Here’s the challenge – take ONLY three pictures in one hour – No deletes & no post-processing.
Today, the challenge was simple – at least with the rules anyway. You can only take three photos in one hour, you’re not allowed to delete, post process or even retake the photo. This meant you had to really think hard about the subject, the composition, all the camera settings combined and…. get it right, first time.
And for your info – all images are shot straight-out-of-camera.
As my first image I wasn’t sure what to shoot, or when I should take my first image. This was easily solved however, when I wandered to the riverside and saw this beautiful light bouncing off the water. I took my time to find the right angle and also noticed this small bird sitting near the edge nearby. With this, I shuffled along on my knees (was definitely worth it) to incorporate him/her into the top left third of the image.
This shot I couldn’t resist, the car belongs to a colleague of mine (*cough* Marc’s) and for me, it captures that humorous moment when you know you should re-park your car, but in Marc’s case… you just don’t. I also, from a photography aspect love the lines that flow from the back of the car and along the path to the left. I chose black and white to take the attention away from the colour of the scene and more to what is going on in the scene – being the damage to the rear bumper and ‘eccentric’ parking 😉
As my final image, I wanted to capture a peaceful mood. As we walked along Bedford Embankment I spotted this couple relaxing in the crisp winter air. I crept behind them and silently began looking through my camera settings to find the right choice. As there was so much contrast in the scene I jumped instinctively towards the black and white film simulations. This is where I broke the rules! I literally couldn’t decide which B&W filter to use, so, I shot the same scene three times (one on each B&W filter). I found that the B&W with red filter gave me the most pleasing tones so this was the keeper, and yes I did admit to Marc that I cheated slightly!
All in all, even though I cheated a bit, it was super exciting & an excellent exercise to undertake – I highly recommend it. It just turned my normal way of shooting on its head. I would normally frame up a shot and take a few images, experimenting with different apertures etc but with this exercise, I just needed to put my knowledge to the test. I looked through my camera menu selecting specific settings that would suit my style and thought much harder about the composition to ensure it was just the way I wanted it, first time.
It also made me connect more with the environment we were in, internal thoughts like “Where is the best light coming from?”, “What angle should I take this from?” & most importantly “What is actually interesting to shoot in my current area?”.
At one point I actually went right under the bridge to look for a new viewpoint, got my knees dirty, banged my head and came back out without an image! But this was worth it, for I knew that the shot I wanted, wasn’t there. My advice is to try strange angles & odd perspectives, this way you’re either eliminating bad shots or discovering great, new shots that you wouldn’t have known about before.
Following on from the last blog that covered what gear to use for wildlife photography, I’m going to explain how I set up my X-Series cameras for capturing action. Though some cameras are better than others for this type of photography, there are little ways to help yourself help improve your chances of capturing action.
High burst rate
Though using a high burst rate will eat through your memory cards space, shooting at a high frame rate will hopefully get a good selection of action shots.
First of all make your focus point as large as possible: do this by pressing the AF button and zooming out as far as you can. With a moving subject it will be very difficult to keep the subject in a small selection zone, so give yourself the best chance possible. Continuous focus (This applies to the X-T1 and X-E2 as they have vastly improved continuous AF functionality) is really helpful with certain subjects, especially if they are coming towards you. For those of you with models that are best in single focus mode, fear not! Generally the Fujifilm lenses are quick to auto focus so if you’re following a subject you can focus, take a shot and then focus again or alternatively prefocus if you know where the subject it going to go. Some photographers use cameras in MF mode and use the AFL/AEL button to focus. This is helpful because you can then use the manual focus ring on the lens and see what is in focus via focus peaking. Experiment and see what method works best for you.
This sequences was taken using the X-T1’s tilting screen and the XF56mm at F2.8.
My standard ISO setting is 800. To some this might seem high but the output from this is so clean that it isn’t a concern for me. If it’s a bit cloudy and I’m wanting to freeze the action I’ll push my ‘ready’ ISO to 1600. My philosophy is that it is better to have a sharp image that might be slightly noisy as you get up to than an image that might have some motion but has less or no noise.
100% close up – In my eyes the noise (or lack of it) is not a problem at ISO 1600
For action photography you have to decide if you want to freeze a moment, capture the motion or something in the grey area. If you want to freeze the action you’ll generally want to use a wider aperture to get a sufficiently high shutter speed. The shutter speed required to freeze depends on the pace of the action, and your chosen aperture is determined by the light conditions and your ISO choice. The thing to remember is that shutter speed, aperture and ISO are all intertwined. If you want to read more on apertures then read this previous blog (it contains puppies!). If you want to focus on one, say a faster shutter speed, then this has an adverse affect on the other two factors. If you’re wanting to freeze the action with a fast shutter speed AND also have a large depth of field then you have to increase the ISO. It is also about prioritising the most important factor for you and then compromise with the others. When aiming to freeze the action I am generally in aperture priority mode, where I have set the ISO according to the conditions (usually over 800), and I then choose an aperture to obtain the shutter speed I want.
Taken at 1/3800 sec, F5.6, ISO 800
If you want to capture motion blur, say through panning with your subject, then your shutter speed is having less of a constraint on your ISO and aperture so you can change these accordingly to reduce your shutter speed. One way to control this is through shutter speed priority, where you set shutter speed to what you want and then have the aperture in auto mode so it will change to keep the same low shutter speed (with the ISO previously set).
Taken at 1/13 sec, F16 ISO 200
Finally, another set up option for action is to set the aperture and shutter speed to what you want and then have the ISO in automatic mode. You could go fully manual but I find this can quickly lead to problems when trying to capture action, especially if there is a lot going on around you. This method can result in you missing fleeting moments.
Now that you know some action set ups go out and shoot! Let us know what your action set up is with the X-Series and share with us your action shots via our Fujifilm’s Facebook and Twitter. As ever, if you have any questions then please leave a comment below or contact me via:
As winter starts to set in, photographers are looking for ways to capture this cold season. For me, winter is best covered in the morning. This is a personal preference but in the mornings you have frost, a reasonable hour for sunrise and (if you’re lucky) fog or mist.
There are three types of fog, so you need to decide what you are looking for and this will depend on your location:
Ground fog – In mountainous/hilly areas and cold patches you can get ground fog collecting in valleys. After a rainy night or over wet ground you can get shallow precipitation fog.
