“Why the X series?” with Martin Castein

Why choose the X-Series? Read our guest blog by Martin Castein to find out.

About Martin
Martin has achieved 18 gold awards at SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers) which is one of the largest international photography organizations in the world. Is the 2013 SWPP architectural photographer of the year and has also been nominated by the judges as the SWPP overall photographer of the year for 2013.

The Fuji X-series journey for me began with the excellent X-E1 and now the X-Pro1. The weight-saving advantage of the X series is obvious. But let’s look a little deeper than that.

EVF and Sensor
For the type of photography I do, I like to bring out a lot of detail, colour and contrast in my images.
So for me it is vital that I get my exposures absolutely perfect and that the sensor of the camera is truly capable when it comes to delivering detail, dynamic range and the tone the sensor produces, particularly skin tones.
Let me give you an example. This image was processed in Lightroom. The sensor can handle the complex lighting easily, in fact better than some current top end DSLRs I have owned.

XF-18-55mm - ISO200 - f/2.8
XF-18-55mm – ISO200 – f/2.8

Colour
I work mostly in colour. I love colour.
We live in the digital age where colour can be so expressive and powerful.
The Fuji X-series sensor can match and in most instances beat other manufacturers when it comes to these issues.

When the X-trans sensor is combined with the live exposure of the Fuji X-series EVF, we have the recipe for a very high hit-rate of usable images.
This next image was taken with a wall blocking half the image, the flare on the left is from a window, not post production. I could see this in viewfinder before I took the image, this aids creativity. Post production in Lightroom again, very simple with the brilliant colour of the X-trans sensor.

XF18-55mm - ISO640 - f/4
XF18-55mm – ISO640 – f/4

Manual focus
I really love the ability to use manual focus and then have the back button do autofocus should I require it. I use this all the time. It is like manual focus with auto focus override. With other systems we have auto focus with manual override.
This works because it is so easy to see what is in focus in the EVF.
I can see the focus peeking, working all the time. This way I can fire off shots freely, capturing moments and know immediately when it is time to change my focus. That’s the benefit of not needing to take the camera away from your eye. What you see is what you get.

LCD screen
Additionally, it is an advantage to have a rear LCD screen that can focus the same way as the viewfinder can. This allows me to get unusual angles and shoot from angles that wouldn’t be easy to manage with a DSLR. In the past I went through a lot of trial and error with a DSLR to get the same angles.

Advantages
So for me the biggest advantage of the X-series is the combination of the incredible performance of the X-trans sensor with Fuji’s brilliant implementation of the electronic viewfinder and manual focusing. Of course coupled with the savings in size and weight.

Lets remember
We are artists. As photographers we rely on our equipment to allow us to fulfil our artistic vision. The urge that drives us to create, that is what we are all about as photographers. The tool we do that with, our camera, ultimately either enhances this ambition or it stifles it.
The fact is our choice of camera affects how we feel about photography.
Fuji made that t-shirt we all like to wear, they made the camera that speaks to the photographer in a way that is hard to verbalise other than it feels right.

XF35mm - ISO200 - f/5.6
XF35mm – ISO200 – f/5.6

To see more of Martin’s work, please visit his website here or follow him on Facebook

 

The ‘Bear’ Necessities

1504372_10154010549280534_5836271885610257265_oEver wondered how the X-E2 performs in low-light? I took a trip to a local jam night to find out. 

So, what’s with the title? Well, it is the perfect combination of wanting to carry as little as possible to not hinder my evening and the fact the pub was called The Bear.

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ISO 6400 – f/2 – XF35mm

My aim was simple, have a great night and take some great shots. I really wanted to push the camera and give it a good run in low-light, and inside this pub it wasn’t hard as it was noticeably dark. This allowed me two options; shoot at high ISOs or use fill-in flash. I choose to have a little combination of the two.  When I first arrived, I just took some time to take in all areas of the bar, the lighting, the people, everything and anything that might be interesting as the night went on.

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Can you see why it’s called ‘The Bear’? ISO4000 – f/14 – XF35mm
My brother catching me at work

After taking in the environment, I knew I needed to get a good spot for the music. The best I could muster was a front row ‘stand’ as I couldn’t find a seat at the edge of the stage area.  The lighting in the stage area was still very dimly lit on one side, but quite bright on the other. This made for some excellent contrast, which if you didn’t guess already, I love a bit of contrast in my images.

