X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Dave Kai-Piper

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography? How did you develop your style in photography?

Image of Dave kai PiperIt was one of those kind of things where Photography almost found me. I have been taking photographs for a long time for many reasons, as we all have I guess. Over time I started to make that move from taking photographs of the world around me to creating photographs in the way I see the world, from there it was the slight shift into making images for commercial usage. It does still amaze me today that I get paid for creating images.

The style I am shooting today is quite new; the Fashion Noir theme that my website carries combined with undertones from a deep love for cinema and photographers like Helmut Newton and Ellen Von Unworth. To me, provocative imagery is quite interesting and challenging to shoot. Getting that fine balance of mental stimulation and nudity that, for me, creates amazing eroticism. Nudity and explicit nudity are not linked with the power of an image in this way, or not for me anyway. Photographers like Guy Bourdin have been amazing at blending these lines over the years. Guido Argentini is another photographer that, looking back, I seemed to have been influenced by.

The question of how did I develop my style is an interesting one. I am not sure that until very recently I had one, or if I did it was something that I was working on. Today I do though, and this is more out of a commercial need to work into a specific area. I have a great fondness for all type of photography still; from landscape to beauty to bright comic filled images. I would love to shoot street stuff like Matt Hart, or weddings like Kevin. I adore the images that the Yerburys create and would love to have a play creating the soft and sensual styles that they create. Currently I am actively trying to work on a style I am not seeing people creating at the moment. The big push started after a conversation with Mirko De Nicolo of Train to Create. We were talking on Skype; Mirko knows his stuff and was able to convince me it is time to really start to define my style. It is early days, but, I have never had so much fun or felt so much creative freedom. I feel like I am working in the right direction more than before. So, I guess the short answer is Mirko told me to do it!

3

Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

It does still amaze me today that I get paid for creating images. The reason I like to use Fuji cameras is quite a complex one. Last year I was asked to provide an image for the 80th anniversary book Fuji had made. This is what I wrote :

“Some photographers spend their days waiting, some spend their lives waiting. Some spend their hours crafting and creating, some document from distance and there are those who record, who impose and intrude. For some it is a release, an adventure of sorts. There are those who practice in private and some who flaunt exuberance and flair in such lavish styles. There are those to whom photography is a commercially driven need. Photography can create celebrity or convey the downfalls of empires. They say the art of genius is to make the complex simple. So, it might not be so easy to explain why I simply love the X-Pro. For me, in a camera, I look for a companion along a journey. If my X-Pro could talk, I only wonder of the stories it would tell…”

12

The Fuji X-System makes so much sense to me on so many levels. The size, weight and nature of the camera are all amazing, and the images the system makes are incredible too. Whenever I get asked this question I always think, why would I not use this system?  The only time I need to use the D800 is when clients dictate a final size output, and I know they will want to crop heavily, but this is rare with the on-set of digital usage over print.  It really is hard to say why someone would not be happy working with this system.

5

Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

Maybe, I like to test things; I like to think I am not worried about making a mistake. Trust me … I have made many of them along the way for sure. I am not sure if learning in public with the internet is a good thing though. I mean, you can Google me and see work from 2009 and work I have just made today and it is super hard to control that. At the moment the main philosophy I have is that people are going to judge me on the worst image they see, or the worst thing they can find. People judge me just as much as they judge my work. This is nothing new though, but juggling this with having to be a perfect human being is kind of new. Getting the balance between photographer and social media guru has never been more interesting. Social media is the root of all evil, but at the same time the closest thing we have to a magic bullet to getting along in this line of work.

In a photographic and technical sense, I have no over riding thing, aside from: only set out to make the best thing you can, and slow down and think for a moment. Engage your mind and think about what you are doing, what you are saying, and why. Cameras don’t make images, people make images.

White House

Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

Guido Argentini, Helmut Newton and Ellen Von Unworth in a photographic sense. People like Thomas Woland and Robert Voltare in other ways, including photographic. Photographers like Lara Jade, Rebecca Litchfield, Ben Von Wong, Joey L, Kirsty Mitchell and all the amazing talent we have coming though at the moment. I feel very blessed to have such amazing people around me. It seems every day that someone new pops up that pushes the bar one more level.

As I mentioned before, I am a big fan of film and cinema. I would say people like Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino have had just as much of a stylistic influence over the years. Maybe it shows in the smallest ways or in more obtrusive ways at different times.

4

Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?

I am big, big fan of filters, especially the Lee Filter system. There was a blog post I wrote a while ago about the way I use ND Grad Filters for portraits:

http://ideasandimages.co.uk/lee-filters/

The image below was created using the X-T1, 16-55mm with a single speed light. Most of the shaping of the light was done using the Lee Filter system. For me, it gives me a quick way to create the light I want when I don’t have the time to set up the lighting I need or I use it to speed up my retouching process by using the hard filters instead of the digital grad filters in Photoshop or Lightroom.

6

Shooting in Classic Chrome with my new quad filter system and Matte Box gets me pretty close to what I want, leaving me with only a few tweaks to be made in Photoshop.

