The Top 9 Camera Accessories

Are you looking for a few add-ons to take your photos (and photo business) to the next level? Or are you shopping for a photographer? Either way, there are more camera accessories available today than ever before. From lenses to simple, reliable cases and cleaners, there’s something for everyone. Here are the top nine camera accessories you might want to consider for your Fujifilm camera.

Image by @Hendralou via Instagram

  1. Lenses

 

A photographer’s skill will impact a shot more than anything – but a top-notch lens sure doesn’t hurt! In fact, the lens affects photo quality more than the camera body itself. If your shots aren’t turning out the way you want, and you’ve only got one accessory in the budget, a new lens is your best bet.

 

There’s quite a selection of Fujinon XC, XF or GF lenses to choose from, but most lenses fit into one of two categories. Prime, or fixed, lenses are versatile and low-cost, but they can’t zoom in and out. Zoom lenses, on the other hand, allow for a variety of depths of field, often at the touch of a button.

 

  1. External Flashes

 

As new photographers quickly learn, the built-in flashes on most cameras aren’t strong enough to light a subject that’s further away, images can start to look underexposed and too dark.

 

An external flash like the Fujifilm EF-X500, however, can strategically shine light into an area that reflects onto your subject from an angle. Mounted onto your camera or even a stand in another part of the room, you can point multiple flashes wherever you like – the ceiling, for instance – and set them to fire in sync with your shutter.

 

  1. Filters

 

A flash helps you control how much light hits your subject; a filter limits the light that reaches your camera’s image sensor. In general, filters come in one of three categories. Ultraviolet (UV) filters block out harsh light, but cheaper ones may reduce clarity. Neutral density (ND) filters limit the overall amount of light that passes through your lens, allowing for longer shutter speeds without overexposure. Finally, polarizing filters reduce glare and reflections, somewhat like putting a pair of sunglasses on your lens.

Image by @tylerweberphoto via Instagram

 

  1. Reflectors

 

Simple and effective, reflectors reduce unwanted shadows by reflecting light onto a subject. The angle, material and colour of the reflector determine the intensity of that light. White produces the softest light, while silver and gold offer a higher intensity and degree of warmth. To achieve the opposite effect, you can even add a black panel to a reflector, preventing a light source from hitting your subject from a certain angle.

 

  1. Photo Tents

 

Most commonly used for shooting flowers, food and other small objects. Tents are translucent “boxes” that diffuse light from multiple sources. In effect, they allow for even, almost shadowless lighting – perfect for product photography with a de-emphasized background.

 

  1. Cleaning Kits

 

Dust and dirt are a photographer’s nightmare, and even the best lenses won’t shoot clearly when they’re dirty. A microfiber cloth is perfect for wiping away debris, but a blower can make the job easier and faster. Also, while most new cameras have self-cleaning sensors, you may still need a sensor cleaning kit to keep your camera in tip-top shape during frequent shoots. Although sensor cleaning kits are available we highly recommend sending in your Fujifilm camera in to your nearest Fujifilm repair centre to have your camera serviced by a qualified technician.

 

  1. Battery Grips

 

You never want to run out of power during a long shoot. You can carry an extra battery in your pack, but a more convenient option is the battery grip: a holding device that plugs into the bottom of your camera. Many photographers enjoy the extra heft it adds to an otherwise small device, and many models include extra buttons that make portrait shooting more ergonomic.

 

  1. Lens Hoods

 

Almost like a hat for your camera, a lens hood can improve image quality by blocking strong sunlight from directly hitting your lens. A sturdy hood also provides physical protection, preventing bumps and scratches to the most important – and expensive – part of your setup.

 

  1. Tripods and Ballheads

 

Does your shoot require laser-like focus and an impossibly steady hand? If so, a tripod is your best bet. Today’s carbon fiber tripods are lightweight, sturdy and stylish, and they come in a variety of sizes for use at different heights. Topped with an adjustable ball head, they can be used to position your camera at virtually any angle.

Image by @myahya09 via Instagram

 

If you’re interested in a Fujifilm camera, but don’t know where to start looking, download our free eBook, Which X Series Should I Buy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuji Guys: Using the Fujifilm EF-X500 Flash for Portait Photography

In the latest video by the Fuji Guys Australia, Will Anlezark and Warrewyk Williams show some portrait results you can obtain when using the new Fujifilm EF-X500 flash as either a master or remote flash.

Fuji Guys: External Shoe Mount Flash Settings – EF-X500 

For more information about this and other Fujifilm products, please visit these websites.

Australia

U.S.A.

