How to Capture the Beauty of Nature in Flatlay Photography

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By Ja Soon Kim

I was a graphic designer and an art director in advertising for many years.

I hold a BFA in fine art. Photography is my passion.

Photography is an art form in that you are able to create or captures images that are uniquely your own vision. But first, you have to have the right equipment that is perfect for what you envision.

I used to shoot with an iPhone camera until I saw the color quality in the images shot with Fujifilm cameras. I knew I had to switch in order to achieve the subtle tones, colors, textures and depth that would enrich my images.

I had been considering several cameras. When a friend showed me his Fujifilm XT100, I knew this was it.

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You don’t have to go somewhere special to find things to shoot. If you take a closer look, there are things you never noticed before that are beautiful. These are leaves I found while walking my dog.

I have been shooting with Fujifilm cameras for over a year. I started with a borrowed X100T and now I shoot with an X-T1. It is the perfect camera for me, just the right size and surface texture, not too heavy, great retro look, and it fits perfectly in my hands. It’s fun to shoot with. It didn’t take me long to learn the basics but there are endless possibilities with this camera. It has given me exactly what I was looking for in a camera.

One of the handy features I love about X-T1 is that I can transfer pictures directly, via WI-FI, from the camera to my iPhone. This is perfect for Instagram users.

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I found all this beautiful spring growth on a walk in the countryside. I arranged them with a sense of movement using a variety of plants. Against a black background, they look elegant with their vibrant green stems.

 

Flatlay, or tabletop photography, is different from landscapes or portraits in that you are creating your own subject to shoot rather than shooting what is already there. It provides a totally different experience, creative control and it shows in the resulting images. This process has been deeply meditative for me. I work alone, without a crew, as I used to as an art director.

Shooting flatlay gives us total control over the subject and allows us to be creative in our own unique way.  You can use any material you find interesting. I work mostly with found or foraged props from nature that we all see every day and are readily available all around us. I don’t purchase props for shooting.

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These fallen leaves were collected under an old cottonwood tree. I was fascinated with bug-eaten holes and the varying stages of fall colors. I used a simple arrangement for these. 

Light is everything in photography. I almost always set up my shots near a big window in my house. My typical background is a piece of plywood painted black on one side and white on the other or foam core boards in black or white. A very simple set up.  I use a tripod whenever necessary.

When I travel, I shoot on what is readily available: sandy beaches, beautiful rock, etc.

The lighting is the most important component of photography. I don’t use artificial lighting. I’ve tried them but it doesn’t have the depth and subtle variations that natural light offers. I love the shadows that appear with natural light. Shadows give depth and dimension to images.

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These wilting flowers were found in my neighborhood and in my garden. Some are wildflowers.

This is a simple grid with various stages of fresh to wilting late summer blooms. I frequently save and reuse props as they dry, mixing them with other things to make new and different images. Nothing is wasted and ultimately all goes to compost.

 

Often they are more beautiful when they dry, so be playful and experiment.

My subjects are almost always found or foraged. The process of collecting, imagining how they might look together in my mind is part of my creative process. Ultimately, they do need to be selected and arranged in your own creative way that makes the picture beautiful and compelling.

Cultivate Your Own Style

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These varieties of wild sunflowers bloom everywhere in the Southwest in late summer. All of them are collected from the sides of the road and arranged while still fresh in a very simple vertical design. I use reusable plastic containers to keep them fresh until I get home. Shot on silver PMS paper. 

Most of my pictures are shot with the XF35mmF1.4 R lens, a great everyday lens. I shoot with other lenses but I love the honesty and zero distortion of this lens.

I love shooting with wide angle lenses XF16mmF1.4 R WR or XF18mmF2 R when I am out shooting landscapes. I also shoot with the XF60mmF2.4 R Macro when I want to play with close ups or create different affects.

More recently, I’ve began shooting with the X-T2 and look forward to the types of images I can create with this beautiful camera.

Discover more of these images created with FUJIFILM X Series in my instagram feed!

 

Exploring Panama with the X-T1

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By Braden Gunem

I like to travel alone.  Partners and friends are great, but they can also hold you back from really experiencing a culture deeply.  Solo travel allows you a freedom and adventure rarely achievable for those rushing back home for dinner.  So when a group of friends and I booked a house in a rather touristy area of Panama, I didn’t plan to spend much time shooting.  I grabbed my trusted X-T1 and my favorite lens – the XF23mmF1.4 R.dscf3684One of the local attractions in this area is a beach only accessible by boat or a long muddy trail through the jungle.  After attempting the trail, we opted for the boat and were dropped at a small dock in a lagoon filled with mangrove trees.  A short walk across the island towards the sound of surf led us to a beautiful beach. dscf3736We were walking along the beach when a foreign couple approached saying that a man with a machete had tried to rob them, but they were able to run away.  Suddenly. I regretted bringing my camera.  We stopped walking for some time. We swam, did hand stands, and drank beer.  Eventually, the allure of discovery won over and we continued along the deserted beach.

