We photographers often agonise over creating images that are pin sharp and which reflect reality. However, the old adage that “rules are meant to be broken” is never truer than with the creative technique of Intentional Camera Movement or ICM. Continue reading Shaken and Stirred – The Art of Intentional Camera Movement
Photography is all about the light and, as landscape photographers, we are constantly searching for the most interesting and evocative lighting conditions. Without it our pictures can be dull and lacklustre but when Mother Nature performs her magic, the landscape is transformed enabling us to capture some stunning imagery.
Some of my favourite conditions are shooting into the sun to capture those dramatic sunbeams, starbursts or beautiful back-lit scenes. Although this is counter intuitive to everything we are taught early in our photographic journey, this technique helps emphasise, shapes, lines and silhouettes to produce some striking images.
Here are some hints and tips to help you capture atmospheric sun kissed images. Continue reading Here comes the sun – a guide to photographing sunbeams
I remember in my film days having great fun taking shots and resetting the shutter to take another picture to overlay on the first. But in truth this technique was a little hit and miss and rarely resulted in any great images. Thankfully camera manufacturers, including Fujifilm, have come to the rescue and introduced Multiple Exposure modes into their camera bodies.
This is a super feature with endless possibilities to create truly unique and inspiring images in camera without the need to use any post processing. If you’ve not tried this yet here is a short guide to help you on your way. Continue reading Get Creative with Multiple Exposures
Spring is sprung in the UK and nothing signifies that more obviously than a rich carpet of bluebells under a vibrant canopy of lime green beech leaves. Walk into a forest early in the morning and the wonderful fragrant smell hits you, the scene simply begs to be photographed. So, how do you capture this beauty? Well here are a few tips to help you achieve some stunning bluebell shots.
With low raking light, crisp clear air, lingering morning mists, beautiful frosts and (hopefully!) a covering of pristine white snow it’s no wonder that winter is a photographers delight. The icing on the cake is that at this time of the year sunrise and sunset are at civilized times of the day so you can enjoy a lie in and be back for a family meal at the end of the day.
What to shoot
You will not be short of subjects to photograph in these conditions but you may have to be quick as the light or the mist may only be present for minutes or even seconds. From big sweeping landscapes, to isolated trees or barns, to detail shots of frosted grass, icicles or bubbles under the ice there are shots everywhere.
It’s the harsh weather that creates those Continue reading Capturing Winter – a photographer’s guide
Halloween, the time of ghosts, ghouls and bewitching conditions to create wonderful atmospheric autumnal images!
After a few summer months of long, warm days, harsh light and of course some rain (I am in the UK!) we are longing for misty mornings, low raking light and sunrise and sunset at sensible times of day. For many photographers, especially landscapers, autumn is simply the best time of the year.
So how do we make the most of these opportunities and capture some stunning images?
Well it all starts with the planning and we’ll begin with the weather. Keep an eye on the forecast and if you’re looking for a misty start ideally you need cool temperatures after a period of wet, mild weather with little or no wind. Check the sunrise time and be prepared to be on location at least 30 mins prior. When the sun pops up it starts to warm up the landscape and gradually burns off the mist. Depending upon the amount of mist it may take a while to clear so you may have an hour or more to capture your shots.
I use BBC Weather, Met Office and WeatherPro apps to check the forecast though it’s not foolproof and the conditions might not turn out as you were hoping for. In those circumstances it’s important to keep a positive view and think about the things you can shoot.
This was the case recently when I went down to the River Trent for what I hoped would be a misty sunrise. When I arrived it was thick mist and even when the sun came up it didn’t burn off. Walking along the bank I noticed the leaf, grass and reed details and decided to shoot some high key images. So although I didn’t get what I had expected I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
Whilst strong sunlight is best early and late, during the day bright overcast conditions with its soft lighting will enable you to capture the beautiful autumn colours without harsh shadows and excessive contrast. Take care to avoid large areas of bland blue or grey sky which add nothing to the image.
