X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Chris Weston

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography?

chris westonWhen I was about 15 years old, I lived in Boston. Unfortunately, not the colourful, vibrant city in the United States but the quiet market town in Lincolnshire, England – historically linked to its American namesake but a place best known for its Dutch-like landscape and the agricultural prowess of its inhabitants. What I am trying to say is, I grew up in a part of England that required much of one’s imagination.

At school one day, I was asked to select my preferred employer for a 2-week work placement. The options weren’t good. Potato planting, bulb cleaning or strawberry picking were three of the more attractive options, as I recall. Seeing my inner turmoil, in a way only dads can, my father asked me what I wanted to do for a career. Without hesitation I replied, “I want to be a photojournalist”.

From where that statement came, I have no idea. Not a clue. I mean, I remember wanting to be (at various stages and in no particular order) a fireman, a policeman, a jet pilot, a train driver, a ski jumper and, of all things, an accountant … but a photojournalist? That was a new one. Even so, at my father’s behest and with the blessing of a somewhat perplexed headmaster, I began my first ever assignment.

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How did you develop your style in photography?

While I was on an assignment, about a year after I turned professional, I had a light bulb moment. I was in Tanzania photographing the annual wildebeest migration, as it passed across the Grumeti River. It was a slow day and photographic opportunities were few and far between. I don’t know if you’ve ever paid a lot of attention to wildebeest but they’re not Africa’s most alluring creatures. African’s describe them as, “The animal God created out of the leftover parts of other animals”. Don’t get me wrong, I like wildebeest but they don’t do much. Their day consists of walking in a wide circle eating grass. And that’s about it. Two days into a three-week long project, I was struggling for ideas. How do you continually photograph what amounts to a large brown antelope grazing in a big brown field?

And then it struck me. I started to think about migration and what it really is. Migration is the movement of animals from point A to point B. Movement. Migration is movement and that not wildebeest was the real story. I started to make photographs that captured the story of the migration – wildebeest moving, individually, in a line, in large herds. Suddenly, my photography had purpose and it has been guided by the light from that bulb ever since. We’re not just photographers we’re storytellers. In place of a pen we have a camera but irrespective of the tool our aim is the same: to amuse, emote, inform, educate, and entertain. I believe that inside all of us is a story that is aching to be told, tales that make photography a unique and intensely personal experience.

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

For the past couple of years, I have been advocating that the next major shift in camera design will be the exit of the mirror. The mirror is perhaps the single most-limiting factor in an SLR camera, which is rather surprising given that it has been the mainstay of camera design for nearly 80 years.

First of all, the mirror causes cameras to be far bigger and heavier than necessary. Secondly, to accommodate the mirror, the lens needs to be pushed further forward, increasing the distance between the rear lens element and the sensor (or film) plane, which diminishes the quality of the light transmitted by the lens.

Thirdly, the mirror slapping up against the chamber introduces vibration that, when combined with relatively slow shutter speeds, softens edge detail, reducing image quality further. This is particularly true when using ultra-high resolution DSLR cameras. Finally, mirrors are noisy. The constant slap-slap-slap cuts through the silence of dawn and dusk, echoing across open savannahs and bouncing off woodland trees, startling anxious wildlife into panic.

So, when Fuji announced the launch of the X-T1 mirror-less camera, I was intrigued enough to contact Fujifilm UK. My main question to Fuji was: Is the X-T1 up to the rigors of professional wildlife photography? They answered my question with a question: loaning me an X-T1 body and a couple of lenses they said, “You tell us!” I’ve been using the X-T1 ever since and my investment in Fujifilm products continues to grow.

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

For me, a photograph begins with a caption. That may sound a little back-to-front but if you think about it, really it isn’t. For example, imagine trying to build a house with no architectural drawings. Where would you start? How would you even know what materials you needed? Nobody would approach house building this way, yet the idea that fully formed, well-composed photographs just happen seems to be accepted as the exception to the rule. It’s not. Photographs are designed and crafting an image begins with having something interesting you want to say.

Knowing what to say comes from knowing your subject. The better you know your subject, the more stories you have to tell. I became a wildlife photographer because I’m fascinated by the natural world. How it works, how it fits together and how everything is connected. I often find myself intrigued by inane questions like,  “Why are zebras black-and-white striped when they live in a yellow savannah?”

It’s by asking questions and finding answers that I’m able to hit upon new ideas for images, find ways of making interesting photographs of ordinary subjects or different ways to photograph the same subject over and over. It’s how I learn about the natural world and develop a better understanding of wildlife and nature and, to some extent, my part in it all. And knowing yourself, how you feel about things and how things move you is as important a part of the process as the technical aspects of photography.

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Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

Perhaps intriguingly, I’m more inspired by people and events outside of photography. In photographic circles, I admire the work of Michael Nichols, particularly, and, in the very early days, I learned a lot of the basics from Art Wolfe. However, today, science (especially quantum mechanics) and extraordinary people and thinkers, such as astronaut Chris Hadfield, author Yuval Noah Harari and physicist Brian Cox inspire me.