Canada

UK

 

(Soft)box of tricks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I love: the Fujinon XF16mmF1.4 lens

X-Photographer strip BLACK

We asked a few of our X-Photographers why they love the widest of our super-fast aperture prime lenses, the FUJINON XF16mm F1.4 R WR. Here is what they said..

Kevin Mullins – Reportage Weddings

Kevin Mullins XF16mm

quote-left
KevinMullins-Headshot-200x200At first I wasn’t sure if I would be attracted to the 24mm full frame focal length having tried that several times in my Canon days. However, as soon as I got the 16mm I just knew it was going to be a flyer. This lens is PIN sharp wide open, focuses incredibly quick and works so well with the continuous shooting mode of on the X-Series. It gives that extra width when shooting in tight areas at weddings and is perfect for shots such as the recessional and really close up but powerful images of the confetti throwing etc.quote-right

Click here to see more of Kevin’s work


 Derek Clark – Music

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I love the 16mm f1.4! It’s a surprisingly versatile lens that is equally at home shooting portraits as it is landscapes. The X-Series lenses are all fantastic, but I would say the 16mm f1.4 has something extra special. I can’t really put my finger on it, but there is just something magical about it. There’s a cinematic quality, an epic look, yet a sense of real intimacy when working in close. I like to work with two bodies at a time and the 16mm paired with a 35mm or 56mm is an amazing combo that gets any job done, no matter how low the light!quote-right

Click here to see more of Derek’s work


Ben Cherry – Environmental Photojournalism

A mother watches on as her herd while eating ripe figs.

quote-left
Stuck in dark, hot conditions with F2.8 being on the borderline of usability, even with high ISOs, the XF16mm offers a popular standard focal length with a wide aperture range that makes it surprisingly versatile. Though you can stop this down for a larger depth of field, many want to use this at F1.4 or there abouts. A very close minimum focusing distance and beautiful out of focus rendering make this a superb lens for placing your subject within an environment but keeping the viewer focused on the subject thanks to that narrow depth of field. quote-right

Click here to see more of Ben’s work


Matt Hart – Street

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This is lens is so sharp and so fast it’s unbelievable, I carry it with me at all times to get me out of trouble in low light conditions. I used to use a 24mm on my old film camera for Street when I was shooting wide, but now I use the XF16mm. It really comes into its own on busy city streets as it allows me to get in close but also grab lots of other detail in the background. I love the lack of distortion when shooting in cities with lots of vertical & horizontal lines.quote-right

Click here to see more of Matt’s work


See The Light with the Fujifilm EF-X500

Guest Blogger strip BLACK

Let’s talk about the benefits of introducing a new light source into your image!

With the advent of the new EF-X500 flash unit, our first professional ETTL flash, we thought we could shed some light on the age-old question “natural light or introduced light?”

We are here to give you a brief rundown of the Fujifilm EF-X500 and how it can benefit your Fujifilm X-Series kit.

EF-X500_Front_White

Fujifilm EF-EX500 Flash

Batteries & Accessories

The Fujifilm EF-X500 powers using four traditional AA batteries. Generally we would recommend for any shooter using this flash to carry an additional four AA lithium batteries or better still, AA Ni-MH 2700 mAh rechargeable.

From a set of Ni-MH rechargeable you can expect to get 170 flashes and with the optional battery pack EF-BP1, which holds an additional eight batteries, this amount will be extended to approximately 350 flashes. The EF-BP1 will not only improve the number of flashes but also the recycle time, so if you are a wedding photographer this could be a useful accessory to have.

Flash Zoom

The benefit of zoom allows additional control of the light for the image you’re trying to create.

The Fujifilm EF-X500 allows the flash to zoom from 24-105mm. What this will do is allow your flash to either fire a very wide range to suit a wider angled lens or emit a narrower flash to suit a portrait or telephoto lens. The end result will enable you to light an entire scene or just pick out an individual subject from a scene.

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR – ISO 200 – F5.6 – 1/125 second – Fujifilm sample image

Optional Rear or Front Curtain Sync

This feature is a very common setting for on camera flash users who wish to add some motion to their images.

Front Curtain Sync means once you depress the shutter button on the camera, the flash will immediately fire, and Rear Curtain Sync delays the flash until the end of the exposure before the curtain covers your sensor.

So what does this actually do to your image?

You won’t notice a great deal until you get to slower shutter speeds under 1/50th of a second. By lowering your shutter speed it will actually allow any moving highlights in your image to blur whilst freezing the image in the foreground fairly sharp, creating a sense of movement in your image.