Sea fog – Also called advection fog, this is where warm air passes over cold sea water.
Sea/River smoke – Where the air is colder than the water, creating a generally shallow level of fog, this is generally restricted to water areas, hence river smoke.
When trying to photograph fog you need to use the weather forecast to understand what the evening will be like in your desired location. I was fortunate enough to visit Curbar Edge in the Peak District the afternoon before my first morning I was there to scout the location. It was just before sunset and the fog was forming in the valley below and at that point I decided to try it out the following morning to see how it would look.
The weather for my first morning at Curbar was drizzling and there was a thick layer of cloud, which meant it was pretty unlikely I’d witness much golden light, I thought I’d set out and give it a go. I am so happy I did! This was my first real experience of photographing mist and it is incredible how quickly the spectacle evolves in front of your eyes. I one point I was photographing down one end of the valley, taking some long exposures, only to look over my shoulder and see that it had dramatically changed down the other end of the valley!
I used the X-T1 and the XF18-135mm lens for my main set up. As it was a wet morning the weather-sealed kit meant that I could stop worrying about the system and focus on the spectacle. As well as offering weather sealing, the XF18-135mm meant that I had great versatility, meaning that I didn’t have to worry about changing lenses the entire time. However, I also ended up using a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor to further extend the shutter speed. This was great but because I was using a filter set instead of screw in filters it meant that the front element was exposed to the conditions. Long exposures and rain drops do not mix! Thankfully a little umbrella tucked away in my bag helped to shelter the filter.
Generally I was not bothered about using a fast/moderate shutter speed so I set up the system on a tripod and used ISO 200 (the lowest RAW compatible ISO) and generally around F8. The addition of the ND filter, which was a 10-stop filter, meant that the shutter speed required was dramatically decreased. This results in the mist smoothing out, giving quite an interesting effect. See the comparisons below (note that despite the fact the ND filter is meant to be neutral it has put a distinct colour cast on the images).
The ND filter extended the shutter speed so much that I had to use the bulb setting, as the required shutter speed was longer than 30 seconds. For this I used the remote trigger that allowed me to hold down the trigger (lockable) to keep the shutter open for as long as required. The X-T1 shows the length of the shutter speed on the back screen, this is very helpful. There is something to consider thought when using long exposures: the processing time. As soon as you go beyond 30 seconds, the processing time dramatically increases from seconds into minutes, this isn’t a problem but is something to be aware of when trying to photograph a scene that is evolving constantly.
To make sure I didn’t miss any moments while the X-T1 was processing and to get some different shots, I used the X100s with ISO 1600 to produce a fast enough shutter speed to allow me to use the camera one handed. Picture the scene: a wonderful valley filled with fog unfolding in front of me, one camera on a tripod; my left hand sheltering it with an umbrella; photographing the scene with the X100s in my right hand at the same time! Who says photographers can’t look cool…
The three above photos were taken with the X100s using the monochrome + red filter jpeg preset.
The reason I chose Curbar Edge is because it provides a high vantage point. This is really important to optimise your chances for good mist photography. It generally means that you should be hit by the early morning light and so should warm up faster! This is a valid point to consider on crisp winter mornings, not that it happened this time around. A high vantage point allows you to see for a greater distance, hopefully providing you with a greater number of layers to your picture. At the top of a valley, Curbar Edge allowed me to see for miles along the valley, which offered both valley fog and river smoke. The ability to then use a telephoto lens to zoom in on particular areas can result in some quite striking shots.
But also having the ability to instantly zoom wide was a great asset to try and obtain a variety of photographs.
The colour photos were all taken with the X-T1 and I used the Classic Chrome camera calibration in Lightroom which produced wonderful colours in my opinion. I have only just started using this camera calibration and I love it.
Though on this occasion the sun didn’t break through the thick cloud cover, the spectacle was nevertheless remarkable and I can only imagine what it would have looked like if sun rays had broken through.
The second morning
Despite being very happy with the previous morning I decided to give it another go as the forecast suggested there was a better chance of a proper sunrise. This time round I decided to not focus too much on lengthy shutter speeds, but instead the details in the fog. What I didn’t expect was the amount of fog!
The range of the 18-135mm meant that I could capture the grand scale of the fog at 18mm, with the car in the first of these pictures giving a sense of scale. Then using the longer end of the lens I pulled out particular parts of the landscape, such as the little cottage that looks like it should be in Harry Potter and the hilltops surrounded by a sea of fog, turning them into islands. As well as the incredible amount of fog, the sun did make a bit of an appearance too. Despite this it was a very cold morning, producing a wonderful frost. I was very happy to have packed a hat and pair of gloves.
I positioned myself so part of the hilltop was between me and the rising sun, creating a backlighting effect on Curbar Edge, which brings the fog alive.
Because of the brighter sky this time round I needed to use a ND gradual filter, where unlike the filter I used during the first morning, this one changes from one end to the other, as the name suggests. At one end it is darker (you can buy filters at different stops, depending on how dark you want to make part of the image), while at the other it has no effect on the light. I use these when I am photographing something with a sky that is much brighter than the ground below. With the above image I used a filter which didn’t stop down the light enough to correctly expose the sky but I like it nevertheless because of the frost (it get particularly difficult to expose correctly when the sun is in the image). While the picture below is a slightly better example of a ND gradual filter in use.
I hope this has proved helpful and now it is your turn to get out there and photograph the wintery conditions. Let us know how you get on.
For my travel photography, I now work entirely with the X-system. I like the fact that it’s lighter, smaller and manages to look great yet unobtrusive and produce great looking images at the same time. I love the direct feedback of the manual controls, dials and aperture rings. I use two X-T1’s, a X100s and a slew of Fujifilm lenses. One of the advantages of using a smaller and lighter system is that it frees up some space (and weight) in your camera bag for other accessories that can help you create better shots. In this two-part series, I’ll have a look at my top-ten favorite accessories for Fujifilm cameras – from a travelling point of view. You can read Part 1 by clicking here. Here are my final 6 – 10 accessories.