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

There are so many thoughts, ideas and techniques that have led me to where I am that it’s hard to narrow them down to a few. So, instead, how about I offer Fujifilm readers a completely free e-book titled Nature Photography: Insider Secrets. To get a free copy simply click on this link: Top Wildlife Tips

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What’s next for you?

I’m on an amazing personal journey of discovery, looking at how creativity through photography can inspire how we live, as individuals and within communities and society as a whole. It’s a story that I want to share with the world and I’m currently talking to Fujifilm about how we can make that happen. Watch this space!

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Contact info

Website
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Tutorial: Shooting landscapes

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w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerIn this tutorial I wanted to give you some of my favourite tips to get you started with landscape photography from the more obvious tips to some of the lesser known ones. I have not listed them in order of importance as I believe this is subjective, more so the order in which they came to mind.

Remember, you don’t have to apply any or all of these ideas to take a great landscape picture, but it may just help you on your way.

Shoot Raw

Although Fujifilm JPEGs are renowned for their quality, when shooting landscapes I strongly recommend that you shoot RAW. This is because more image ‘information’ is retained in the image than from a JPEG and this will allow more flexibility when correcting exposure, enhancing colours and boosting tones. RAW files can be processed & converted with the camera specific bundled software or you can use popular programs like Adobe Lightroom, Capture One etc.

Essential accessories you may have overlooked

When you’re going to be standing in the dark on a misty morning up to your kneecaps in mud there is nothing worse than not having the right gear to keep you warm and comfortable; after all, you may be out for a few hours in these conditions. Here are some accessories that you might have overlooked taking with you:

  • Wellies – May be obvious for wearing in marshland environments but also extremely helpful on the beach (where you might normally associate wearing sandals)
  • Headtorch – When going out to shoot a sunrise, finding the perfect location can be really hard if you cannot see where you are going. Make sure that it is a headtorch rather than standard torch to keep your hands free for more important things.
  • Strong windproof umbrella – When shooting long exposures it is vital to keep the camera as still as possible. A tripod is a must-have accessory but I’d also recommend using an umbrella to keep strong winds from hitting the tripod & camera during these long exposures. As an obvious bonus it will also keep you dry, which is particularly important if you need to switch lens.
  • Waterproof jacket with zip-lock pockets – Not just to keep you dry, but more importantly to keep useful camera accessories close to hand. Things like spare batteries, remote release cable, cleaning cloth etc. Whether dawn or dusk, when the sun rises or sets it happens very quickly and this is exactly when you want all accessories within easy reach.

A further tip is to keep as much gear in your car boot at all times. That way in your daily travels if you see a beautiful landscape, you can just jump out whatever the weather, walk cross-country across muddy terrain and have a much more enjoyable experience.

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Think about composition even when you don’t have a camera with you!

Training your eye to ‘see‘ the best possible shot is probably the most important skill you could hone. The key point here is to imagine the frame of your camera whenever you see something beautiful. Think about all aspects of the shot; where would you stand to take the picture? Where would you position the tree/boat/sun in the frame? What lens would you choose and why? What aperture might you select to impact on the depth of field?

The more you ask yourself these questions, the quicker you answer them too. This means when you actually go to take a picture, you might just get it perfect first time round.

You should also check out my rule of thirds tutorial.

Try different perspectives

When you find a nice landscape location, try every conceivable angle you can think of until you get ‘that shot’ that brings a huge smile to your face. If that means getting down on your hands and knees, let it happen. After all, the picture you take could end up being your favourite of the day, month or even the year. And don’t be afraid to try an angle, look back at the image and think ‘That was no good’ because it is all about learning what works and what doesn’t.

Remember, the more you experiment, the more ‘mistakes‘ you make, the quicker you will find your own style and know what works for you. Here’s a shot I took that ruined my jeans and shoes, but to me, it was worth it!

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Use ND grad filters

You may have heard the term ‘ND grad filter’ or ‘Graduated neutral density filter’ but not necessarily known what it means. Think of an ND grad filter as a pair of gradient sunglasses (the ones that go from dark to transparent) for your camera lens. Its job is to stop a specific amount of light from reaching the sensor of your camera – but why would you want to do this?

Well, when you look at a sunset with the human eye, you can see all the detail in the lights of the sky and shadows of land without any problem. Unfortunately, even the best cameras cannot do this as well as the human eye can. Therefore to try and get the best reproduction of what the eye can see the camera is going to need a little help.

This is where the ND grad filter comes in. By choosing the right strength ND grad filter and positioning it correctly in the frame, you can perfectly balance the exposure above and below the horizon to give a stunning image that is colourful, full of tonal detail and a much truer representation as to how you saw it with your own eyes.