In certain circumstances the weather can be especially challenging. However “every cloud ….…” The fact is that “bad weather” can provide you with great opportunities to capture some unique shots as many photographers don’t venture out in inclement conditions. The benefit of much of the Fujifilm equipment is that it’s weather sealed (check yours) so as long as you can keep the front element dry you’re good to go! It’s a good idea to have an umbrella handy, though the ability to grow another hand would be extremely useful too! I recommend the Gustbuster umbrella which is large, robust and is tested to withstand winds of 55mph.
These next few shots were taken on an extremely challenging day in the Lake District. It was pouring with rain, visibility was poor and light levels were low. Despite sheltering under a large umbrella that flipped inside out twice (hence the Gustbuster purchase) it felt like a contest between me and the elements and I was determined to get some pictures.
This shot was also taken in pouring rain. The soft, diffused light and low contrast really suited a long exposure and providing you meter carefully to retain detail in the highlights you can get super images in these conditions.
EARLY & LATE
Usually the best times to shoot atmospheric landscapes is at the beginning and end of the day, that magical period when the sun is rising or setting but is still below the horizon giving a soft, warm light.
Mornings take more effort and you have to walk to your location in the dark but there are fewer people around and there is something special about witnessing the start of a new day especially when the conditions are just right. Plan to be at your location at least 45 minutes before sunrise. If you want to get a starburst effect as the sun pops over the horizon shoot at f16 or f22 but make sure your front element or filters are clean!
For sunset ensure you stay until at least 30 minutes after the sun has gone down because that’s the time when the sky is backlit with, hopefully, an amazing display of colour.
Another benefit of shooting early or late is that usually the wind drops at these times enabling you to capture lovely reflections.
The blue hour is a great time for city shots but don’t stop then because city streets late at night can provide many other opportunities especially when it’s wet and the pavements reflect the vibrant artificial lights. Try converting to black and white to give a colder, more intimidating feel to the image.
Great autumn shots can be had all around the country in local parks, woods and by the rivers. However, in the UK, there are a few stunning locations such as Perthshire, Lake District, Thorp Perrow N. Yorks, Peak District, Clumber Park, Westonbirt Arboretum, Ashridge forest, and Stowe.
Rivers, canals, lakes and marshes all offer great potential for atmospheric misty shots. Look for some added interest like boats, jetties or rocks to aid your composition.
Fields heavy with morning dew also produce mist. Add backlit trees and you have the recipe for some stunning pictures. Think about your viewpoint, try and find an elevated view so that you are above the mist.
Other great places for spooky, ethereal shots are graveyards!
Here are a couple of images I took in Edinburgh using the multiple exposure feature on my X-T1. When you set the drive dial to ME you shoot the first image as normal and the screen will then show you the image and ask if you are happy with it. If you are you get a faint overlay of your original image to help you superimpose with the second. Take that shot and your combined image shows on your screen. However if you’re not happy with the second shot you can delete that one, keeping the first, and then reshoot.
In these shots I took one image of the row of grave stones then the second shot was a close up of the inscription from one of the stones. If you’ve not tried this give it a go you can get some great effects!
Why not also try the Advanced Modes for achieving some creative pictures? Many photographers bypass these but I would urge you to give them a try, the high key or soft focus mode are especially good for misty shots.
Of course the colour at this time of year can be amazing and forests and woods can provide countless opportunities with shafts of early morning light streaming through the trees illuminating the forest floor or feathering the light across branches laden with morning dew. Keep to the edges of the woods to get the best effects.
The choice of lens can also have a dramatic effect on your image. I find that this time of year is ideal for using a longer lens which I use to compress perspective or isolate detail. Perfect for enhancing a misty scene adding drama and intrigue to your shot.
As the light is low at this time of year or day ensure that you use your lens hood to cut out any unwanted flare and again make sure your lens and filters are spotless.
You will be amazed at the difference a Polarising filter makes to your autumn pictures, reducing glare and increasing colour saturation. A circular polariser allows you to fine tune the effect but take care not to overdo it especially if you have blue skies in your picture.
Other filters that are useful are Neutral Density filters in 3, 6 or 10 stops to extend the exposure time and 2 and 3 stop Neutral Density Graduated filters to control the dynamic range in your picture, usually darkening the sky or areas of water.
