Shooting amazing nightlife with New York-based social photographer Jay “Electroblum”

pic30333by Jay Blum

Photographic style and foundation

pic19895My style of photography is social and intimately in your face. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t feel close enough with my 18mm f2 lens. My goal is to capture your alter ego raging or to strip you of it to show a contrast between you and the environment. Depending on the parties, I aim to capture shots that one may never want to show their parents. I have heard a comment that my work is a cross between the board game candy land and blade runner. I love neo-noir and post apocalyptic films and I am a drop out toy designer so maybe that explains? Other inspiration draws from the 90’s X-Men cards by Fleer company, the color on those illustrations just popped.

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My weapons of mass (“Oh god, can you please take down that pic! I don’t want my boss seeing that”} destruction!

I use Fujifilm X series cameras for all my EDM adventures. I shoot manual and control my flashes manually as well. I started out with a Fuji X10 because I loved the manual look and feel of the camera.
I soon followed with an X-E1 and recently to an X-T1. The X-E1 really gave me the results I was looking for and though the focusing was not as quick as it’s successor it still gave me satisfying results.

I currently use a X-T1 and the results are just art. This camera really gave me the courage to shoot on an ISO higher than 400. There are photos I do not have to adjust color or clarity. This camera is so on point that it locks on to the subject quickly and the results of the shots are crisp and clear.

On average my settings on the X-T1 are currently ISO 640, F5.6 at 1/4 on Velvia film simulation mode. My two flashes are set to 1/4 @ 23mm as my main light and my fill light set to 1/8 at 23mm (I set my second flash to 1/8 so the light fills the bottom of the portrait but not as bright as the main light on the subject). I always direct the main light on the upper body as one might usually do when shooting a portrait with an external flash. If the subject has an amazing outfit I set both my main light and fill light to f1/4. Mind you, these settings work for me in a dark venue that has disco lights and it also depends on how great the venue’s light is.

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I use an assortment of light diffusers and pieces from old video rigs I have acquired over the years. However, nothing beats having an assistant to help you out with positioning lights.

I use X-T1’s new WIFI connection and use it with the Fuji apps along with an app called shutter snitch. I use these apps to beam a photo to my iPhone in which I can upload to instagram immediately. An event photographer is like a journalist and a club promoter. You can upload a photo to social media with a hashtag and convince people to say “This looks wild and crazy, we’re going there for the night.”

As mentioned earlier I shoot with an 18mm f2 lens and it’s really made me a better photographer than any 50mm on a crop sensor. The lens has made me get up close and personal with my subjects because there is not much room to move around with in a packed club or concert.I had a 35mm f1.4 but that was stolen off my belt one night during a DJ set. I used it only a few times for those moments where I had space to focus on a portrait. I am currently taking in donations for a 56mm 1.2 lens so I can achieve some “bokehlicious” photos and take my work to new places!

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Shooting night life and what I’ve learned “so far”.

Night life is so fast paced, the emotions and energy people bring out with them are intense. What is not intense is their attention span.

Situations escalate and fade out quickly so pay attention because you may miss out on interesting photos.

You have at most 15 seconds to compliment your subject, tell them what you like about them, and be their friend. The faster you can relate with your subject and construct a relationship the better your love life might be (Just kidding, I mean your photos).

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Also, get lost on tumblr, pinterest, soundcloud and see what is inspiring people to express themselves. This will also inspire you and your work.

Use a prime lens. You aren’t shooting wild life. Night life is a social activity, get in there and meet people.

Want to take a photo of a hot girl with a boyfriend who doesn’t seem too excited to be out? No problem! Respectfully make your intent clear that you would like a portrait of the lady followed by a photo with her boyfriend. This will almost work 99% of the time and smooth out any uncertain feelings.

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Have a side pouch to store extra batteries, gum, mints, and SD cards.

Smile and look relaxed. If you’re nervous and timid this will reflect on your subjects and onto your photos like a mirror. Keep positive and remember that your goal is to get great shots of the night.

If you don’t want to take someone’s photo just tell them you’re out of film and walk away like you really got to reload film.

That’s all for now!
happy shooting and partying X-Toggies! <3

ElectroBlum

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The joy of creating star trails

I have longed to try my hand at star trails for many years, and for one reason or another there would always be an excuse as to why I didn’t try it. Finally, all the factors came together to allow me to give it a proper go. With star trail photography you 100% have to know what you’re doing, I say this because if you’re ‘experimenting’ and don’t fully understand the factors involved then more than likely you will waste many hours getting cold in the dark and come back with nothing!