Your next question may be which ones should I buy? Or how exactly do I use them? My recommendation is to read forums, ask other photographers and watch videos on YouTube to get a good understanding of the best practices to ensure great results.

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Check the weather

Even within small regions the weather can vary quite a bit. You may find that location A is raining in the morning but location B is not. Use this information to your advantage, amend your itinerary to get the very best out of your day. There are lots of free weather apps for smartphones out there so have a look around to find one that suits you best.

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Prepare an itinerary

When you go away on a specific landscape photography trip, take the time to plot out the locations you want to visit, what times you want to visit them and how long you will spend at each location. Although this sounds very regimented it will help to keep your trip on track. Of course, if you find one of the locations particularly beautiful stay there longer, enjoy the experience. Simply think of the itinerary as a check list or a guide to get the most out of your trip as possible.

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Find the sweet spot for your lens

Getting the best out of your lens is important, especially in landscape images. Now if you are looking to get as much in focus as possible in your photo, simply set your lens to the smallest aperture available (which is the largest number) for example: f/16 or f/22. But if you are looking for the sweet spot of your lens (where it performs best in terms of clarity and sharpness), this is usually around 2-3 stops from the maximum aperture of the lens (which is the smallest number) for example: if you are using the XF14mmF2.8 lens then you expect to see the sweet spot at around f/8 as this is 3 stops from f/2.8.

Here are some other examples:

Lens Maximum Aperture +1 stop +2 stops +3 stops
XF14mm f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8
XF10-24mm f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11
XF18-55mm f/2.8* f/4* f/5.6* f/8*

* at 18mm

It doesn’t mean that you have to abide by this rule of thumb but it can help you find the best quality from your lens quickly. If you find some spare time, I would recommend setting the camera on a tripod, take the same picture on a few different apertures with the same lens and then look back at the results – find an aperture that gives you the perfect balance between depth of field, sharpness and image quality. Once you know what it is, use it as a starting point when out and about taking shots.

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Is there a ‘right’ hour to shoot landscapes?

One of the first tips to help capture better landscape images is to shoot at the ‘right‘ time of day. The golden hour is widely considered as the ‘best‘ time of day to take a landscape image. It is the hour in which the sun is rising or setting. This is due to a number of reasons but the main ones being the rich warm colours in the sky and the long trailing shadows that are created.

Don’t think that the only time you can take great pictures is at golden hour however, so many stunning images have been created at all times of day. Just think of it as a good starting point.

Extra tip: The time just before a sunrise or after a sunset is a great opportunity to take pictures too. This is known as the Blue Hour, it is called this because the indirect sunlight creates a blue hue in the sky and can help produce some of the most beautifully natural subdued tones.

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Example image of the blue hour

The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)

This is one of the most useful tools in a landscape photographer’s bag of tricks. It is a third party application map-centric sun/moon calculator that shows how the light falls on the land. This allows you to know precisely where the sun is going to rise/set in a specific location way ahead of actually being there. It can come in handy when creating your itinerary as you can plot out the suns movements across a virtual map. The application is available on desktop, iOS and Android devices so it can be taken on-the-go as well.

Find out more here.

Use the Histogram

When shooting any image it is very important to maximise the amount of detail captured from the lowlights to the highlights. This is especially the case with landscapes due to the difference in the exposure between the land and sky. You can use your eye to judge whether an image is overexposed or not when it is very obvious, but I strongly recommend you use the camera’s histogram to tell the full story. It will allow you to make much smarter decisions when deciding the best exposure for the shot.

You may or may not know that when the highlight details in a scene are overexposed and burned out they are impossible to recover and get back regardless of how good you might be in post-editing. This could mean white blobs in the sky instead of detailed clouds or white mass areas in the sea instead of crashing waves etc.

So how do you avoid it? Well, shoot RAW (to maximise post production flexibility) and then look at your histogram. You want to aim to get the bulk of the histogram information to sit on the right hand side of the scale – this is known as exposing to the right. The most important part of this technique to ensure that the trace of the histogram does not peak right at the end of the right hand side as this would mean the highlights have been lost / burned out. An easy way to adjust this can be to use the Exposure Compensation dial / button found on the camera and decrease the exposure in 1/3EV at a time and then recheck the histogram until it looks perfect.

Don’t panic

Making mistakes is a natural part of learning any skilled craft. Accept that you are going to make mistakes along the way. You may take blurred shots, blow the highlights to kingdom come and delete your favourite image from the memory card by accident, but in the end, with practice, you will be a creative machine that can make beautiful images wherever you are, whatever time of day and with any camera & lens combination. Enjoy the journey and don’t panic, it will happen.

As with any tutorial there is always more that could be said, more tips that could be shared but the idea here is to give you a good starting point which you can grow from. Ask questions with other photographers, search tutorials online, share your images and ask for constructive criticism, look at work from inspirational landscape photographers and most importantly, enjoy photography.

