Guest post: The Beginning

By Steve Best

Who am I? Good question.

I’ll be succinct.

I’m a clown photographer.

But mainly I’m a stand-up comedian – www.stevebest.com. I have been one for many years. I have plied my trade all around the world, having toured with many a famous person.

I have also co-founded Abnormally Funny People, which is a group of gifted stand-up comedians strutting their funny stuff. All but one of them is disabled (that’s me!) I’m the ‘token’ able-bodied comedian  www.abnormallyfunnypeople.com

I also take pictures. Mainly of comedians. I have published a book with 436 pictures of comedians. One comedian on each page, with a joke of theirs, and a few weird and wonderful facts about themselves.


I’m very proud of this book. Nothing like it has been done before – www.comedysnapshot.com.

So, what now? And why is Fuji posting this blog? Let me explain a bit more…

The first book wasn’t really intentional. When I set out I took a few pictures with a camera phone just for posterity. Here’s one of Ross Noble. The fuzziness kind of suits him.

Ross Noble
Ross Noble

I had a Ricoh Caplio GX100 camera with me. It was a great little point and shoot. Of course it had its limitations. It was pretty slow to start up. And it wasn’t great in low light situations. Most of the pictures in the first book were taken with the Ricoh.

Sean Lock
Sean Lock

So, I had a collection of comedians, which every now and then I plonked up on Facebook. Make it into a book, many people said. One such person who said this was my next door neighbour (ish – 3 doors down), Javier Garcia, who is a wonderful sports photographer, and owner of www.backpageimages.com

So I did it. Just like that. Well not quite. Jeez, it was bloody hard, and rather costly.

The person who really, really, really, really helped me… really, was Drew De Soto. Drew used to be a comedian. He’s still pretty damn funny. He runs a graphic design company,www.navig8.co.uk and in fact was running it while being a comedian. We met again when I was on my quest for the answers to my questions from the comedians. I tracked Drew down. He then asked me the question,
‘Where are you going to design it?’
‘Err, on line?’ I answered back with a kind of question.
‘Come into my office,’ he said.
And the rest is history, so historians would say.

You’re still asking where does Fuji come into this.

While being taught InDesign (actually learnt about 4% of what it can do) and Photoshop (5%) and how to kern (the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result), Drew would often pop out to take a picture with, wait for it, the Fuji X100. He loved it. All apart from the slight focusing problem, rectified somewhat with new firmware, and even more rectified with the X100s, which I will one day get him. Although I hear the X100T is out…

So the book came out, and I had become hooked on taking photos. I was still gigging, still bumping into comedians that I somehow hadn’t snapped for the first book. I’ll do another book then, I thought. I wanted to up my game. Park Cameras was down the road to Drew’s offices, so most lunchtimes I’d wander in and touch and stare. Mainly Fuji. But not exclusively. In fact I looked at Ricoh too, as I was pretty familiar with their kit. I took the bull by the horns and phoned up Ricoh to see if they would give me a camera as I had used their GX100 for the first book. Unfortunately the Fuji X100s was in my head as I started talking to the PR person at Ricoh.

‘I love your cameras’ I said, and began to explain my project of the Comedy Snapshot sequel
‘It’s not something we usually do, but what camera would you be looking at?’ She asked.
‘The X100s.’
There was a small pause.
‘That’s not a Ricoh,’ she replied with a little laugh in her voice
There was another pause
‘I’ve mucked this up, haven’t I?’ I said
‘Yes, I think you have.’

I didn’t phone Fuji for fear of doing the same thing in reverse. Instead I spent two weeks of lunches in Park Cameras.

The X100s, the X-Pro1 or the X-T1?

Fuji were doing an offer for the X-Pro1 – the body and a lens, and you’d get a free lens in the post. I went for it, I got the X-Pro1 and the XF18mm F2, and true to their word a few weeks later the XF35mm 1.4 was handed to me by the postman. What a beast! The camera, not the postman…

So off I went taking pictures for the next book with my X-Pro1. And of course a few other shots for the hell of it. Here’s a few. The ‘sheer hell of it shot’ made it to the Sunday Observer.