On my extensive travels, I often have a specific image in my mind when I’m shooting.  Sometimes, the search for this image blinds me from all the other potential shots present.  It’s refreshing to go out with no expectations and see what organically appears.  When I saw locals on horseback approaching, I sank into the jungle looking for a frame to contain them as they passed.  They had ridden the muddy trail, and were headed to the far end of the island to go hunting.Beach HorsesThis long strip of sand is interrupted occasionally by large trees overhanging into the ocean.   They are a natural jungle gym, and soon we were climbing all over them.  From the trunk of a tree,I realized there was a good shot and picked up the camera again.  I tilted the LCD to get super low to the ground and avoided wallowing around myself.MonkeyAs my friend Laura was working on a new route for this particular tree, I switch on the Cinematic Mode; it’s accessible on your camera by turning the mode dial to CH and holding down the shutter release button.  As it’s clicking away, I’m able to make  slight adjustments to the composition.  But, I’m mostly waiting on the subject to look at their best.  Yes, it fills a memory card really fast.  That’s why I use Lexar 128s, so I don’t have to worry about changing cards very often.TarzanBeyond the beach, we came across some boys walking around with machetes.  They seemed to be out honing their skills with these essential jungle tools.  One boy was carefully opening a coconut to drink the water.  I sat my X-T1 on the ground near his feet, using the tilting LCD to compose.  It must be great to grow up in a land where snacks fall readily from the trees.Snack TimeIn the evening, we returned home to discover the hunt had been successful. DinnerIt’s rare that I do a trip with no photographic objective.  It’s refreshing to travel light and go with the flow – and it’s authentic and easy to capture with FUJIFILM X Series. On to the next adventure!

 

 

 

Discovering Cuba with X Series

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By Daniel Malikyar

Wandering the streets of Havana felt like I had hopped in a time machine and turned the dial back 50 years. Avoiding tourist areas at all costs always provides an interesting experience, and we did all we could to experience the real side of the city each day.dscf1567My favorite part about Havana was the wide variety of subjects scattered throughout the city. It seemed as if every corner I turned there was something new, whether it was a Dalmatian contently sitting on a gritty front porch or a bike taxi that seemed to ride by just in time for perfect light, it seemed as if there was always something that caught my eye.dscf1810I particularly enjoyed shooting the neighborhoods that surrounded the capitol building, Capitolio. I did just about everything in my power to capture the lifestyle of the locals with this interesting structure in the background. From persuading locals two stories above to give us permission to shoot from their balconies, to running behind cars, to playing soccer with local kids to get their approval, I took all measures to capture various perspectives of the Capitolio with fresh subjects in the foreground on each occasion. Thankfully I had a wide variety of range of FUJINON glass to pair with my X-Pro2 and X-T1; the XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS and XF10-24mmF4 R OIS were my go-to lenses for these photos.dscf8130Another one of my favorite locations in Cuba was Barrio Chino, or China Town. This area was very unique and boasted what I called the Cuban version of New York’s iconic Flat Iron building. I immediately loved this spot after catching an incredible golden hour that saw the sun light up the surrounding area of the building with a warm, glowing light that made for some of the best shots on my X-Pro2 XF10-24mmF4 combo from the trip.dscf1644One of the most noteworthy elements of Havana are the many random puddles that form throughout alleys that provided mirror-like reflections of the colorful cityscapes, classic cars, and great city vibes. The locals would stare at me in confusion when I would stop traffic to kneel down and use the tilt-screen on the X-T1 XF10-24mmF4 combo to capture perfect angles of the glassy puddle reflections.dscf1990As I was composing a reflection shot with my X-T1 on an overcast afternoon among a vibrant alleyway, my cousin called for me and told me I had to stop whatever I was doing and see how beautiful a baby was down the street. My first instinct was to continue to try and get my shot as that sounded a little off, but I got up and quickly walked around the block to catch the little girl and her father just before they were going to enter a home. The young dad had his daughter in his arms, and we she turned around she looked like something out of a National Geographic cover. I had never seen eyes like hers. They had a bright aqua tint of blue that could be seen from a block away. He kindly let me snap a few photographs, and I every time I looked into my electronic viewfinder of my X-Pro2 and I couldn’t believe how stunning this little girl’s features were. Cuba is full of surprises… this experience was a sure reminder of that.dscf1186I’ve never really been an advocate of guided tours under any circumstances. Cuba is one of those destinations that only has so much information that can be found online. In order to experience and capture it properly, you can’t really have a comfort zone. You have to be willing to put yourself out there with a positive and friendly vibe and hope for the best in most instances. We were even invited into a family gathering for drinks in a broken down backyard after approaching a couple locals in hopes of entering their compound to find something interesting to shoot. I lost count of the amount of complexes, homes, and lots we entered (all after asking what seemed like owners or tenants). These were the best memories, and provided some of the best perspectives that will be extremely difficult to replicate.dscf1189One hot afternoon the sunset was quickly approaching, and we were determined to find a rooftop vantage point to capture the moment the light brought warmth to the tattered cityscape of old Havana. After entering a building and passing by locals on each story, all with wide smiles of confusion but acceptance on their faces, we made it towards the top floor. When I looked down, there was the unique spiral staircase I had ever seen. I captured an organic image of the staircase with my X-Pro2 XF10-24mmF4 combo and we made for the roof. Unfortunately there are not very many tall buildings in Cuba; making it a bit difficult to get a great view of the sun setting on the water with the cityscape in the foreground. I completely forgot about the shot I had anticipated when several kids entered through the roof and showed us their pigeon traps, introducing us to some of their birds. I had never seen anything like this, and it really made me appreciate how a simple lifestyle brought joy to these kids. There were no iPads, no PlayStations, it was all about going out and having fun with the neighborhood kids like the old days.dscf1582Growing up, I’ve always loved the game of soccer. I’ve played my entire life, and jumped in on just about every pick up game we came across. Towards the later end of the afternoon we decided to check out a neighborhood called Citio just outside of Havana. Apparently this neighborhood was extremely dangerous for tourists, and upon entering all eyes were on us. After passing by a few young kids playing soccer, I hopped in passed the ball around with them. The ball they had might as well have been a rag… it was completely trashed and lopsided. I offered to buy the kids a new ball, and the look on these kids’ faces was something I’ll never forget… we walked almost 2 miles looking for a store that was open. Along the way, the kids seemed to know all the other youngsters in the area, and our group grew with every few blocks we walked. When we finally found a store with someone inside, we begged the tenant to open her store for us to buy the ball for the kids. My friend Joon and I each bought them a ball that were less than $20 USD each, but it may as well have been a brand new MacBook Pro for these kids. They couldn’t believe it and were so excited to get out and play with one another. Even though we skipped shooting for a couple hours, that was one of the best memories from our trip.dscf1381In conclusion, I highly recommend giving Cuba a visit before it becomes increasingly commercialized. Your experience in the country is up to you. I spent the majority of my time in Old Havana in hopes of capturing an unseen photo, and there are tons of interesting places to see. I was lucky enough to capture my experiences behind my FUJIFILM X Series gear, which never disappointed once. With all the impromptu moments, seconds of good light, and organic situations the X-Pro2 and X-T1 paired with a wide variety of FUJINON glass executed everything I could have asked for.

