Many photographers find walking up to total strangers and asking to take their picture very difficult. However if you can overcome this and your subject agrees, the pictures you get will be far better than any long distance grab shots. This is my preferred method with which I have found most success. Sure you will get some rejections in which case I simply smile, wish them a good day and move on. But get a willing, interesting, character and you will get some stunning shots.

My technique when I see a subject, before I approach them, is to check my camera. I will select the appropriate lens then check camera settings, battery level, memory left on the card and my flash settings if appropriate. Only when that is completed do I walk up to them keeping my camera to one side. I smile introduce myself and ask if they speak English. I try and learn these words in the native language which immediately breaks the ice and often makes them laugh! I might ask a little about them before asking to take their picture. If you are already prepared you can get to work straight away, you don’t want to be checking your screen or fiddling with your settings. Don’t just grab one shot and move on, take several, some people will move to a different area for you or pose as you request. It’s important to show them some images on the back of your camera and thank them before moving on. Children love to see their pictures and the best shots are often when you’ve just shown them so be ready!

So to the thorny subject of payment. My rule is generally not to pay money as I think it simply sets a precedent for other photographers and encourages the practice of begging. However I will sometimes take pencils, pens or soap and shampoo and sweets for children. This rewards them without actually paying them cash. If I have worked with a person for say 10 minutes or more and they have been really helpful then I may give them a small tip but usually I try not to.

I had wanted to visit Cuba for some years and often such high expectations can be cruelly dashed. However this was definitely not the case here, it is a stunning destination perfect for photographers. My recommendation is to go soon, before it changes too much.


To see more of Chris’ images from Cuba see his website www.chrisuptonphotography.com

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Story behind the photo – Malojian

By David Cleland

There is an area just outside the city of Lisburn, Northern Ireland that seems to cultivate musical talent. Millbank studios on the ‘Maze’ side of the city is the home studio of the likes of Mojo Fury, Rams’ Pocket Radio and Run Away Go (if you haven’t heard of them then you really need to Google).

It was a cold morning in late December and I was tasked to capture the cover image for one of Gary Lightbody’s favourite folk pop artists, Stephen Scullion aka ‘Malojian’.

There was lots of freedom in the concept design but I knew I wanted to create an image that would give the viewer something not only to look at but also to study.

Millbank studios is like a throw back to the recording studios of the 1960s and 70s, old pianos quietly rot from writing sessions the previous summer it is impossible to visit the studio and not be creative, it was easy to build the concept from the location. I took my X100T on a visit to the studios late in 2014.

For the shoot we decided to try and encapsulate a slightly enchanted, musically retrospective feel and use whatever we could find to enrich the photo. We used the album’s producer Mr Michael Mormecha as the key subject and built the image around the one man band iconography.

From the name of the album subtly hidden in the image to rope ladders and flecks of snow on the ground the aim was to go back to the album covers of the 70s and 80s that were read and studied while the audience listing to the songs.

For the shoot I packed the X100T that I planned to use for capturing the main cover and I also packed the X-T1 and stunning Fujinon 56mm lens to capture some additional portraits to be used to promote the album on release.

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X-T1 with XF56mmF1.2 @ 1/2500th f/2.2 ISO400

I waited for the sun to move over the Millbank garden so I had a workable level of shadow. As the photographer I was also initially (physically) casting a shadow on the scene so the idea was to use the X100T’s wifi option to control the camera remotely via my phone.

Within 5 minutes of experimenting with a number of compositions and the re-arrangement of the various content within the frame I had captured three images that would work as the cover. The images were shot wide enough so they would work as a wrap-around cover (which will be particularly interesting for the full vinyl release).

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I was able to pre-visualise the final feel for the image and knew the feel I wanted to create in Lightroom. It took around an hour to process the first image from which I created a Lightroom preset from the rest of the shoot. I was then able to sync the images accordingly.