In order to achieve the best quality files I prefer to shoot at low ISO (usually 200) and for a landscape will select f8 or f11 unless I want to intentionally reduce the depth of field.
Depth of field (the area of the picture that is acceptably sharp in front and behind the point of focus) is determined by focal length, aperture and focus point.
With a small aperture eg f11 and a wide angle lens eg 14mm focusing at 1m everything will be sharp from 47cm to infinity. There are various DOF apps you can use on your smartphone to ensure accuracy. Alternatively you can simply focus ⅓ into the scene and check your EVF, zooming in to assess sharpness.
Using the AF joystick on the X-Pro2 and X-T2 makes focus point selection a breeze and it’s another favourite feature of mine. Trying to use AF in mist is challenging to most cameras so I recommend switching to Manual focus. There are several different manual focus aids on Fuji cameras, I prefer focus peaking and set my highlights to Red, white highlights in mist might prove a little tricky!
Low ISO and small apertures usually mean a longish shutter speed which makes a tripod an essential part of my kit. But there are many other benefits to using a tripod not least that it slows you down so that you can search the frame carefully and fine tune your composition. Using Neutral Density Graduated filters is also much easier when your camera is tripod mounted. That said there are many people who prefer the freedom of shooting handheld and are happy to use wider apertures or higher ISO’s. There really is no right or wrong as long as you capture the image you’re looking for.
Although I have a cable release I prefer to use the 2 second timer unless I am using B (Bulb mode) for long exposures or want to capture a specific point in time ie waves.
For metering I will use Evaluative or Spot depending on the subject and the style I am looking for. Be aware that mist will fool your camera into underexposing resulting in dull, grey images. You will need to use your exposure compensation to increase the exposure by by around 1 stop though this may vary depending on the amount of mist in the shot. The live histogram on your camera will help you ensure the correct exposure, aim to expose more to the right without clipping the highlights.
One of my favourite features on the X-Pro2 and X-T2 is the front exposure compensation dial which you rotate to deliver up to 5 stops more or less exposure, once you have set the top dial to “C”.
As I shoot in RAW I leave my White Balance set to Auto and then fine tune later in Lightroom if required. That said I find that my Fujifilm cameras deliver excellent white balance on auto. Just be aware that with mist your images may look a little cool. So if you are shooting JPEGS try Daylight setting or, if you want to really warm up those rich autumnal colours try Cloudy. Your Fuji camera may allow you to auto bracket the WB, you get three different settings from the same image!
Finally don’t forget to prepare yourself for your autumn shoot. It’s essential to be comfortable when standing around for long periods in the cold allowing you to concentrate on the images rather than trying to keep warm. Boots or wellies (with decent soles), down jacket, hat and gloves are essentials as are a flask and some energy bars. Oh and if you’re venturing out into the great outdoors on your own make sure you tell someone where you’re going. Most of the best locations have no mobile signal!
So I hope that this has given you some inspiration to wrap up, get out shooting and make the most of the best time of the year!
To see more of Chris’ work visit his website www.chrisuptonphotography.com
I think it’s fair to say that we are all guilty of not using all of the features on our cameras. We prefer to stick to what we know or what we think we need. One of those features that I had dismissed as a bit gimmicky was the Advanced Filters. Sure I had looked at them and fired off a few shots but they weren’t for me, I preferred to produce my creative images in Lightroom or Photoshop.
However that was all to change on my recent trip to Lisbon.
Now I wouldn’t quite describe Lisbon as beautiful, it’s certainly not a Venice, Paris or Prague. But it is definitely characterful. Very hilly, lots of little streets and alleyways, buildings that have seen better days contrasting with some stunning architecture, oh and of course there are the trams. These trams have been part of Lisbon’s travel network for almost 150 years and are one of the city’s major tourist attractions.
As a travel photographer there are always the iconic images that are on my shoot list but I also try to look a little further to see how I can put my own interpretation into a place. On this trip the light was pretty harsh and the sky plain blue and so my attention turned to wandering the streets early in the morning looking for some detail shots, little cameos that communicated a feel about the place. When I’m in this creative mode I often shoot square. It’s a format that I love and one that lends itself really well to the more creative approach.