X-Thusiast Featured Photographer Laurie Davison: Chasing Waterfalls in Tasmania

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Remote Area, NE Tasmania” by Laurie Davison, taken with Fujifilm X-T1 + XF10-24mmF4

We are excited to introduce Laurie Davison as the next X-Thusiast featured photographer for October 2016.

Hailing from North West Tasmania, Laurie enjoys capturing the hidden depths of nature along the Western Tiers and Tarkine wilderness with his Fujifilm X-T1 and, more recently, X-T2.

 

Let’s start with the basics: Where is home? What are your hobbies? What inspires you from day to day?

My home is the North West of Tasmania. There, my hobbies include amateur radio, bushwalking and of course, photography. My inspiration mainly comes from the beauty of nature and adventurous bushwalks, especially rainforests, mountain streams and waterfalls.

 

How did you develop an interest in photography? How did you learn and develop your craft?

I have always had an interest in photography but it never really took off until after the workload eased off, so I honestly consider myself a novice, having only started with enthusiasm around four years ago.

My interest developed from the wish to record all the waterfalls my wife and I would visit on our bush walks. The learning basically came from experience, experimentation and the desire to improve the quality of shots. I would see photographs I liked taken by others (not necessarily well-known photographers), and I would try and emulate what I had seen. It was pretty rough for a while (still is at times), but over time, things improved and I’m still learning today without winging it quite so much.

 

Do you have a particular photographic style? If so, what would you consider that to be?

I wouldn’t call it a particular style, but I try and present my own interpretation of what I see. Although, over time, I have tried to emulate other styles and incorporate some of that into my photos. I still try and produce an end result that I am pleased with—one that is not necessarily tagged with fads of time. I like to try and keep it reasonably natural except where flowing water is involved … I prefer a longer exposure on waterfall shots.

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“Liffey Falls section” by Laurie Davison, taken with Fujifilm XT-1 + XF10-24mmF4

 

What’s your favourite location to shoot in Australia? What’s your favourite subject to shoot in general?

I really do have a mad affair with the Western Tiers and the Tarkine in Tasmania. In saying that, I also really appreciate anything along the eastern escarpment of the Great Dividing Range. My favourite subjects are without a doubt waterfalls of any size, shape and form.