And here is the final image:

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X100T @ 1/200th f/2.8 ISO200

 

Links:

Malojian
FlixelPix 65 Photos captured with the X100 Series

Story behind the photo – A girl watching the world pass by

By Danny Fernandez

As dusk settled a new side of Agra began to come alive. The thick air was filled with the incessant sounds of rickshaw horns, and the buzzing of electricity from the network of power cables which decorated the streets.

The roads, which had previously been a high contrast haze of burning light had cooled, and become illuminated by florescent shop signs and orange street lamps.

It was the end of an incredible day spent exploring the Taj Mahal and Agra. I was exhausted after spending the day walking around in the sweltering heat, and had 2 hours left before catching my train back to Delhi. So I decided to do what any normal Englishman would do – stop for a cheeky beer.

I began looking for a bar, and before long walked past one with a man standing outside. The man had an incredibly friendly face, and I stopped to ask if I could take his photo. He told me that I could, on the condition that I come inside and buy something from his bar. It was a win-win situation.

The bar had a rooftop with a view of the Taj Mahal in the distant background. There were children on neighbouring rooftops fighting kites. The man and I exchanged conversation for the duration of a few beers. His benevolent disposition which initially drew me to the bar did not disappoint, as he entertained me with stories of his family and his love for India. At one point I asked him if he would like to live in another country, and he simply answered “Why?”. For him, India was the greatest place on earth.

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As the light faded from the sky, our conversation was interrupted by the sounds of blaring music. I walked over to the ledge of the rooftop and saw trucks, which had been elaborately decorated with enormous chrome horns, blasting music at a deafening level. The man told me that today was a special festival in Agra.

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I stood there watching and decided to start taking photos. The mixture of ambient light, combined with the twilight of the sky was beautiful. For my 3 month trip backpacking India, I was travelling light – my main camera being an Fuji X100s. I set it up on the wall of the rooftop on a Manfrotto Pixi mini tripod and started shooting. I wanted to capture the energy of the street so set a slow shutter speed to capture the movement. The auto white balance on the X100s worked amazingly well.

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After a few minutes a young girl appeared on a rooftop below me.

She walked to the wall of her rooftop and stood there, gently observing the life on the streets. She was unaware of my presence as a picture unfolded in my viewfinder.

There was a beautiful contrast between the peacefully still young girl and the noisy and fast life on the street that was passing beneath her. I wanted to capture the contrast, so again choose to use a shutter speed of 1/8 second to get a slight motion blur of the passers by, while freezing her in her graceful stance. I began shooting, and after a few frames she rested both of her arms on the wall at the same time two cyclists passed by. I fired and got my shot.

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About Danny

Danny Fernandez is a creative photographer living and working in Barcelona. He likes cycling, records and vegetarian food.
To see more of his work, visit Danny Fernandez’s official website here or follow him on Flickr

6 Great tips for better portraits

Winter isn’t just about shooting landscapes, you can grab some great portraits too – just follow our advice for better people pictures

Good portraits don’t just happen, some planning is essential. Preparation can be a constant process; bookmark websites with images that inspire you, tear out pictures from magazines, grab shots of billboards that appeal. That way you’ll have some ideas to draw on.

When it comes to taking the pictures, share those ideas with your subject; see the shoot as a collaboration. Keep talking to them as you take pictures and show them the images on the rear LCD – silence isn’t golden in portraiture.

At this time of year, you may want to shoot indoors or out. Outdoors on a cloudy day, the light is beautifully soft, which is very flattering for portraits. Use a reflector to even the light up as much as possible and consider changing the white-balance to the Shade preset to warm up the scene. Sunny conditions work well too, but make sure you use a lens hood to avoid excessive flare and ghosting. Indoors, position your subject near a window for an available light shot or use flash lighting for greater control.

No matter where you work, keep the shooting time short, especially if you’re photographing kids.

Sharp focus on the eyes is crucial otherwise the portrait will lack impact, but don’t feel your subject has to look straight at the camera. Be bold with your compositions – you don’t have to take everything with the camera held upright.

