My love affair with EVFs

When I first started using the Fujifilm X-Series last summer I didn’t realise how helpful electronic viewfinders (EVFs) can be. Being able to see a live view of the exposure and then adjusting this via the exposure compensation dial means that I am more efficient. When using SLRs it is often difficult to get exposure compensation exactly right the first time around, this often means you take a photograph multiple times to get it just right. With X-Series cameras you are able to see how an exposure adjustment will effect the exposure of the image before you take the photo. This is especially helpful for fleeting moments, especially in quickly changing light.

The exposure compensation can be adjusted in post-production but I feel the live view produced by EVFs has helped me improve my photography. This makes my editing workflow shorter, which is always an advantage.

I found this feature particularly helpful when taking silhouettes, such as the images of Chesterton windmill in the gallery below.

EVFs are also very helpful with non-Fujifilm lenses or using Fujifilm lenses in manual mode as they can accurately show when the focus is correct. Even with the X100s and X-Pro1, which have hybrid viewfinders, I use them almost exclusively in EVF mode instead of OVF mode because, for me, it offers more benefits.

What focal length should I use and why?

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerHere’s a quick, hopefully informative snippet as to why you might choose one focal length over another, and why.

The idea for this blog came about when I was asked recently “Why don’t you just zoom-out to get the person in the frame?”. This is a very good question and I felt it needed a mini demonstration to really help answer it. All one needs to conduct this experiment is the following:

  • A willing volunteer – I had a Marc
  • A zoom lens of any kind – In my case, the XF18-135mm lens
  • Oh, and a camera!

The experiment is simple; frame your subject (Marc) the same each time and take a picture at different focal lengths. I chose four focal lengths along the barrel of the lens to best demonstrate. With this, we had the ever-helpful Terry to hand with a camera to capture the experiment from the third person perspective.

Hopefully what you will notice is that the wider the angle, (18mm) the more clutter there is in the image whereas at the 135mm setting, pretty much all clutter has ‘disappeared’.

Why does this happen?

Without going into huge mathematical detail (that I don’t even fully understand) it is because wide angle shots will achieve a larger angle of view and long zooms won’t. This is how much ‘fits’ into the shot – peripheral vision if you like.

As a rule of thumb, wider angle lenses work great for landscape photography and indoors (where you don’t have a lot of room to manoeuvre) as they can fit more in. Wider angles, however, are not great for portrait shots as they will pull the centre of the frame forwards creating distortion in perspective – example image below.

Longer zooms on the other hand work great for de-cluttering a frame to create stunning portraits. This is because the angle of view is smaller, and more importantly, they have a compressing effect. In essence, a long zoom pulls the background closer to the foreground and can give a more natural, slim looking head shape whilst also helping aid the bokeh effect – increasing the focal length of a lens decreases the depth of field.

Here are two example shots I took that hopefully help demonstrate the difference:

The image on the left (135mm) shows Marc’s head in proper perspective. However, the right shot (18mm) shows the nose being ‘pulled’ forward towards the lens and his head being turned into a rugby ball! You will also notice there is more of Marc’s surroundings in the wider angle shot – this diverts some attention away from his face, which, in a portrait shot we don’t want to do.

I hope this post gets you thinking more about which focal length to use rather than just zooming in and out for convenience.

Having a zoom lens is incredibly helpful at times, but it would best to think of your zoom lens as a series of prime lenses. Most photographers, if not all, use specific focal lengths for specific purposes; this is due to the individual optical effects each focal length provides. It really does make a difference to the end result – as (hopefully) shown above 😉

If you can, please go and try this yourself to get a real feel for it. It will help with your own understanding as to what focal length you might want to use, and for which subjects

 

Explaining apertures with puppies

Despite photographing lots of dogs prior to this I naively thought that I’d be able to line up eleven calm and collected Labrador puppies to demonstrate the effect of different apertures on a photograph.

Do these look calm and collected to you?

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Despite the challenging subjects I hope that I can help you understand the fundamentals of using different apertures and how this affects a photograph.

To start off there are three things that are all intertwined in a photograph, these are your shutter speed, ISO/ASA and aperture. Shutter speed is the length of time your camera shutter is open for. This is important depending on what you are trying to photograph, if you are wanting to freeze action then you are going to want a fast shutter speed such as 1/1000 of a second. While if you wanted to create motion blur then you would want a slower shutter speed, for example, 1/60th of a second.