Consider your favourite or most memorable Fujifilm photograph. Where was it taken, how was it shot and what does this photo mean to you?

I really don’t have a favourite, but the shots that mean the most to me are probably the shots that have been the hardest to obtain, such as remote areas that take a real effort to reach.

To me, it’s about the whole trip from start to finish, and there is something about looking at a photograph and recalling the complete journey.

 

What’s your favourite X Series camera? Why do you prefer that particular model?

The X-T2. I have the X-T1 as well, and it has taught me a lot, but the new X-T2 is like the X-T1 on steroids.
For years I lugged about a DSLR full-frame kit and to be honest, it’s not getting any easier as I get older, so that is why I looked at the lighter mirrorless systems. I tried a few and eventually settled on the Fujifilm system as I found myself more at ease with it. It’s more or less not much different to operating the familiar DSLR—not having to dive into menus all the time to change settings for me is a real plus. Those dials at your fingertips is the way it should be.

 

Which Fujinon lens(es) do you prefer?

I prefer the XF10-24mmF4, as it suits the environment I am usually in. Quite often I’m not in a situation where I can back up with a prime to fit it all in, and when I do have the room I can be flexible. It really fits in well and is my go-to lens 95 percent of the time.

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Lavender fields, Northern Tasmania” by Laurie Davison, taken with Fujifilm XT-1 + XF10-24mmF4

Could you describe your photographic workflow? Do you prefer any third-party, post-processing software, camera accessories or community networks to develop and share your work?

I try and keep the bulk of my workflow simple, confining it to using Lightroom with the odd time utilising the use of Photoshop CC. To me, it’s another steep learning curve at the moment as I have only started using the latter in recent months. If I have something special as a one-off to work on, then I will use CaptureOne as I find it and the Fujifilm RAW files work well together.

 

Do you have any additional final thoughts regarding Fujifilm X Series? Do you have any tips or advice you’d like to share for other photographers out there pursuing their craft?

I’m just glad that Fujifilm keeps updating our cameras with regular firmware improvements. Other cameras I have owned certainly didn’t see as regular updates and this possibly held them back a little. Now I know I have the latest in technology available.

As far as tips are concerned, the best I can offer is to learn as much about the camera you’re using as possible. Get to know it inside out. With the photography part itself, just do what you love and keep learning. Your passion will eventually show through in the results. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the people you admire and look up to because most are only too willing to lend a hand. Most of all, have fun doing it.

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“Cascades on the Western Tiers” by Laurie Davison, taken with Fujifilm XT-1 + XF10-24mmF4

To see more of Laurie’s work, you can follow him on Instagram at @ljdphotos.

If you, or someone you know in Australia, is interested in joining our X-Thusiast community, check out the full X-Thusiast Gallery and Submission details here.

Meet X-Photographer: Victoria Wright

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Victoria Wright moved to Seattle from eastern Washington in 2007 to finish her degree and finally be in the city she loved. Inspired by her grandfather’s ability to create and share a beautiful moment with brushes on canvas, Victoria took an interest in photography early in life; however, she did not pursue it seriously until moving to Seattle and did not transition this passion into a profession until 2013, when social media began opening doors which allowed her to share with a larger audience.

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Victoria Wright, captured by Kelly Victoria

When Instagram came to Android in 2012, Victoria experimented with mobile photography and began to connect with other users around the world. Her recognition on social media quickly grew and she helped build the Instagrammers Seattle community as a manager, organizing photo walks, charity events, exhibits, and more in the larger Pacific Northwest (PNW) region. She also began to have her mobile work shown in major exhibitions such as 100-50-1 in San Francisco as well as events and galleries in Seattle.fujifilmxt1_victoriawright-50Specializing in portrait, lifestyle and travel photography, Victoria’s goal has always been to create photographs that possess a thoughtful approachability, bringing the viewer into the moment rather than leaving them on the outside. She has worked with global brands including GAP, AMEX, Coach, and Airbnb, capturing people, places, and moments in time that others might overlook. In search of the next story worth telling, Victoria has traveled to and photographed many locations around the United States (including remote regions of Alaska), the mythical countrysides of Scotland (fairies and all), the endless landscapes of Iceland, and elsewhere, all while on assignment.ny-16This fall, she will be hitting the road and the skies again as she travels through New Mexico, Utah, Texas, and then back to California to finally visit Yosemite National Park for the first time. Next summer, she is planning to reconnect with her European roots on a trip to Lithuania — her first trip back since moving to Washington when she was only two — with her father, a man whose model of unquestioning generosity and inspiring drive to work hard have helped her find her own path.ny-14Victoria will of course be traveling with her Fujifilm camera in tow. After purchasing her first X Series camera — the X-T1 — Victoria knew she had found the perfect match. The ease, flexibility and photo quality of the X Series quickly won her over and she recently moved to the X-T2, though her T1 remains close by.fujifilmxt1_victoriawright-12-1Living in the PNW, Victoria never shies away from bad weather, especially while on the road, and the X Series allows her to brave the elements without worrying about her gear. The cameras are compact for easy travel, the lenses are sharp and fast, and the Wi-Fi capability makes remote uploading and shooting incredibly easy, including the ability to adjust exposure, aperture, ISO and other settings right from her phone.fujifilmxt1_victoriawright-36More than anything, Victoria admires how well Fujifilm listens to its photographers. Through both software and hardware updates, she has found that the X Series continues to improve in ways that truly benefit photographers. The X-T2, with updated 4K video capabilities, impressive Autofocus functions, and a Vertical Power Booster Grip that allows for brilliantly fast continuous shooting, is no exception. It is safe to say that Victoria is excited to see what lies ahead for Fujifilm and she can hardly wait to get her hands on the GFX 50S. The new G Format sensor is definitely going to shake up the world of medium format photography.ny-4