When it comes to lenses, anything goes! The XF50-140mm and XF56mm APD lenses are obvious options, thanks to their excellent bokeh effects, but wide-angle optics are worth consideration, especially if you want to include more of the surroundings. Need some portrait ideas? Try these…

Open wide

Portraits aren’t all about cropping in close, they can also work well when shooting wide to include the surroundings. Use this approach when you want to tell more of a story with your subject, or simply want to make the most of a fantastic location you’ve found.

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Go for bokeh

Fujifilm’s new XF56mm F1.2 APD lens is perfect for portraits. Position your subject in front of a background with bright highlights, then use the maximum aperture for stunning bokeh effects. This approach also works well with other fast-aperture prime XF lenses.

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Keep it simple

If you’re shooting in a studio, don’t try to use too many lights. One main light and a reflector is all you need to get some great shots, especially if the light has an umbrella or softbox to diffuse the light for a more flattering result.

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Form a group

Make portraiture more social by shooting a group. Avoid lining everyone up in one row; try having some people sitting with others standing behind, or look for a slope or steps for compositional variety. Silhouettes like this work well, too. Take plenty of shots – you’ll be surprised how many group shots can be spoiled by one person blinking!

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Creative candids

Getting your subject engrossed in an indoor or outdoor activity gives you the perfect chance to shoot natural candids. Set your X-series camera to continuous AF and continuous shooting so you can keep up with any movement, then fire away. Choosing one of the Auto ISO options will increase your hit rate of sharp shots.

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Add some colour

When the weather is colder, natural colours are more muted. Give your portraits a colour boost by adding in bright accessories such as a hat, scarf, coat or gloves. Then select the Velvia Film Simulation mode to give them extra saturation.

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Top 10 fashion portrait tips by Brian Rolfe

By Brian Rolfe

I love shooting fashion portraits, easy to plan, far less work than an editorial or commercial job! Give me a good model, quite often no team, just me, the model and an idea of what we want to create and almost without fail we’ll come away with some great shots that look uncontrived and natural. These are my tips for approaching this kind of portraiture…! !

#1 Put together a mood board beforehand that gives the general idea of what you’re aiming for, this doesn’t have to be an exact guide of the result you’d like but more of an overview so that everyone is on the same page. If you’ve not yet got a clearcut style then it’s good to find an image that’s close to what you want to create.!

#2 Pick the right model for the style you’re shooting, it sounds obvious but casting a very commercial girl next door type model when you want an editorial style with attitude is generally not going to work.!

#3 Remember models are people too, take the time to chat with them, get to know them a
little. Fashion portraits and people photography in general is as much about your personality as it is a model’s, create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere and it will show in your results!!

#4 Try not to over direct, I always find a good professional fashion model allowed to pose free will usually create magic you never thought of yourself, that pretty much goes for fashion portraits as well as editorials.!

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#5 Don’t ever put your camera down while the model is in front of you, you may just miss a candid shot that is a killer! I’ve done it and you will kick yourself.!

#6 Don’t get hung up on having a full team, some of my favourite shoots have been with no make up, hair or styling aside from what the model brings with her or him. I’ve shot models in an old pair of my jeans and that’s it.!

#7 Keep things simple, good lighting doesn’t need multiple light sources and expensive
modifiers, one light or daylight works best for a fashion portrait.!

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#8 Play with angles, shoot from the floor, move around the model and experiment.!

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#9 Keep make up natural or even shoot without any at all, a blank canvas and unstyled hair bring a realism to the shoot.!

#10 I generally keep styling basic for this kind or shoot, denim, t-shirts, vest tops, basics underwear, again give your model some ideas in advance or get something in yourself if you don’t have a stylist.! !

Have fun!

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 About Brian

pic22648Brian Rolfe is a professional photographer based just outside of London with a clean and classic style specialising in beauty, hair, fashion and portraiture.