Arthur Smith
Arthur Smith
Tina T'urner
Tina T’urner
David Baddiel
David Baddiel
The Observer
The Observer
La Voix
La Voix

The X-Pro1 is a great camera. And both lenses are superb. It’s wonderful in low light, even with smacking the ISO up high. It’s not too bulky, it’s quiet, and damn sexy looking… I updated the firmware. But for some reason I kept going back to Park Cameras to touch the other Fuji cameras. I needed another body. I wanted another body.

I looked at the X100s and the X-T1 again. I had no more money left.

I knew a comedian who knew a man at Fuji.

Johnny Murph
Johnny Murph

He showed my book to him with the tag that I was doing another, all shot on Fuji. The man at Fuji liked my first book, and loved some of my recent pictures taken on the X-Pro1. Would they be interested in loaning me the X-T1 and the 56mm 1.2 lens?

I waited a few weeks.

The man from Fuji, he say ‘YES’. The deal was done, no meet up, no handshake, no signatures, just coolness and a willingness to take a shot. This is not to say to say that Fuji are lending out cameras willy nilly. I think I was just a little lucky, the right man, the right place, the right face. Two weeks later a brand spanking new X-T1 and 56mm F1.2 lens was delivered by the same postman that had delivered the X-Pro1.

It really is an amazing camera and lens.

The next blog will be a bit more technical on how and where I take the pictures. But for now here’s some pics taken on the X-T1 with the 56mm lens.

Russ Haynes (Monkey with a Gun)
Russ Haynes (Monkey with a Gun)

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David Berglas and Dynamo
David Berglas and Dynamo
Tom Mullica
Tom Mullica

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This blog post was taken, with permission, from Steve’s own blog that can be viewed here. You can also follow @stevebestcomic on Twitter

Have I found my ultimate camera?

A couple of years ago, I started – and completed – a 365 project. I not only took a picture everyday for a year, I also wrote a daily blog to accompany those pictures. You can still read it here if you’re interested.

Any photographer who has completed a 365 project will draw different conclusions from the process. It taught me to see photographs everywhere I looked, it confirmed that photography is the greatest hobby/job on earth and it also made me realise that I didn’t have a true ‘go anywhere and everywhere’ camera. My 365 was completed using a variety of different bits of kit. Some Fujifilm, some not – I just tended to shoot with what I had handy. And that annoyed the hell out of me.

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Impressive sharpness at a higher ISO. 1/45sec at f/4, ISO 1600

Ever since then, I’ve been looking for a camera that can accompany me everywhere I go; a camera that I can have a relationship with, a camera that I can learn to use intuitively, a camera that if I spend enough time with it I’ll know exactly how it’s going to perform in any given situation. Stop me if this is sounding a bit weird.

That ideal camera isn’t a DSLR or a CSC (too big), it isn’t the X100S either (I’m just not that disciplined), but every since I was handed an X30 a couple of weeks ago, I’ve had the feeling that my search is over. It’s early days, of course, we’re still in the honeymoon period, but after three weeks of carrying Fujifilm’s latest premium zoom compact everywhere with me, here are three things I love about my new magnesium-bodied mate…

1) The viewfinder
We all like the Real Time viewfinder in the X-T1, right? Well the X30 has got one too and it’s just as good. OK, it’s not as big, but the detail is there, the pre-visualisation of camera functions is there and the orientation sensor is there – no matter which way you hold the camera, the shooting information stays at the bottom of the frame. Some detractors have suggested that the lack of optical viewfinder makes the front of the camera look slabby and ugly. They’re wrong.

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Great vibrancy on the greens. 1/150sec at f/3.2, ISO 400

2) The customisation
One of very few failings of the X100S is the fact that there’s only one customisable function button, the same issue afflicted the X10 and X20. But the X30 has six buttons that can have functions re-assigned. Not only that, there’s also a Control Ring around the zoom barrel that has further customisable functionality. This is a great move. I don’t use Wi-Fi very often, so that button has been re-assigned to control the ISO instead. I’ve done the same with other buttons, although I have occasionally forgotten what I’ve assigned to what. This is down to my advancing years, nothing more.

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Wide maximum aperture makes it easy to focus attention on certain parts of the frame. 1/75sec at f/2.8, ISO 400

3) The picture quality
The X30 doesn’t need a one-inch sensor. ⅔-inch does just fine. That 28-112mm lens is lovely and sharp, too and gives me just the right amount of framing versatility. It’s an X100S for lazy people, sort of.

