Holiday Snaps – Freedom From Faff

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Holiday snaps – it’s just one of those things right? Even though you LOVE taking pictures, LOVE capturing beautiful scenes of beautiful places, sometimes you simply can’t be bothered to figure out the following:

  • Which lenses should I take?
  • What bag am I going to use to take all this stuff?
  • What ND filters should I take?
  • What about chargers, spare batteries, neck strap, lens cloth (which you have temporarily ‘misplaced’ but don’t want to admit you have lost to your Wife)
  • And what about my tripod, how will it fit in my luggage?
  • Sighs..

This Is Where The Fujifilm X70 Comes In..

If you’re like me and already have a Fujifilm X Series camera, you have become very accustomed to quality photographs and probably shudder at the thought of using anything substandard.

And this could be for many reasons – but for me, it is this simple:

“What if I see something amazing while I’m on holiday? It could be the next picture to go on my wall at home.”

Now I know that if I shot the image on a smartphone there is no way that I would want to print it due to the lower image quality, and so I would always want to have an X Series with me.

With this in mind I decided to take only the X70 on my recent holiday to Mallorca. Now I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about not taking all my camera gear with me. I think this is because it all becomes a bit of a comfort blanket, I would think to myself:

“I’ve got the 10-24mm for my wide shots, my 55-200mm for my tele…” etc.

So ‘only’ having the fixed focal length I thought this might limit me creatively a bit, but all I can say is WOW – it really doesn’t! 

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X70 – Old cobbled street in Mallorca – processed in LightroomDSCF6684-2

I was trying to put my finger on what it is that makes this camera stand out from the crowd, and I think it really comes down to these 3 reasons:

The Image Quality Is Superb

This little camera creates beautiful images. It has the same sensor as found in the X-T1 (X-Trans CMOS II) and can easily produce stunning A3 / A2 prints.

And I have even seen great images printed at 2 by 3 metres from this sensor!!

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It’s Really Easy To Use

Whether you understand shutter speed, aperture and all that jazz or not, it really doesn’t matter with the X70 because this camera will cater for your abilities.

If you’re still learning the basics of photography you don’t need to worry as the camera has a handy little AUTO switch you can use to keep things simple.

But if you are like me and LOVE playing with all the settings, adjusting your depth of field and all of that then the X70 will be a great choice for you as all of the useful features are either a switch or a dial at your fingertips.

Not only that but the camera itself will charge like a phone in that you can use a USB cable straight into the side of the camera, the battery will then charge internally. It’s a simple thing, but in reality it’s really handy, as every night I’d just plug it in and place it on the bedside table to keep the power topped up.

Another great feature I use all the time is the built-in WIFI. When on holiday or travelling, a lot of us like to share our images with friends through Facebook or similar. With the WIFI feature on the X70 you can transfer over your images from camera to smartphone, edit them in Snapseed or similar and then upload – simple.

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The Caves of Drach - Mallorca
The Caves of Drach – Mallorca – looking straight upwards for those wondering

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It Fits Into My Pocket

This is perhaps the simplest reason, and yet it is still one of the most important as to why I love this camera.

Unlike any other camera in our range the X70 actually fits into my pocket, which I find truly liberating.

It means that wherever I go, I have my camera with me without having to take a camera bag – which as I’m sure many men out there will agree – our ultimate aim is to carry everything of use within the pockets of our jeans.

My Wife beating me at pool...Again
My Wife beating me at pool…Again
Keeping things healthy at dinner time
Keeping things healthy at dinner time..

pic_04And The Super Technical BONUS Reason…

My Wife LOVES taking couple selfies, and it just so happens that this camera makes that really easy too as the screen flips up fully. 😉

To find out more about the Fujifilm X70 Click Here.

Until next time, happy snapping

Dale 🙂

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My first ever tram ride.. It was brilliant!

Which shutter speed should I use?

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If you are like me, knowing what shutter speed to use when you are trying to capture a particular type of action can be confusing at times. So I’ve put together a little ‘cheat sheet’ to help you get a good idea as to which shutter speed to use for particular shots.

In terms of how to use this ‘cheat sheet’ I recommend you print it off, stick it in your camera bag and, whenever you get a chance to shoot something more tricky, have a look at it and try out the relevant shutter speed. Alternatively, find yourself a willing volunteer to practice with!