Happy snapping!

 

Tutorial: Understanding Depth of Field

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerWhat is “Depth of field”?

Simply put, Depth of Field refers to the area in front of your camera that is in focus.

If your camera is set to focus one metre from the lens, Depth of Field refers to the area in front of, and behind one metre from the camera where subjects are still sharp enough to be considered in focus.

Along with Exposure and Composition, Depth of Field is one of the most important aspects of photography.

How do you control it?

Less is more

The main way to affect the Depth of Field is by adjusting the value of the Aperture

The bigger you set the aperture size (smaller number), the smaller your depth of field will be. The smaller you set the aperture size (bigger number), the bigger the depth of field will be. I know that sounds confusing but hopefully this diagram will help to explain it.

The yellow area shows the area in front of and behind the focal plane (the point when the camera is focused) that is in focus. It’s just a guide with no actual scale.

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The Depth of Field is actually also affected by the focal length of the lens, and also the distance of the subject from the camera (which is why there is more in-focus area behind the subject than in front of it), however for the benefit of just getting you started, in this post I’ll only talk about the aperture value.

Aperture Priority mode

X30 (top) and X100S (bottom) set to Aperture Priority mode
X30 (top) and my well-lived X100S (bottom) set to Aperture Priority mode

The best way to get started with adjusting the Aperture value is to set your camera to Aperture Priority mode. In this mode, you can control the Aperture value and the camera will still adjust the shutter speed and ISO value in order to correctly expose the image.

If you have a camera with a “M / A / S / P” dial on the top, switch it to “A” (for Aperture). If your camera doesn’t have this dial, just change the value on the Aperture ring to anything other than “A” (which in this case stands for Automatic) and set your shutter dial to “A” (Automatic). Your camera is now in Aperture Priority.

How does it affect my images?

Less is more

Using the largest aperture possible (smallest number) allows you to isolate your subject within a shallow depth of field and effectively make the foreground and background far less prominent. These example pictures were shot at f/1.4 using an X-T1 with XF35mm lens. They show foreground and background areas out of focus, allowing you, the viewer, to focus on the subjects.

More is more

Using a smaller aperture (larger number) increases the depth of field and allows you to include more, or all of your image, clear and in focus.

In this image, I wanted to get the tree in the foreground in focus, but still include the background as a prominent part of my image. Using a very wide lens with the Aperture set to f/8.0 allowed me to take this.

Aperture Priority at a glance

1. Activate Aperture-Priority
2. Generally shoot “wide open” – the lowest value Aperture your lens can shoot at. This means that your images will all draw the viewer into the part that you want them to look at – the part in focus.
3. “Stop down” your aperture (increase the value number) to get more of the shot in focus – great for group shots or landscapes / cityscapes

Conclusion

The amount of light captured in a shot is governed by three aspects – Shutter Speed, ISO value and Aperture value. You generally want as fast a shutter speed as possible (unless you are trying to capture motion within your image). You always want the ISO to be as low as possible to maximise the image quality and reduce noise.

However, there is no “you always” rule for Aperture as it is the one thing that affects your final image more than the others. Your decision to include all, or just a certain part of the image within the in-focus area is where you add your own creative touch to your image and direct the viewer’s eyes to the part of the image you want them to look at.

Tutorial: Using Film Simulation modes

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerFujifilm knows film. The clue is in the name. And they’ve spent a lot of time and effort bringing classic film traits to life in the current range of digital cameras.
Each Film Simulation mode* has unique properties to help you express your creativity without the need for time-consuming post-production. Varying degrees of Saturation and Tonality are composed with just the right balance to bring each Film Simulation mode to life.

Film Simulation ModesThe camera’s Electronic Viewfinder can show the effects of the selected Film Simulation mode before the shot is taken, and if you shoot RAW, the in-camera RAW processing function allows any of the Film Simulations to be applied post-capture, broadening your shooting options.

Which Film Simulation mode is best for your shot?

I cannot tell you this, but I can recommend certain Film Simulation types that lend themselves to particular photography subjects. However, just treat this like an initial guide and explore for yourself to find your own style.


Portraits

I would recommend Astia or Pro Neg. Std. Astia’s soft tones are perfect for capturing beautiful skin tones. Pro Neg Std. takes the look slightly further by also lowering the colour saturation.

Click on any of the images for a larger view.


Street photography

I recommend Classic Chrome or Monochrome. Photography is often called the “Art of omission”. Classic Chrome and Monochrome settings omit the element of colour in order emphasise the story you want to tell.


Landscapes / Seascapes / Cityscapes

I recommend Velvia. At the opposite end of the scale from Classic Chrome, Velvia uses colour as the main element. It adds more depth and the colours become more vibrant. There are certain emotions that only image colour can deliver and this is where Velvia comes in.


Image comparison

The images below were all created using the X-T1’s in-built RAW file converter and are all JPGs straight out of the camera.