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Impressive macro, great colours. 1/50sec at f/2.8, ISO 400

Only time will tell if the X30 is going to be my ideal camera, whether we’re going to walk off into the sunset, hand in (much larger) handgrip, but in the early stages of our relationship, I have to admit that we’re getting on famously. It could be the one…

HOW TO: Set up for Action Photography

Following on from the last blog that covered what gear to use for wildlife photography, I’m going to explain how I set up my X-Series cameras for capturing action. Though some cameras are better than others for this type of photography, there are little ways to help yourself help improve your chances of capturing action.

High burst rate

Though using a high burst rate will eat through your memory cards space, shooting at a high frame rate will hopefully get a good selection of action shots.

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Auto focus

First of all make your focus point as large as possible: do this by pressing the AF button and zooming out as far as you can. With a moving subject it will be very difficult to keep the subject in a small selection zone, so give yourself the best chance possible. Continuous focus (This applies to the X-T1 and X-E2 as they have vastly improved continuous AF functionality) is really helpful with certain subjects, especially if they are coming towards you. For those of you with models that are best in single focus mode, fear not! Generally the Fujifilm lenses are quick to auto focus so if you’re following a subject you can focus, take a shot and then focus again or alternatively prefocus if you know where the subject it going to go. Some photographers use cameras in MF mode and use the AFL/AEL button to focus. This is helpful because you can then use the manual focus ring on the lens and see what is in focus via focus peaking. Experiment and see what method works best for you.

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This sequences was taken using the X-T1’s tilting screen and the XF56mm at F2.8.

ISO

My standard ISO setting is 800. To some this might seem high but the output from this is so clean that it isn’t a concern for me. If it’s a bit cloudy and I’m wanting to freeze the action I’ll push my ‘ready’ ISO to 1600. My philosophy is that it is better to have a sharp image that might be slightly noisy as you get up to than an image that might have some motion but has less or no noise.

Shark
A blue shark close up taken at ISO 1600

Shark close up100% close up – In my eyes the noise (or lack of it) is not a problem at ISO 1600

Aperture

For action photography you have to decide if you want to freeze a moment, capture the motion or something in the grey area. If you want to freeze the action you’ll generally want to use a wider aperture to get a sufficiently high shutter speed. The shutter speed required to freeze depends on the pace of the action, and your chosen aperture is determined by the light conditions and your ISO choice. The thing to remember is that shutter speed, aperture and ISO are all intertwined. If you want to read more on apertures then read this previous blog (it contains puppies!). If you want to focus on one, say a faster shutter speed, then this has an adverse affect on the other two factors. If you’re wanting to freeze the action with a fast shutter speed AND also have a large depth of field then you have to increase the ISO. It is also about prioritising the most important factor for you and then compromise with the others. When aiming to freeze the action I am generally in aperture priority mode, where I have set the ISO according to the conditions (usually over 800), and I then choose an aperture to obtain the shutter speed I want.

Frozen Kittiwake

Taken at 1/3800 sec, F5.6, ISO 800

If you want to capture motion blur, say through panning with your subject, then your shutter speed is having less of a constraint on your ISO and aperture so you can change these accordingly to reduce your shutter speed. One way to control this is through shutter speed priority, where you set shutter speed to what you want and then have the aperture in auto mode so it will change to keep the same low shutter speed (with the ISO previously set).

Panning moped

Taken at 1/13 sec, F16 ISO 200

Finally, another set up option for action is to set the aperture and shutter speed to what you want and then have the ISO in automatic mode. You could go fully manual but I find this can quickly lead to problems when trying to capture action, especially if there is a lot going on around you. This method can result in you missing fleeting moments.

Now that you know some action set ups go out and shoot! Let us know what your action set up is with the X-Series and share with us your action shots via our Fujifilm’s Facebook and Twitter. As ever, if you have any questions then please leave a comment below or contact me via:

Twitter – @benji_cherry

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BenCherryPhotography

HOW TO: Photograph Fog

As winter starts to set in, photographers are looking for ways to capture this cold season. For me, winter is best covered in the morning. This is a personal preference but in the mornings you have frost, a reasonable hour for sunrise and (if you’re lucky) fog or mist.