Before you get started; Put your camera into ‘Shutter priority’ mode; to do this set your aperture setting to ‘A’, the ISO setting to Auto and moving your shutter speed dial off the ‘A’ position. This ensures you only need to worry about the shutter speed that you choose and nothing else.

Download the ‘Shutter speed cheat sheet’ here


Star jumps at 1/4000 to freeze motion 

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Important tip! As a good rule of thumb, always use a focal length that is equal to or less than the shutter speed when not using a tripod – this will help against unwanted blur in your images. For example if the shutter speed is 1/30, you should shoot with a focal length of 30mm or wider (28mm, 18mm, 16mm etc).

Walking fast at 1/250 to freeze motion

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Walking fast at 1/15 for motion blur effect – panning the camera with the subject

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Walking fast at 1/4 for motion blur effect – camera on tripod

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Important tip! If you find that using a slow shutter speed makes your image overexpose consider shooting with an ND filter or shoot at sunset/sunrise.


These are just a few examples to get you thinking about which shutter speed to use – the cheat sheet should assist with other types of shots.

The most important thing to do is just go out and try them, don’t worry about getting it wrong and blurring your shots, as over time with practice you will start to get the shots that you were hoping to get.

If you have a friend that is interested in photography go and learn this with them. You can bounce ideas off each other to create some great shots. And… you can get them to perform star jumps for you until you get them perfectly sharp and in focus!

Until next time

Happy snapping! 🙂

Dale

Why do you love photography?

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So I’ve been thinking.. Why do we love photography so much? I thought I’d put brain-to-keyboard to see if I could justify it all.


Firstly let me say welcome back to our blog! As with anything I’m sure you won’t agree with all of my reasons for loving photography, but I wanted to share my thoughts to see whether you agree, disagree or even have different reasons why photography is great. So don’t forget to share your reasons for loving photography in the comments section below..

We are emotionals.

The first and foremost reason we love photography is not because of a particular brand, it’s not because of a particular photographer or even because we love being creative. It is simply that pictures make us feel something; something that words fail to describe – It could be the love shared between newly-weds at their wedding, that picture that takes you back 20 years or even the shot taken just as your son wins his first sports day race.

It is a moment, caught in time and a feeling, caught in time – forever.

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And here is the picture that takes me back 20 or so years (on the right!)
We are observers.

Just think when you have had a hard day in the office or a tough time at home, everyone needs a release – some people run miles & miles until their feet ache, some try their hand at baking, but for you and me – we keep our eyes wide, wide open to see life and to capture it in its most fleeting yet beautiful moments, as it happens.

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We are storytellers.

Because it’s so easy to pick up the basics in photography and pretty much everyone has a camera of some sort, we write our own lives down for others to see & remember, it’s just that we don’t use words to do it – we use pictures.

And this isn’t anything new either, this has been going on for many a year. The only difference is that it’s easier for people to take part in it. If you think about it, most families have a few old tea stained images that show members of the family that you wish you could’ve met. And it tends to jog the memory of people that did know them. You might find out that your old Great Aunt May was in fact a star musician in her day playing the sousaphone! You are part of this trend for your family’s family in years to come. They can look back and say “Wow what super pictures your Great Grandad Dale used to take!”.. 😉

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We are light chasers.

We love to chase good light and when we can’t find it, we create it. Once we’ve found a good subject, we want it to look its best or sometimes its worst depending on the emotion you’re trying to portray. This is where creating or finding the right light is so important. I think this is why the great photographers are great – they find the light and sculpt it to fit their intimate needs. Whether it be a beam of light, lighting a dark cold corridor for dramatic effect or the soft lighting from a window to create beautiful, natural looking portraits. This is one of the most fun and creative things a photographer can work with, after all it’s all about light.

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We are creatives.

My final reason is that it allows us to explore our imaginations once more; just like when we were kids playing with Transformers pretending to save, or in my case, destroy the world. And we can create any world we like, any emotion just by working with our own creativity and developing it.

Imagine if every photographic idea you’ve ever had was an individual ball in your very own ball pool, just dive in and lose yourself in your own creatively until you hone your style.

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 We are photographers

And there we have it, my top reasons why I believe people love photography. Agree? Disagree? Or have a different reason? Why not share it with us below.

Happy snapping & keep enjoying photography, whatever the reason may be! 😉

 

 

 

Tutorial: To take great pictures first you have to S.E.E.