 

Tips for Handheld Macro Photography

guest-blogger-strip-blackBy Nicole S. YoungBumblebeeMacro photography is an fascinating way to get a close-up look at everyday items. Photographers will oftentimes use a tripod to create their photos, but in some cases it is necessary, and also more convenient, to hand-hold the camera to create these images. However with hand-held macro photography you will also face certain challenges along the way. Here are some tips to help get you started creating your own beautiful macro photographs.

Camera gear used in this article:

  • FUJIFILM X-T1 Camera
  • FUJIFILM X-T2 Camera
  • FUJINON XF60mmF2.4 R  Macro Lens
  • Neewer CN-216 Dimmable LED Panel

Add More Light

I like to photograph macro images in the shade or on cloudy days so that I have a nice even light spread across the scene. However, sometimes the existing light is not quite enough for the camera settings required to get a good image (a high shutter speed and lower ISO). To compensate, I will oftentimes use a simple and inexpensive LED light that can either be attached to the hot-shoe of the camera, or held off to the side. This not only adds a good amount of fill light, but it also will help add catchlights to whatever you are photographing.

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The Neewer CN-216 Dimmable LED Panel adds a nice fill-light to a macro photo without being too harsh.

Focus Manually

When photographing something that is moving, just like I did with these images of bees, it was very difficult to use auto-focus. The bees were moving to quickly and positioned themselves out of focus before I could even press the shutter. To work around this challenge, I decided to pre-focus the lens and moved the camera back-and-forth until I could see the bee in focus, and then I pressed the shutter and fire off several consecutive frames. You will end up with a lot of throwaway images with this technique, but you will also have a higher chance of getting one of the images from that set in focus.

Here’s a step-by-step on how I performed this technique:

  1. First, I pre-focused the lens so that the focus point was an appropriate distance from the lens for the subject (in this case, a bee on a flower).
  2. Next, I set my drive mode to “continuous high”.
  3. Once I found a good subject (a bee on a flower), I moved the camera back and forth on the bee until I could see it come into focus on the preview on the back of my camera. As I saw it pop into focus, I pressed the shutter and created several images (with the hopes that one of them is in focus).

Focus on the Eyes

If photographing a bug or small animal, it’s important that you focus on the eyes. Small bugs can move around quickly, and so it can be tempting to feel like you are getting a good photo if the creature is facing away from you. While it won’t hurt anything to fire off a few photos (pixel are cheap, after all), a photo of the eyes of a bee, for example, is much more compelling than a bee butt. Have some patience and position yourself so that you can create the best creature portrait as possible.

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This photo is in focus, but it’s also the wrong end of the bee! (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/680 sec at F2.4, ISO 400)

 

 

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Your best bet is to position yourself so that you can photograph the eyes of your subject. This image shows just how detailed the eyes of a bumblebee can be when zoomed in close. (FUJIFILM X-T1, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/1000 sec at F5, ISO 3200)

Find a Clean Background

Creatively speaking, the composition of your photo is going to be one of the most important aspects. You might have a “technically perfect” photo, but if it does not look good compositionally then it it loses its appeal. I find that one of the easiest ways to get a good composition is to angle myself so that the background is clean and not busy. There are a few different ways you can accomplish this:

  • Move your camera (or yourself) lower to position the frame at eye-level (instead of shooting down). This will help create a blurred background to separate the subject from its surroundings.
  • Find a subject that has contrasting elements behind it so that it stands out.
  • Use a wide aperture to add more blur to the background.
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The bee in this photo is on a very distracting background, and makes the image less pleasing. (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/420 sec at F2.4, ISO 400)

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To get a better photo, I waited for the bee to move and positioned myself so that the background behind the bee was less busy. (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/320 sec at F2.4, ISO 400)

Use a Fast Shutter Speed

With hand-held photography it’s important to make sure that the shutter speed is set fast enough to prevent camera shake. A good rule of thumb is to set the speed to at least the same number as the focal length of your lens. For example, I was using a XF60mm lens for these photos, so I would want to be sure that the shutter speed was set to no slower than 1/60th of a second to make sure that I don’t add motion blur to the photos. However I also needed to make sure that the shutter speed was fast enough to freeze the action of the bees as they moved around. For these photos I found that a shutter speed of 1/250 (and typically higher) was a safe setting.