6 – Lightroom
Much has been written about how good or bad Lightroom is for Developing Fujifilm .RAF files. I have to admit that at first, it was really bad but in my opinion, although probably not the best, Lightroom is good enough for my needs. Whatever 10 percent that Lightoom might lack in terms of pure image quality, it makes up for by its workflow advantages and the fact that I can go from capture to export and even publish websites and create printed photo books all from within the same application.
Lightroom is more than a raw converter: it’s an image database and it even allows you to quickly publish your images, be it to a printer, the internet or in a photo book.
On top of that, I don’t want to change my workflow every time a new, supposedly even better raw converter is the ‘buzz du jour’ on the internet. I do find that I have to use higher than default capture sharpening but that’s easily fixed by setting a new camera raw default. I teach you how to do that (and much much more) in my 300+ page Lightroom 5 Unmasked eBook.
7 – Eyefi Card for tethered shooting
On some occasions like studio shoots or when I’m doing demos, I would like to have the images show up on my monitor or projector. However, up until now, my X-T1 does not allow me to shoot tethered into Lightroom, nor to any other app, for that matter. I could use the Camera Remote software but that would be cumbersome because I would have to transfer each photo individually from my camera to my phone or tablet and then on to my computer. There’s a great workaround, though and it involves using an Eyefi Mobi card. That’s an SD card that has a built-in WIFI transmitter. It saves the images to the card but also – by means of the Eyefi Mobi desktop App that you install on your Mac or Windows machine, to a folder of your choosing on your computer. You can then set up that folder as a so-called Watched Folder in Lightroom and have the images that the Eyefi card wirelessly pushes to your computer, show up there (the full lowdown is also discussed in Lightroom 5 Unmasked). The only limitation is that, at least for the European Eyefi cards, you can only transfer JPG files. So, does this mean that if you start editing those JPGs and then at the end of the day you import your raws from the SD card itself, you have to start all over again?
Well, not necessarily, because you could use John Beardsworth’s Syncomatic Lightroom plug-in: this cool plug-in allows you to automatically copy the edits you made to a JPG and then apply those edits to the raw files that have, bar the extension, the same name. Just make sure that you set the raw files up with the same Film Simulation (you can do that in the Camera Calibration menu) that you assigned to the JPGs in the camera.
8 – Remote control
Anytime you’re on a tripod and you’re using longer shutter speeds, it’s best not to physically depress the shutter button to make a photograph: doing so can introduce blur in your image. If your Fuji has WIFI, you can use the Camera Remote App. If it doesn’t, or if you want to work with exposures over 30 seconds (the limit for the Camera Remote App), a dedicated remote might be a good idea. On my X-T1, I use this model. It’s actually designed for Canon, but it also works with some Fujis like the X-T1. On top of enabling shutter speeds beyond 30 seconds, it allows you to program interval shooting and delays beyond the default choices of 2 or 10 seconds.
9 – Really Right Stuff L Bracket
The Really Right Stuff L Bracket allows you to quickly mount the camera horizontally AND vertically on a tripod.
The Vertical Grip for the Fuji X-T1
This is an accessory which I haven’t used myself yet, but a couple of fellow Fuji shooters such as Matt Brandon use it to their satisfaction and therefore bumped it high on my wishlist: the Really Right Stuff L Bracket. This bracket allows you to quickly mount your camera either horizontally or vertically to your tripod. The L Bracket is designed in a way that it can stay on your camera and you still get to access the battery door and card slot. Some photographers like it just because it adds some extra bulk and grip to the camera. Although, if that’s all you want, you might just spring for Fujifilm’s own vertical grip for the X-T1, which has the added benefit of storing an extra battery.
10 – Fujifilm Instax Printer
I’ve saved the best for last. Really. I’ve started giving out instant prints to the people I photographed along my journeys as early as 2009. At the time, I used a Polaroid Pogo. Handing out prints allowed me to not only take a photo but give something back in return. And by doing it on the spot rather than on my return back home, it saved me the trouble of trying to decrypt hastily written addresses or trying to remember which photo I should send to which person. But what I hadn’t expected at first, was that handing out prints to people was also the perfect door-opener to photograph… even more people. More than once have I had the experience that someone did not want to have their photo taken, only to ask me to take their photo just minutes later after they had seen me give a print to someone else.
The Pogo did have its disadvantages, though: the battery lasted for only 10 shots and color fidelity was clearly not high on the specs list. So for a moment I dabbled with the idea of bringing a Fujifilm Instax camera, but then Fujifilm announced the Instax Share SP-1 Printer. If you get only one of the accessories that I have listed in this overview, make it that little printer. Especially in remote areas where people don’t have ready access to photography, you’ll spread joy with every Instax print you hand out. And, as a sign of good Karma, you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities, too. And you don’t have to take my word for it: check out the praise of Matt Brandon or Zack Arias in their reviews of the SP-1.
Bonus accessory – kind of…
I’d like to wrap up this overview with the smallest, lightest and cheapest accessory of them all: a pack of Sugru. Sugru is self-setting rubber and if I’m not mistaking, it’s invented in the UK. You open a small sachet, tear of as much as you need (the rest will dry out, unfortunately), you model it into shape, affix it to wherever you need to and then let it dry for 24 hours and it adheses perfectly to the surface you stuck it on. Now what do Sugru and my X-T1 have in common… Well, as much as I love that camera, there’s one thing I like less than on my old X-E2: apparently because of weather sealing, the 4 way control buttons around the central Menu/OK button are too flush with the rest of the camera, at least to my taste.
Now I love the fact that there are 49 AF points on the Fuji cameras and that – contrary to DSLRs – they are literally everywhere across the image. Howver, my right thumb often has trouble finding the buttons without taking my eye of the EVF (tip-within-the-tip: all these buttons are programmable, so I’ve programmed them all to change the AF-field). I used Sugru to raise the profile of the buttons just enough so that I can find them, even in the dark. It’s a small mod but it makes a gigantic difference in my workflow.
For my travel photography, I now work entirely with the X-system. I like the fact that it’s lighter, smaller and manages to look great yet unobtrusive and produce great looking images at the same time. I love the direct feedback of the manual controls, dials and aperture rings. I use two X-T1’s, a X100s and a slew of Fujifilm lenses. One of the advantages of using a smaller and lighter system is that it frees up some space (and weight) in your camera bag for other accessories that can help you create better shots. In this two-part series, I’ll have a look at my top-ten favorite accessories for Fujifilm cameras – from a travelling point of view. Here are my first 1 – 5 accessories.