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerSo how do I take better pictures?

Great question, glad you asked! There are so many ways to take better pictures, but I would say the easiest way to improve is to read tutorials, watch tutorials and try all the techniques you see to develop your skills. Think of every tutorial as a new recipe that you can add to a larger collection, then when you need a certain flavour of image, you just choose the relevant recipe. It not only means you will feel more confident when shooting, but you’ll also start producing consistently good, consistently your-style images, which is very important.

And don’t worry if you don’t quite get a technique straight away, because you will, and when you do, embrace it. Use it over and over until it becomes part of your very own photography recipe book.

So with this in mind, I want to introduce you to a new recipe to add to that book. This is a simple mnemonic that I want you to memorise, and then try out as soon as you can.

S: Search – E: Evaluate – E: Emphasise

S : Search

Being a budding photographer, I can assume that you are always looking for an interesting subject to take pictures of and this is what this step is all about. Search for the perfect photo any time you have a camera handy ( which of course, you always do 😉 ) because an interesting shot can find its way to you very quickly in almost all circumstances. Whether you are doing street photography and suddenly a flash mob arrives, or maybe it’s some landscape photography and you notice a small glint of the sun peeking through some trees. Be mindful of these possibilities and be ready.

Now, here’s the important part – when you find an interesting subject, don’t just shoot a picture of it and move on. This is a habit of many photographers, and it doesn’t mean that they will take bad pictures, on the contrary, they could be good photos. But, to take great photos, consistently, look to the next step..


E: Evaluate

So you have found something to take a picture of? That’s great! Now ask yourself this very simple question:

Why do I want to take a picture of it?

Think about what makes this subject special? Is it the colour of the ladies hair? Is it the shape formed from the shadow of that building? Maybe it’s the emotion that you want to capture? Or could it be the sharp stylish lines in the car? If you cannot answer this question, it probably isn’t worth taking a photograph. But, if you can answer it, take that knowledge to the next step.


E: Emphasise

So now you have a potential shot in mind, and very importantly, you know what makes it interesting. So this last step is to emphasise that point. Here are some ideas and examples to this way of thinking:


The red haired girl

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Let’s say you’re taking an image of a red haired girl, if the reason you chose her as your subject is because of her beautiful hair colour, don’t shoot her in black and white – consider complimentary colours in the background (greens usually work well) to help her stand out from the background. You could even increase the saturation ever so slightly to boost the colour further.

Tip: Your eye is always drawn to the warmer colour palette first in an image followed by cooler tones (blues).


The aggressively styled car

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If it is a car you’re shooting, and the reason that you chose it is because it looks mean and aggressive, getting down low to the ground, close to the car and shooting upwards can really add to the drama, especially if you add a little dutch tilt as well.

Tip: Using a wide-angle lens like the XF10-24mm or XF14mm can really increase the mood further as it pulls the centre of the frame forward, towards the viewer.


The modern city building

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If it’s an interesting bit of modern architecture you’re shooting, and the reason that you chose it is because of its modern lines and edges. Consider following one of these lines of the building from one edge of the frame to the other. Look at capturing the symmetry of the building, try it in black and white and also look at increasing the contrast to make the building ‘pop out’ from the image.

Tip: Try shooting in the 1:1 ratio (square crop) to enhance the symmetry and pattern-like nature of the image.


Why S.E.E. can help you

If you don’t go through these steps every time you go to take a picture, there is a high chance that you will only ever take good photos, not great ones.

This process is there to remind you to squeeze out every last drop of special into every photograph you take. After a while you will know this recipe off by heart and it will become second nature, very much like the difference between learning to drive and being able to drive – it just happens naturally with a little repetition.

And most of all.. have fun and keep snapping!

😀

 

Tutorial: Shooting landscapes

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

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

Shoot Raw

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

Essential accessories you may have overlooked

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

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

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

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

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

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

You should also check out my rule of thirds tutorial.

Try different perspectives

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

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

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Use ND grad filters

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

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

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

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

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Check the weather

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

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Prepare an itinerary

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

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Find the sweet spot for your lens

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

Here are some other examples:

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

* at 18mm

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

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Is there a ‘right’ hour to shoot landscapes?

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

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

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

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Example image of the blue hour

The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)

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

Find out more here.

Use the Histogram

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

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

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

Don’t panic

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

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

Happy snapping!