Colour

Mono


Conclusion

All of the Film Simulation profiles have been developed (pun intended) by people with years of experience working with film to allow you to really alter the feel of the image without the need for lots of time-consuming post processing. Try it yourself and let us know how you get on in the comments below.

Bonus Tip!

If you’ve got a big enough memory card, set your camera to save “RAW+JPG” and then use the in-camera RAW File Converter to convert the same image into different Film Simulation modes after the shot has been taken.

* The number of Film Simulation modes available on your camera will vary.

Tutorial: Rule of thirds

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerOne of the most well known and widely used composition techniques is the ‘Rule of Thirds‘. Originally it was used as a guide to help landscape artists in the mid-19th century, but it was quickly discovered as a handy tool for photographers as well.

Why use the ‘Rule of Thirds’?

The idea behind the Rule of Thirds is to stop the photographer putting the subject in the centre of the frame. By doing this it allows the viewer more opportunity to explore the image as a whole rather than be fixed on the central point. For this rule to apply, you simply need to imagine that your frame is divided into nine equal sections with lines crossing the horizontal and vertical areas of the image. Or to make things easier still, go to the FRAMING GUIDELINE option found on your Fujifilm camera and turn the GRID 9 option on.

It is where these lines meet that is important, you should roughly aim to place your subject matter on or near these lines. In this particular example the tree has been placed directly on one of the third lines.

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Which side?

You may also question where to place the subject in the frame. The left third or the right third of the image?

The right third of the frame is generally considered a better, safer placement of the subject matter (although this is subjective) due to the way a viewer ‘reads’ an image. Just like with books where we read left to right, we approach viewing an image in a similar manner. This means that when a viewer spots the subject of interest, they may stop exploring the rest of the image. Here is the same image simply flipped horizontally to give an idea of this effect.

Knowing the way a viewer ‘reads’ an image it can help you make creative decisions; by placing the subject on the left hand side you can create deliberate tension within your image.

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Vertical AND horizontal

rule of thirds with guides 2You may also notice that not only the subject matter is placed on a third line but also the horizon line as well. The Rule of Thirds can be very handy at producing consistently good compositions, especially in landscape photography. Our recommendation is to place the horizon on one of the third lines – which one is up to you, but here’s a tip: If the sky is more interesting, let it fill two thirds of the frame and if the ground is more interesting, let that cover two thirds of the frame instead.

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2 thirds foregroundSo in this seascape image we have started to combine the elements discussed above; we have horizon placed on a third line, the seaweed sitting on the right third line and because the we wanted the foreground to be more interesting and prominent it takes up two thirds of the frame instead of the sky.

 

 

And it’s not all about landscapes either!

This rule can be applied to pretty much any type of photography, here are some examples of how it can be applied to portraiture and even action.

 

 

Keep it in mind

Keep these composition ideas in mind when looking at inspirational images – can you see them being applied?
Think consciously about your composition – it may feel unnatural the first time you try it out, but in no time at all you will be getting great results.

Before long, the Rule of Thirds will become part of your photographic toolkit – a solid starting point to let you explore for yourself and find your own style.

Until then, happy snapping! 🙂

Defying conventions with Pete Bridgwood – landscape photographer

Beautiful locations? Not essential. Golden hour? any time is good. prime lenses? zooms are fine.

Meet X-Photographer, Pete Bridgwood who will make you think again about how you take landscape photographs

For decades, the debate has raged as to whether photography is art. For most, the crux of the argument revolves around the camera itself, some considering that using a machine to capture images is ‘cheating’, while others argue the camera doesn’t create images on its own. Fine art landscape photographer Pete Bridgwood cuts through these years of discussion with incisive clarity: “I think the term ‘art’ is as relevant if a four-year old child produces a piece with crayons as any photograph or grand master painting – it’s still art,” he tells X Magazine. “Some people think it’s stuffy to define your work as art, that you put yourself on a pedestal if you define yourself as an artist, but I define it simply as ‘photographs that I take for me, not for anyone else’. I don’t shoot commercial images, I shoot to make prints that hopefully will sell if people like them.”

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CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 1/2900sec at F8, ISO 200

Pete studied medicine at university and subsequently followed this career path, but photography has always been an important part of his life; and despite a passion for both disciplines, he defines himself as a photographer rather than a doctor. “I was into photography at school and we had this great art teacher who ran a course after school, so I signed up. We’d sit around in a big group and he’d talk about the compositional elements of famous photographs, so from a young age I was looking at photographs in a critical way. “We learned all the wet processes in a traditional darkroom, so I learned the hard way with film. I think that teaches you to be more careful with exposure because if you get it wrong there isn’t the latitude to get it back. I was very lucky to have that grounding.”