8

What’s next for you?

This month? We are doing some fun things up in North Wales with the Fujiholics. I am doing a set of fun workshops looking at creating my style of erotica and fashion.

http://ideasandimages.co.uk/cambrian-photography-photo-and-optic-show-2015/

We also have a few travel plans coming up to Tel Aviv and New York, and as always my Fuji cameras will be coming everywhere with us!

13

Contact info

website
instagram
twitter

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cuba with X-Photographer Chris Upton

20150309_cuba_2804

by Chris Upton

Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean is a stunning and diverse location. The noise, hustle and bustle of Havana, teeming with brightly coloured vintage American cars contrasts with the quiet verdant plantations and gorgeous beaches. The wonderful Spanish architecture is at odds with the decaying beauty of some of its poorer areas.

Cuba has had a turbulent history from Spanish colonial rule and the slave trade to Batista’s dictatorship and overthrow by Fidel Castro and it’s subsequent economic struggle. Throughout this it’s culture, music and arts have remained as colourful and vibrant as ever.

I have recently returned from a trip visiting Havana, the plantations in the west around Vinales and the towns of Cienfuegos and Trinidad on the south of the island.

What you were looking to capture?

20150316_cuba_4060

20150304_havana_0685

Cuba is simply a photographer’s paradise, there is so much to photograph. I wanted to capture the spirit of the country, it’s unique feel, from it’s people, architecture, landscape, crumbling urban beauty, to it’s political heritage and, of course, the wonderful array of vintage American cars.
From my research, the colour and the vibrant feel to the country captivated me and my goal was to reflect this in my images.

There was clearly going to be an emphasis on Street, People and Architectural photography whilst in Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad with more traditional landscapes when in the west of the country around Vinales.

I also wanted to capture the incidentals, the detail shots that “shout” Cuba. The American cars topped that list, but signs, revolutionary slogans, images of Che Guevara, graffiti and of course the famous Mojitos and Daiquiri’s were in my plans too!

How did you plan your adventure?

20150304_havana_0759-Edit

20150307_cuba_2145

Of critical importance to successful travel photography is the research before you go. The more planning you put in the greater the chance of capturing great images. Having the best technique is no use if you’re not in the right place at the right time or you return home and realise you have missed some great locations.

Before I discuss how I planned the trip it is important to understand the objective. You need to be so well planned that when you arrive on location you should feel like the place is familiar, as if you’ve been there before. You will then find that you are comfortable in your surroundings, already having some shots planned in your mind. You can then concentrate on shooting those and then look around for other shots, for your own personal interpretation. This approach saves you time and helps ensure that you don’t miss important shots.

Not surprisingly the first port of call when planning is the internet. Whatever did we do before?! I will look at Tourist information / Government sites, Google images, Flickr, 500px and Stock Libraries. It is important to note that this is not to simply copy pictures that have been shot by others but to give you an idea of what is possible and to help you then put your own stamp on a place.
Good guide books are also an invaluable source of information and offer plenty of hints, tips and recommendations, especially for food and hotels. Well you’ve got to be comfortable when you’re out shooting all day! They also provide you with some basic language, very important to break the ice with the locals. I prefer the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Guides as they have sufficient historical and background information but are also much more visual than some of the other guides.

Not only is it imperative to have a list of planned shots but you also need to have locations for sunrise and sunset. The best source for these timings is the Photographers Ephemeris, a web app which shows you not only what time the sun rises and sets for any place in the world on any particular date but also the direction of the sun. This makes it an invaluable tool in your planning armoury. I planned my pictures taken on the Malecon (seafront) by using this app.

I also looked at Travel brochures and the Travel sections in newspapers.

You will also need a good Weather forecast so that you can amend your plans to suit the conditions. If the weather is really bad spend time inside buildings or churches though don’t miss out on the opportunities that bad weather presents by shooting outside, you might be really surprised at what you achieve and it will most likely be very different from the standard shots.

From all this information I prepare a Shoot List including all the details. This is invaluable and I check it every night. I always buy a decent street map and mark the key locations to ensure that I cover all the shots when in that area.

What kit did you take?

20150306_cuba_1750-Edit-Edit

20150307_untitled_1960-Edit

One of the most common questions when I give my Travel Photography lectures is: “What kit do you take”?

So here is a list of the equipment I took:
• Fujifilm XT1 and XE1 bodies
• Fujifilm Zoom lenses XF10-24, XF18-55, XF 55-200
• Fujifilm Prime lenses XF35 f1.4 and XF56 f1.2
• Nissin i40 flash
• Lee Seven5 filters
• Cable release
• 6 spare batteries
• 80gb SD Cards in a Think Tank Pixel Pocket
• Giottos Vitruvian Carbon Fibre travel tripod with Really Right Stuff B30 ballhead
• Gorillapod
• Cleaning cloths, rocket
• Headtorch
• Think Tank Urban Disguise 50 shoulder bag

• 13” Macbook Pro and Lacie Rugged Hard Drive
• i-phone
• 4 gang adaptor.
• Twin Battery charger

Here is some background to my choices.
I always take two bodies with me, primarily for insurance in case one fails or doesn’t survive being dropped onto a marble floor as happened to me on this trip! Thankfully the XE1 and 55-200 must be made of sturdy stuff as they survived and continued to work perfectly, but it just goes to show how important this is.