 

It’s all in the AUTO – X-A2

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

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

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SR+AUTO MODE

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

So this is what I did:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any questions, please leave a comment below.

Happy snapping! 🙂

Shooting square: a lunchtime experiment…

It was just one of those afternoons where you look out the window and notice that rare, special thing… a drop of sunshine – I knew that on my lunch break I would have to take my trusty X-T1 with me for a stroll.

After admiring X-Photographer Doug Chinnery’s square format images, I thought it would be nice to just have-a-go! And as I’d never shot square format before, I knew I’d enjoy the challenge. So I set my camera to ratio 1:1 and then JPG & RAW (just in case). From that, I took a 2 minute drive to my local marina from the office here at Fuji HQ.

Once I was parked and on foot, I started shooting straight away whilst trying to get my mind into ‘square framing mode’ assuming there is such a thing! The first image I took ( that I liked 😉 ) was of a lock, I loved how symmetry immediately came into my mind when I put my eye to the viewfinder.

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X-T1 – f/5.6 – 1/140 – ISO200 – XF35mm

Here’s an example of me trying to get good framing in square format. I focused my attention to the winding path ahead and was deciding where I thought the path should cut off in my image.

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X-T1 – f/5.6 – 1/300 – ISO200 – XF35mm

When I took this shot below, I was again thinking about symmetry, trying to match the lines of the tree to hit the top left and bottom right hand corners of the frame.

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X-T1 – f/5.6 – 1/60 – ISO200 – XF35mm

This shot wasn’t a particularly amazing one, but it did contain what I was aiming for – a triangular composition. Maybe you can see it?..

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X-T1 – f/2.8 – 1/280 – ISO200 – XF35mm

I was walking along the waters edge when I saw this tiny little puddle with what looked like a mini diving board over the top of it. All it needed was tadpole or small insect having a swim to finish this image off nicely.

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X-T1 – f/2.8 – 1/1000 – ISO200 – XF35mm

This one was definitely my favourite shot of the afternoon, it was this little mound of mud and grass that to me at the right angle looked just like a small island – I’m thinking Cast Away..

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X-T1 – f/2.8 – 1/1100 – ISO200 – XF35mm

My final image was taken on the way back to the car. I came across I lovely little patch of daisys and using the tilting screen I could get right down low without getting my knees dirty – which is always a bonus!

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X-T1 – f/2 – 1/4000 – ISO200 – XF35mm

I had a great time shooting in this 1:1 format and found that for some of my close up work it would actually be really nice to continue using it. I loved working the symmetry into my images and corner to corner lines too. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a go – you may just have a blast like I did!

Until then..

Happy snapping!

 

 

XQ1 – The Photographers compact?

Want a small, powerful camera that has features you actually want to use? The XQ1 might just be what you’re looking for.

Like many of you, I have my main camera (X-E2) that I use day in, day out. I know it like the back of my hand and could use it with my eyes closed – if you get my drift. The problem is, sometimes I just don’t want to carry a bag around – no matter how small it is. I want a pocket sized camera that I can forget about until the need takes me. Here’s the catch though, I don’t want a pocket sized camera that offers no control and is very noisy in low-light. This is where I think the XQ1 really shines, it just seems to tick all those boxes:

  • Pocket-sized
  • Manual control
  • High quality images, even at high ISO.

Being so used to my X-E2, I thought it would be a good challenge to use the little XQ1 for my day out to London. Not only that, but I could rid myself of the bag that I’m always carrying about, which was super!

So, like you do when you love photography & adventure, I starting taking pictures. I took the usual suspects at first; trains, train station & people randomly wandering about their business.

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One of the first reasons I would class this as a photographers compact camera is simply that you can change the focus point manually. This is something I do ALL the time on my X-E2 to aid with my composition. With other compact cameras I have used, you either cannot set it or it’s not easy to access.

For our day out we headed to the Natural History Museum, this was a great location to test the ISO performance. Looking back at the photos there is clearly some noise & grain, but it has a very film-like quality to it that I think adds to the atmosphere of the shots.

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Another point to make about this camera as I discovered on the day, was how quick it turned on. Now this may not seem life changing, but when you are with a bunch of friends that don’t do photography and want to move on to the next exhibit, speed is everything. It made many shots possible that may have otherwise been lost. This also translates well into styles like street photography – you see someone or something interesting and you need the camera to be ready immediately to capture it.