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At 1/30th of a second, the shutter speed is WAY too slow to both hand-hold the bee and photograph it without moving. As a result, there is a significant amount of motion blur in this image. (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/30 sec at F4, ISO 200)

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Using a faster shutter speed, such as 1/500th of a second, gives you a better chance of getting a photo without any movement. (FUJIFILM X-T1, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/500 sec at F4, ISO 640)

The intensity of the light in the environment you are photographing will determine if this is going to be an issue. If there is a lot of sunshine or it is very bright (even in a shaded area), then you may be in the clear. However if you do need to increase the shutter speed, here are some tips to help you add more light to the scene:

  • Try adding an additional light source (similar to what I mentioned at the beginning of the article).
  • Increase the ISO setting, or set it to “auto” and let the camera decide for you.
  • Use a wide aperture, such as ƒ/2.8 or wider. Doing this will allow more light to the sensor, but it will also increase the blur and narrow your depth of field (the area that is in focus), so it may be more difficult to get an in-focus photograph.

About the Authornicole_s_young_portraitNicole S. Young is a full-time photography educator living in Portland, Oregon. She owns and operates the Nicolesy Store where she creates and sells photography training, presets, and textures for photographers of all levels. Nicole has also been a stock photographer for over 10 years and licenses her work primarily through Stocksy United.

The Painter’s Brush and Fujifilm

guest-blogger-strip-blackPhotography is art. Whether you’re capturing the soul of another in a portrait, or the essence of our world in a landscape image. What you capture on a sensor is reflective of how you perceive our shared environment. A camera, in other words, is akin to a painter’s brush. Perhaps this is why we place so much importance on our tools. We want to wield a brush that will help us achieve what we see in our minds. I love the analogy of a painter and a photographer especially when considering the use of Fujifilm for one of my brushes.DSCF4103You see, one of the reasons I bought into the Fujifilm X System was because of how I thought it’d allow me to obtain a certain aesthetic. Sure, I loved the retro look, the portability, the easy access of essential controls, the fact that it was supremely sharp; but there was more to it than these common Fuji-loves. As an artist I draw a lot of inspiration from the work of old masters. I find their aesthetic as timeless and powerful. The use of light and contrast in their paintings to be awe inspiring. I wanted to achieve with my camera and lens something close to what they were able to produce with a brush and canvas. Enter the tools I prefer to wield for a master aesthetic: the X-T1 and X-Pro2.DSCF3287Fujifilm’s X-Trans APS-C sensor has a few advantages in regards to capturing light. One of the largest advantages is how well it can get everything in focus when compared to one of its full-frame counterparts. A crop frame essentially increases your depth of field while you are also able to bring in more light to the sensor with an equivalent aperture and focal length. Why is this an important factor, even for portraits? Because having your scene in focus allows your viewer to get a better idea of the entire area your subject is in. A story can unfold before your viewer with better ease. Of course, you can achieve a deep depth of field with larger sensors, but you’ll lose out on light and sometimes even enter into diffraction issues depending on your scene. I’m sure some of you are wondering, “but what about the bokeh?!” Sure, bokeh can be nice for a headshot and even in environmental portraits. Bokeh offers a great way to force a viewer to look at the subject. Though, I feel as though there is a stronger element to draw attention to a subject: light. Breaking out of the bokeh-mold you’re able to expand upon your use of light. DSCF1385The X-Trans sensor also has an oddity about it that I have not found on a Bayer patterned sensor: it produces sharp images that have an almost a brush stroke feel to them. Some will point out that it is due to my processing an image in Lightroom and Adobe’s refusal to really figure out how to sharpen an X-Trans sensor. There could be some truth to that and from what I’ve read online, most people aren’t impressed by this interaction between camera and processor. I, however, enjoy this look and use it to my advantage. The images produced by a Fujifilm sensor seem to come together in a different manner than my images from other sensors.DSCF3684Since I am a large fan of natural light I really love cameras that are able to take what I throw at them in terms of needed dynamic range. With Fujifilm, I love how easily I’m able to bring down the highlights and get a nice overall exposure. This puts me shooting my exposure a little to the right more often than I’m used to, but it’s great to be able to see a clean sky in my images. There is also the DR setting which gets baked into the RAW files and even allows some more pushing of the files if need be. This is especially useful when using harsh lighting.DSCF3171There you have it, some of the greatest reasons of why I love my Fujifilm cameras and why they are able to capture the moments I love.