There are numerous tutorials out there which are comprehensive and will help you understand the fundamentals. One article I would definitely recommend is by Floris Van Breugel.

This blog is going to breeze over the general set up and workflow of putting together star trails. Just to make it clear I am not an expert astrophotographer but if you want to create an image similar to the one above then this might be helpful. So lets get started!

Preparation

As I mentioned before, preparation is key to getting really rewarding results. I really recommend you read the article above and also do some things which can really make your life easier – such as the brilliant Star Chart app for your smart phone or tablet. This app gives you a map of the starts, which is particularly helpful if you know nothing about the stars (like me) and want to find polaris, the north star (if you’re in the northern hemisphere). The reason why you want to find polaris is that it is the centre point for the stars rotation, so effectively the stars are rotating around it.

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Camera (obviously), preferably one that is compatible with a remote which has an intervalometer built in, or use a camera like the X-T1 which has one built in. An intervalometer is a device that can control your camera to take pictures at set intervals for a set number of photos and sometimes for a set duration. This is VERY helpful as it means that you can set up your shot and leave your camera to take all the photos for the duration of the shoot without any further input from yourself. From there you’ll usually want to use a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the sky as possible. Finally you need a sturdy platform to leave your camera, more often than not a good tripod (however I have managed to produce some shots using a gorilla pod too!).

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The composition I chose. Note that taking long exposures after sunset using Velvia can produce some incredible colours!

Shooting

Hopefully you have found a suitable location, ideally with little light pollution, on a relatively clear night (with a good forecast). Foreground is what makes a star trail photo different from all the other star trails, so really think about you composition and how you want the star rotation to affect your photo, whether you want to have polaris in the picture to have a centre point for the stars to move around, or whether you want to shoot away from polaris to exaggerate the star movements.

This wants to be done all before sunset happens. Choose your location, frame your image and then don’t change it, leave it on the tripod! Over the next hour or so take a selection of sunset photos, preferably with F8/11 to give you a large depth of field, which you won’t be able to shoot later. If you really want to cover all the bases then you can do some bracketing to make sure you have every part of your composition correctly exposed.

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This is a 5 minute exposure I did to make sure I was happy with my composition. You can start to see the movement of the stars, particularly those furthest from polaris (just above the horizon a third of the way in from the left).

As the stars start to come out you can then set up your camera for star photography. I used an X-T1 and a XF10-24mm F4 OIS for the top photo. I set it up to shoot a series of 30 second exposures at F4, ISO1600. 30 seconds is the longest that you can run with the built in intervalometer, ideally you would shoot longer exposures so you didn’t have so many photos to merge later, but this is often the easiest way.

A screen grab showing the first star-focused image. the sky still has colour but the stars are clear.
A screen grab showing the first star-focused image. the sky still has colour but the stars are clear.

A few hours later and I stopped the camera and downloaded the shots.

Post production

This is where it gets quite interesting and fun, now that you have the shots you can experiment to see what works best for you. I downloaded all the images into Lightroom and selected all of the star-focused images and ran a preset on them which boosted the highlights to make the stars brighter. This helps to make the star trails that much brighter. Don’t worry about the rest of the content in the star images as this will be replaced by the earlier landscape image. Once the images were all ready to be blended together, I exported them as high resolution jpegs.

I then opened Photoshop and used a script made by Floris Van Breugel which you can find here. Go to File -> Scripts -> browse -> select the script (I used the flat version instead of the layered version as my computer couldn’t cope with the layered version!), then select the folder where you’ve exported the star images. These must be named in a sequence e.g. star image 1.. The script effectively blends the images together taking the brightest part of all of the images and bringing it forward. What you will end up with is something like this.

The complete star trail before editing to remove the ambient lights.
The complete star trail before editing to remove the ambient lights.
The mask layer button is the third on the bottom.
The mask layer button is the third on the bottom.

Notice that there is some ambient light, the lights on the water are from fishing boats and the green glow is from a few houses on the other side of the headland. To remove these lights I opened up the original landscape photo shown earlier on. I copied the original file (background) and placed it above the inserted landscape photo. Using a mask layer I then removed the lights using the brush tool which acts like a non-destructive eraser making the landscape photo come out above the background copy (I really hope this makes sense!). You can adjust how effective this is by adjusting the opacity of the brush, this is helpful when removing light pollution in the sky.