The easiest way to remember the difference between the two settings is:

Select Rear Curtain Sync and it will capture the movement at the end of the subjects motion, selecting Front Curtain Sync freezes movement from the beginning.

Electronic Through The Lens (ETTL)

Using the automatic setting when starting out with a flash is sometimes the best option. This is essentially the auto mode for flashes and should be used that way. ETTL technology proves to be a fantastic option whenever you are shooting with the EF-X500 flash on the move and want your Fujifilm X-Series camera to do all the work.

The camera and flash will ‘talk’ with each other as soon as you half press the shutter button, to determine the metering settings, distance from your subject, the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Once this happens (very quickly) the flash will trigger knowing the exact amount of power it needs for whatever situation you may find yourself in.

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – ISO 100 – F13 – 1/250 second – Fujifilm sample image

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – ISO 100 – F13 – 1/250 second – Fujifilm sample image

Flash Exposure Compensation

When combined with ETTL, Flash Exposure Compensation allows you to be a little more creative. If you’re familiar with your camera’s normal exposure compensation, this works in a similar way, by controlling your flashes light output. On the Fujifilm EF-X500 you can control the power up and down by -5 and +5 EV.

High Speed Sync (HSS)

This is the first time HSS will grace the Fujifilm X Series line up and it has been a request from many photographers since the launch of the Fujifilm X-Pro1. Previously the sync speed of 180X was the maximum sync for flash and on recent models this was increased to 250X. Sync speed is basically the highest shutter speed the flash will sync at.

Now with the combination of the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and the EF-X500, photographers can increase their sync speed up to a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second.

So what does HSS actually do? Remember when we spoke about Front and Rear Curtain Sync? I explained that the flash fired either at the beginning or the end of the frame you will be taking. At shutter speeds faster than 1/250th of a second, the gap between the front and rear curtains is too narrow to expose the whole sensor to your subject illuminated by a single flash output.

HSS disregards that entirely and instead of only letting out one individual flash, it fires multiple pulses to ensure your flash fills the entire frame.

HSS is a very handy setting for combating the sun when photographing portraits or for using flash and a shallow Depth of Field (DOF) during the middle of the day.

Auto Focus Assist Lamp (AF – Assist Lamp)

The LED AF assist lamp on the EF-X500 is Fujifilm’s first on flash AF assist to work with X Series cameras, allowing fast focus in low light! Here’s a quick explanation on why this is a big deal for both introduced light and natural light photographers.

Cameras need contrasting details within the focus area in order to achieve focus. During low light situations there is less contrast for the camera to work with, however the extra light from the AF assist lamp makes up for this.

While the AF assist built into your camera can be useful, some lenses such as zooms can block the light, reducing its effectiveness. The AF assist lamp built into your flash is situated above your camera, so it gets past this limitation. It’s also a stronger light that will reach further than your camera’s AF assist lamp.

Even if you’re shooting with only natural light, you can take advantage of the EF-X500’s AF assist lamp to allow ultra fast and reliable focus speeds in low light.

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – ISO 200 – F8 – 1/250 second – Fujifilm sample image

Wireless Master & Slave compatibility

With the introduction of the Fujifilm EF-X500, the option to use your X series flashes off camera has never been easier!

With optical pulse technology built in (wireless communication), a number of EF-X500 flashes can communicate wirelessly when an EF-X500 flash is mounted on top of selected X Series cameras. This function offers four channels within 3 different groups allowing complete control to strobist photographers.

Camera Compatibility

The highly anticipated X-T2 will be fully compatible with all of the EF-X500’s functions.

X-Pro2 and X-T1 (including X-T1 Graphite Silver) will be compatible with some EF-X500 functions. A firmware update will be required for enabling full compatibility.

All other X Series cameras featuring a hot-shoe are compatible with some of the EF-X500 functions (for more details see www.fujifilm.com.au)

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR – ISO 100 – F8 – 1/250 second – Fujifilm sample image

Final notes

This is the first professional Fujifilm flash that has the option for both flash groups and channels meaning it is designed to be used both on and off your camera’s hot shoe.

For more dramatic lighting we would highly recommend using a light stand and moving your flash around your subject at different flash zoom levels and flash powers to create some creative and interesting looks.

About the Author

Will Anlezark

Will Anlezark works at Fujifilm Australia as Field Technical and Sales Support Representative. He is a passionate wedding photographer and experienced videographer and loves to share his imaging knowledge to a larger audience. 