There are three types of fog,  so you need to decide what you are looking for and this will depend on your location:

  • Ground fog – In mountainous/hilly areas and cold patches you can get ground fog collecting in valleys. After a rainy night or over wet ground you can get shallow precipitation fog.
  • Sea fog – Also called advection fog, this is where warm air passes over cold sea water.
  • Sea/River smoke – Where the air is colder than the water, creating a generally shallow level of fog, this is generally restricted to water areas, hence river smoke.

When trying to photograph fog you need to use the weather forecast to understand what the evening will be like in your desired location. I was fortunate enough to visit Curbar Edge in the Peak District the afternoon before my first morning I was there to scout the location. It was just before sunset and the fog was forming in the valley below and at that point I decided to try it out the following morning to see how it would look.

The weather for my first morning at Curbar was drizzling and there was a thick layer of cloud, which meant it was pretty unlikely I’d witness much golden light, I thought I’d set out and give it a go. I am so happy I did! This was my first real experience of photographing mist and it is incredible how quickly the spectacle evolves in front of your eyes. I one point I was photographing down one end of the valley, taking some long exposures, only to look over my shoulder and see that it had dramatically changed down the other end of the valley!

I used the X-T1 and the XF18-135mm lens for my main set up. As it was a wet morning the weather-sealed kit meant that I could stop worrying about the system and focus on the spectacle. As well as offering weather sealing, the XF18-135mm meant that I had great versatility, meaning that I didn’t have to worry about changing lenses the entire time. However, I also ended up using a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor to further extend the shutter speed. This was great but because I was using a filter set instead of screw in filters it meant that the front element was exposed to the conditions. Long exposures and rain drops do not mix! Thankfully a little umbrella tucked away in my bag helped to shelter the filter.

Generally I was not bothered about using a fast/moderate shutter speed so I set up the system on a tripod and used ISO 200 (the lowest RAW compatible ISO) and generally around F8. The addition of the ND filter, which was a 10-stop filter, meant that the shutter speed required was dramatically decreased. This results in the mist smoothing out, giving quite an interesting effect. See the comparisons below (note that despite the fact the ND filter is meant to be neutral it has put a distinct colour cast on the images).

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The ND filter extended the shutter speed so much that I had to use the bulb setting, as the required shutter speed was longer than 30 seconds. For this I used the remote trigger that allowed me to hold down the trigger (lockable) to keep the shutter open for as long as required. The X-T1 shows the length of the shutter speed on the back screen, this is very helpful. There is something to consider thought when using long exposures: the processing time. As soon as you go beyond 30 seconds, the processing time dramatically increases from seconds into minutes, this isn’t a problem but is something to be aware of when trying to photograph a scene that is evolving constantly.

To make sure I didn’t miss any moments while the X-T1 was processing and to get some different shots, I used the X100s with ISO 1600 to produce a fast enough shutter speed to allow me to use the camera one handed. Picture the scene: a wonderful valley filled with fog unfolding in front of me, one camera on a tripod; my left hand sheltering it with an umbrella; photographing the scene with the X100s in my right hand at the same time! Who says photographers can’t look cool…

Mist-15 Mist-16Mist-14

The three above photos were taken with the X100s using the monochrome + red filter jpeg preset.

The reason I chose Curbar Edge is because it provides a high vantage point. This is really important to optimise your chances for good mist photography. It generally means that you should be hit by the early morning light and so should warm up faster! This is a valid point to consider on crisp winter mornings, not that it happened this time around. A high vantage point allows you to see for a greater distance, hopefully providing you with a greater number of layers to your picture. At the top of a valley, Curbar Edge allowed me to see for miles along the valley, which offered both valley fog and river smoke. The ability to then use a telephoto lens to zoom in on particular areas can result in some quite striking shots.

Mist-5

But also having the ability to instantly zoom wide was a great asset to try and obtain a variety of photographs.

Mist-3

The colour photos were all taken with the X-T1 and I used the Classic Chrome camera calibration in Lightroom which produced wonderful colours in my opinion. I have only just started using this camera calibration and I love it.

Mist-17

Though on this occasion the sun didn’t break through the thick cloud cover, the spectacle was nevertheless remarkable and I can only imagine what it would have looked like if sun rays had broken through.

The second morning

Despite being very happy with the previous morning I decided to give it another go as the forecast suggested there was a better chance of a proper sunrise. This time round I decided to not focus too much on lengthy shutter speeds, but instead the details in the fog. What I didn’t expect was the amount of fog!