Opening up the files in Photoshop.
Opening up the files in Photoshop. With a bit of work you can produce a pretty rewarding image.

I hope that made sense and that you’ll go out and try your hand at star trail photography. If you manage any star trails then share them with us.

You can keep up to date with my latest work via the following links: Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Website.

X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Dave Kai-Piper

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography? How did you develop your style in photography?

Image of Dave kai PiperIt was one of those kind of things where Photography almost found me. I have been taking photographs for a long time for many reasons, as we all have I guess. Over time I started to make that move from taking photographs of the world around me to creating photographs in the way I see the world, from there it was the slight shift into making images for commercial usage. It does still amaze me today that I get paid for creating images.

The style I am shooting today is quite new; the Fashion Noir theme that my website carries combined with undertones from a deep love for cinema and photographers like Helmut Newton and Ellen Von Unworth. To me, provocative imagery is quite interesting and challenging to shoot. Getting that fine balance of mental stimulation and nudity that, for me, creates amazing eroticism. Nudity and explicit nudity are not linked with the power of an image in this way, or not for me anyway. Photographers like Guy Bourdin have been amazing at blending these lines over the years. Guido Argentini is another photographer that, looking back, I seemed to have been influenced by.

The question of how did I develop my style is an interesting one. I am not sure that until very recently I had one, or if I did it was something that I was working on. Today I do though, and this is more out of a commercial need to work into a specific area. I have a great fondness for all type of photography still; from landscape to beauty to bright comic filled images. I would love to shoot street stuff like Matt Hart, or weddings like Kevin. I adore the images that the Yerburys create and would love to have a play creating the soft and sensual styles that they create. Currently I am actively trying to work on a style I am not seeing people creating at the moment. The big push started after a conversation with Mirko De Nicolo of Train to Create. We were talking on Skype; Mirko knows his stuff and was able to convince me it is time to really start to define my style. It is early days, but, I have never had so much fun or felt so much creative freedom. I feel like I am working in the right direction more than before. So, I guess the short answer is Mirko told me to do it!

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

It does still amaze me today that I get paid for creating images. The reason I like to use Fuji cameras is quite a complex one. Last year I was asked to provide an image for the 80th anniversary book Fuji had made. This is what I wrote :

“Some photographers spend their days waiting, some spend their lives waiting. Some spend their hours crafting and creating, some document from distance and there are those who record, who impose and intrude. For some it is a release, an adventure of sorts. There are those who practice in private and some who flaunt exuberance and flair in such lavish styles. There are those to whom photography is a commercially driven need. Photography can create celebrity or convey the downfalls of empires. They say the art of genius is to make the complex simple. So, it might not be so easy to explain why I simply love the X-Pro. For me, in a camera, I look for a companion along a journey. If my X-Pro could talk, I only wonder of the stories it would tell…”

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The Fuji X-System makes so much sense to me on so many levels. The size, weight and nature of the camera are all amazing, and the images the system makes are incredible too. Whenever I get asked this question I always think, why would I not use this system?  The only time I need to use the D800 is when clients dictate a final size output, and I know they will want to crop heavily, but this is rare with the on-set of digital usage over print.  It really is hard to say why someone would not be happy working with this system.

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

Maybe, I like to test things; I like to think I am not worried about making a mistake. Trust me … I have made many of them along the way for sure. I am not sure if learning in public with the internet is a good thing though. I mean, you can Google me and see work from 2009 and work I have just made today and it is super hard to control that. At the moment the main philosophy I have is that people are going to judge me on the worst image they see, or the worst thing they can find. People judge me just as much as they judge my work. This is nothing new though, but juggling this with having to be a perfect human being is kind of new. Getting the balance between photographer and social media guru has never been more interesting. Social media is the root of all evil, but at the same time the closest thing we have to a magic bullet to getting along in this line of work.

In a photographic and technical sense, I have no over riding thing, aside from: only set out to make the best thing you can, and slow down and think for a moment. Engage your mind and think about what you are doing, what you are saying, and why. Cameras don’t make images, people make images.