My lenses needed to cover wide angle, for interiors, to long telephoto to capture detail or compress the perspective. My three zoom lenses 10-24, 18-55 and 55-200 zooms are ideal for this. On this trip I also took along the XF35 f1.4 and 56mm f1.2 primes. These are stunning lenses superb for portraits, with their wide apertures, and great when the light is low.

The Nissin i40 flash is a fairly new acquisition and complements the Fuji form factor superbly, being extremely small and light and with enough power for most tasks. I tend to use it mostly for fill in flash on portraits.

My Lee Seven5 filters include a polarizer, ND Grads and ND filters for long exposures.

Tripods usually cause much debate. There simply isn’t a perfect tripod as the conundrum of size, weight, robustness and price cannot be solved! That said I am very happy to pair my Fuji cameras with the Giottos Vitruvian tripod (a few years old and I think there is a newer version) and Really Right Stuff Ball head. This tripod packs down small, with it’s legs folding back over itself, is light and sturdy and best of all weighs little over 1kg. The RRS ball head is superbly engineered and holds the camera in position really well with no droop even with the 55-200 lens.
In certain places the tripod police are only too keen to assert their authority preventing you from using your large tripod. In these situations I have a Gorillapod which I can attach to a support, chair, barrier or even place on the floor.
I use the Arca system of quick release L brackets on both my cameras for ease and speed of use.
When the power supply is unreliable it’s vital you have sufficient battery power. Therefore I took 6 spares plus the ones in my camera. I always take a lightweight 4 gang adaptor and a twin battery charger. When you need to charge your batteries quickly, together with your phone and laptop you need the extra sockets and hotel rooms usually have a dearth of wall sockets.

All of this packs into my Think Tank Urban Disguise bag and weighs in at less that 10kg! Think Tank products are superb, so well made, extremely functional and they are like the tardis, you can just keep filling them up! On this type of trip I prefer a shoulder bag to a backpack both for security reasons and ease and speed of use.

Any general tips?

20150304_havana_1171

20150303_havana_0098

When you arrive at your destination familiarise yourself as quickly as you can, good planning will help here. Look for interesting viewpoints and check to see where the sun rises and falls. In Cuba the streets are laid out on a grid system so I found streets that ran east / west where the sun would backlight my subjects early or late in the day.

When you photograph buildings or churches always snap the sign when you finish, you won’t remember the names of the places you visited.

You will need to work quickly, the lighting is challenging, very contrasty in the middle of the day and the sun rises and sets very quickly so you don’t have too much time to get your shots. Be in place an hour before sunrise and stay at least 45 minutes after the sun has set.

It will help if you have practiced other techniques that you might find useful such as panning. You don’t want to be learning and missing great shots whilst old American cars are speeding by on the Malecon.

If you are shooting a panorama to stitch together later I always shoot a frame first and last of my hand so the pictures in between can be easily identified as a pano set.

Walk, walk and walk more. If you find an interesting background in the streets, wait a while until someone interesting walks into the frame, it will happen.

Finally, the most important tip, always carry a camera. You never know what might present itself at the most unexpected time!

How did you get those stunning portraits? Did you ask them. etc.

20150310_cuba_5049-Edit

20150309_cuba_2777

The people in Cuba were full of character and life and capturing this is a must.

There are various ways of approaching this. A street approach using wide lenses and getting amongst the action to achieve reportage type, unposed, images. Using a long lens and shooting without the subjects knowledge or getting posed shots after asking permission to take a photograph. Many photographers find walking up to total strangers and asking to take their picture very difficult. However if you can overcome this and your subject agrees, the pictures you get will be far better than any long distance grab shots. This is my preferred method with which I have found most success. Sure you will get some rejections in which case I simply smile, wish them a good day and move on. But get a willing, interesting, character and you will get some stunning shots.

My technique when I see a subject, before I approach them, is to check my camera. I will select the appropriate lens then check camera settings, battery level, memory left on the card and my flash settings if appropriate. Only when that is completed do I walk up to them keeping my camera to one side. I smile introduce myself and ask if they speak English. I try and learn these words in the native language which immediately breaks the ice and often makes them laugh! I might ask a little about them before asking to take their picture. If you are already prepared you can get to work straight away, you don’t want to be checking your screen or fiddling with your settings. Don’t just grab one shot and move on, take several, some people will move to a different area for you or pose as you request. It’s important to show them some images on the back of your camera and thank them before moving on. Children love to see their pictures and the best shots are often when you’ve just shown them so be ready!