So having switched my camera to shoot RAW & JPEG and selected the 1:1 format, which helps me compose in camera, I took a few images. I was fairly pleased with the results and I knew how I might develop them in post processing but then it occurred to me that I might try the Advanced Filters just to see the effect.
Now if you’re not too familiar these modes are presets which automatically apply a certain feel to the image and include Miniature, Pop Colour, High Key, Low key, Dynamic Tone, Soft Focus and a series of Partial colour filters.
However the first in the menu is Toy Camera and switching to this I took a few shots, looked at the screen and smiled. The combination of the scene in front of me and the effect of the filter, slight underexposure, a warm tone and dark vignette together with the square format just seemed to work perfectly together.
Well that was it, I tried a few more, and loving the effect I shot many more images this way. I also tried some of the other filters and quite liked those too but my preference was for the Toy effect and I came back with enough images to create a little Blurb book. A perfect outcome and something a little different to what I had originally envisaged from the trip.
So I would urge you to open your mind to the creative opportunities that our Fujifilm cameras offer us, you might just be pleasantly surprised.
Toy Camera mode – “loving the effect I shot many more images this way”
By Chris Upton
There has been no bigger advocate of the Fujifilm XF18-55mm f2.8/4 zoom lens than me. With it’s diminutive size, robust build, superb image stabilisation and excellent image quality it seems disparaging to refer to it as a “kit lens”.
As a travel photographer, where weight is an important factor, and one of the key reasons for me moving to Fuji in the first place, it has been my mainstay lens. Covering key focal lengths from wide angle to modest telephoto it is a perfect “walk around” lens.
So when Fujifilm launched the XF16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR I dismissed buying one pretty quickly, mainly because of the increased size and weight and lack of Optical Image Stabilisation. Fujifilm apparently decided not to incorporate OIS as it would compromise image quality and add to the size, weight and cost. It should be noted that the major DSLR competitors equivalents do not include this feature either.
However, when Fujifilm offered me the opportunity to try out the 16-55 I jumped at it, intrigued to see for myself how it performed and if it could justify its premium price point versus its smaller sibling.
When it arrived I was immediately struck by the obvious! It was much bigger and heavier than the 18-55 weighing in at 657g versus 310g, up to 130mm long v 98mm and featuring a 77mm filter thread v 58mm. All in all a beast of a lens and one that seemed to fly in the face of the compact system concept.
There was no image stabilisation but the lens did feel reassuringly solid. The weight is a result of the sheer amount of glass Fujifilm have used to construct this lens. With 17 elements in 7 groups and a metal body it has a real “pro / workhorse” feel. I should declare at this stage that I also own a Canon DSLR and some L lenses including the 24-70 f2.8 mkII – the full frame equivalent of the Fuji lens. Though consigned to the cupboard and waiting for the inevitable eBay listing, it was interesting to compare the two lenses. Suddenly my “new” Fuji lens felt like a nimble lightweight and I was eager to test it out.
Mounting the lens onto my X-T1 meant that I had a weather resistant pairing, really useful for any photographer shooting outdoors. The aperture ring has definite clicks in 1/3 stop increments, there is a red marking on the lens to denote its position as a premium lens and I noted that the filter thread was metal, important with frequent use of filter systems like Lee and Hitech.
Although this lens is wider by only 2mm versus the 18-55 for me this is important as I quite often find that 28mm equivalent is not quite wide enough and I have to swap to my 10-24mm. Not a big issue but having a 24mm – 85mm equivalent is much more useful.
I had the perfect opportunity to test it out on a trip to Cinque Terre where I wanted to not only check out the image quality but also how it felt to manage the increased size and weight.
I was determined to use the lens as much as possible and to do a direct comparison with the 18-55. So what were my findings?
Using the lens was a dream, uncomplicated, reassuringly solid and a quality feel. If I’m honest I think that the lens looks just about OK when mounted on the X-T1, it certainly looks better and feels more balanced when using the VG X-T1 battery grip – a pity I sold mine as I didn’t want the extra bulk! The petal shaped lens hood worked well too.