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QUICK TIP: For ease of access, I kept the camera inside my inner jacket pocket (blazer style). With that, I pretty much never missed an opportunity to shoot what I wanted – no fumbling in bags, jean pockets etc.

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Due to the size of this camera, it really is super discrete. I could get those moments that I may not have been brave enough to shoot with other cameras, with even my X-E2.

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And when all is said and done, it takes a great dinner party picture!

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I think for many photographers using DSLR’s or Mirrorless cameras, you get very accustomed with a level of quality to expect and because of this, many wouldn’t dream of downsizing to a compact camera. But, as hopefully shown in this blog, the XQ1 makes an exception to this. It shows that you can still be creative, still get excellent quality images and at at a size that literally allows you to take it anywhere with ease.

Any questions? Drop us a comment below – and yes, I cannot wait to try out the latest model, the XQ2 🙂 [WATCH THIS SPACE…]

 

 

That photographer friend…

As an amateur photographer like many of you, I’m always looking for an excuse to shoot. Whether it be a day out, a wedding (as a guest), birthday party and the list goes on..

Because of this, the people close to me are used to me carrying a camera everywhere and posting out of context, random images to my personal Facebook wall on a very regular basis. I think as a result of this I have made it a bit of a personal responsibility to document events in my life and for others close to me. Maybe it’s so in the future I can look back happily nostalgic, or even to review my own photography, but for whatever reason it means that if you invite me to a party, gathering, or day out, you will end up with some images to remember it.

I think everyone has someone like this in their family or their group of friends and when I think back, my Grandad was that person. He would film all the family occasions with his cine-camera and every now and again we would have an evening to enjoy the images & film he’d taken on his slide projector.

These images are demonstrating exactly the kind of documentary photography that I have come to love. The opportunity came about when I was kindly invited as a guest to a birthday party. I even remember saying to my better half whether I should take the camera and “Do you think they would mind if I took images for the evening?” but then I answered my own question with “Why wouldn’t they? It’s capturing a beautiful moment in their life.” So I packed as light as I could, as after all, I was a guest as well as the unofficial photographer.

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Once I arrived, I set up the basic camera settings that I would use for the night. In my case this meant classic chrome, ISO AUTO, shutter set to AUTO and aperture set to f/1.4 (to keep the ISO to a minimum in the low light environment).

I started by enjoying a snack or two (of course!) and then looking around the room for the best costumes (fancy dress theme was the letter ‘T’), best expressions and where the best lighting was in the room. As you may or may not know my favourite set up is the X-E2 with XF35mm lens, this night was no exception. I had only this gear with me and a spare battery just in case.

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After the initial ‘Venue set up shots’ I began to focus my attention to people, being people – looking for those little moments and expressions that may otherwise be missed. From the happy & silly to the indifferent, any moment that could portray emotional involvement with the event would be snapped.

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The evening was going well and mingling had just started to make good pace when something brilliant happened – a magician turned up! And what was even better? Simple, this guy was superb. He immediately had people huddled in small groups laughing and puzzling over his close-up magic wonderment. This was the perfect element for me to focus on, I wanted to capture the suspense, surprise and bemusement that followed after each and every trick.

My approach here was to keep an eye on where the ‘actual’ excitement was in each moment. For example it could be the expression of an individual, the trick itself, the movement in the image etc. These are some of my images hopefully showing just that.

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I did occasionally stray away from the automatic focus and automatic shutter to help capture this fast fingered magician in motion.

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What is the next essential part of any family party?…. Yes, you’re right, it’s dancing! 😉 And not just any old songs either, it had to be the ‘classic’ Macarena.

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It’s all about those little moments that create one collage of memories and emotions caught in time.

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And most importantly, trying to capture the single most significant moment that sums up the whole event. The shot below shows my best attempt at this. Here you can see the family coming together after a rousing speech and the DJ reflects perfectly how their emotion is shared outwards by others around them.

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So the question is… are YOU that photography friend that everyone knows? Are you the one who makes it your passion to capture life as it happens for you and for your family? If so, I salute you! If your answer is no, why not give it a go? It will expand your skills, your confidence and very importantly it will develop your own style further. For me, if you haven’t noticed, I can’t help but shoot a lot of Dutch Angle style, rightly or wrongly, this is part of my style that has developed over time.

Please share your own experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

Happy Shooting! 🙂