The One I’ve Always Wanted

X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Bill Fortney

As a Fujifilm X-Photographer and dedicated fan of the Fujifilm X Series System, I had a feeling that something new was coming!  The X-T1 was a terrific camera, one that has served me very well for the past few years, but when I experienced an early prototype of the X-Pro2, I started wishing and praying the X-T2 would have those fantastic improvements if and when it arrived.Long flowing streamFor just a minute, let’s pretend (I love to pretend, so let’s pretend) that Fujifilm called me and said, “Bill, what would you like to have in the new X-T2?”  Well, when I got the chance to shoot an early prototype of the X-T2, I realized just how innovative and talented those folks at Fujifilm really are: it’s as if the X Series engineers could read my mind! Wormsloe State Park 2.jpgFujifilm doesn’t make life very easy for us, choosing between the already incredible X-Pro2 and the now newly released X-T2.  The new X-T2 is the perfect option for people like me that do a number of different kinds of photography: nature/landscape, wildlife, travel, close-ups and Americana.  The newly developed viewfinder in the X-T2 is the best electronic viewfinder of any Fujifilm camera so far – and that’s saying a lot!  With increased magnification and resolution, the X-T2 is a pleasure to see the world through – and with that viewfinder, it’s a beautiful world.Sunrise - Dead Horse Point FujiOne of the new features that is especially valuable for capturing a variety of moods in landscape photography is the new ACROS Black and White film simulation.  I shoot in jpeg file mode and shoot Velvia, Provia and Acros as my three film simulations.  When studying a landscape’s potential, I need the three options for capturing the best scene in the most effective way. The X-T2 is wonderful in how easy it makes it for me to do just that: this camera is the perfect instrument for all landscape photographers.DSCF0246The newly developed X-Trans CMOS III sensor gives a great boost in resolution with its 24.3 megapixels. It has gorgeous gradation and maintains superb low noise performance as the previous X-T1 sensor, actually even around a stop better.DSCF0112Another sheer joy on the X-T2 is the placement and action of the buttons and dials, all making the use of the camera sleekly enhanced. The new joystick is a great improvement for moving the focus points and one improvement I can’t live without now that I’ve experienced it.Frosted Ruby HeartHey, all this is wonderful but the bottom line for any camera is the image quality and the new X-T2 delivers in spades. Team the new X-T2 with those incredible FUJINON XF lenses and the results are simply amazing. Once again, Fujifilm has delivered up a fantastic tool for us to go out into this beautiful world and capture it all.Multiple falls

Kayaking with a Fujifilm X-T1 and XF100-400mm

Guest Blogger strip BLACK

By Jon Vause

I am a keen kayaker with a passion for photography so with the estuary and wetlands near my home having prolific birdlife it has been a natural progression to combine both. Using a kayak gives you unique access to the areas you just can’t get to on foot or by boat so this means less (usually no) people, which results in more bird activity. But let’s face it an open kayak isn’t necessarily a camera friendly zone and a DSLR with a zoom lens fitted isn’t the most buoyant combination around so it was a bit daunting at first to take this out in my kayak but over the past couple of years I have developed a reasonably successful and safe technique.

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There are a number of advantages using a kayak for photography as birds move with the tides and their feeding patterns so you can cover a lot of ground throughout the wetlands and estuary paddling the kayak. It is low to the water so gives a good angle for photography, is quiet and doesn’t alarm the birds as if on foot, allowing you to drift down onto your subject so you can get close. Sometimes very close as the birds seem to accept your presence. Being 10m away from an Osprey feeding on a fish without alarming it is a memorable experience. Also, it’s a lot more fun that sitting in a hide for hours waiting for something to come to you or wading knee deep in the mud.

I had been using a Canon DSLR, 70mm-200mm F2.8 lens with a 2x converter but wasn’t really happy with the image quality when using the converter so had resorted to just the lens which meant I had to try to get closer to my subject and crop images. To progress further I really needed a longer lens but it had to be practical to use in my kayak and without having to take out a second mortgage.

Enter Fujifilm.

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The lens went on the back burner and in July last year I attended a Camera Expo looking for a travel camera as we had an overseas trip planned in 2017 and I didn’t want to take my heavy DSLR. I bought a Fuji X-T1 with the XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens as it was compact, light in weight and promised good image quality.

I initially had no real intention of using the X-T1 for wildlife photography but I took it out in the kayak a few times to compliment my DSLR and get familiar with using it for landscape and the occasional bird life, and I was blown away by the image quality. There was also something special about the images compared to my DSLR. They had a vibrancy and just seemed better particularly the jpegs straight from the camera and having used many rolls of Fuji Velvia in my film days it took me back to images produced then. I loved the retro feel of the camera, it was just like my very first SLR many years ago and when I did try it on birdlife it captured the colours and details in the feathers beautifully and when I zoomed in on the image the lens proved to be sharp and I was impressed.