Inspired by the classic photography of the sixties and the supermodel era of the eighties and nineties, he takes a simplistic approach, preferring to work with one or two lights and keep retouching to a minimum in order to enhance rather than overpower an image.

Could this Canon photographer make the switch?

By Brian Rolfe

Back in August the guys at Fuji were kind enough to give me some time with the new X-T1 and 56mm 1.2 lens, I’ve had an X-Pro1 since around April time and since getting that it has become my natural light camera of choice but I was looking forward to seeing what the XT had to offer as I was still using my Canon full frame for commercial work… could this be the camera that made me move away from Canon?

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I had a location test lined up with model and stunt woman Gemita Samarra, we were off to a beach for the day about an hour from where I live, as I was packing my gear the new Fuji kit arrived, I had no intention of using a completely alien camera but thought I’d take it along with the X-Pro and at least give it a go while I had the opportunity.

We arrived at the beach on a beautiful warm sunny day, got the make up done and headed down onto the beach to set up camp, a good selection of clothes and a surfboard, it was sure to be a good day! I decided to try out the XT straight away and then I could switch to the X-Pro once we’d done warm up shots and got a feel for the natural light of the day, what actually happened was a pretty unconscious thing really, the XT controls didn’t feel alien at all and I only realised when we stopped for lunch that I’d shot our first half a dozen looks with just the XT, the X-Pro did not leave my bag the entire day, I was that at ease with the new camera, we were all chatting and enjoying the shoot so much that I just kept going with it and the results were just perfect!

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I’m not really into technical reviews, I’m not really qualified to give one anyway but I can give a user experience, which for me is far more valuable than graphs and pixel peeping! The first thing I noticed about the XT was it’s size, it’s smaller than the X-Pro which surprised me, with the 56mm attached though it felt solid and balanced in my hands. The addition of back button focussing was a big plus for me as that’s how I use my 5D Mk2 most of the time, there is a workaround way of doing it on the X-Pro but it’s not something that was built into it. Auto focus and responsiveness on the XT is a huge leap from the X-Pro, I’d shot on the beach a few weeks prior to this shoot with the X-Pro and I didn’t feel that confident in capturing the model moving around too much and getting focus every time but not so with the XT although I did miss focus on a number of shots that was me and not the camera.

Even as we were losing light and golden hour was fading away the focus didn’t let me down and although the ISO was going up and noise was becoming a factor it was still more than acceptable and because at this point I was shooting black and whites it worked in my favour anyway. The EVF is unbelievable on this camera, the vision through that viewfinder is a big plus, unusually for me though I did find myself using the screen to compose quite a bit as well, it’s so clear! I even found the new flip screen useful, that was unexpected, I just thought it was a nice gimmick but I do like to shoot at unusual angles and being able to do this without laying on the floor or pulling any muscles can only be a good thing, shooting from above would normally have meant a ladder but with the flip screen I can just hold the camera up, angle the screen and still compose well without just guessing.

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So those were the main things I noticed with the XT, I also like the fact that ISO control is now on a dial on the left side of the body. Obviously the camera is only as good as the glass attached to it and the 56mm is just amazing, I already loved the 35mm as being a 50mm equivalent it suits what I shoot but the 56mm just blew me away, come in close for a beauty shot and wow!! I’ve used the 85mm L series from Canon and this is equal if not better than that lens to my mind. For beauty and fashion work it’s on my wish list now, I’ve used it in the studio and out on location and it’s just an amazing, fast lens, focus is quick, the detail it produces is just beautiful. I compared my Canon beauty shots against ones from the Fuji and I actually think the Fuji edges it, every little facial hair, every pore and eyelash is in sharp focus. The lens itself you might expect to be ridiculously heavy and a bit clumsy feeling on the smaller bodied Fujis but it’s actually just right, I really liked the balance of it on both the XT and the X-Pro, honestly I really couldn’t fault this lens.