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Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

Guido Argentini, Helmut Newton and Ellen Von Unworth in a photographic sense. People like Thomas Woland and Robert Voltare in other ways, including photographic. Photographers like Lara Jade, Rebecca Litchfield, Ben Von Wong, Joey L, Kirsty Mitchell and all the amazing talent we have coming though at the moment. I feel very blessed to have such amazing people around me. It seems every day that someone new pops up that pushes the bar one more level.

As I mentioned before, I am a big fan of film and cinema. I would say people like Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino have had just as much of a stylistic influence over the years. Maybe it shows in the smallest ways or in more obtrusive ways at different times.

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Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?

I am big, big fan of filters, especially the Lee Filter system. There was a blog post I wrote a while ago about the way I use ND Grad Filters for portraits:

http://ideasandimages.co.uk/lee-filters/

The image below was created using the X-T1, 16-55mm with a single speed light. Most of the shaping of the light was done using the Lee Filter system. For me, it gives me a quick way to create the light I want when I don’t have the time to set up the lighting I need or I use it to speed up my retouching process by using the hard filters instead of the digital grad filters in Photoshop or Lightroom.

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Shooting in Classic Chrome with my new quad filter system and Matte Box gets me pretty close to what I want, leaving me with only a few tweaks to be made in Photoshop.

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What’s next for you?

This month? We are doing some fun things up in North Wales with the Fujiholics. I am doing a set of fun workshops looking at creating my style of erotica and fashion.

http://ideasandimages.co.uk/cambrian-photography-photo-and-optic-show-2015/

We also have a few travel plans coming up to Tel Aviv and New York, and as always my Fuji cameras will be coming everywhere with us!

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Contact info

website
instagram
twitter

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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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X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Matthew Maddock

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography? How did you develop your style in photography?

I’ve been interested in photography since I was young. I always had a fascination with images and imagery and would love to be able to draw, but I just couldn’t do it so photography became my outlet for getting images onto the page. Developing a style is something I’ve written about in the past and I think it is a trap I think a lot of people fall into, myself included, whereby we try hard to develop a particular style that we think will make us stand out. The problem is that whilst you’re trying to develop that style you end up jumping from one thing to the other with no real direction. I’ve found that by just doing what I like my own natural preference for shooting comes out in the end, which then organically becomes your “style”.

I sometimes like to use the lighting equipment as an element in a shot, even deliberately put it into the shot and work with it. I’ve had a number of criticisms for it online, but it’s what I like to do and eventually has become a part of my style. I don’t really care what others think if I like the image myself.

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

Initially I was looking for a complement to my Nikon dSLR that I could carry around every day, mainly for pictures of family when the Nikon would just get in the way.  I went through series of mirrorless cameras until I picked up the X100, which instantly had me hooked.  I purchased the X-Pro1 as soon as it came out, it came with me on jobs, and I soon realised that I wasn’t using my dSLR any more and sold all my dSLR gear.  Since then I find using mirrorless, and the Fujifilm X-Series in particular, a much more natural way to shoot.  It made me slow down and think before I took an image, it means I shoot far fewer frames, but keep many more of them.  I actually find it quite an awkward experience going back to shooting with a dSLR if I ever pick one up these days.  Live preview, and in particular an instant image preview without having to take your eye from the viewfinder makes for a much smoother shooting experience.

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

Shoot what you enjoy. For me photography is a passion, if I was forced to shoot things I didn’t like just to earn money I would no longer want to do it. I’d rather be a part-time photographer and enjoy what I did than be full-time and moan about it. If I ever became a full-time photographer I’d have to specialise in a field that I wanted to shoot in and work hard until I was well known enough to only shoot those types of images.

Photography for me is a never ending journey of improvement, if you’re not improving then you’ll get left behind. I see shots I took even just a year ago and find them difficult to look at as I find so many elements in them that I know I could have done better if I shot them now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because if I ever get to the point that I’m comfortable then I’m pretty sure I would soon get bored.

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Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

The people who inspire me have changed over the years, and it very much depends on what type of thing I’m doing, there are far too many to mention. My real passion is environmental portraiture, initially that was in a reportage style, but I tend to prefer to set things up now and shoot with portable studio flash or speedlights. My current inspiration comes from a variety of photographers who really understand and know how to control light, Tim Wallace, Damien Lovegrove and others, but there are many amazing images shot by amateurs. You only have to look through Flickr or 500px to see images that in many cases are better than a great number of full-time professionals.

Although it can be hard, I try not to simply copy what others are doing, but use their work as inspiration for my own.