1 – Flash and modifier
I love using flash while traveling. In fact, I wrote two eBooks on the subject: Making Light 1 and Making Light 2, available on www.craftandvision.com. Generally, I like to use my flash off-camera, but on those rare occasions where I use it on-camera, I will often bounce it to my side or my back in order to diffuse the light as much as I can. When I’m moving around and bouncing an on-camera flash, I prefer to work in TTL because the flash-to-subject distance (and hence the required flash output) varies continuously. TTL will automatically calculate and adjust that power for me. For those instances, Fujifilm’s own EF-42 flash is just perfect because it’s fairly powerful and it has TTL.
When I use the flash off-camera however, I prefer to work in manual mode but I do like the ability to wirelessly trigger my remote flash and set its power. For off-camera use, I really like the Godox V850 flashes: they’re powerful, affordable, built like a tank and thanks to the optional radio FT-16s triggering system, I can change the power remotely. But best of all, the V850 is powered by a rechargeable Li-ion battery that lasts up to 600 full power flashes. No more fussing around with AA batteries! One of the few dislikes I have about the Godox flashes is that the receiver comes off way too easily. Therefore, I’ve stuck some Velcro and gaffer tape to it.
For the 2015 Rajasthan Photo Workshop (a 2 week workshop in India hosted by fellow X-Photographer Matt Brandon and myself which attracts a lot of Fujifilm shooters and for which at the time of writing were only 2 spots left), I have my eyes set on another, bigger flash: the HD600 II, a 600 Ws (that’s about the lighting power equivalent of 6 to 10 small hotshoe flashes) portable system by Jinbei.
Now if you go through the trouble of bringing a flash, there’s one accessory that’s almost as important as the flash itself, and that’s something to diffuse it: by itself, a flash is a very small light source and therefore it will create harsh shadows. That’s where modifiers like softboxes and umbrellas kick in: they increase the size of the light source (at the expense of some flash power) and throw softer shadows, especially if you use them close enough to your subject. Although I generally prefer the increased control that softboxes offer, while I’m travelling I have three big constraints: my modifier must be easy to set up, light enough to carry and small enough to put into my camera bag. That’s why I love the Lastolite Trifold umbrellas. As a bonus, they’re cheap, too. A flash and umbrella add some 800 grams to your camera kit, but they also add a wealth of opportunities.
When I’m not using my Brian tripod (see tip #3) to hold the flash for me, I’ll either handhold it myself (a lot easier to do when you have to hold less than one kilogram of camera equipment in your other hand) or have someone hold it for me.
I use flash mainly to increase the quality of my light, rather than the quantity. That’s why the sunnier my destination, the more likely I am to bring a flash with me!
2 – Camera bags
Ah. Camera bags. If only the perfect camera bag existed. The be-all-end-all camera bag. But I haven’t found The One yet. Instead, I pick one depending on my shooting plans for the day. So I want to give you my top-three of camera bags.
The Vanguard Heralder 38
I love this bag for its versatility: it can hold a lot of gear (in fact, it can probably hold all of the other accessories in this top-10) and has a separate laptop compartment. It has a big zipper at the top for quick access and the bright orange interior is more than a fashion whim: it makes your mostly black camera gear easier to find. Now, there are a gazillion other bags that are similar to this one (including a couple of smaller editions of the Heralder), but what the Heralder 38 has that few others have is a secret latch that can hold my tripod (see tip 3). The only downside is that, compared to the stylishness of my Fujis, it just pales.
Think Tank Speedracer
Although the Fujis themselves are light enough and a lot lighter than my fullframe DSLRs and lenses are, when you add enough lenses, accessories, flashes and a tripod to the mix, the weight can start to add up again. A bag that only hangs from your shoulder can become hard to carry all day. And I don’t like backpacks. I find them good to transport gear from A to B, but not to walk around in A or B. So, if I want to go easy on my back, I use the Think Tank Speed Racer. This bag has a shoulder belt but also a waist belt that you can tuck away if you don’t need it. The waist belt helps to divide the weight between your shoulder and your waist and lets you attach extra modular pouches to it. It’s a great system and my partner-in-crime on the Rajasthan workshops Matt Brandon (www.thedigitaltrekker.com) uses the smaller Speed Freak much the same way. I just wished they looked better. The bags, not Matt Brandon. He looks fine. For his age, at least J.
So, this brings me to the last in this round-up. When style does matter, the classical black nylon camera bags just won’t cut it. In those cases I turn to the Ona Astoria. This mixed canvas and leather bag holds a laptop, two bodies, a couple of lenses and even a flash. It’s not the cheapest bag in this overview nor is it the biggest or the most practical, but it makes up for all of that by its stunning looks. Visually, it is a perfect match for my Fujis. In fact, the bag looks so good that putting a regular DSLR in it would be a crime! In the same league, I recently discovered the Roamographer by Holdfast Gear. This leather bag opens like a doctor’s bag and also has a strap for a tripod. The only thing holding me back is forking out another $500 on a bag and the fact that it weighs almost 6 pounds. Empty.
3 – Tripod
The smart way to go about the weight savings that switching to a mirrorless system offers, is to pass those savings on to your back: it will thank you later. However, I decided to ‘reinvest’ some of those economies into more gear that would allow me to do things that I previously could not do. One of those extra items I now bring with me a lot more than when I was lugging DSLRs is a tripod. I use the Brian, by British manufacturer Three Legged Thing. I specifically chose this model because it’s the only one I know that extends to over 2 meters. Not that I’d want to put a camera that high, but I’ll often use my tripod as a makeshift light stand as well.
At GBP 359, it’s not the cheapest tripod around, but if I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that with tripods cheaper often means compromising, which in turn makes me leave it at home. My first tripod only cost me $100. But it was big, bulky and didn’t extend high enough for what I wanted. As a consequence, I’ve used it twice and now it’s collecting dust. So it cost me $50 per shoot. My Brian’s only one year old and it’s already averaging a lot better than that!