Mist-2

Mist
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The range of the 18-135mm meant that I could capture the grand scale of the fog at 18mm, with the car in the first of these pictures giving a sense of scale. Then using the longer end of the lens I pulled out particular parts of the landscape, such as the little cottage that looks like it should be in Harry Potter and the hilltops surrounded by a sea of fog, turning them into islands. As well as the incredible amount of fog, the sun did make a bit of an appearance too. Despite this it was a very cold morning, producing a wonderful frost. I was very happy to have packed a hat and pair of gloves.

Mist-4

Mist-13

I positioned myself so part of the hilltop was between me and the rising sun, creating a backlighting effect on Curbar Edge, which brings the fog alive.

Mist-8

Because of the brighter sky this time round I needed to use a ND gradual filter, where unlike the filter I used during the first morning, this one changes from one end to the other, as the name suggests. At one end it is darker (you can buy filters at different stops, depending on how dark you want to make part of the image), while at the other it has no effect on the light. I use these when I am photographing something with a sky that is much brighter than the ground below. With the above image I used a filter which didn’t stop down the light enough to correctly expose the sky but I like it nevertheless because of the frost (it get particularly difficult to expose correctly when the sun is in the image). While the picture below is a slightly better example of a ND gradual filter in use.

Mist-7

I hope this has proved helpful and now it is your turn to get out there and photograph the wintery conditions. Let us know how you get on.

Punjab travelogue by Sinbad Phgura and his X100s

My name is Sinbad Phgura I am a fashion, lifestyle & travel photographer

201746_10150136198419787_2761543_oFor me photography has been a life long passion , I got my first a square 35mm box tammy camera at the age of nine and and have been shooting ever since.

I use mostly digital format cameras now, but not much has changed subject-wise, it’s people that I like to capture most, working with natural light & keeping the whole process as simple as possible. The magic for me has always been in the character study, to capture the honesty of the moment, & to connect with the soul somehow.

That’s why India is such a joy to shoot, with all of it’s humanity right there in front of you to see, smell, hear & touch! I love the light, it’s incredible how its shades, textures & changes everything it touches throughout the day.

www.sinbadphgura.com

I’ve been around the Fujifilm X system for a while now, one of my best friends Alex Lambrechts shoots with it & I know that these cameras are capable of stunning results! But I myself have so far have resisted to try one.

It’s only when you have the camera in your hand and you have to shoot with it for a period of time, adjusting your mindset from dslr to rangefinder that the magic happens.
Equipped with the Fuji X100s and a Millican camera bag I was off on my journey, Qatar Airways to Amritsar & into the heartland of the Punjab for my nephew’s wedding.

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It was a very special time for all of our family and it was so wonderful to see the remote family farmhouse turned into a fairytale setting.
What I wanted to capture with this picture travelogue was the backdrop to the wedding, the rural way of life, the people the environment and the excitement & build up to the big day.

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The X100s is indeed a beautiful looking machine with its classic styling it’s a great to hold and a pleasure to use. The physical dials feel just right, and it’s a joy not to have to scrabble through a ton of menus. I like that the fixed lens made me think more about composition and less about focal lengths & changing lenses, just being in the moment … capturing the moment. Taking me back to real photography, back to my film days when I used to shoot film.

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The biggest thing I found using the X100s was that you just can blend into the environment much easier and that there is less of a barrier between you and your subjects. It really makes this the ideal street / reportage carry everyday camera, silent lightweight and stealth!

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This wedding was such a special time for all our family! I’m so glad I got to enjoy it to the full & still get some great shots without worrying about loads of heavy camera gear!
Yes I really liked my Fuji X experience! And now with the new X100t out, I’ll definitely be coming back for more.

For images of the whole experience, please click here.

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My 10 favourite accessories for Fujifilm X-cameras – Part 2

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By Piet Van den Eynde,

For my travel photography, I now work entirely with the X-system. I like the fact that it’s lighter, smaller and manages to look great yet unobtrusive and produce great looking images at the same time. I love the direct feedback of the manual controls, dials and aperture rings. I use two X-T1’s, a X100s and a slew of Fujifilm lenses. One of the advantages of using a smaller and lighter system is that it frees up some space (and weight) in your camera bag for other accessories that can help you create better shots. In this two-part series, I’ll have a look at my top-ten favorite accessories for Fujifilm cameras – from a travelling point of view. You can read Part 1 by clicking here. Here are my final 6 – 10 accessories.