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I was hooked and the Fujifilm X-T1 became my go to camera for landscape and general photography but I needed a longer lens for my wildlife. I was pleased to see that Fujifilm had a XF100-400mm lens planned for release in early 2016. So, I waited and read the pre-release reviews with anticipation. It rated well so once released in Australia I parted with my hard earned cash and purchased the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens.

The camera, lens set up I had now, even with the optional vertical grip battery grip fitted to my X-T1 was half a kilo lighter than my previous DSLR and lens. This may not sound a lot but the weight reduction at eye level in a kayak plays a big part in balance.

Rule number one in kayaking with a camera – stay upright.

Not only was the weight reduced but when the XF100-400mm lens was fitted to the X-T1 it felt far better balanced and wasn’t “nose heavy” like my previous gear.

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So far so good but the proof would be how does the combination perform in the field or should I say in the boat? I just had to find out.

The lens is a similar physical length to my Canon 70-200mm lens, so I now had a 400mm lens that was compact enough lengthwise to fit into my waterproof camera bag in my kayak hatch with the lens hood permanently attached. This allows quick access when an opportunity arises.

And the performance of the lens did not disappoint.

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Rated at 5 stops the OIS is just brilliant and I can confidently get hand-held shots at 400mm from the kayak at shutter speeds of 1/400 second and the results are pin sharp. This has allowed more flexibility following birds on the move, as in the past I would try to use a monopod for support which was restrictive should the bird fly away, but now this wasn’t a necessity. The image quality of the lens still impresses me as it is so sharp and quick to focus. It tracks subjects well in continuous focus mode although fast birds in flight can be challenging, in more ways than one. Pan too quick and you can end up having a swim! When combined with the burst speed of the X-T1 you can still get some great shots and this provides a great combination. For my style of photography, this lens is fantastic. I love it.

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I’ve also had use of the Fujifilm 1.4X TC WR teleconverter for a weekend and whilst you lose a stop this gives you an 840mm equivalent lens with no noticeable loss of image quality.

But it’s not just the lens, the combination with the X-T1 works so well I’ve left the DSLR at home now. I have been using the X-T1 exclusively for some months while learning its capabilities. The EVF I’ll say took me a little while to get used when compared to an optical viewfinder but that was really me not understanding its capabilities. Once I had the menu options of the X-T1 set up right I realized how good this was and how to use it to get the maximum out of it. I love the WYSIWYG image in the viewfinder as I can spot meter on a bird which may have very contrasting plumage. I see exactly the image and by changing the metering position, I’m able to prevent blown highlights or even change the background exposure. Also to be able to check your images in the viewfinder and use the focus assist button to zoom in check sharpness is a great feature in bright light conditions. I can also shoot at far higher ISO ratings now without any noticeable noise, which I couldn’t do with my DSLR. This allows me to use more of the lower light conditions available in “the golden hour” than before and also keep up the shutter speed and obviously with both camera and lens being weather resistant this is a great advantage in the environment I use it in.

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Like all photography though it’s what’s behind the image that makes a good image. When using a kayak you can have a 360-degree possibility of the approach angle on the subject so you have to plan you method of approach. Not only do you have to work out the lighting and sun angle you also have to judge the wind, tide and any current so that ideally you can drift down onto your subject with the camera at ready and eye to the viewfinder. Not to mention a co-operative subject or being in the right place at the right time. There’s a lot of hit and miss and it varies day to day as the birds move, but with Fujifilm and the X-T1 and XF100-400mm lens combination, this has helped to reinvent me in my photography as my results are much improved. This makes the hours of paddling and the effort all the more worthwhile. I am still learning and trying to get that perfect image but now with Fujifilm it’s a lot more fun trying.

I look forward to trying the X-T2 with the XF100-400mm lens one day.

About the author

Jon Vause

I live in Mandurah, 70kms south of Perth in Western Australia and have a keen interest in photography seemly always having a camera since the days of my first Kodak Instamatic. I also had a period of developing and printing with my own darkroom back in the film days but had to give that away when we moved to the Pilbara region in WA as the tap water was too hot.

Photography runs in the family and although I work in the telecommunications industry with constantly changing technology I didn’t initially embrace the digital era of photography until my daughter started studying it at school then going on and becoming a professional photographer.

My passion is the outdoors and outdoor activities. I enjoy bushwalking, mountain bike riding and kayaking. Having moved to Mandurah six years ago I now have the extensive waterways of the Peel Estuary at my doorstep and have combined kayaking with photography to pursue my main interest in bird photography.

Capturing bird images in the wild is challenging and using the kayak gives you access to unique areas. I also engage in landscape, seascape and water sports and with retirement coming it in a few years I am working on my skills to make photography my main pastime.

I’m still chasing the perfect shot. More photos are on my website www.jonvausephotography.com