Although 1.2 kilograms is very light for a tripod as versatile as the Brian, sometimes even that is too much to carry. In those cases, I’ll almost invariably bring an alternative solution: the Joby Gorillapod. It exists in a heavy and quite bulky DSLR version, but for my Fujis, I chose the much more convenient (and affordable) Hybrid version. That’s just one more advantage of a smaller and lighter system like the X-system: not only your camera and lenses are smaller: your accessories (like filters, or in this case tripods) can be lighter and often cheaper, too.
4 – Filters
I use Formatt Hitech’s graduated filters when I need to balance out a sky and foreground beyond what Lightroom’s Highlights and Shadows recovery can do. Alternatively, I might make a series of bracketed shots and merge them into an HDR. I’ve recently started to experiment with long exposure photography.
For my long exposure photography, I use the Formatt Hitech ProStop 10 stops IRND filter – I like that it’s relatively neutral compared to other brands – and I can’t wait to use their new Firecrest 16 stop ND filter. That’s 16 stops of Neutral Density in one filter! No need to stack multiple filters and run the risk of vignetting or other image degradations. To give you an idea: a 16 stop ND filter will do: it will turn an exposure time of 1/250th of a second into 4 minutes so you can use it for long exposure photography at noon!
As mentioned higher-up, I also use a lot of flash. Because the Fuji has a sync speed of 1/180th, this means that during the day, in sunny conditions, even at my lowest ISO of 200, I’ll be stuck with apertures of f/11 to f/16. But what if I want to shoot my fancy 56 f/1.2 at f/1.2? I might need a shutter speed of 1/4000th or even beyond that. Which is way beyond the sync speed of my flash. The solution lies… again… in neutral density filters. A neutral density filter allows me to use flash in bright daylight (e.g. for fill flash) with a wide open lens and still keep my shutter speed at or below the 1/180th sync speed. But on the other hand, when using ND’s for flash, I don’t want to use a fixed ND, because the lighting conditions can often change quickly by a couple of stops. So, suppose I’d need a fixed 6 stop ND in one outdoor location, 30 meters further the light might be 3 stops less intense. With the same filter, I would suddenly be at 1/25th of a second, which becomes dangerous to handhold. And I don’t want to have to continuously change filters. So, the solution I came up with is the following: I use a 6 stop ND and a variable 1-5 stop ND. Depending on whether I stack them or not, that gives me between 1 and 11 stops of sun-stopping power without having to change filters too much.
And the beauty is that, if there’s enough sun (and I wouldn’t use them if there wasn’t), my X-T1 still manages to focus through 10 stops of ND! Brilliant, isn’t it? Oh, and by the way, that lens hood you see is a collapsible one by Caruba: I needed a lens hood with a wider diameter because instead of buying separate circular NDs for each lens diameter, I bought them to suit my biggest lens (the 10-24) and I use step-up rings.
5 – My iPhone
An iPhone (or any smartphone, for that matter) is a great travel photo accessory. First of all, by means of the Camera Remote App (iOS link, Android link), I can remotely trigger my X-T1. That’s not only helpful when doing longer exposures, but it also helps me if I want to take photos inconspicuously. Mind you, I generally ask permission (with the flash setup that I often use, it’s hard not to, anyway) but every once in a while there are scenes where raising the camera to my eye would probably kill the scene. In those cases, I use the Camera Remote App and frame the shot from my iPhone. I can even tap the screen to choose my focus point! I also have the free Snapseed editor – it’s so good at improving your images that on the last Rajasthan Photo Trek, we’ve come to call it ‘Snapcheat’! (iOS link, Android link).
Other essential apps are the instax SHARE App (iOS link, Android link) which – while waiting for the firmware update that allows for direct printing from my X-T1 to the portable Instax Share printer (see tip 9) – lets me print images that I saved from my X-T1 and processed in Snapseed to that little wonder of a mobile printer.
Finally, I also like to use the Camera Remote app for bracketing for HDR. For reasons unknown to me, the bracketing in the Fuji cameras is limited to 3 shots with only 1 stop difference between them. For capturing scenes with extreme contrast, that’s often not enough, as shown below. While I could use the EV compensation wheel on the camera, that causes me to physically touch it and even the smallest displacement can lead to alignment issues and ugly artifacts afterwards.
Other than that, my iPhone comes in handy because it allows me to geotag my photos using the same Camera Remote App. However, because that requires me to set up a connection each time I want to geotag, I generally use a dedicated geotagging App (I use Geotagphotos Pro) (iOS link, Android link) and then sync the App’s tracklog with my photos in Lightroom. Finally, I also have a Depth of Field calculator app.
My wedding workflow for the past few years whilst shooting with Nikon DSLR’s has consisted purely of shooting RAW and processing the files initially in Lightroom and with some additional tweaks in Photoshop with Nik and OnOne software plugins. The aim is to produce a set of colour and exposure corrected JPEGS for supply to our clients. Since switching to Fuji for most of our wedding work I wanted to compare the film simulations in ‘real life’ shooting situations. Just to clarify, this is not about shooting JPEG only which I know some photographers do but this is part of a bigger picture in exploring the possibilities of producing ‘in camera’ JPEGS from the RAW files for supply direct to the client with little or no external processing after the wedding.
The original RAW files were transferred back to a memory card and then processed in camera. All other settings eg colour. shadow,etc. were 0. The images are in the same order from top to bottom L-R as the film simulation selections in the camera’s menu, starting with the unprocessed RAW file then Provia, Velvia, Astia, Pro Neg Hi, Pro Neg Standard, BW, BW Yellow, BW Red, BW Green, Sepia.
The first set of images (above) are some Bridal portraits taken in the reception room as we were rained off for outside shooting.
There was a large expanse of windows with natural, overcast daylight behind me.
Of the colour versions I don’t think it will come as any great surprise that Velvia is just a bit too saturated for this type of image and personally I find Pro Neg Standard to ‘flat’. That leaves Provia, Astia and Pro Neg Hi. Of these Astia has produced the warmest image, closely followed by Provia and then Pro Neg Hi. Astia will be my first choice for similar lighting / subject in the future.
So far as the black and white versions, my choice here for skin tone would be the Red filter but the overall contrast has reduced with Green producing the darkest lips. I think I might be wary in using the green filter as a ‘redder’ skin tone could cause the skin to darken more than I would wish.
This was at Bride’s home before the wedding (above). There was a window to camera right but it was quite dull outside and it provided very little light so we set up our Lupolux LED650 with a showercap diffuser to camera right.