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CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 3.2secs at F14, ISO 200

Like many photographers, as the interest grows, the choice of subjects to shoot becomes more refined and when it came to choosing a specialism, Pete’s choice was simple. “Landscape is more controlled, you can take your time. With people photography it’s more reactive and interactional and maybe I’m not that good at interacting,” he jokes. “I tend to exclude people from my landscapes, because I think it’s nice for the viewer to be invited into the image and if it has people in there, the viewer has to share it with someone. There is a counterargument, of course, because featuring people invites others into the image, but I do tend to Photoshop a lot of people out as they always seem to walk into frame wearing bright dayglo clothing!”

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CAMERA: X-T1 EXPOSURE: 3.1secs at F8, ISO 200
Sherwood Forest
CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 1.2secs at F11, ISO 200

While some may question Pete’s use of software in the context of his fine art image making, he’s very clear that post-production work is a very important part of creating his images. “It’s changed from film, when all the effort was put in in-camera. Now, I think half the effort comes in the field and half in post-production. Documentary landscape photographers would disagree, but I think you can do a lot in post-processing to create a more emotive result. It depends on the scene,” he explains. “Every photograph is a combination of three things: the photographer, the scene and the viewer. The percentages of those three elements vary from scene to scene and I love to actively play with those ratios. You could completely remove yourself and just take a picture and it will look gorgeous, or you can get a scene that you apply a lot of changes to and alter the feel. The trick is to not make it look that apparent.”

2257-XPro1 XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS 55 mm 1-300 sec at f - 5.6 ISO 200
CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 1/300sec at F5.6, ISO 200
6930-XPRO1 XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS 21.4 mm 1-450 sec at f - 6.4 ISO 200
CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 1/450sec at F6.4, ISO 200

Emotional connection is one element that Pete considers crucial in his images. He works hard to convey a sense of place and communicate the essence of the location. This can be done in a variety of ways, but Pete feels much of it is down to exposure choice. “Every image has its own shutter speed that will make the image look quite different. I think it’s important not to just think of that as a panacea,” he explains, “what I’m more about is finding the right exposure, an exposure that matches the emotion of the scene. How much do you want the grass to sway? How much do you want the sky or the water to move? It’s really about controlling the texture rather than simply taking a blasé attitude, which is what I like to get across.” Pete’s pursuit of this emotional connection doesn’t always necessitate him travelling from his home in Nottinghamshire to ‘honeypot’ locations in the UK and abroad, he feels that great landscape images can be captured virtually anywhere. “In some places it’s more difficult than others, but all you have to do is look around. The barn you don’t subconsciously see on the way into work, the single tree on the top of a hill, you should pencil those locations in for revisiting,” he advises.

1996-FINAL-MASTER XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS 31.5 mm 3.0 sec at f - 16 ISO 200
CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 3secs at F16, ISO 200

“I feel the same way about light. I love the golden hour and there’s no doubt it’s quite magical, but there’s no reason why you can’t get evocative landscapes in the middle of the day. Or in the pouring rain.” Whatever time of day he’s out, Pete always carries his X-series cameras: “I used to use Canon DSLRs, but I haven’t touched them in months,” he says. “I started with the X100, but the X-Pro1 was a game changer for me and I use both primes and zooms on it. I’ve also recently got an X-T1, which is wonderful. I shoot the vast majority of my images on an XF18-55mm lens. The attraction is obvious: all my Fujifilm gear fits into a small waist pack – camera, lenses, full filter kit – and that’s very liberating.” This latter point is crucial to Pete, X-series cameras help him to communicate an essential part of his creative process.

“The whole essence of fine art photography is freedom,” he tells us. “Freedom to express. Freedom to interpret. Freedom, freedom, freedom.”

CLICK HERE TO VISIT PETE’S WEBSITE

2969-XPro1 XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS 18 mm 27.0 sec at f - 11 ISO 200
CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 27secs at F11, ISO 200

 

X-Photographer’s Spotlight – V.Opoku

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

Hey hey, I shoot weddings and travel – I am a creative, contemporary wedding story teller and London is home for the time being.

I became a photographer by accident; I went to university to study economics, it was during this time that I decided to buy a camera instead of a PS3 to kill time. I would hop on my bike for a ride and have the camera along with me to capture the things I saw in my new surroundings.

Even though I have achieve a level of consistency within my body of work, I like to think that I am still training my eyes. It is an ongoing process and I find that I switch things up every two years – not everything, but I have noted that every two years I make a change in one area or another. I guess you can say that how I feel often translates into the approach I take to the work I create, and as someone who is still young and curious about the world, I don’t think that I will ever stop developing my style.

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

Out of curiosity really, and after 2 years and some change, I am happy that I took the risk. They offer a unique and refreshing way of doing things – having to compensate for parallax when using the OVF due to the rangefinder design of the X-Pro 1 & X100s, or the traditional shutter speed dials & aperture values on the lenses, this is a fun way to create images. For some strange reason, the image quality that I get out of these little cameras still amazes me, and the lenses that I have used have all been stunning.