A slight downside for me was using filters. As a Lee Seven5 filter system user on the smaller lenses I had to use my 100mm filters on this lens which duplicated the filters and added slightly to the weight and bulk of my kit.
Of course an f2.8 lens throughout its zoom range means that you can achieve some pleasing bokeh particularly at the longer end of the zoom range when close to your subject. Though on a crop sensor you get the equivalent of roughly f4 on a full frame. The autofocus was fast, quiet and accurate and internal so that the front element doesn’t rotate, again important for filter users.
However, ultimately what’s most important is image quality and here the 16-55 didn’t disappoint. It is an extremely sharp lens throughout the focal lengths with very little fall off or distortion and the contrast and colour rendition, in common with all Fujifilm lenses, was stunning. Several images were shot into the sun and I was impressed that the ghosting and flare was minimal due to the nano GI coating on the front element.
As for testing there are various websites that show detailed performance MTF charts but for my field test I shot comparison images of Vernazza, Cinque Terre on an X-T1 body, tripod mounted at 23mm. I shot the same view at f2.8 – f11 on both the 16-55 f 2.8 and 18-55 f2.8/4.
I then ran a further test photographing Southwell Minster on an X-Pro2 using both lenses at a range of popular focal lengths 16 / 18mm, 23mm, 35mm and 55mm and at apertures of f2.8/4, 5.6, 8, 11 & 16.
In summary both lenses produced excellent results though, no surprise, the 16-55mm delivered stunning image quality at virtually every aperture.
The 18-55 performed best, looking at centre and edge sharpness, at f8 at 18mm and 23mm and f11 at 35mm and 55mm. When shooting landscapes I use a tripod, selecting f11 or f8 for many of my shots, so it is not a surprise therefore to see why I have been so pleased with its performance. As you might expect that performance falls away a little at f4 particularly in the corners. That is where the 16-55 comes in. The 17 elements and lens coatings combine to deliver a performance that is superb with amazing sharpness in the centre and edges especially at apertures of f5.6 and f8. The lens is not quite as sharp in the corners at f2.8 and diffraction starts to set in at f16, in common with most lenses, though still acceptable.
Directly comparing the two lenses I would say that at their optimum apertures they perform similarly but the extra quality in the 16-55 delivers better results at the wider apertures and extremes of focal length in both the centre and at the edges.
Here are some results showing 100% crops of the RAF file with no processing, though it should be noted that Lightroom automatically applies lens correction for chromatic aberration and distortion.
So which one should you choose? That’s perhaps a tricky one as it really depends on what’s important to you and what you shoot.
If weight, bulk, image stabilisation, smaller filter sizes and very good image quality (excellent at certain apertures) and not forgetting of course the price is important to you, then the 18-55mm will serve you very well.
However, if it’s ultimately all about image quality and you would benefit from weather sealing and don’t mind the extra weight and lack of OIS then the 16-55mm is a stunning lens. A zoom that performs like a prime, it is well worth the extra money.
To see more of Chris’ work, visit www.chrisuptonphotography.com
Amid all the deserved hype around the launch of the Fujifilm X-Pro2 it was easy to miss the upgrade to the Fuji X-E2, in the form of the X-E2S. In truth this is really an evolution rather than a revolution but, true to form, Fuji have integrated some very welcome features into this incarnation.
Before I run through these it might be worth explaining Fujifilm’s strategy around their, interchangeable lens, CSC (compact system camera) line up. Fujifilm’s launch into the CSC market came with the introduction of the X-Pro1 4 years ago. This model was styled around the retro rangefinder type cameras. It was an instant success due to the beautiful design and stunning image quality. The X-E1 and X-E2 followed in the same vein but in a smaller form factor. Whilst there are benefits of using a rangefinder for certain types of shooting, especially street, there are many photographers who prefer the typical DSLR style body with a central viewfinder. Enter the Fujifilm X-T1 and subsequently X-T10.
My “affair” with Fuji started in 2013 when I bought the X-E1. I had always wanted a small, light rangefinder style camera to use as a carry round camera to be used alongside my Canon DSLR system. I loved that camera and I still do, but whilst the X-T1 with its fantastic features and design is now my favoured body, the X-E1 is always in my bag.