A shutter speed of 1/1900 of a second helped to freeze this leaping puppy

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ISO is a way of setting the sensitivity of the camera sensor. The lower the ISO number (e.g. ISO 100), generally the better the overall quality of the image. However, the lower the number the more light required for an exposure. A sensor set up at ISO 100 requires a shutter speed four times longer than a sensor set up with ISO 400. With ISOs you have to decide what you want to prioritise, faster shutter speed or better quality, you have to find the compromise you are happy with for the situation at hand.

Tired puppy at ISO 200

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Crop of puppy showing high levels of detail at low ISO

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Then there are apertures… This dictates how deep the depth of field will be in the photograph. For example f1.4 has a very shallow depth of field that is helpful for isolating a subject, while f11 has a large depth of field that means everything in a composition can be sharp. Again though there is a twist as the smaller the f number the larger the amount of light let into the lens, meaning faster shutter speeds.

At f1.4 the depth of field is so shallow that only the eyes are in focus

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If one of the three factors change, then it affects at least one of the two other factors. For example if your camera is set up with ISO 400 and aperture f5.6, showing a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second and you want to increase your shutter speed then you can lower your aperture a stop to f4 (which will double your shutter speed) or another stop to f2.8 (quadruple your shutter speed). Alternatively if you don’t want to change your aperture then you can increase your ISO to 800 which would also double your shutter speed.

Using puppies was a difficult choice…

My intention for this blog was to have a wonderful selection of shots showing eleven puppies sat in a line using a variety of different apertures to show how this affects depth of field. The owner Ruth Mercer, who very kindly let me photograph the puppies, said the best time to do this would be when they’re being fed. As the birds eye view picture clearly shows, my dream of a nice orderly line was never going to happen! Why I thought this was possible with these little bundles of energy was beyond me. No matter though, the whole experience was utterly heart warming. And all is not lost as I did obtain some shots that highlight the difference in depth of field caused by different apertures.

Puppy at f1.4

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Puppy at f10

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You can see that with the second photo the depth of field is much greater than the first. This in turn shifts the focus away from the isolated, in-focus puppy in the first image to the whole scene of the second image. Note how your eye should be drawn a lot more to the bottom of the black puppy a lot more in the second image because it is in focus.

Despite being a rather unusual way to highlight how different apertures can affect the image produced, I hope this puppy inspired explanation has helped further your understanding. The lens used for the majority of these shots was the XF23mm f1.4 r which offers very fast autofocus and a very shallow depth of field, using f1.4, to give the photographer the greatest amount of control through a wide aperture range (f1.4-f16).

The take home message is that a small f-stop number allows you to create a very shallow depth of field to help isolate a subject. While a large f-stop number will mean that a larger proportion of the content in the picture will be in focus. To finish with here are a few more shots of the puppies, generally using a shallow depth of field to keep the focus on these adorable little characters. You can also check out a video of this adorable experience here by Ellice Dart.

Why do I love the XF18-135mm lens? Composition.

Good day everyone, I will have to call this a mini-blog as normally I ramble on for ages and bombard you with images – who knows, maybe I still will 😉

1504372_10154010549280534_5836271885610257265_oAs you may or may not know I’m an amateur photographer who loves to try out new types of photography – I’m sure this is not to different from many of you out there. When I first started out with photography I was educated that the more zoom you had the better. So when I was given the X100 for the first time I was quite baffled as to how to work a fixed prime lens. I felt restricted and puzzled as to why I would want one. Of course once I looked at the pictures from it, I was sold and this opened my eyes to the real aspects of what makes a great camera. The images were crisp, clear and full of vibrant colour, all I had to get used to was zooming without a telephoto lens – AKA the Hokey Cokey. Once I got this down though, there was no stopping me, I was out with my original X-E1 and 35mm prime lens and I loved every minute of it!

This leads me to the XF18-135mm. This time I had the promise of excellent image quality but with that lovely versatility of a zoom lens. When I first clicked it into position on the camera body and fired up the camera I was taken back by just how much I could see or not see depending on the focal length. It was something that took me back to the olde days of me using a camera, I was VERY excited to get out and use this new kit.

I decided upon a location in the local area that always seems to make a good picture, this being the Stevington Windmill. I looked at when the sun was going to set and got there about 50 minutes earlier to allow time for running across fields, fumbling with tripods and such like. Once I got a good position near to the windmill I shot this image.