So to the thorny subject of payment. My rule is generally not to pay money as I think it simply sets a precedent for other photographers and encourages the practice of begging. However I will sometimes take pencils, pens or soap and shampoo and sweets for children. This rewards them without actually paying them cash. If I have worked with a person for say 10 minutes or more and they have been really helpful then I may give them a small tip but usually I try not to.

I had wanted to visit Cuba for some years and often such high expectations can be cruelly dashed. However this was definitely not the case here, it is a stunning destination perfect for photographers. My recommendation is to go soon, before it changes too much.


To see more of Chris’ images from Cuba see his website www.chrisuptonphotography.com

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Matthew Maddock

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography? How did you develop your style in photography?

I’ve been interested in photography since I was young. I always had a fascination with images and imagery and would love to be able to draw, but I just couldn’t do it so photography became my outlet for getting images onto the page. Developing a style is something I’ve written about in the past and I think it is a trap I think a lot of people fall into, myself included, whereby we try hard to develop a particular style that we think will make us stand out. The problem is that whilst you’re trying to develop that style you end up jumping from one thing to the other with no real direction. I’ve found that by just doing what I like my own natural preference for shooting comes out in the end, which then organically becomes your “style”.

I sometimes like to use the lighting equipment as an element in a shot, even deliberately put it into the shot and work with it. I’ve had a number of criticisms for it online, but it’s what I like to do and eventually has become a part of my style. I don’t really care what others think if I like the image myself.

my-style-1

Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

Initially I was looking for a complement to my Nikon dSLR that I could carry around every day, mainly for pictures of family when the Nikon would just get in the way.  I went through series of mirrorless cameras until I picked up the X100, which instantly had me hooked.  I purchased the X-Pro1 as soon as it came out, it came with me on jobs, and I soon realised that I wasn’t using my dSLR any more and sold all my dSLR gear.  Since then I find using mirrorless, and the Fujifilm X-Series in particular, a much more natural way to shoot.  It made me slow down and think before I took an image, it means I shoot far fewer frames, but keep many more of them.  I actually find it quite an awkward experience going back to shooting with a dSLR if I ever pick one up these days.  Live preview, and in particular an instant image preview without having to take your eye from the viewfinder makes for a much smoother shooting experience.

why-fujifilm-1

Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

Shoot what you enjoy. For me photography is a passion, if I was forced to shoot things I didn’t like just to earn money I would no longer want to do it. I’d rather be a part-time photographer and enjoy what I did than be full-time and moan about it. If I ever became a full-time photographer I’d have to specialise in a field that I wanted to shoot in and work hard until I was well known enough to only shoot those types of images.

Photography for me is a never ending journey of improvement, if you’re not improving then you’ll get left behind. I see shots I took even just a year ago and find them difficult to look at as I find so many elements in them that I know I could have done better if I shot them now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because if I ever get to the point that I’m comfortable then I’m pretty sure I would soon get bored.

philosophy

Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

The people who inspire me have changed over the years, and it very much depends on what type of thing I’m doing, there are far too many to mention. My real passion is environmental portraiture, initially that was in a reportage style, but I tend to prefer to set things up now and shoot with portable studio flash or speedlights. My current inspiration comes from a variety of photographers who really understand and know how to control light, Tim Wallace, Damien Lovegrove and others, but there are many amazing images shot by amateurs. You only have to look through Flickr or 500px to see images that in many cases are better than a great number of full-time professionals.

Although it can be hard, I try not to simply copy what others are doing, but use their work as inspiration for my own.

Never underestimate the strength that a good model can bring to a shoot. The model is so often forgotten in favour of the photographer, but a good model can bring at least as much to the image as a photographer, especially if you are inexperienced at shooting people. I often bounce ideas off a model before a shoot and it can very much become a collaborative work.

inspiration

Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?

I’m a strong believer in educating yourself. I spend a lot of time looking at images, reading and learning about photography. Workshops, reading and watching videos online have proven to be the most useful things I’ve done. Before you go out and buy something that you think will help you improve, learn to use what you have and then you will understand better why you need that new camera or lens rather than buying it thinking it will improve your photography. I’m good with the technical, but struggle with the artistic side of things. Zack Arias told me a couple of years ago to set myself small projects and run with that for a while, shooting only lines, circles, or only things that a red, then only red lines, etc. It does help.

Take as little with you as possible when you do shoot. For personal projects I rarely take more than one camera and one lens with me. Not only will you be thankful by the end of the day that you didn’t carry around a bag full of gear, but you will have spent more time taking photographs because you’re not concerned with which camera or lens combination to choose as you have no choice! That lack of choice also forces you to sometimes think outside of the box and get a more interesting shot than you otherwise would not have taken. The landscape below was shot with a 75mm equivalent lens. Not a traditional Lake District landscape shot, but personally I feel it is more interesting.

Finally, you don’t need to show off every image you take. When starting out and you don’t have a lot to show off it is tempting, and I used to post up a huge gallery of images from a shoot just to get stuff out there, you’ll regret that later! These days I may only even put one single image from a shoot into my portfolio.  It only takes one great image to capture the imagination of a client, a whole page will just confuse them.  Sometimes I may not even post up anything from a shoot at all, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something from doing it. If I’m making up a gallery from a shoot I try to limit it to the best 5-6 images.

tips-tricks

What’s next for you?