So when Fuji asked me to test the X-E2S I was intrigued to see how it would compare to my own two models. My thoughts here are not meant to be a definitive technical review, there are plenty of other sites that offer that, but more around the user experience which will hopefully help you decide whether this body might be the one for you.
The X-E2S inherits the rangefinder style design and functionality with a series of new or improved features. The X-E2S is the same small size as the X-E1 / X-E2 and weighs in at a meagre 350g (body only) great for discreet, unobtrusive shooting.
The X-E2S boasts improved viewfinder, autofocus system, handling and a more intuitive interface so let’s have a look at these in a little more detail.
One of the key benefits of the recent Fuji viewfinders is the ability to see in real time the exposure that you’re getting. Adjust the exposure or exposure compensation dial and see the screen go brighter or darker and confirm highlight and shadow control with the live histogram. The display is large with a 0.62x magnification and very bright and Fujifilm claim the EVF features the world’s shortest display time lag. The user can tailor the information appearing to their specific needs and this auto rotates when the camera is turned vertically, a really useful feature.
The X-E2S incorporates the superb new Auto Focus system that was introduced to the X-T1 and incorporated in the X-T10 and the new X-Pro2. This adds Zone and Wide Tracking to Single Point for easy capture of moving subjects. The standard single point mode offers 49 points for fast, precise focusing whilst the Zone mode allows users to select from three different sized zones from the 77 point focus area. The wide tracking feature excels at capturing moving subjects whether they are moving up and down, left and right or towards or away from the camera. This combined with Face and Eye detection options makes this a significant improvement over the old system and offers users one of the best and fastest AF systems available.
The addition of a new, silent, electronic shutter is perfect for candid captures or shooting in quiet places and a top speed of 1/32,000 second means that the fast Fujinon lenses can be used wide open outdoors on a sunny day without the need for an ND filter. The interval timer enables shooting up to 999 frames with intervals from one second to 24 hours.
The camera features Fujifilm’s APS-C 16.3 megapixel X trans-CMOS II sensor. This is unique to Fujifilm and the random colour array and lack of low pass filter helps deliver outstanding image quality and low noise.
For those who like to shoot in low light there is an amazing new top ISO of 51200 though I rarely shoot above 3200 ISO where I have no problem with the quality of the files. If you like to shoot video the X-E2S can capture 1080/60p video and offers the latest set of Film Simulation Modes, including the gorgeous Classic Chrome which gives a slightly muted retro feel. In order to make selecting your most used functions quick and simple you can customize the function buttons on the body. My selections are ISO, self timer (usually set to 2 sec for tripod shooting), focus point, AF mode and metering mode. Of course you can also configure the Quick “Q” menu to your own specification. The new model also features an enhanced grip and a new user friendly interface for the menu system.
For those that are new to Fuji or thinking about making the move across there are a few other key points I should highlight.
As with the X-E2 the X-E2S offers the user the opportunity to manage the “exposure triangle” of aperture, shutter speed and ISO together with exposure compensation easily on the camera without the need to dive into endless menu’s. Manual focusing is a breeze when using the focusing aids of digital split image and focus peaking. I find that setting my focus peaking to flash the highlights in red works best. If you shoot JPEGS rather than RAW, or want a very pleasant surprise, the Fuji cameras deliver stunning JPEGS straight from camera. There is a lovely, almost film like feel to them and you can fine tune them in camera to suit your style, they really do have to be seen to be believed.
A final point is that Fujifilm have earned deserved praise for their commitment to users buying into their system to ensure that they are not disadvantaged by the steady stream of technological improvements. In this case existing X-E2 users can update their camera’s firmware at no cost delivering the new AF system updates, performance improvements and the new graphical interface introduced in the X-E2S.
X-E2 firmware can be downloaded for FREE here.
So in summary whilst the X-E2S does not incorporate all the latest technology from Fujifilm it does offer a lightweight, compact rangefinder style body, awesome autofocus system with a proven 16.3mp sensor delivering stunning image quality at a very keen price making this a very attractive proposition indeed.
All images were shot using the Fuji X-E2S