Preparing and maintaining your kit for the great outdoors

Sloth - Ben Cherry
When I’m heading out for a long day(s) in the outdoors this is the kind of equipment I usually take with me. Now it may be more than you would ever need, but for those looking to get into landscape or wildlife photography, particularly those about to head out on safari – this blog is for you.


A bag for your gear

Camera gear ready for Costa Rica!

There are too many camera bags in the world, meaning that the choice available is verging on ridiculous! If there is one item that ignites G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) over anything else it is probably camera bags. I’m currently using a Pelican 1510 hard case with a Thinktank Ultralight (discontinued) that fits inside the case. This basically acts like a backup backpack as it isn’t the comfiest bag for long treks, so it generally acts as a safe and secure place to store gear. I took this set up to Costa Rica because I’m based there for such a long time so the pain of travelling with such a heavy pack was negated by the benefits it offers me over the six months away, namely water-tight, lockable security.

All fits in my Millican Dave

For when I’m out and about I have two non-camera bags to choose from: Millican Dave, a great hiking bag that when combined with a cheap padded insert becomes a very good camera bag. Or a dry bag backpack which I often use on light treks where the conditions are looking a little ominous. This isn’t to say that Dave isn’t up to the challenge (he’s pretty good at being water repellent and has rain cover), but out here in the rainforest, when it rains, it pours! And having a bag that can in fact be submerged helps to ease the mind. The advantage of both of these bags is that they are easy to stuff lots of items into. One of the issues I usually have with camera bags is that once all of it is padded, it has lost of significant percentage of space for misc items. Misc items are usually seen as add ons with certain bag companies, leaving little room for other helpful items, so hiking bags can be really helpful non-camera gear.

Gear for Ice Hotel Commission
Gear for Ice Hotel Commission
Kit in action, covering ice church!
Kit in action, covering ice church!

What photography equipment do I take?

Cameras:

  • 2 x X-T1 (fantastic all-round cameras, definitely brought the X-Series to a wider audience, and very much looking forward to trying out the new X-Pro2!)
  • X100s (Out of all the Fujifilm cameras I’m lucky enough to have this is the one I’d probably sell last! Does everything very well, wonderful lens/camera, makes you think much more about your photography. Above all else, it is small enough to carry around everywhere. So some of my most treasured photos are taken with this because otherwise it would have been left to my phone. Combined with the wide angle and telephoto adapters, makes for a brilliant little system. I haven’t had the chance to work with the T yet.)

Lenses:

  • XF10-24mm (Almost perfect – fantastic lens, hoping for a WR version in the near future.)
  • XF16mm (Generates so much creativity, from the extremely close focusing to the fantastic depth of field control, 24mm equiv. is quickly becoming my favourite focal length.)
  • XF16-55mm (Fantastic workhorse of a lens, built to last and equipped with image quality to make any prime-lover happy.)
  • Soon to be – XF35mm F2 (when I get back to the UK this is high up on my list – 50mm equiv. lens, small, fast and discrete WITH WR!)
  • XF50-140mm (My most used lens – can’t really say a bad word about it, produces the goods every time, simply fantastic!)
  • Nikon 300mm F2.8 ED Manual focus (The elephant in the room, because my current role is focusing on birds, I needed something longer than 200mm equiv. As the much anticipated:
  • XF100-400mm Isn’t quite out yet I opted for a quirky alternative… Yes it is heavy, yes it is manual focus, but thankfully peaking assist and a sturdy tripod help to make this a viable option. Nevertheless, my back is looking forward to Fujifilm’s new super telephoto zoom!)
  • Fujifilm extension tubes and Nikon 2x teleconverter (yep, that gives me a 900mm equiv. lens… Absolutely bonkers!!)
Frankenstein X-T1 filming sloths

Misc:

  • Filter system (Depends on what you prefer to photograph but I highly recommend a neutral density graduated filter set up and a circular polariser.)
  • Flash system (Lots of options out there, depends what you can afford/prioritise – space or power output.)

Things to always keep in your bag

Get some silica packs and store some in your backpack, these can be the difference in saving your precious lenses. Many believe that fungus is an issue reserved for older lenses, unfortunately this isn’t the case, and in particular non-weather resistant lenses are vulnerable so please look after your expensive investments! Bearing that mind, always have some lens cleaner and lens cloths in your bag. You never know when a speck of mud or raindrop will ‘attack’ your lens. Though easy to deal with they can easily ruin a photo, so best to deal with any artefacts asap.