Once again the winner for me is ‘Astia’, however they are all acceptable, even ‘Velvia’ hasn’t gone too far with a nice boost to the flowers. Of the black and whites, ‘Red’ has given the lightest skin tones and ‘Green’ the greatest contrast. Yes, you guessed – still a thumbs down for ‘Sepia’.
The lighting was gorgeous here, with the sun low and diffused slightly through clouds to camera left. (Above)
Would be quite happy to use ‘Velvia’ here. It hasn’t affected skin tones too much – and wow! – those Fuji greens! I was a bit surprised at the very little difference with the black and white filters. Understandably the ‘green’ filter has produced the lightest image with ‘red’ providing the most contrast – just. Still wouldn’t use ‘sepia’
Whilst putting this test together it became possible via an update to apply ‘Classic Chrome’ to existing X-T1 RAW files using Lightroom (5.7). Below are the 3 files with this mode.
For me ‘classic chrome’ is just a little on the ‘grungy’ side and I’m not quite sure yet where it might fit in with our current style of wedding shooting / editing. However, I can’t wait to use this in lots of other genres, especially ‘street’ and some ‘urban portraits’.
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, the aim here was to find out how usable the film simulations are straight out of camera in ‘real life’ wedding shooting. I am working on switching film simulation modes during the wedding to suit particular lighting and subject matter and then using the resultant JPEGS as part of our workflow to supply direct to our clients with no further post processing. DR settings are also going to play a big part in this, especially when shooting high contrast scenes. We will continue to shoot both RAW and fine JPEG and will of course use the RAW files as needed for post processing if the need arises.
To be honest I’m knocked out by the quality of JPEGS produced in camera, the noise reduction is also truly amazing. I would prefer a stronger filter effect with the black and whites as there isn’t a great deal of difference between them all.
For me the Sepia simulation is very limited for our particular requirements and I don’t envisage using it at all.
For full resolution image examples, please click here.
I thought this could be a helpful blog series for individuals looking to invest in equipment with particular interests in mind. This blog series will hopefully cover gear and techniques to help those getting into photography, who want to develop their skill set and knowledge. Because one of my main subject matters is wildlife I thought I’d start off with this genre.
Wildlife photography is a genre that can massively benefit from having suitable equipment, in my eyes more so than many other photography genres (but I’m biased!). To that end it’s good to be prepared with the most suitable gear for the task.
Best Camera – X-T1
The X-T1 has a number of features that make it the most suitable camera for wildlife:
First of all it is a weather sealed camera, so when used with a weather sealed lens you have a completely sealed system which is important when outdoors if you’re having to counter water in wet conditions or dust in dry conditions.
Then there is the fast auto focus, which the X-T1 is definitely the best at in the X-Series at this moment in time. The auto focus is very quick in single focus mode with basically every lens available and the continuous focusing mode is also very reliable and quick once focus has locked.
Being able to shoot at 8 frames per second and take advantage of the latest UHS-II SD cards for fast writing speeds means that this camera can cope with quickly evolving situations where you need fast bursts to capture the action and to be quickly ready to repeat the process.
As well as the camera being great, the accessories can be really helpful, namely the battery grip. Often with wildlife photography you are out and about for many hours and the last thing you want to happen is to be stuck changing batteries just as something exciting is happening (this has happened to me far too many times!). The battery grip holds an extra battery so doubles the time before you need to change your batteries.
Finally, the big thing about to come to the X-T1 (black version) is the electronic shutter. Being able to shoot at up to 1/32000 second is great but is generally not necessary for the lenses used with wildlife photography; but what will be very beneficial is the silent shutter. If you’re close to wildlife or in ear shot then even the slightest sound can set off a timid animal. The X-T1 shutter is by no means loud but certain animals have such finely tuned hearing that the mechanical shutter sound can be enough to scare off your subject.
Back up camera – X-E2
Having two cameras is a good idea for wildlife photography. It is often helpful to have two different lenses on the cameras so you can quickly capture images at different focal lengths, going from the close up headshot to the animal in environment shot. If an X-T1 is out of the question, let alone two of them, then the X-E2 is a brilliant compromise. It offers a more affordable option and though it may not have weather sealing and all the bells and whistles I mentioned above it is still a very capable camera. With 7 frames per second and a hybrid AF system that includes contrast and phase detection, this camera is able to capture fast paced action almost as well as the X-T1.
The 55-200mm is currently the longest lens available for the X-Series until the 140-400mm comes out very soon. Covering a good range with a very useable widest aperture (F3.5-4.8), this lens is a super lightweight option for wildlife photography. The auto focus is fast and accurate plus the lens has OIS (optical image stabilisation) which is great to help you capture sharp shots if you’re handholding.
Moving into the weather sealed lenses, the 18-135mm lens is a brilliant all-in-one wildlife/nature lens to carry around if you’re wanting a one-lens solution. When used on the X-T1 this is a sealed system that has snappy auto focus and OIS to help make sure your shot comes out sharp. If you’re looking to have a more specialist lens(es) then the new 50-140mm is a good place to start, though not as long as the 55-200mm lens it offers a widest constant aperture of F2.8. This is brilliant for photography in darker conditions, such as golden hour at sunrise and sunset. This has been combined with OIS and the world’s first triple linear motor auto focus system to ensure you focus in on your subject quickly and get sharp results. This lens has internal focusing and zoom, helping ensure that no moisture or dust can get into this weather sealed lens.
Wildlife doesn’t always require the longest focal length possible. Often framing your subject within the environment can have a much more powerful effect than the classic headshot close up. The soon to be released 16-55mm lens will be the perfect partner for the 50-140mm lens, providing another weather sealed option with a fast widest aperture of F2.8.
If you’re interested in macro photography then you have two options, the Fujifilm XF60mm F2.4 or the Zeiss 50mm F2.8. I have used the Fujifilm version and love it, though if you want 1:1 scale then the Zeiss is the way to go. These lenses are also great general purpose lenses, the orang utan photo at the top was taken with the XF60mm.
I hope this has proved helpful to those of you that are looking to invest in the Fujifilm X-Series for wildlife photography. If you have any questions then please leave a comment below or contact me via:
“Join me as I walk you through my photographic expedition into the world of street fashion photography with the masterful” – Alex Lambrechts.