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Focal Length: 49mm – f/5.6 – ISO200

I shot this image at the slightly wider-side of the lens to open up the landscape a bit – this to me gives a very peaceful feel to the shot. Compositionally (is that really a word?) I have dedicated two thirds of the frame to the sky as it is a sunset after all, and I think this really helps the landscape silhouette ‘POP-OUT’ from the skyline.

This next shot I really wanted to focus on the windmill and give a more intense feel. To do this I have used the lens at a longer focal length as this has a very clever effect on the composition. The more you zoom towards a subject, the more the background and foreground are compressed together. So this in turn pulls the Sun closer to the windmill and vice-versa. Not only that, but it also reduces the angle of view – cutting out all the peripheral stuff we perhaps don’t want in our shot.

As a side note – To get the composition I wanted using more zoom, I did have to move further back to accommodate the extra focal length. Basically this means I had to run like crazy across a field and keep checking to see if the composition was right as every moment I wasted meant the sun was getting lower and would soon disappear behind the hillside.

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Focal Length: 98.6mm – f/7.1 – ISO200

These next two shots show this compression effect quite well I feel. It really brings the background closer to the foreground making for a more intense composition that would not have been possible with my 35mm prime lens.

And in case you were wondering, this is my better-half with her camera at her side relaxing whilst I’m running about like a madman saying things like “That’s great, just don’t move. Pretend I’m not here..” which was all great fun. Photography should be fun and if you can get your friends and family involved, so much the better.

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Here’s a playful shot of some hot air balloons in the distance. I framed it up so that they sat on the furthest third of the frame to sweep your eyes across the beauty of the landscape. Because of the compression effect (pulling the background and foreground together) I could give the hot air balloons a bit more presence in the shot, especially when you consider the real distance between the main tree and the hot air balloons.

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I really hope this inspires you to go out and have a play with your camera, shoot a sunset, bring a friend, mix up your compositions and most of all have fun. When you do all that great pictures will naturally follow.

P.S: Seems I managed to get a good ramble and bombardment of images in after all 😉

 

‘Coming round the mountain’ with Dale and his X-E2.

Who doesn’t love a little adventure from time to time? 

My adventure begins with simplest of texts: “Fancy coming to Wales for a week, for free?” sent from my Mum on a weekday morning. Well who could pass on an opportunity like that? I hadn’t done a great deal of landscape photography and knew that this was a great chance to up my skills in this area.

I mentioned my trip to a few colleagues and they suggested I grab some ND Graduated filters to give me more control over the exposure of sky and land. I had never used an ND Filter before, but was excited to give them a go. I knew I couldn’t afford anything decent so I simply bought some £15 (delivered) ND filters with holders on Ebay.

So a few weeks later, fully prepared with all the bits and bobs (tripod, batteries, etc) we set off. I had only been to Wales once as a kid and didn’t remember it that well. All I knew was that I would see LOTS of sheep. Here was a little snap I caught and loved of one of the first sheep I saw there.

Blowing raspberries?
Blowing raspberries?

After settling into our holiday home, we planned out the week ahead. This included going into the underground mines, climbing Snowdon, visiting Anglesey and other holiday-type locations.

Destination number one had to be Snowdon as the weather forecast was looking good and we wanted the best visability when we made it to the top. My Fiancée and I decided to take the Snowdon Ranger path as it was recommended as beautiful and not too difficult.

Here are some of the shots going up the mountainside.

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ISO 200 – f/7.1 – 1/105 – XF10-24mm
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ISO 200 – f/6.4 – 1/120 – XF10-24mm
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ISO 200 – f/11 – 1/100 – XF10-24mm

You may notice that the sky has that slight layered darkness to it, that is the ND grad filters. They help darken the sky area so the whole picture can be exposed correctly. Without them the sky would have been bright white and the colours would’ve been washed out. One problem I did face with the ND filters was that because they were cheap, they had a tendency to give a magenta colour cast on the image. To combat the issue, I used Photoshop to target problem areas using a Solid fill layer set to overlay and then picked a more suitable colour.

Once we made it to the top we saw the train that runs alongside the Llanberis path. A beautiful train though it was, I am glad we walked up for the sense of achievement and also the train did seem rather old and clunky! Made for a great snap though.