Not long ago I realised that many of the images in my portfolio were old and out of date, often without much cohesion. I’ve been working hard on personal projects aimed at refreshing my portfolio over the past year or so, deleting and weeding out the old and replacing them with new images. I’m getting there, but there are a few more ideas I have before it is at the point I’m aiming for, so I’ll be busy planning and shooting those. Planning a shoot is one of the most important aspects for me and I often use Pinterest boards to pull an idea together.

Once that is done it’s going to be about getting my updated portfolio of images out there and in front of people who can offer me more paid work. I’m also planning another series of workshops around the country based on using the Fujifilm X-Series cameras with off-camera flash for on-location shooting.

what-next-1

Contact info

portfolio
twitter
facebook
google+
instagram

 

Story behind the photo – Malojian

By David Cleland

There is an area just outside the city of Lisburn, Northern Ireland that seems to cultivate musical talent. Millbank studios on the ‘Maze’ side of the city is the home studio of the likes of Mojo Fury, Rams’ Pocket Radio and Run Away Go (if you haven’t heard of them then you really need to Google).

It was a cold morning in late December and I was tasked to capture the cover image for one of Gary Lightbody’s favourite folk pop artists, Stephen Scullion aka ‘Malojian’.

There was lots of freedom in the concept design but I knew I wanted to create an image that would give the viewer something not only to look at but also to study.

Millbank studios is like a throw back to the recording studios of the 1960s and 70s, old pianos quietly rot from writing sessions the previous summer it is impossible to visit the studio and not be creative, it was easy to build the concept from the location. I took my X100T on a visit to the studios late in 2014.

For the shoot we decided to try and encapsulate a slightly enchanted, musically retrospective feel and use whatever we could find to enrich the photo. We used the album’s producer Mr Michael Mormecha as the key subject and built the image around the one man band iconography.

From the name of the album subtly hidden in the image to rope ladders and flecks of snow on the ground the aim was to go back to the album covers of the 70s and 80s that were read and studied while the audience listing to the songs.

For the shoot I packed the X100T that I planned to use for capturing the main cover and I also packed the X-T1 and stunning Fujinon 56mm lens to capture some additional portraits to be used to promote the album on release.

DSCF7816-Edit
X-T1 with XF56mmF1.2 @ 1/2500th f/2.2 ISO400

I waited for the sun to move over the Millbank garden so I had a workable level of shadow. As the photographer I was also initially (physically) casting a shadow on the scene so the idea was to use the X100T’s wifi option to control the camera remotely via my phone.

Within 5 minutes of experimenting with a number of compositions and the re-arrangement of the various content within the frame I had captured three images that would work as the cover. The images were shot wide enough so they would work as a wrap-around cover (which will be particularly interesting for the full vinyl release).

Lightroom
lightroom
I was able to pre-visualise the final feel for the image and knew the feel I wanted to create in Lightroom. It took around an hour to process the first image from which I created a Lightroom preset from the rest of the shoot. I was then able to sync the images accordingly.

And here is the final image:

DSCF8450
X100T @ 1/200th f/2.8 ISO200

 

Links:

Malojian
FlixelPix 65 Photos captured with the X100 Series

X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Kevin Mullins

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography? How did you develop your style in photography?

I’m an exiled Welshman living in North Wiltshire where I live with my lovely wife, two lovely children, not so lovely naughty whippet. I shoot social documentary photography, mostly weddings, and I shoot in a candid manor which means I don’t stage or set up any of the photographs.

My photography journey has been quite quick and up until 2008/9 I was running my own online marketing business in London. A change in circumstance saw us “move to the country” where we settled down and I decided a complete change of career was needed. I decided to become a wedding photographer.

In a not very short period of time I understood that my ideal day shooting a wedding was in a totally candid way. And as such, that is how my style has evolved and I now shoot documentary weddings all over the UK, Europe and even America. I love the humanity element of weddings and I simply shoot people, being people.

Image 1

Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

In short, I was very happy with my old DSLR system but I always felt there was something missing. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on until I picked up an X100 in 2011. I knew instantly that this was the future for me (though it would take a couple more camera models before I made the switch entirely).

Using the smaller CSC cameras simply allows me to get more intimate images, without affecting the integrity of the moment.

I’m not a “spray and pray” type photographer. Most of my images are considered moments, rather than running around shooting thousands of images and hoping for the best, the X-Series with their glorious viewfinders and beautifully designed chasis allow me to watch, then shoot.

I believe a good documentary photographer should be a better observer, than shooter. The X-Series are so much lighter and they allow me to get into moments and shoot weddings from the inside out, rather than the outside in as was the case and only option with my big DSLR system.

I sold all my DSLR gear and bought a new car. With the change I invested in my X-Series and have never looked back.