In this ‘episode’, Marc and I were given an excellent opportunity to join the exciting Fashion X Street workshop with Alex Lambrechts. The aim of the workshop was to get photographers using the system in-the-wild, on the fly and to build upon an individual’s confidence in a shooting style, which is to my mind, full of adrenaline, passion and presence.
The group met inside a beautiful coffee/pizzeria house located in the heart of Soho, and it was here that Alex began to explain his craft and the general structure of the day. As part of the ‘FujiGuys UK’ we took along some of our new Fuji toys for the group to have a play with. These included the X100T, XF18-135mm lens and the pocket-rocket X30. After a coffee and a chat, we set out to the streets of Soho armed with our Fuji cameras in hand!
Alex led us to our first destination; a small, dark and empty alleyway – sounds ominous so far I know, but bear with me 😉 Alex showed us how the light between two buildings gave the perfect softbox lighting effect, and that this would prove excellent for the style we were going for.
He gave the client’s brief, which was what he wanted to see in our shots and practical suggestions as to how to achieve exactly that. The brief immediately grabbed my photographic appetite and I couldn’t wait to see what I could achieve.
The fictitious brief was this (not a word for word quote):
“Because the subject is a musician and a model. I want to see you capture and explore the human element within the shots, not just the standard model expressions but ‘who’ our client is. And as this is to be published in a fashion magazine, I want to see shots off-angle, gritty and real.”
You can probably see why I was excited; it was something completely new to me and just wanted to get as much experience out of it as possible.
This is where Alex’s stunning wife & professional model Jasmin Lambrechts came in, and what a combination! As they worked side by side, Alex explained things in an informal, yet very informative style. He gave some seriously useful tips on how to direct your model, how to set the camera and how to achieve the perfect lighting on the subjects face.
We started with some slow shutter speeds ‘1/30 to 1/60’ of a second panning shots, this was to capture movement and a unique style, only really achieved in this manner. I think we all found this a pretty tricky technique, but it was probably the most rewarding when you actually got a “YES, I got a good one!”.
As the workshop progressed, we started giving some direction to Jasmin, it was bits and pieces at first, and I’m sure this was down to some of us never having shot a model before. It did however, become more and more natural as we built a rapport with Jasmin and as we found what camera settings worked best.
One of the most helpful tips Alex gave in my opinion was regarding lighting. He really wanted to focus our attention to the exposure of the shot, to ensure we were exposing for the highlights of her face. It may seem an obvious piece of information, but I found really focusing on it turned images from delete to keep. It ensured all the detail was kept on the face, especially when dealing in this ‘contrasty’ environment.
The shot above is one of my favourites from the day. I asked Jasmin if she would throw her hair back so I could try and capture it in full swing. Here I used a fast shutter speed of 1/3000, a generally accepted no-no of ISO6400 (because I needed the fast shutter speed) and had the camera set to manual focusing to make the shot ‘instant’ when the shutter was depressed – and yes, this was not the first attempt, maybe more like the fifth to get it right! The ISO performance on the X-E2 is SO good.
This was another great tip from Alex in regards to action and street photography. He said if you pre-focus on an area where your subject is going to walk and then switch to manual focus, you know every single time that your image is going to be in focus when the subject / model hits that spot. This is particularly useful in street photography, it allows the photographer to frame up a shot and then simply wait for the subject to walk into that frame.
Here are other shots I took that ‘made-the-grade’, at least in my book anyway 😉
Alex had great presence when talking us through ideas as we shot in this environment, throwing us suggestions, checking our shots on the go and even highlighting some great shots our fellow photographers were getting whilst there. This all helped spur me on to try and get the best results I could.
Once we had shot this location from every possible angle, other than hanging off the side of the building (which I would have tried if I could have found a way!), Alex talked us through the next stage in this exciting photography voyage.
Basically, we were going to be on the move, shooting fashion in the streets of Soho amongst the general public. This was where my adrenaline levels went from 7 to 15 (out of ten!) in less than a second. Alex explained how he wanted us to capture the more human element in this environment, the ‘circus’ as he put it, and it really was just that.
Jasmin stepped into the busy, bustling streets of London and we needed to be ready. We were advised to keep ahead of Jasmin to ensure we could scope out the best framing, best angles and to be more aware of great photographic, candid moments. For me, this involved running like mad to stay ahead, trying not to get run over by cars, bikes or pedestrians, not photobombing other photographers shots and still find a good angle myself with the correct exposure! All in all, super exciting, very challenging and incredibly fun!
The reason it was such a circus is because we looked like the Paparazzi. Imagine 12 -14 photographers chasing a beautiful model down the street, all trying to get the perfect shot will certainly draw some attention. People were taking pictures on their mobiles, just-in-case she was famous, asking who she was & who we were – what a buzz I can tell you!
We even had a local restaurateur take to the street stage to grace us with his surprisingly good singing voice. These were the kind of quick paced moments you needed to really know your camera settings, luckily I was just about ready to capture this one below.
After the crazy, brilliant and thrilling roller coaster ride, it was nothing short of perfect to get back to the pizzeria for a beer, pizza and have a chat. The group mingled beautifully, each sharing our successes, failures and our ‘what we would try next times‘. Alex wrapped the day up nicely by highlighting things we did well, things we could improve upon and again, going through individual’s images to give personal feedback – this was a nice touch.
For me, I compare this experience to that warm fuzzy feeling you get at Christmas. I had been given the experience to meet our lovely photographers face-to-face, develop my skills as a photographer and share this experience with like-minded individuals.
If you get the chance I highly, highly recommend going on this course and any other that gives you the chance to learn your photography with others. It not only is a great sociable experience, but most importantly, you get to learn how others seeshots that you, yourself may have missed.
If you have any thoughts, questions or comments, please do drop us a line below and we will try and assist where we can.
Click here to see images taken by other members of the group (Log into Facebook required to view).