Other items I have in my bag:

  • Duck tape (If you use lights in particular duck tape can be invaluable to secure lights in obscure locations to light your photos or simply to repair your watertight gear)
  • Pen knife (Always ends up being useful for different things but of course be mindful of this when travelling internationally.)
  • Table top tripod (Lets face it, tripods are always annoying to carry around and generally always scream PHOTOGRAPHER, but they are invaluable for certain situations. Nevertheless on some occasions you might not be carrying around a full size tripod so as a small, light back up is generally a good idea, so have a little tripod in the bag.)
  • Remote trigger (I have a variety from wired to wireless, all with their own pros and cons)
  • Rain cover (Generally not for me as in the tropics it is nice to get rained on! But I have a cover for my camera if I’m still shooting in moist conditions.)
  • Rogue Flashbender (A relatively inexpensive flash accessory, easy to pack and very effective, especially when used off-camera to help quickly improve a portrait.)
  • Food and water (Especially if you are trekking, these are the most important items to have on you!)
  • Insect repellent (Insects love me so I usually carry some form of bug spray, DEET is the best but pretty grim stuff to cover yourself with so I have a natural remedy that I prefer. Also a form Vitamin B is meant to be good for repelling mosquitoes so if you know you’re off to a problem region then start some Vitamin B pills or alternatively marmite.)
  • Hat and layers (Yes suncream helps to fight off sunburn but a hat can make all the difference when you are out all day. Depending on where you are, the weather conditions can change quickly so it is important to have spare clothes if it is likely to get cold.)
  • Rehydration sachets + general medication (You can never fully guarantee what is going to happen when you go out and about so it is best to carry some simple things with you to negate any ‘niggles’ that could hamper your day.)
  • Communication (Generally a normal mobile phone to contact anyone if necessary. Not for selfie usage!)
  • Scarf/shall (This might sound strange, being described as a ‘must have’ item, but they have a wide range of uses, from portable shade, towel, dust remover, etc.)

Thick straps, and a comfy all-round design. Makes long days so much more enjoyable!

Thick straps, and a comfy all-round design. Makes long days so much more enjoyable!

Other items to pack in the hold:

  • Sensor cleaning kit (I’ve made the mistake far too many times of not bringing this with me and regretting it pretty quickly. The X-Series is very good for countering this problem, especially considering how often I change lens, but it’s best to pack safe.)
  • Spare chargers/cables (This may well be over the top for certain trips but if you are going into very remote regions the last thing you want is to not be able to charge your batteries or download your photos.)

Kit care in the tropics

Taking a look at the gear I have brought with me to Costa Rica. From camera gear to items keeping the cameras working, I hope this will give you a good visual representation of what to take on your next adventure!


Keep your kit dry

If visiting the tropics or areas where conditions can often be very humid then it is important to figure out a way of keeping your kit dry, generally wiping away any moisture and having some silica gels in your bag should be fine but for my current placement I created a form of ‘dry space’, an area which I draped a tarpaulin in front of and had a light bulb at the top, this is generally left on whenever it is raining and works as a dry location to keep kit dry, anything slightly damp is kept as close as possible to the light bulb to dry it out and to hopefully kill off any fungus.

My camera bag system is constantly evolving but hopefully this will help some of you looking to take your camera into the great outdoors. First and foremost, remember to enjoy yourself, that is the priority. Cameras are wonderful tools for enjoyment and capturing moments, but don’t let the very item you use to capture moments get in the way of them. If you have any suggestions or ideas for other things to take with you in the great outdoors then comment below.

Until next time, happy shooting!

Ben


Ben CherryA little about Ben

Ben is an environmental photojournalist, zoologist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. His passion is showing the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Find more of his work at:

Getting started with flash

Off cameraw360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerSo how do you get on with using flash? If you’re like 90% of the world’s photographers the answer to that will be ‘pretty badly’. You’re never quite sure what it’s up to, never feel fully in control of what’s going on and are never completely happy with the results you get. And that’s a shame because, when you come to think about it, flash is the most controllable light source you have at your disposal. You can fire it when you want, put out lots of power (or very little) and you can even shape or colour the light. Just imagine what brilliant landscape photographers we’d all be if we had the same amount of control over daylight! So, flash isn’t the bad news that many photographers consider it to be, it’s simply a question of learning the functions you have at your disposal and how to bend them to your creative will.  

No doubt, after the rousing words of my opening paragraph you’ll be wanting to get to grips with multiple flash set ups right from the off. But that’s a little like competing in the 100m at the Olympics before you can walk. Let’s ease you in more gently by giving you an overview of the flash features you have at your disposal on a Fujifilm X-series camera and when you might press them into service. In this particular case, I’m heading to the Flash Set-Up menu on an X-T10.