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ISO 200 – f/9 – 1/90 – XF10-24mm
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ISO 200 – f/6.4 – 1/750 – XF10-24mm

Here is the view from the very top. I boosted the colours a bit in Photoshop but it really was that clear and that beautiful. I highly recommend taking a visit if you can.
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Now I love visiting Castles, something about the history and the medieval era interest me somewhat. So it is not surprising that we had to take a trip to the recommended – Conwy Castle. Unfortunately I didn’t get many good shots of the castle itself as I would have wanted to take them from the sea as a landscape shot and we didn’t come in from that side. However, it did give me an excellent viewpoint to trial the ‘Miniature’ mode on the camera. Here are some of the shots taken from the top.

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ISO 200 – f/5.6 – 1/125 – XF56mm
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ISO 200 – f/2.5 – 1/750 – XF56mm
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ISO 200 – f/4 – 1/180 – XF56mm

One of my favourite days out had to be travelling round Anglesey. It was my turn to drive out of the family and I must say it was truly excellent. The roads were full of interest with their twists & turns, cliff edges and mountainous surroundings and the views were simply picturesque – everywhere. I remember I kept saying “We will get a picture here on the way back”, I said that about 20 times as pretty much every corner I turned there was another shot waiting to be taken.

One of the first places we stopped was a little place on the coast that I cannot remember the name due to it being “Oh that looks nice, let’s stop here for a minute and take some snaps”. A couple of hours later we were still there enjoying the views and wandering along the coastline.

Here are a few shots from this ‘unknown’ location using the ND grad filters again.

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ISO 200 – f/4 – 1/800 – XF10-24mm
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ISO 200 – f/4 – 1/1800 – XF10-24mm
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ISO 200 – f/9 – 1/120 – XF10-24mm
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ISO 200 – f/5 – 1/600 – XF10-24mm
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ISO 200 – f/6.4 – 1/90 – XF10-24mm

Once we had eaten some lunch here we knew it was time to move on to get the ‘necessary’ holiday ice-cream’ from a beach nearby, we chose the beautiful Beaumaris Pier in Anglesey (shot below).

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Pier at Beaumaris – Anglesey

We also visited some other piers and beaches on the day. Here are two shots that I was really lucky to find. The first image is of a pier, my feet/shoes were pretty soaked after this one as the sea water was coming up from under the wooden beams! I have post-processed this image firstly into black and white and then colourised it with a blue tone to add to the drama of the shot.

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ISO 200 – f/9 – 1/250 – XF10-24mm

The second image was shot on a pier that had this impressive looking building attached, I just loved the look in black and white with all the lines created in the flooring. Again using the ND grad filter to pull some contrast into the sky.

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ISO 200 – f/4 – 1/550 – XF10-24mm

The final part of the day was to track down a good lighthouse image. I found the best one near to us to be South Stack Lighthouse. It was pretty difficult to find and quite a walk to it but it was well worth the effort. As mentioned previously in this blog the ND grad filters gave a magenta cast to all my images. With this particular image I didn’t filter much of it out as I loved the colour with this composition.

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I have come to the end of my mini adventure and I hope you enjoyed being a part of it. Hopefully it will inspire you to go out and venture among these beautiful landscapes and just have fun.

Dale Young

 

Alex Lambrechts and Fujifilm Fashion X Street workshop

Date: Sat 3rd May
Time: Arrival at 10.00 and continue shooting for six hours.
Venue: Sanderson Hotel , 50 Berners Street, London, W1T 3NG
Limited to 6 attendees only.

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Format of the day

This hands-on Fashion X Street workshop will focus on the various techniques and ideas Alex frequently uses when shooting an ‘On-Street’ Fashion, Press or Portrait, shooting with both daylight and flash for varied environmental and lighting effects. During this free 6 hour course, you’ll be learning/testing loads of tips, tricks and secrets. Suitable for all levels of photographers, you’ll be receiving personal hands-on tuition, tailored to your experience level, especially exciting for those still on the fence about switching to the X-Series from traditional DSLR, rangefinders and/or other formats.

You will receive hands-on coaching to achieve the results which have helped Alex become a very sought after UK fashion photographer.