Having had the XT over the Summer I do regret not having used it more in the studio and worked out the white balance sweet spot under strobes but I love shooting with the Fujis in natural light so I took every opportunity to do so, whether it’s the XT or the X-Pro they both give me that filmic feel that I love and coupling that with natural light only accentuates that film like quality.

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Will I switch to the X-T1? I haven’t yet, if funds allowed I would have one and a 56mm by now, I’m only really holding out because when (and I’m certain it’s when rather than if) I go 100% Fuji I have to tick all the boxes for my commercial work as well as my personal work, that includes tethering to Capture One which I’m sure will come, in the back of my mind is an X-Pro2 though and if that is as much of a leap forward as the XT & has tethering capabilities then I think that will be the moment I become a 100% Fuji shooter. For now, I’m happy with my X-Pro still, I am missing the XT mind you, but a 56mm is looking very likely and I have now added the X100T and teleconverter lens to the family. I’m just excited to see what Fuji comes up with in 2015, I have a feeling it’s going to be very interesting!


About Brian

me2Brian Rolfe is a professional photographer based just outside of London with a clean and classic style specialising in beauty, hair, fashion and portraiture.

“I always strive to create images of timeless beauty & ensure the subject is still the main focus. Lighting is important but I don’t like to let it take over an image and the same applies to retouching.” 

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Website

 

Guest post: The Beginning

By Steve Best

Who am I? Good question.

I’ll be succinct.

I’m a clown photographer.

But mainly I’m a stand-up comedian – www.stevebest.com. I have been one for many years. I have plied my trade all around the world, having toured with many a famous person.

I have also co-founded Abnormally Funny People, which is a group of gifted stand-up comedians strutting their funny stuff. All but one of them is disabled (that’s me!) I’m the ‘token’ able-bodied comedian  www.abnormallyfunnypeople.com

I also take pictures. Mainly of comedians. I have published a book with 436 pictures of comedians. One comedian on each page, with a joke of theirs, and a few weird and wonderful facts about themselves.


I’m very proud of this book. Nothing like it has been done before – www.comedysnapshot.com.

So, what now? And why is Fuji posting this blog? Let me explain a bit more…

The first book wasn’t really intentional. When I set out I took a few pictures with a camera phone just for posterity. Here’s one of Ross Noble. The fuzziness kind of suits him.

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Ross Noble

I had a Ricoh Caplio GX100 camera with me. It was a great little point and shoot. Of course it had its limitations. It was pretty slow to start up. And it wasn’t great in low light situations. Most of the pictures in the first book were taken with the Ricoh.

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Sean Lock

So, I had a collection of comedians, which every now and then I plonked up on Facebook. Make it into a book, many people said. One such person who said this was my next door neighbour (ish – 3 doors down), Javier Garcia, who is a wonderful sports photographer, and owner of www.backpageimages.com

So I did it. Just like that. Well not quite. Jeez, it was bloody hard, and rather costly.

The person who really, really, really, really helped me… really, was Drew De Soto. Drew used to be a comedian. He’s still pretty damn funny. He runs a graphic design company,www.navig8.co.uk and in fact was running it while being a comedian. We met again when I was on my quest for the answers to my questions from the comedians. I tracked Drew down. He then asked me the question,
‘Where are you going to design it?’
‘Err, on line?’ I answered back with a kind of question.
‘Come into my office,’ he said.
And the rest is history, so historians would say.

You’re still asking where does Fuji come into this.

While being taught InDesign (actually learnt about 4% of what it can do) and Photoshop (5%) and how to kern (the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result), Drew would often pop out to take a picture with, wait for it, the Fuji X100. He loved it. All apart from the slight focusing problem, rectified somewhat with new firmware, and even more rectified with the X100s, which I will one day get him. Although I hear the X100T is out…

So the book came out, and I had become hooked on taking photos. I was still gigging, still bumping into comedians that I somehow hadn’t snapped for the first book. I’ll do another book then, I thought. I wanted to up my game. Park Cameras was down the road to Drew’s offices, so most lunchtimes I’d wander in and touch and stare. Mainly Fuji. But not exclusively. In fact I looked at Ricoh too, as I was pretty familiar with their kit. I took the bull by the horns and phoned up Ricoh to see if they would give me a camera as I had used their GX100 for the first book. Unfortunately the Fuji X100s was in my head as I started talking to the PR person at Ricoh.