Never underestimate the strength that a good model can bring to a shoot. The model is so often forgotten in favour of the photographer, but a good model can bring at least as much to the image as a photographer, especially if you are inexperienced at shooting people. I often bounce ideas off a model before a shoot and it can very much become a collaborative work.

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Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?

I’m a strong believer in educating yourself. I spend a lot of time looking at images, reading and learning about photography. Workshops, reading and watching videos online have proven to be the most useful things I’ve done. Before you go out and buy something that you think will help you improve, learn to use what you have and then you will understand better why you need that new camera or lens rather than buying it thinking it will improve your photography. I’m good with the technical, but struggle with the artistic side of things. Zack Arias told me a couple of years ago to set myself small projects and run with that for a while, shooting only lines, circles, or only things that a red, then only red lines, etc. It does help.

Take as little with you as possible when you do shoot. For personal projects I rarely take more than one camera and one lens with me. Not only will you be thankful by the end of the day that you didn’t carry around a bag full of gear, but you will have spent more time taking photographs because you’re not concerned with which camera or lens combination to choose as you have no choice! That lack of choice also forces you to sometimes think outside of the box and get a more interesting shot than you otherwise would not have taken. The landscape below was shot with a 75mm equivalent lens. Not a traditional Lake District landscape shot, but personally I feel it is more interesting.

Finally, you don’t need to show off every image you take. When starting out and you don’t have a lot to show off it is tempting, and I used to post up a huge gallery of images from a shoot just to get stuff out there, you’ll regret that later! These days I may only even put one single image from a shoot into my portfolio.  It only takes one great image to capture the imagination of a client, a whole page will just confuse them.  Sometimes I may not even post up anything from a shoot at all, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something from doing it. If I’m making up a gallery from a shoot I try to limit it to the best 5-6 images.

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What’s next for you?

Not long ago I realised that many of the images in my portfolio were old and out of date, often without much cohesion. I’ve been working hard on personal projects aimed at refreshing my portfolio over the past year or so, deleting and weeding out the old and replacing them with new images. I’m getting there, but there are a few more ideas I have before it is at the point I’m aiming for, so I’ll be busy planning and shooting those. Planning a shoot is one of the most important aspects for me and I often use Pinterest boards to pull an idea together.

Once that is done it’s going to be about getting my updated portfolio of images out there and in front of people who can offer me more paid work. I’m also planning another series of workshops around the country based on using the Fujifilm X-Series cameras with off-camera flash for on-location shooting.

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X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Paul Sanders

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography?

paul sanders mugshotI got into photography while I was at school, I used to “borrow” my dad’s camera to play with while he was out. When I left school I went to college to study Fine Art and Photography, but didn’t really enjoy myself so I started working with another photographer shooting glamour calendars in Spain – the perfect job for a 19 year old!! Following some pretty fun living, I ran out of money and so got a job at a local newspaper. I fell in love with News Photography and filled with enthusiasm, set about getting to the top of my career. I was incredibly lucky and progressed quickly, working around the world covering news and sports with Reuters and The Times. In 2004, I was made picture editor of The Times newspaper looking after a team of 12 photographers, 25 desk staff, sorting through 20,000 images everyday and having total responsibility for the entire visual content of one of the world’s best known newspapers. It was great fun but incredibly stressful.

In 2011, I was diagnosed with Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia. And after hiding it for two years I had a bit of breakdown and took the decision to leave The Times to follow my heart. I started shooting landscapes to help with my recovery.

The whole process of landscape photography allows me to connect with myself and to the world around me, it basically calms me down. When I take pictures I tend to sit and watch the world around me, listening and feeling to what is happening as well as watching what the light is doing.

The majority of my work is long exposure photography, this style of work reflects my search for a calm mind, I don’t worry about the technicalities of photography as much as I used to, it’s all about the emotions the subject has created within me.

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

I chose Fuji after struggling with heavier 5×4 and DSLR cameras. I found that I spent more time lugging my kit around and it stopped me being spontaneous. Sometimes I got to a point where I just couldn’t be bothered to go out, and when you are recovering or battling with a mental illness like me it doesn’t take much to convince you to stay at home.

I initially used the X-Pro1 with just a 14mm as I was trying to simplify my working method, which really helped. I became really enthused about my photography again. But the real turning point for me was the arrival of the X-T1. When I first held the camera it was like going back in time to my Nikon FM2, the feel balance and handling are all very similar.