Within that menu you’ll find the Flash Mode option, which gives you five choices: Forced Flash, Slow Synchro, 2nd Curtain Sync, Commander and Suppressed Flash. The last option is perhaps the most obvious; selecting Suppressed Flash means the flash won’t fire even if it’s popped up ready for action, nor will a hot-shoe flash fire if it’s attached to the camera and switched on. But seeing as this a guide to firing the flash, we best move on.

Forced Flash is the polar opposite of Suppressed Flash. As long as the integral unit is flipped up or a hot-shoe flash is attached and switched on, the flash will fire on every shot, irrespective of how bright the light in the scene is. This may sound a little odd, but you’re actually most likely to use this mode in bright daylight for a technique called fill-in flash. This is where you ‘fill-in’ shadows – typically in a portrait – with a low powered burst of flash, which is achieved by combining Forced Flash and the Flash Compensation mode. Take a look at the two shots above. The one on the left is taken without flash. It’s OK, but the subject’s face is in shadow. By using Forced Flash and -1 Flash Compensation, we got a lower powered burst of flash that filled in the shadowy area and put a nice catchlight in our subject’s eyes.

Slow sync

Next on the menu is Slow Synchro, which is used to add a touch of dynamism to action images or to shoot portraits in low light conditions. Selecting this function and a slower shutter speed produces the sort of image you see above on action shots. Panning the camera during the exposure introduces the blur, but then the burst of flash momentarily freezes the subject so you get this look. The shutter speed doesn’t have to be too slow – the shot above was taken at 1/8sec, but it adds an extra dimension to your shots.

Equally, using Slow Synchro can help capture more ambient light in low light conditions. Take a straight shot with flash at night and you’ll end up with a shot like the one below left – rather dull. Use Slow Synchro and the longer exposure ensures the background appears while the flash illuminates your subject perfectly. In this case you’ll need to keep both the camera and the subject still – we’d recommend a tripod and a head brace. Ok, maybe just the tripod.

Note: It’s worth noting that Slow Synchro is only available on the menu in aperture-priority and program exposure modes. If you want to combine a slow shutter speed in shutter-priority or manual modes you still can – just switch to Forced Flash and select the shutter speed you require.

2nd Curtain Sync is another one for those who want to make movement look natural and, much like Slow Synchro is a question of combining a burst of flash with a longer shutter speed. The ‘curtain’ part of the equation refers to the camera’s shutter curtain. In any given exposure, the first curtain begins the exposure, the second curtain ends it. Typically, when you’re using flash, the flash is fired at the start of the exposure – when the first curtain moves. But switching to 2nd Curtain Sync, the flash fires at the end of the exposure. This is largely irrelevant if the exposure is a fraction of a second. But it’s important with a longer exposure. Take a look at the two shots below. For the shot on the left, the flash has fired at the start of the exposure and then the car has moved to create the blurred light effect. The trouble is, it looks as though the car has reversed. It didn’t, it moved forwards. By selecting 2nd Curtain Sync, the flash fires at the end of the exposure after the car has moved, so you get a more natural-looking effect with the blurred lights.

Note: When using 2nd Curtain Sync with a built in or hot-shoe flashgun, two bursts of flash will fire. The first at the beginning of the exposure, is purely designed for the camera to get an exposure assessment and does not effect the actual exposure. The second flash, at the end of the exposure, is the one that actually illuminates the subject.

Finally, we have the Commander mode, where you can use the camera’s integral flash to fire a second flash away from the camera. This is used for more creative on-location effects, like the one below. It’s simple enough to do and produces professional looking results.

Off camera

So that’s the top line when it comes to shooting flash. Hopefully, this top-line introduction has armed you with enough information to start getting to grips with the flash modes you have available. But we’ll be going into more detail on each of these techniques in subsequent blogs over the next few weeks.

Using flash to capture action

I am currently in the middle of a six-month research stint with the Wild Macaw Association, gathering data on a scarlet macaw population for a study in Costa Rica, associated with Gent University. This remarkable opportunity allows me to study these birds closely and to explore the surrounding area during our two daily treks. To find out more about this very successful project, in which 75 macaws were released from 2002-2012, please check out this link here.

Scarlet macaws are incredible birds, with their bright colours and quirky behaviour making them very photogenic. However, they are often found within the rainforest and this often means in dark conditions, too dark for even the XF50-140mm F2.8 and high ISOs to capture any sort of motion. This problem will sound familiar to many of you in different situations, where OIS is redundant as the problem is subject movement, not camera shake. There is however one way to get around this: add artificial light. It may not be suitable for some situations but with a little bit of time and understanding this can allow for that otherwise impossible shot.