I too took some photos at different focal lengths (see the below slideshow), between 10mm and 135mm, to emphasise how certain focal lengths are generally better than others for portraiture. This topic has brought up lots of comments and I have edited this part a number of times to try and get the best brief explanation, without going off on too big a tangent! To break it down to fundamentals, the thing that affects perspective is distance, the distance between the camera and the subject. The focal length you choose affects the framing of a subject. With the series of photos below, I tried to keep the framing the same for all the focal lengths; the thing that changed was the distance between the subject and me. At 10mm I was a mere few cm’s from the subject’s face (awkward), while at 135mm we were a few metres apart. This longest example (135mm) shows a flattening effect, where the content seems compressed. This occurs because of greater distance between the subject and myself. Making the depth of the face (e.g. from the nose to the ear) proportionally less compared to the distance between the subject and the lens… The opposite is true for the wide-angle photos. Take the 10mm example again; I am so close to the subject that the depth of the face makes up a larger distance than the distance between the lens and the nose, making the perspective exaggerated (also note how you can see the shadow behind the model with the wide-angle shots but you can’t with the telephoto portraits because of the narrower angle of view).
In full frame or 35mm film terminology, 50mm is deemed the ‘standard focal length’, as it is close to our eye’s central angle of view. This means that a 50mm lens produces a perspective very similar to what we see. Because the sensors in Fujifilm X-Series cameras are generally 1.5X smaller than full frame sensors (APS-C sensor size), this standard focal length equates to a 35mm lens, like the XF35mm F1.4 R. This is quite complicated to explain (it could be a whole other blog!)… So much so that I have spent hours editing these paragraphs, but hopefully you get the gist of how different focal lengths affect the perspective of a picture. There are some very informative comments about this topic at the bottom of this blog if you want to find out more.
Wide-angle lenses can create exaggerate perspectives which produce amusing (which is good as it’s engaging) portraits, especially with animals!
Now that we understand how different focal lengths and apertures affect the look of a picture we can look at how to combine the two. First of all lets think about portraits: If you want to isolate a subject generally you are going to want to use a standard or telephoto lens with a low F-stop, such as the XF35mm F1.4 R, XF56mm F1.2 R or the imminent XF50-140mm F2.8 R OIS WR. For the image to the left I wanted to try and isolate the woman from the background as it was very busy and distracting, and while it isn’t entirely clean it is made better as a result of using F1.4 for a shallow depth of field.
If you want to capture an environmental portrait generally you would use a wide-angle lens and depending on how much of the environment you want to make out in the background you’d range the F-stop between F2 and F11.
Both of the pictures above were taken with the X100s (I love using it for these kinds of photos). The left image is at F2 and while you can make out the room the clarity of it is poor. Compare that to the right image where the use of F11 results in the mountain behind the boarder being sharp.
Prime vs. Zoom
This is very much a personal preference, there is no right choice. It depends on lots of factors, from space and weight restrictions to financial limitations. Because prime lenses have a fixed focal length, they tend to be smaller, lighter and have larger minimum apertures (F1.2-2.8) compared to zoom lenses. While zoom lenses have the convenience of effectively including many different prime lenses, generally these have more restricted apertures (F2.8-5.6). For me, it depends on the situation. I prefer prime lenses because of the greater depth of field control. As well as this I believe that the fixed focal length makes you think more about your photography, particularly composition. However, the convenience of zoom lenses in situations that are changing quickly can be invaluable as you don’t have to change lenses as often to obtain a variety of photographs. When conditions are unpleasant this is vital in order to protect the sensor. A point to consider is that the XF18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR plus the recently released XF50-140mm F2.8 and XF16-55mm F2.8 R WR (hopefully arriving in the first quarter of 2015) are all weather sealed making them ideal partners for the X-T1, creating a weather sealed system.
If I am working in relatively controlled conditions where it is easy for me to change lens regularly then I try to use prime lenses.
But if conditions are not suitable for continuous lens changes or a situation is quickly evolving and I need to be on my toes the zoom lenses are what I grab.
The zoom lens examples above are all wildlife examples (which are often taken in difficult conditions where a situation is quickly changing) were captured with the telephoto half of the XF18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. The reason why I chose these examples is because I wanted to show what can be done with F5.6 as the maximum aperture, showing nice bokeh in the images where I’ve tried to keep the attention on the subject. Now imagine what will be possible with the new XF50-140mm F2.8 R OIS WR! Can you tell I’m a bit excited about it…?
What lens for the occasion?
The main reason I first moved to the Fujifilm X-Series was the prioritisation of high quality lenses. With the announcement of the X-Pro1, the first lenses available were the XF18mm F2 R, XF35mm F1.4 R and XF60mm F2.4 R. These are all high quality, lightweight prime lenses that, together, offer a wide focal length range package. From there the lens road map laid out Fujifilm’s intentions to create a strong lens collection covering a wide range of uses.
Generally lenses are associated with a particular genre of photography based on their focal length. For example wide lenses such as the XF14mm F2.8 R and XF10-24mm F4 R OIS are intended for landscapes and long lenses like the XF55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS are for wildlife and sports. But rules are made to be broken and your lenses don’t necessarily have to be used to fit those stereotypes. The photograph below was taken with the 14mm lens, generally intended for landscape photography, however I used this lens to capture this macaque foraging for stranded marine life amidst a sunset scene.
The important thing to remember with your lens choice is to think “what do I want to convey?” On this occasion I wanted to show the scene as a whole. In the landscape shot below I focused on the distant hills over a bay with the setting sun using the 55-200mm lens, which is usually associated with wildlife and sports. This helped to emphasise the golden glow which wasn’t as prevalent with a wider-angle view.
Hopefully you now understand that lens choice can have a huge impact on your end result. If you understand the principles of focal lengths and apertures then you have a grasp on what lens to use and why. Remember that lenses are tools designed to help fuel your creativity. For me, a lens that I am very much looking forward to is the XF50-140mm F2.8 R OIS WR. This lens offers the versatility of a zoom but with a constant aperture of F2.8 it gives very good depth of field control. A lens such as this has many uses and I’m sure it is going to be a big hit with photographers from all genres.
A good exercise to try would be to force yourself to use one focal length next time you go for a walk. No matter if you’re using a prime or a zoom lens, try and restrict yourself. The purpose of this is to understand what you can capture with certain focal lengths so that in the future you will hopefully be more decisive with what focal length to use in a given situation. Remember that you can change the end picture dramatically through different apertures. Why not give it a go and then share with us the variety of photographs you managed to capture with the same focal length. Or you can change it up and use one aperture but change your focal lengths. Share your results with us and if you have any questions please get in touch via the contact details at the top.