Image 2

Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

I like to look for the extraordinary, in a world of ordinariness. I see wedding photography just like street photography. A good street photograph has a story and has a reason to exist. I want all my images to involve emotion, story and ultimately some kind of humanity element. I don’t want my pictures to be simply boring snapshots wherever possible and so my philosophy is to shoot images that make me smile, and make the client smile too.

Image 3

Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

I was never “into” photography, but I remember seeing the images of Jane Bown, Don McCullin etc in the Sunday supplements as I grew up. I didn’t have an appreciation of the technique of photography then but I certainly loved looking at the photographs.

In more recent times, from a wedding and street photography point of view I’m in awe of the work and philosophy of Mel Digiacomo.

Image 4

Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?

From a technical point of view I’d like to say things like; consider the background, check the composition of your images, ensure the light is good.

All these things are important but my most important tip I think is this: try not to take boring photos. Whether you are shooting on the streets, shooting weddings or shooting your kids at home – always try and give the image a reason to exist. A snapshot of someone sat in a café having a drink has a lot less impact than if perhaps something else is happening in the background, or there is a juxtaposition in the image.

I find setting my cameras up to use back button focusing and zone focusing for low light works amazingly well. If I’m shooting quickly, I will often use aperture priority or even “P” mode. Remember I’m the observer and the camera is the technology! Explore the glorious JPEGs that the X-Series produce too. I think if you ignore these, you are missing out on such an exciting part of photography – having the results out of the can without having to process them? Imagine that…..

Image 5

What’s next for you?

I’m shooting more and more overseas weddings and I’ll be exploring that a bit more. My workshops and speaking see me travel too which is great but one thing I want to explore more is social documentary. I want to capture life in all its aspects and I’ll be perusing that more over the coming years.

Image6

Contact info

Main website
The Owl
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Plastic fantastic!

This colourful effect is known as cross polarisation and the good news is, it’s incredibly easy to do. In the days of film, this technique would have regularly required sheets of polarising film placed behind the subject and a polarising filter on the camera. Now, all you need is a polarising filter, a computer screen and a plastic geometry set. Here’s how it’s done:

DSCF9582

1 As mentioned, the pre-requisite parts are a geometry set (we pushed the Fujifilm budget to the limit spending £1.59 on this one), a polarising filter and a computer screen. It isn’t essential that the filter is the correct size for the lens you’re using – just as long as it covers the front element. I used the super-sharp XF60mm macro for these image, but didn’t have a 39mm filter, so I just used a 72mm one instead.

 2 All these shots were taken with the X-T1, which I set to aperture-priority, ISO 200 and spot metering. The camera was tripod mounted and positioned directly in front of the screen.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 08.48.103 The computer background needs to be white. As I was using an Apple Mac, I did this through the System Preferences window. With the background white, I positioned the pieces from the geometry set directly on the computer screen in the order I wanted them.

DSCF9587

4 Here’s the magic bit! Put the polarising filter in front of the lens and slowly rotate it, as you do, you’ll see the screen turn grey, then black. As this happens, the vibrant colours in the plastic will appear. Make sure you spot meter from the plastic, not the black background and you’ll get a result like this.

 5 Once you’ve perfected the technique, you can start getting creative. Here are a couple of extra shots of individual pieces from the set where I cropped in in post-production.

Quick tips

There is a ‘sweet spot’ when you’re turning the polarising filter, make sure you experiment so you get a pure black background, otherwise you’ll end up with a less-appealing grey as you see here.

DSCF9589

Use the Velvia Film Simulation mode for really vibrant colours.

On some screens, when you find the optimum position for the polarising filter, small white dots will appear in the background. These may disappear when you spot meter accurately, but if they don’t you can get rid of them by boost the blacks in post production.

We’d advise you to buy a new geometry set rather than using an old one, which will almost certainly be covered in scratches and will dilute the effect. Besides, everyone needs a protractor, right?

Elephant Close Up – Story Behind the Photo

Pygmy elephants are endemic to the island of Borneo, famous for their slightly smaller size, they are endangered with a population of roughly 1,500 left in the wild. This species is increasingly vulnerable to human impacts as a result of deforestation and conflict with palm oil development. They are the least understood elephant and in my opinion the sweetest, with their oversized ears and long tail to keep them cool and usher away insects.
Our first encounter was through an opening where there were about twenty elephants grazing. Our presence obviously wasn’t too big a concern as we were still observing different behaviour which is only seen in relaxed environments, such as play fighting and suckling.
Elephants play fighting
Taken with the XF50-140mm.
We moved on in our boat and headed around to a more suitable location and the view that greeted us was unbelievable! 
Elephant-3
Taken with the XF16mm.

I didn’t think the XF16mm would get much work but I was wrong. Having that mounted on one X-T1 and the XF50-140mm on another, sometimes switching to the XF16-55mm too, made for a brilliant set up.