However the thing I really love about the X-T1 is that it doesn’t come between me and my photography, the bigger cameras got in the way, it was always about the camera and never the connection I wanted to have with my subject, now when I shoot I barely notice the camera at all, it is literally the invisible link between what I see in front of me and what I have in my head.

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

Yes, shoot for yourself, not for others. Photography is an investment of quality time with yourself, so enjoy it and never compromise your own vision.

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Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

I’m inspired by the work of Turner, Monet, Michael Kenna, Valda Bailey, Rothko, David Hockney but more importantly, I’m inspired by what I see everyday around me; the light over the sea near my home in Kent, rain, waves wind all of the elements make me thankful I’m alive and able to capture what I feel when I experience them.

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Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?

Be happy when you take picture, leave most of your kit at home, shoot with your least favourite lens. Don’t stand next to another photographer find your own spot if you can, but always always shoot your picture even if you are in a popular spot.

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What’s next for you?

I want to continue to work with people new to photography, especially those who suffer with mental illness who may want to use it as a means to aid recovery.

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Live tutorial: Portrait photography with Bert Stephani

X-Photographer Bert Stephani shares his own hints and tips to shooting Portrait photography in this live talk from ‘The Photography Show‘ UK.

Want more?..

For more of Bert’s work, please see the links below:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bertstephani?_rdr

Twitter: @bertstephani

Website: http://bertstephani.com

 

Live tutorial: Street photography with Matt Hart

X-Photographer Matt Hart shares his own hints and tips to shooting Street photography in this 30 minute talk from ‘The Photography Show‘ UK.

Want more?..

For more of Matt’s work, please see the links below:

Blog: https://matthewhartphotography.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matthewhartphotography

Twitter: @matt6t6

Website: www.lighttraveler.co.uk

 

Master the X-Series – Off-camera flash

Here you will learn how to shoot creative flash-lit portraits in four easy steps

All the shots taken in this tutorial were shot with a Fujifilm X-T1, 56mm APD lens and EF-42 flashgun. In normal use, when the EF-42 is mounted on the camera’s hotshoe there is communication between the two. As soon as the flashgun is separated from the camera, that link is severed. To get around this problem, you’ll need a remote trigger, of which a variety of third-party options is available. Triggers come in pairs and function wirelessly over many metres. The transmitter unit is fixed into the camera’s hotshoe while the receiver is connected to the flashgun. When you’re working with the flash off camera, you should use the manual (M) exposure mode so you have total control of the camera’s shutter speed. Correct flash operation is only possible at the camera’s flash synchronisation speed or slower. The Fujifilm X-T1 synchronises with flash at a shutter speed of 1/180sec or slower – the 1/180sec speed on the shutter speed is marked with an X on the shutter speed dial to indicate this. Use a shutter speed faster than this and the flash will be incorrectly exposed.

STEP 1

With this portrait, camera settings of 1/110sec at f/2.5 were needed to reveal the subject’s face using ambient (available) light only. Going to the other extreme we took a meter reading with the camera from the sky – this was 1/180sec at f/3.6 – and took another shot (below). This totally silhouetted our subject, but recorded the sky accurately. For a dramatic portrait we need to stick with this exposure and then add some flash to reveal the subject.

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Available light
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Exposure set for the sky

STEP 2

The flashgun can be held in position by an assistant, or placed on a tripod or lighting stand, then you’ll need to vary the position and power output to get the best result. To prove why taking the flash off camera is a good idea, we started by taking a straight flash shot with the EF-42 slipped into the camera’s hotshoe and the TTL setting. Our subject is correctly exposed, but the light is harsh, the background is too dark and the sky lacks depth and colour.

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Flash on-camera

STEP 3

With the flashgun attached to the wireless triggers, it has to be used manually with a power output to suit the flash-to-subject distance. With experience you’ll be able to estimate the required output, but initially you can shoot and review the result before fine-tuning the flash output. Keeping the same exposure for the sky from Step 1, we started at 1/16 output (main image) but the result was too weak. Changing the output to 1/2 power (inset) gives too much light, resulting in overexposure of our subject’s face.

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Flash too powerful

STEP 4

Adjusting the flash output again to 1/4 power produces the right result with our subject correctly lit, some detail in the background and colour and depth in the sky. Simple!

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