Here is a video showing how I developed my flying macaw photographs.

For me, there are two reasons to add flash to an action situation; we’ll take a look at both of these in a little bit of detail.

You need more light to freeze the subject/scene

In other words you simply can’t get a sharp image without more light. This is the most common reason to switch to flash. Most will start with the popup flash on their cameras and/or then get a dedicated flash and mount it on the hotshoe of the camera. There are photographers who can produce exceptional images using just this simple technique, and if you have a TTL (through the lens metering) flash then this becomes relatively quick and simple as the camera will communicate with the camera how much flash output there should be. Generally this will be fine for most needs, especially if you are short of time and need to take a variety of photos.

If you do have a TTL flash and you haven’t experimented with manual flash outputs before I would highly recommend that you give it a go. This slows you down and makes you think more about what you want to produce – do you simply want the flash to give a little bit of fill light to an otherwise correctly exposed scene? Or would you rather the camera underexposes the scene while the flash exposes correctly, so bringing the focus onto your subject and away from the darker background? These are all fun things to play with.

This all sounds great but flash photography can drive you around the bend if you’re not careful. On current X-Series cameras the maximum flash sync is 1/180sec (except the X100 series because of a leaf shutter allowing 1/1000sec flash sync). Anything more than this will not allow proper flash input. When it comes to action 1/180sec is pretty slow! There is one flash currently available, the Nissin i40, which is different. It offers high-speed sync (HSS), which allows you to use the flash up to 1/4000 sec, this is certainly helpful when adding some fill flash but it does cut the overall output of the flash. The reason for the downgraded power in this mode is because the flash sends out a series of very high speed flashes (instead of one, more powerful flash) that are fast enough to expose the subject within the maximum shutter speeds.

On camera flash
1/180sec flash sync isn’t enough to freeze background movement when following a fast moving subject. This can be fine as it shows some motion. The illuminated subject should generally be sharp because a flash pulse is so fast. However this can be improved by using second curtain/slow sync that I will talk about soon.

If you want to freeze the subject and aren’t bothered by the background then what you want to do is find an exposure combination that creates a totally black image. For example 1/180sec (max sync), F11, ISO200 – a mix which should require too much light for a lot of scenes, thus leaving your image black/heavily under exposed. The next thing to do is to add the flash that will offer all the light on the subject. If your subject is moving quickly then you’ll want to cut the flash output, this sounds counterintuitive, but as you cut the light output say from 1/1 to ¼ then the flash time is four times faster than maximum 1/1 power. This ensures that the subject is completely frozen.

Stopping the feathers in mid-beat, using ¼ power of the flash ensured it froze the macaw. However, when you do this you’ll often need more than one flash to get enough light to illuminate the subject with the ‘ambient stopping’ settings and the fractional flash power output.
Stopping the feathers in mid-beat using ¼ power of the flash ensured it froze the macaw. However, when you do this you’ll often need more than one flash to get enough light to illuminate the subject with the ‘ambient stopping’ settings and the fractional flash power output.

The scene isn’t dramatic enough so you add artificial light

Sometimes a scene just looks flat and no matter what you do images just don’t ‘pop’. This is where some creative artificial light can make an image. In the rainforest undergrowth this definitely applies, as apart from being really dark, there is generally very little direct sunlight so the light is muted. Some images where I panned with the subject came out ok, partly thanks to the wonderful colours of the birds, but I still felt that it need an extra something. This is where the aforementioned video shows the progression from initial photos to more dynamic, off-camera flash images. 

There are countless blogs on creative use of artificial light and I’m not going to pretend that I am a flash master, instead I’m simply going to show the set up I ended up using and why.

First of all I love off-camera flash, it opens up so many more opportunities compared to simple on-camera flash (this is just my opinion and not fact). So I very quickly knew that for the image I had in mind, I needed to use flashes off camera. I experimented from backlighting the birds to using the two flashes one from each side and then from slap bang in front. But the combination that created the image I really wanted involved having both flashes to the right-hand side, where the bird was flying. One flash was in line with where the birds fly over, while the other was slightly around towards me so giving a bit of light onto the side of the face towards the camera. This gave sufficient light onto the face to freeze the detail (especially as the face is lighter than the body) but didn’t cast enough light onto the rest of the bird to freeze more detail so creating motion. Here is a sketch to indicate what I did.

Lighting

Different Flash Curtains

There are two curtains in a flash exposure. The first curtain reveals the sensor to the light coming through the lens and then the second that closes the sensor to light, completing the exposure. This is important to understand as it can greatly affect how you use flash.