One set up that proved to really work was the XF10-24mm and the X-T1 on a monopod fired via wireless triggers. Using the electronic shutter mode meant that I could have the camera really close to the elephants with no sound being produced so they stayed nice and calm. I couldn’t have done this with an SLR or in mechanical shutter mode. Using that set up on a monopod meant that I could shoot from a really low (or high) angle and still stay on my feet incase I needed to move. The tilting screen meant that I could see exactly what was in the frame and I used continuous auto focus as I trusted it to keep the focus on the subject. the wide perspective really worked well with these large animals, they may be called pygmy elephants but the adults still stand 2.5 meters tall! The other advantage of this lens was the OIS which worked fantastically. Considering I was holding the camera on the end of a 1.5 meter poll, in a busy environment and still getting sharp photos at 1/60sec is a testament to the OIS. 
Elephant Close Up
The lower perspective offered by this set up helped to place the elephants in their environment.
However when the conditions were particularly gloomy and I didn’t want to push the camera past ISO3200 (ISO6400 is fine but on this occasion I decided not to) I switched to the ever-present XF16mm and utilised the F1.4 aperture. Though the angle of view was much narrower the benefit of the faster shutter speed was huge. This was particularly important as when the sun was shinning it would often create very strong dappled light which would often result in blown highlights. As a result the best results were usually from overcast conditions as it meant that everything was correctly exposed, but this meant there was less light available. 
16mm-8
A mother and baby share a quite moment.
16mm-6
An elephant checks out my remote set up. XF16mm.
16mm-5
XF16mm at F4.
16mm-4
Walking along an elephant pathway through the undergrowth. XF16mm at F4.
To get some close ups I used the ever-present XF50-140mm utilising the wonderful sharpness at F2.8.
Elephant (3 of 36)
F2.8
Elephant (6 of 36)
F2.8 – This lens is so sharp wide open.
This was a truly incredible experience, one that I will never forget and I am so pleased that the X-Series produced photos to do the interactions justice. From the XF50-140mm to the XF10-24mm, the Fujinon lenses were exceptional across the range. We were even lucky enough to see the elephants beside a river just as the evening light reached its vivid climax.
16mm-3
The XF16mm being utilised again at F5.6.
I hope you have enjoyed this series of photos, let me know your thoughts. The X-Series is developing into a great, lightweight wildlife system, I can’t wait for the forecasted XF100-400mm to complete this fantastic system!
You can find more of my work via the following links: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram.

Python Close Up – Story Behind the Photo

I have been lucky enough to be using a prototype of the XF16mm F1.4 since March and I have to say it is brilliant. I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d end up using it for, but as it turns out it is an extremely flexible lens and helped to produce some shots that would otherwise have not been possible.

This particular story has a bit of an unusual beginning. The location is the Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Malaysia, I was in this region with another photographer, Christian Loader from Scubazoo who I’m currently doing some work with. I have to thank Christian for some of the photos of me here. One morning, we headed up river briefly as our guide Osmon wanted to show us something he had spotted the previous night. We slowed underneath some low lying branches. Before I knew what had happened we had come across a relatively young python and… it fell in the boat! At which point I almost jumped out, much to the amusement of the other two who have handled snakes extensively before. The snake then decided to snuggle up to my Millican Dave camera bag! They calmly caught it and we relocated it inside the forest on a nice tree branch, in return it kindly sat still allowing us to take some pictures.

Python-2

The close focusing capabilities of this lens really impressed me and allowed me to get some really close wide-angle shots, allowing me to fill the frame with the python and to also capture the environment.

Python-5

Python-3

I used the X-T1 with the XF16mm F1.4 attached as well as a Nissin i40 flash I used a rogue flash bender. But because this would involve getting very close to the snake I decided to put the camera on a monopod and used a wireless trigger set up to keep me working at a safe distance. To stress, the snake was absolutely fine and did not once try and strike the set up. The angled screen on the X-T1 was very helpful here as it meant that I could see exactly what was in the frame, regardless of slight angle changes to composition.

Ben shooting in Sabah - Christian Loader - Scubazoo Images-15
Here is the set up. Please excuse the ‘jungle hat’!

Because I was using the i40 flash in TTL mode, I couldn’t shoot above 1/180sec so I had to stop down to F8 for much of the photos. The location was very dark and flat as the vast majority of the tropical sunlight is absorbed by the canopy above. Thankfully the XF16mm seems to have very quick and accurate autofocus, even in these less than ideal conditions.

Python-4

In an up and coming blog I’ll show the benefit of the F1.4 aperture when photographing Pygmy Elephants.

You can find more of my work via the following links: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Embracing the Abstract by Simon Weir

09_a_Abstract_SWDXT19084-Editby Simon Weir

This February I was once again in Yellowstone National Park running MagicIs photographic workshops with some really extraordinary people.  Over the two weeks I learned a little about nuclear physics, banking, metallurgy, reconstructive surgery, hitech roof construction, information technology, farming and how a 12 year old boy sees the world through a camera…

In return I showed them some of the most extraordinary sights on earth and endeavoured to give them some of the skills to translate what they saw before them into images – be they wildlife, landscape, or something more abstract.