The street shoot portion will be followed by an hour of post processing, Q&A and optional portfolio review

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What you’ll learn

We’ll be shooting a professional international Fashion Model you’ll will be taken right the way through the process, from set up to directing your model for maximum results, learning the following along the way:

  • In-depth manual control and familiarisation of the various features unique to the X-Series, as well as basic manual photography.
  • Accurately & confidently selecting and using the new Fujifilm Fujinon lenses, in both Auto & Manual focus modes, with a variety of focusing techniques for different lighting and environmental situations.
  • Knowing how and when to switch between the various view options of the Hybrid viewfinder and LCD to get the most out of these great tools in every situation.
  • Looking for, identifying and creating dynamic compositions on the go, for that ‘reportage look’ whilst avoiding the typically boring/posed images.
  • How to shoot in the ‘real world’ and ‘on the fly’ with varying lighting conditions and moving subjects on the Streets of Soho.
  • How to use your flash in various ways, for either fill or creative lighting, as well as incorporating existing or external light sources, to enhance your creations.

The final part of this day will then be spent post processing and editing your new images using Lightroom, to prepare them for your portfolio as well as going over any aspects you might want to revisit or discuss again.

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Equipment needed

Simply bring your camera, desired lenses and flashes.
Fujifilm will be providing a selection of X cameras on the day for you to use – including the brand new X-T1 and X100S.
Those wanting to post process your own images on the day will need to bring your own laptop (with the latest version of Lightroom already installed)

T + C’s

No additional, further or other costs or expenses are included in any prize unless stated. For example, the costs of transport to and from the event are not included.
There is no cash alternative

Where do I sign up?

The competition is now closed and congratulations to the winners. Details of the day will be shown on here and on Facebook after the weekend!

About Alex Lambrechts

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Professional photographer Alex Lambrechts has already exhibited in London and New York and currently shoots commercially for magazines, brands, companies, music and fashion labels, travelling internationally.
Whilst he is well recognised for his ‘Quirky, often Edgy’ Children’s campaigns, and incorporating a ‘raw/street documentary’ style to his fashion editorials, Alex is forever closely studying the Masters of past & present, and is MOST passionate about the genres of ‘Social Documentary and Street Photography’ of which he is tirelessly working on personal projects. Alex’s most recent published works can be found in GQ Japan, Vogue Italia, 3 regional Elle and 2 L’Officiel mags and Nylon to name only a few, all these shoots were executed using Fujifilm X-Series cameras.

For more information on Alex, visit his website here

The ‘Bear’ Necessities

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

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

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ISO 6400 – f/2 – XF35mm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Macro Photography Tips

An emphasis on detail, texture and pattern is what makes macro photography so
complex and unique. If done properly, macro photography can give you mind-blowing
results. In this article, let’s go through a few tips which will greatly improve your macro
photography skills and help you take dramatic and high impact shots.

Turn on macro mode: This may seem like a tip for dummies, however many beginners
forget or do not know because they’re too lazy to scan through the thick manual. Macro
mode is usually represented by a small flower on the setting dial. This lets you bring the
lens of the camera closer to the subject.

Use a tripod: Since macro photography is all about sharpness and clarity, you must use
a tripod to avoid any form of vibration that may occur. A tripod will greatly help you in
getting a sharper image.

Focus manually: When the subject is very close to the lens, the auto-focus would tend to
search backward and forward for something to focus on. It would save you a lot of time
to manually focus on the subject and would also be a lot more precise. For starters, shoot
stable objects like flowers where you can take all the time in the world to get your focus
spot on. In time and with practice, you can shoot insects and other wildlife.

Turn the flash on: A shadow can completely ruin your picture; so don’t forget to use
flash. However, you should idly shoot in brightly lit spaces. Use a reflector if you have to
fill the shadow. It would be perfect if you could adjust the intensity of the flash on your
camera, however if you cannot, tape a piece of tracing paper to the top of your flash to
adjust the brightness of the flash.

Aperture: Having the freedom to adjust your aperture settings is a big plus point as it
allows you to control the depth of field. Certain cameras do not allow you to change the
aperture setting once in macro mode. However, if they permit you to do so, you should
use a large aperture in order to blur out the background.

Macro photography is great fun and will keep you preoccupied for ages. You can
endlessly experiment with it on a variety of subjects. It will literally open up worlds
within worlds, so let those creative juices flow and let your camera go wild.

Originally posted by Fujifilm India http://www.fujifilmblog.in/macro-photography-tips/