A very important element of the Fujifilm X-Series that maybe doesn’t get enough attention is the community that these cameras have created, I have exchanged emails with people from all over the world about these cameras. I have discovered the work of other amazing photographers who use these cameras and even became friends with a few, like Bradley Hanson (USA), Patrice Michellon (France), Robin Weil (France) and Fred Frognier (Belgium) for example. All these guys were complete strangers at one point.

I would love to network with other official X-Photographers too! I have exchanged words with a few but thats not enough, I am thinking along the lines of a collaboration on project or something.

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

There Is Always More! I think photography is a lifelong journey without a destination so we have to keep going, keep striving to improve and never settle – There Is Always More!

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Key Inspiration- What & Who inspires you?

The What – Life, all aspects of it – the good and the bad. Music, football, culture and the people I meet and exchange stories with on my travels.

The Who – Those who strive to master their craft and set new rules, e.g. Lionel Messi and Nas. In terms of photography, there are so many good photographers out there that it is difficult for me to pick one. I like to draw inspiration even from those that don’t shoot the type of stuff that I shoot.

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Do you have any tips or tricks you could share?

Create limitations in a world where is there none, mine was deciding to shoot with just two focal lengths for the majority of my work these last two years and I couldn’t be happier! In fact, deciding to shoot with just prime lenses 5 years ago was probably the best thing I could have done for my portfolio and development as a photographer.

Remain curious about the world, be willing to learn and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Shoot through the tough and uninspiring periods.

V. Opoku-7What’s next for you?

Um, the X-Pro 2 😉 – haha. I really want to live in various countries & cities around the world in the next couple of years. To explore and experience different cultures etc and even shoot some epic weddings whilst I am out there too – the thought of shooting a Japanese wedding in Tokyo one day really excites me. I will be starting this chapter of my life with a move to Barcelona at some point this year, things haven’t gone as I had hoped but I am determined to make it happen. Then from there, maybe NYC + LA for a year, Cuba too at some point, Japan – who knows. I want to explore as many places as possible and meet as many interesting people as I can.

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Contact Info

Web : vopoku.com

Twitter: @vopoku

Instagram: @vopoku

Member of X100C – The Collective : http://x100c.com

Continue reading X-Photographer’s Spotlight – V.Opoku

It’s all in the AUTO – X-A2

With the sunlight beating through the window and falling across my work monitor I knew I had to take a camera out for a play. And I thought that this was the perfect excuse to really try out the SR+ AUTO mode on the X-A2 camera.

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To give some background on the Fujifilm X-A2, it’s one of our entry-level mirrorless cameras which is aimed at photography enthusiasts and individuals that want great pictures without all the complicated settings that can come with DSLRs.

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SR+AUTO MODE

The idea behind my little afternoon shoot (other than to enjoy the sunshine 😉 ) was to really see just how good the Auto mode is on this camera. I have so many family members who love to take pictures but they don’t know all about apertures, shutter speeds, ISO etc. They just want a proper camera that takes nice pictures and which is easy to use.

So this is what I did:

I drove to my local country park, put the camera in the auto mode and set about my walk.

For those who know the film simulation modes, I kept it on PROVIA to give the most true-to-life colours and tones. 

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The thing that is nice about any AUTO mode on a camera, is if it works well, you can just enjoy your surroundings and let the camera do all the hard work. Not only that, but I know that if I was out walking with my family and friends, I wouldn’t want to think about all the settings. I would just want to snap away and enjoy the atmosphere and conversation.

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Another area that this camera excels in, is the colour reproduction. I have not boosted the colour saturation in post-production – these images are pretty much all straight out of camera…

In fact, the only post-production I used was in Picasa (a free to download editing suite by Google – find it here.) to crop a couple of the images into squares (1:1 format) and a one click ‘Auto-Contrast’ adjustment, which basically creates a better balance between the brightest point and the darkest point of an image – in many cases this will make the whites brighter and the blacks darker.

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I did this to make the images ‘pop’ out of the screen a bit more as our eyes are naturally drawn to high contrast scenes.

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As I continued my walk on this beautiful day, I turned my attention to macro (close-up) photography. I wondered how the SR+ AUTO mode would cope with close-up photography. Now what I haven’t told you is what SR stands for – it stands for Scene Recognition, which basically means the camera automatically detects what the camera is going to shoot. This helps the camera decide what settings it’s going to use for a particular shot. Of course, for me, this just meant I could point and shoot again.

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All in all, I was very impressed by the overall performance of the AUTO mode. Especially as I normally shoot using my own custom settings, apertures, etc. I think it really helps prove that having a good eye at photography is what it’s really all about. I didn’t have to fiddle with the settings on the camera, I only did that tiny bit of post-production which was to enhance my creative style, but it was certainly not necessary.