‘I love your cameras’ I said, and began to explain my project of the Comedy Snapshot sequel
‘It’s not something we usually do, but what camera would you be looking at?’ She asked.
‘The X100s.’
There was a small pause.
‘That’s not a Ricoh,’ she replied with a little laugh in her voice
There was another pause
‘I’ve mucked this up, haven’t I?’ I said
‘Yes, I think you have.’

I didn’t phone Fuji for fear of doing the same thing in reverse. Instead I spent two weeks of lunches in Park Cameras.

The X100s, the X-Pro1 or the X-T1?

Fuji were doing an offer for the X-Pro1 – the body and a lens, and you’d get a free lens in the post. I went for it, I got the X-Pro1 and the XF18mm F2, and true to their word a few weeks later the XF35mm 1.4 was handed to me by the postman. What a beast! The camera, not the postman…

So off I went taking pictures for the next book with my X-Pro1. And of course a few other shots for the hell of it. Here’s a few. The ‘sheer hell of it shot’ made it to the Sunday Observer.

Arthur Smith
Arthur Smith
Tina T'urner
Tina T’urner
David Baddiel
David Baddiel
The Observer
The Observer
La Voix
La Voix

The X-Pro1 is a great camera. And both lenses are superb. It’s wonderful in low light, even with smacking the ISO up high. It’s not too bulky, it’s quiet, and damn sexy looking… I updated the firmware. But for some reason I kept going back to Park Cameras to touch the other Fuji cameras. I needed another body. I wanted another body.

I looked at the X100s and the X-T1 again. I had no more money left.

I knew a comedian who knew a man at Fuji.

Johnny Murph
Johnny Murph

He showed my book to him with the tag that I was doing another, all shot on Fuji. The man at Fuji liked my first book, and loved some of my recent pictures taken on the X-Pro1. Would they be interested in loaning me the X-T1 and the 56mm 1.2 lens?

I waited a few weeks.

The man from Fuji, he say ‘YES’. The deal was done, no meet up, no handshake, no signatures, just coolness and a willingness to take a shot. This is not to say to say that Fuji are lending out cameras willy nilly. I think I was just a little lucky, the right man, the right place, the right face. Two weeks later a brand spanking new X-T1 and 56mm F1.2 lens was delivered by the same postman that had delivered the X-Pro1.

It really is an amazing camera and lens.

The next blog will be a bit more technical on how and where I take the pictures. But for now here’s some pics taken on the X-T1 with the 56mm lens.

Russ Haynes (Monkey with a Gun)
Russ Haynes (Monkey with a Gun)

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David Berglas and Dynamo
David Berglas and Dynamo
Tom Mullica
Tom Mullica

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This blog post was taken, with permission, from Steve’s own blog that can be viewed here. You can also follow @stevebestcomic on Twitter

Punjab travelogue by Sinbad Phgura and his X100s

My name is Sinbad Phgura I am a fashion, lifestyle & travel photographer

201746_10150136198419787_2761543_oFor me photography has been a life long passion , I got my first a square 35mm box tammy camera at the age of nine and and have been shooting ever since.

I use mostly digital format cameras now, but not much has changed subject-wise, it’s people that I like to capture most, working with natural light & keeping the whole process as simple as possible. The magic for me has always been in the character study, to capture the honesty of the moment, & to connect with the soul somehow.