First curtain flash

Where the flash is triggered as the first curtain opens. This is the most common set up, where your main priority is the flash. The go-to set up unless you’re using slightly slow shutter speeds with subjects or moving lights. It captures the exact action that you press the shutter to capture, if you use second curtain/slow sync then you could miss the split-second moment you were hoping to catch.

1st curtain is great for portraits.
1st curtain is great for portraits.

Second Curtain Flash

As the second curtain is about to come up and finish the exposure the flash fires making it effectively the last light to hit the sensor. This method does send off a flash initially to get a meter reading if used in aperture priority mode (no meter flash in manual mode). I generally avoid this method as it can give weird results (see video).

Look at the weird double freezes, by the metering flash and 2nd sync flash.
Look at the weird double freezes, by the metering flash and 2nd sync flash.

Slow Flash Sync     

Slow sync is only available in aperture priority/auto-shutter speed modes, generally it is the same as second curtain flash but without the disruptive initial metering flash (note that it can only go down to 1/8sec). This is my favorite option for any kind of action photography and is the method I used for the panning images. The reason why this works best is it lets the ambient light reach the sensor first; correctly exposing the background and THEN the flash is triggered reaching and freezing the subject. This is preferential for panning/slow shutter speeds because it prevents ghosting – where the subject is flashed and but there is time afterwards for some light to reach the subject and any subject movement creates a bit of a psychedelic feel!

Slow Sync
Slow flash sync is my favourite option.

Conclusion

There concludes a rough/quick break down of different flash curtain types for the X-Series. To summarise there are a number of ways you can use flash to help your action photography:

  • Fill flash either up to 1/180sec or higher if using a HSS flash.
  • Causing a correctly exposed subject with a darkened/underexposed background.
  • Freezing a subject
  • Capturing motion with a bit of detail while panning with a moving subject.
  • Blending ambient light with directional flash light.

I hope that gives you a little bit of inspiration to get out there and try your hand at creative flash photography.

If you’d like to find out more about the Wild Macaw Association project or even donate to keep the project running then please check it out here – http://www.tiskita.com/macaw-conservation/


A little about Ben

Ben is an environmental photojournalist, zoologist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. His passion is showing the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Find more of his work at:

POP BOOK – the cutest photobook ever?

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My fellow Fuji Guy Dale recently got married. I went to the wedding and took my trusty “pocket-rocket” X30 and took some shots from the pews where I was sat. I was hardly shooting the wedding, but it still made for a fairly interesting series of shots as the story of the traditional British Christian wedding ceremony unfolded in front of me.

Like most of the images I take for personal use, they ended up in a gallery on my Facebook wall for friends to see. But I wanted to do something a little bit more. This is where Pop Book came in…

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Now I know this sounds like your usual sales pitch but it really isn’t. I heard about Pop Books from my colleagues in our printing team. For the small fee of £4.99, I was able to take 21 of my favourite images and compile them into this little cute photobook to give to Dale and his new wife as a little gift and token of my gratitude for being invited to share their day.

How does it work?

I’m pretty sure that Pop Books are mostly aimed at smartphone photographers (nothing wrong with that!) because you can only create a Pop Book by using an App for Android or Apple devices.

Once you’ve installed the App you get started by tapping “Create your POP BOOK”. You then need to choose where to get your images from. You can either browse your device, or choose either Facebook or Instagram.

I chose Facebook, logged in as me, and then selected the images from my Facebook gallery. Once you have selected 21 images you can click “Create your POP BOOK” button again and this takes you to the final stage.

You can now double tap on any picture to Edit it. You can Crop, add an instagram-style filter and add text. You can also select either a white border of black border for each of your images

Finally you can change the order that the images will appear in.

And that’s it. Just create an account and go through the basket process, and “between 10-14 days” your Pop Book should be with you. In my case it was actually 4 days.

You even get a pretty cool viewer that allows you to see the book how it will appear. You can see my book for Dale here.

And here’s the final result

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…and with a shiny English pound for scale:

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Tips

If you know you’re shooting for a Pop Book, set your camera to 1 : 1 ratio to help compose your shots and save any post process cropping.

You need exactly 21 images to make a Pop Book. No more. No less. Make sure you have your 21 images ready to go before you start the process as it makes it smoother. In my case, it turned out that I didn’t actually take 21 different images that I was happy with so I had to get creative with the crops to make a few very similar shots have very different final looks. It really helps to go into this thing knowing you need 21 images to start with!

Learn more about POP BOOK

Click here to visit the official POP BOOK website