And the most important part was that I really enjoyed it! I could have gone walking without the camera and still had a nice time – it was a beautiful day after all. But because this mode does the hard work all I was left with was the fun part of photography, which made my walk a great one. I think I’d have to call SR AUTO carefree mode! 😉

If you’re looking for a camera that’s incredibly easy to use and takes great pictures, perhaps the X-A2’s the one for you. Please feel free to share this blog post with anyone else you think might be in the market for a carefree, no-nonsense camera.

Any questions, please leave a comment below.

Happy snapping! 🙂

X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Kerry Hendry

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

I was really into photography as a teenager – I remember saving up to buy my first SLR camera and two kit lenses from Dixons!  I won’t mention brands but I soon moved onwards and upwards to a beautiful Nikon SLR, shooting grainy black & white film and then developed an addiction to Fuji Velvia.   I spent many an evening cycling and driving round chasing sunsets and beautiful light.

Style-wise has taken a lot longer – I had a big gap in photography when horses and work took over – until I revisited my then hobby, about 12 years ago.

Since then photography has become a significant part of my life and now business. I’ve shot portraits, boudoir, bumps, babies, business portraits and even an odd wedding or two, but that didn’t do it for me.  I found myself shooting images to keep others happy – not fulfilling my own creative destiny.

These days, subject wise, I’m entirely focused on my other passion in life: horses. I have ridden all my life, and I truly believe if you totally love and connect with your subject, it makes your work stronger.

X-T1 – ISO 200 – f/4.5 – 1/1250 – XF50-140mm

Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

I’d been carrying around heavy Nikon kit for years and frankly was quite tired!

I started shooting mirrorless fairly early – and given my love of Fuji way back, it seemed the logical place to start.  Plus, there is no denying the cameras are beautiful.  I love beautiful things…  I love the images which the Fuji kit produces, I love the handling – and I love the lightness and flexibility the system affords me.

I’ve tested, tested and tested a bit more – some days I think my X-T1 might actually go into meltdown shooting high speed horses day in day out, but it continues to deliver.

Alongside my workhorse 50-140mm, I’ve also become a complete convert to the fast Fuji prime lenses. The quality and sharpness is amazing. Favourites include the 14mm, 23mm and 35mm lenses.

X-T1 – ISO 200 – f/5.6 – 1/1000 – XF50-140mm

Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

I guess my philosophy is a recent and personal one:  Follow your dreams and shoot what you love.

As a photographer you have to develop a thick skin – and that’s something I wasn’t good at!  I’ve spent most of my life trying to keep everyone happy all of the time.  Obviously a fruitless task, but I still do my best!

Especially when you shoot one very niche subject, some people will love what you do, others just won’t get it.  So long as I stay true to my core and get to the end of each year with images I am proud of, I’m happy.  I shoot horse pictures for horse lovers – they get it, they see it, they feel it.

The fact that people then buy those images for their own walls is a huge compliment.  It was a real buzz when prints were first sold to overseas clients in the USA and New Zealand – the hard work is paying off.

X-E2 – ISO 200 – f/9 – 1/1000 – XF18-55mm

Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

Wow, how long have you got?! I was the kid who saved up her pocket money to go into Waterstones (still love Waterstones!) to buy the Ansel Adams calendar each year.  When the year was done I framed the pictures.  My world was black and white, surrounded by snow-laden trees and lived under inky skies.

I’m a book person – and the bookshelf is crammed with a variety of beautiful publications which I revisit regularly:  Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, Colin Prior, Paul Kenny, Tim Flach, Amanda Lockhart, Jonathan Chritchley and most recently Michael Levin. Michael’s work is a quest for modern perfection – I admire him tremendously.

Mother nature also inspires me – light, breeze, weather, the ocean and of course, horses.

X-T1 – ISO 200 – f/5.6 – 1/1000 – XF50-140mm

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

My tip is to stay true. There’s another good quote I live & work by: ‘A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it.  It just blooms.’

Another photographer recently said to me that ‘I make my life more difficult trying to shoot horses with a mirrorless camera’ – why didn’t I shoot an easier subject?  What would be the joy or fulfilment in that?!

Do your own thing – if it’s difficult, try harder.  If you have an idea – work out how to achieve it.  If you are not sure – seek & learn!

X-T1 – ISO 200 – f/4.5 – 1/1250 – XF50-140mm

What’s next for you?

I’m off to Wyoming to a remote ranch to shoot…you guessed it, horses!

It’s a completely new location for me.  If I don’t shoot different horses soon, I’ll be ‘the woman who was obsessed with grey horses’.

The Polo season has just started too, so I’m working on a creative idea to produce beautiful art prints from this adrenaline fuelled sport.

I’ve also just taken on a beautiful but slightly broken racehorse. She’s likely to feature in future work – and she’s NOT GREY!

In fact this is her, in her previous life…my amazing girl.

X-T1 – ISO 800 – f/18 – 1/1000 – XF18-135mm

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