That’s why India is such a joy to shoot, with all of it’s humanity right there in front of you to see, smell, hear & touch! I love the light, it’s incredible how its shades, textures & changes everything it touches throughout the day.

www.sinbadphgura.com

I’ve been around the Fujifilm X system for a while now, one of my best friends Alex Lambrechts shoots with it & I know that these cameras are capable of stunning results! But I myself have so far have resisted to try one.

It’s only when you have the camera in your hand and you have to shoot with it for a period of time, adjusting your mindset from dslr to rangefinder that the magic happens.
Equipped with the Fuji X100s and a Millican camera bag I was off on my journey, Qatar Airways to Amritsar & into the heartland of the Punjab for my nephew’s wedding.

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It was a very special time for all of our family and it was so wonderful to see the remote family farmhouse turned into a fairytale setting.
What I wanted to capture with this picture travelogue was the backdrop to the wedding, the rural way of life, the people the environment and the excitement & build up to the big day.

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The X100s is indeed a beautiful looking machine with its classic styling it’s a great to hold and a pleasure to use. The physical dials feel just right, and it’s a joy not to have to scrabble through a ton of menus. I like that the fixed lens made me think more about composition and less about focal lengths & changing lenses, just being in the moment … capturing the moment. Taking me back to real photography, back to my film days when I used to shoot film.

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The biggest thing I found using the X100s was that you just can blend into the environment much easier and that there is less of a barrier between you and your subjects. It really makes this the ideal street / reportage carry everyday camera, silent lightweight and stealth!

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This wedding was such a special time for all our family! I’m so glad I got to enjoy it to the full & still get some great shots without worrying about loads of heavy camera gear!
Yes I really liked my Fuji X experience! And now with the new X100t out, I’ll definitely be coming back for more.

For images of the whole experience, please click here.

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Interview – Tony Woolliscroft talks about his recent portrait shoot with Jimmy White

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How did the shoot come about?

The shoot with Jimmy White came about through a long running association I have with a media company in Liverpool that specialises in sport personalities biographies – basically I shoot the book covers for them. It’s a collaborative thing on some of the shoots we both think of ideas/concepts etc ideas for the shoot and book cover and how it should look.

Kit used and settings?

This shoot was slightly different as I was out on tour with The 1975 at the time, so my car was packed full of equipment. My Fuji bag was packed full as I took everything with me on tour! But the main lenses I used on the shoot with Jimmy were my trusted 23mm & 56mm lenses, combined with my XT1 bodies. I love both of these prime lenses.

How much time did you have?

For this shoot, I had a couple of hours. Unfortunately things never go to plan and although I left Glasgow at 5:45am to drive to Liverpool for 9:00am, I hit major road works just outside Liverpool town centre, which made me half an hour late.

Luckily for me, Jimmy was late too.

The worse thing I can find as a photographer is rushing to set up while the client is waiting for me to start shooting. It’s my pet hate if I’m honest. I like to be ready and waiting as the subject walks in, with all my lighting tests done.

How accommodating was he?

Jimmy was fantastic. A really nice guy, he went along with all the ideas that we asked him to do.

Did you use any additional lighting?

I have to set up my portable studio whenever I shoot a book cover like this, so I carry everything with me. Backdrop stands, backdrops (white and black) light modifiers and finally my lights, which I carry up to 4 Bowens heads with me.
I’m like a pack horse!!!

How much interaction do you have in a situation like this with the subject?

There was a lot of interaction with Jimmy on the day. He was totally up for the ideas that I asked him to pose for. He was truly a great guy!

Would you do anything different next time?

Yes, I’d make sure to get there earlier and set up before the subject arrives haha. Even look at the traffic reports!

Any tips for amateurs trying to get this style of shot?

Make sure your lighting ideas work! It’s no good changing your mind on the day when your subject arrives. Also, do your research; try replicating lighting techniques that you have seen on other models shoots online or in magazines.

About Tony

Tony has shot some of the biggest rock bands on the planet today – Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The 1975, with over 20 years photographic experience.

Click here to check out his website