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I took a break from the music and went outside with friends, aiding another perfect opportunity to catch some good candid shots. Here is a handy hint I discovered: For great candid shots without being noticed, bring a friend. You can aim the camera at them but focus beyond them to get the ‘actual’ subject you want to capture. Here is a shot that reflects this ‘technique’.

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As the evening went on I just kept snapping away trying to get a blend between abstract and street style. Generally I kept the aperture wide open to ensure the stunning bokeh you get from the 35mm lens, and also to keep the ISO down as much as possible.

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I love the simple, yet powerful message scribbled on a window pane in this shot below.

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After having such a great evening with the X-E2 and XF35mm combo, I thought my luck was all but spent for good photography, then, on the walk home I got just a couple more shots that I was pretty happy with. As it was getting dark and the shutter was very slow, I kept my elbows tight into my sides and always shot the image on my out-breath.

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I also caught some wedding dress makers working very late, maybe it was a short deadline? These are the kind of self generated questions I love when shooting street photography.

I hope you have enjoyed this little blog and it inspires you to keep your camera on you at all times. You really can push the camera and retain excellent quality images that can be enjoyed by all. Here are all the ‘keeper’ shots from the night.

 

 

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What to shoot now – spring into life

It won’t be long before the natural world starts showing signs of life, which will give photographers across the globe plenty of subjects to train their cameras on.

To start, look low to the ground where bulbs will soon start to break the surface of the soil. Getting down low is the key to success and those X-series cameras with an articulated rear LCD will come in handy to help you frame up shots without having to lie on the floor.

Don’t be afraid to crop in close on snowdrops and daffodils, selecting the macro mode to ensure you focus as close as possible. If you’re shooting on a sunny day, placing your camera flat on the ground and pointing the lens upwards will deliver a ‘worm’s eye view’ of the flowers, which works particularly well with yellow crocus, tulips and daffodils set against a deep blue sky. Consider using the Velvia Film Simulation mode to boost colours, or fit a polarising filter to really saturate primary hues.

Feeding time

If you don’t fancy scrabbling in the dirt, birds and wildlife get a little bolder in the springtime as they start searching for mates and building nests. Use a telephoto lens like the XF55-200mm or XC50-230mm to keep a safe distance and make sure you shoot against a clear, uncluttered background such as foliage or even the sky to be sure nothing distracts from the subject. With any wildlife subject you’ll need to be patient; the best shots will come to those who wait… or those who set up feeding stations in their gardens!

Window light portraits

The low sun at this time of year is perfect for people shots indoors. Carefully choose a window – you want sunlight to bathe your subject in, not to blind them. Position your subject nice and close, then switch your camera to aperture-priority mode, using a wide aperture to throw the background out of focus.

Window Light Portraits

A day in your life

If a 365 project is too daunting, perhaps you can manage 24 hours. Pick a typical day and document your life. It’s easy to do with the portable X cameras. Start with your breakfast and only put the camera down when you go to bed. Apply the usual rules though: think about your shots and compose carefully, don’t simply machine-gun it.

A day in your life

Striking silhouettes

Set aside the usual approach to exposing your subject and expose for the background to get a dark, striking silhouette of a person, tree or church – easily recognisable subjects work best. Switch to spot metering and take a reading from the bright background to ensure your subject is rendered as an outline.

Striking Silhouettes

Film fanatics

Emulate the look of yesteryear’s photos with one of the X-series Film Simulation modes. All the X-series cameras offer these magic modes; the X-Pro1 boasts a stunning selection of 10, including names you may remember from film boxes, such as Provia and Velvia. Find them in your camera’s Shooting menu or via the Q menu.

Film Fanatics

Carnival spirit

In countries around the world, Shrove Tuesday (4 March) is a day for celebration; in many, such as Germany and Italy, this means carnival, while in the UK, it’s the chance to flip pancakes. Whichever is happening near you, photograph it. For a carnival parade, try the Pop Color Advanced Filter (on the XQ1, X100S, X-M1, X20 and X10).

Carnival Spirit