At the beginning of each course there was much talk of aperture, shutter speed, ISO and autofocus modes – the core building blocks behind understanding how your camera works.  Then came the understanding of how the technology in your camera sees the world and makes judgement on the camera’s settings – I like to think of this as “The Small Man from Japan” who lives inside our cameras and tries to guess what it is we are photographing and how it should be exposed.

Then gradually as a group we talked more about composition and in particular about understanding how we, as cognitive human beings, see the world around us.  We have our familiar tools of depth, time, framing and tone, but before we can use these we have to learn to “see”.

02_Abstract_SW_DXT28598-Edit-2
“Homage to the Small Man from Japan” – Fujifilm X-T1 – XF14mm – 1/15s at f/22 ISO200 with vertical panning

Every time we pick up a camera and look through the viewfinder we create an abstract – by framing our subject and capturing it in an intrinsically two dimensional device we move away from external reality and instead seek to achieve its effect using shapes, colours and textures.  Some of these abstractions can be literal and immediately recognisable for what they are, others are more ephemeral and create an impression or a feeling of what is before us that may or may not be understood by the viewer.

But there is a huge difference between “looking” and “seeing”.

When we “look” at something we think that we are taking it all in at one instant.  In fact our eyes and brains form a complex image by scanning and storing small parts at a time and assembling them into a whole.  Some parts of this are borrowed from memory and used as a stopgap until that part of the image can be scanned.  I am sure many of you will have experienced that feeling, when glimpsing at a wristwatch, that the second hand takes a few moments before it appears to move regularly – this is simply our brain applying the known static image of our watch, processing everything around it and then realising that something within the watch is moving and giving that some focus and detail. The phenomenon is called Chronostasis and gives us a fascinating glimpse into the way our visual perception actually works.

01_Abstract_SW_DXT28529-Edit
“Gibbon Falls” – Fujifilm X-T1 – XF50-140 @ 75mm – 30sec at f/2.8 ISO400 – Firecrest IRND4.8 stopper

When we learn to “see” we bring many factors into play.  We can pre-visualise the way we want to represent a subject in terms of depth or time.  By understanding how the brain interprets shapes and forms we can compose our framing to help the mind’s journey through the photograph.  If we can reduce and simplify the image to tell a clearer story then we can strengthen the viewer’s emotional connection with the subject matter.

Seeing involves thought and time and is part of a process we call mindfulness – “the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”.  It comes from the Buddhist meditational practice anapanasati and is widely used in the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorders, anxiety and drug addiction.  And mindfulness is a key building block in creative photography.

Let me show you an example using bison…  There are many thousands of bison in Yellowstone and they are rather wonderful animals to photograph.  No two are the same and as the weather conditions change they take on many different appearances.  For some time now I have been seeking a very specific image of a bison – one that tells as much about the animal’s habitat as it does about the animal itself, showing both the harsh environment and the creature’s strength.

By thinking about this conceptual image I now find that I see and photograph bison in a completely different way, using the camera’s tools to create abstractions that try to convey something more about the essence of bison…

04_Abstract_SW_DXT28803-Edit
Fujifilm X-T1 – XF50-140 @ 140mm – 1/900s at f/2.8 ISO200

This image is as much about snow as it is bison – the falling snow (rendered pin sharp by the high shutter speed) is the subject in focus, shallow depth of field and a panoramic crop gives a sense of distance to these slow lumbering beasts.

03_Abstract_SW_DXT28721-Edit
Fujifilm X-T1 – XF50-140 @ 70mm – 1/200s at f/5.6 ISO200

Here the focus is on the speed and power of the bison ploughing through deep snow.  The relatively slow shutter speed allows representation of movement through blur while the horizontal panning keeps just enough sharpness in the bison to show its purpose.

However neither image is the one I carry in my mind – the single image that combines everything that is “bison”.  Most likely I will never make this “perfect” image, but I will certainly keep looking for it and finding new ways to see this magnificent creature and its frozen habitat.

07_Abstract_SW_DXT18834-Edit
“New Life from Old” – Fujifilm X-T1 – XF18-135 @ 135mm – 1/40s at f/11 ISO200

Abstraction and mindfulness together open the photographer’s eyes and allow us to see both the tiny detail and the wider environment – the microcosm and the macrocosm.  We become more aware of our surroundings and more attuned to our environment, and in doing so our images begin to connect with the viewer and tell a story – every photograph should tell a story…

11_Abstract_SW_DSCF7196-Edit-Edit
“Frozen” – Fujifilm X-Pro1 – XF55-200 @ 200mm – 1/500s at f/7.1 ISO400

For more information about MagicIs photographic workshops and safaris visit www.magicis.com

If you are interested in finding out more about the 2016 winter workshops in Yellowstone National Park then contact me via the MagicIs website at http://magicis.com/contact-us/


About Simon

Simon_Weir_1Fujifilm X-Photographer Simon Weir specialises in photographing live performance (particularly classical music), contextual portraiture and nature. To see more of his work, check out his website http://www.simonweir.com/