6 – Lightroom

Much has been written about how good or bad Lightroom is for Developing Fujifilm .RAF files. I have to admit that at first, it was really bad but in my opinion, although probably not the best, Lightroom is good enough for my needs. Whatever 10 percent that Lightoom might lack in terms of pure image quality, it makes up for by its workflow advantages and the fact that I can go from capture to export and even publish websites and create printed photo books all from within the same application.

Lightroom is more than a raw converter: it’s an image database and it even allows you to quickly publish your images, be it to a printer, the internet or in a photo book.

On top of that, I don’t want to change my workflow every time a new, supposedly even better raw converter is the ‘buzz du jour’ on the internet. I do find that I have to use higher than default capture sharpening but that’s easily fixed by setting a new camera raw default. I teach you how to do that (and much much more) in my 300+ page Lightroom 5 Unmasked eBook.

Another thing I love about Lightroom is that it has simulations (found in the Camera Calibration Panel) for the Fujifilm film styles like Provia or Astia. That way, you can closely match the look of the raw file to the jpg and still benefit from the larger postprocessing leeway that raw files offer.
Another thing I love about Lightroom is that it has simulations (found in the Camera Calibration Panel) for the Fujifilm film styles like Provia or Astia. That way, you can closely match the look of the raw file to the jpg and still benefit from the larger post-processing leeway that raw files offer.
Use code FUJISAVINGS to shave 30% off the $20 cover price of my 300+ page PDF eBook Lightroom 5 Unmasked until the Feb 28th, 2015.
Use code FUJISAVINGS to shave 30% off the $20 cover price of my 300+ page PDF eBook Lightroom 5 Unmasked until the Feb 28th, 2015.

7 – Eyefi Card for tethered shooting

With the Eyefi Mobi card you can wirelessly transfer images to a computer or tablet, even if you have an X-Pro 1, X-E1 or X-100(s) that doesn’t have WIFI.
With the Eyefi Mobi card you can wirelessly transfer images to a computer or tablet, even if you have an X-Pro 1, X-E1 or X-100(s) that doesn’t have WIFI.

On some occasions like studio shoots or when I’m doing demos, I would like to have the images show up on my monitor or projector. However, up until now, my X-T1 does not allow me to shoot tethered into Lightroom, nor to any other app, for that matter. I could use the Camera Remote software but that would be cumbersome because I would have to transfer each photo individually from my camera to my phone or tablet and then on to my computer. There’s a great workaround, though and it involves using an Eyefi Mobi card. That’s an SD card that has a built-in WIFI transmitter. It saves the images to the card but also – by means of the Eyefi Mobi desktop App that you install on your Mac or Windows machine, to a folder of your choosing on your computer. You can then set up that folder as a so-called Watched Folder in Lightroom and have the images that the Eyefi card wirelessly pushes to your computer, show up there (the full lowdown is also discussed in Lightroom 5 Unmasked). The only limitation is that, at least for the European Eyefi cards, you can only transfer JPG files. So, does this mean that if you start editing those JPGs and then at the end of the day you import your raws from the SD card itself, you have to start all over again?

Well, not necessarily, because you could use John Beardsworth’s Syncomatic Lightroom plug-in: this cool plug-in allows you to automatically copy the edits you made to a JPG and then apply those edits to the raw files that have, bar the extension, the same name. Just make sure that you set the raw files up with the same Film Simulation (you can do that in the Camera Calibration menu) that you assigned to the JPGs in the camera.

8 – Remote control

This remote control was originally for Canon cameras, but it also works on the X-T1
This remote control was originally for Canon cameras, but it also works on the X-T1

Anytime you’re on a tripod and you’re using longer shutter speeds, it’s best not to physically depress the shutter button to make a photograph: doing so can introduce blur in your image. If your Fuji has WIFI, you can use the Camera Remote App. If it doesn’t, or if you want to work with exposures over 30 seconds (the limit for the Camera Remote App), a dedicated remote might be a good idea. On my X-T1, I use this model. It’s actually designed for Canon, but it also works with some Fujis like the X-T1. On top of enabling shutter speeds beyond 30 seconds, it allows you to program interval shooting and delays beyond the default choices of 2 or 10 seconds.

This exposure of 125 seconds was shot using the above-mentioned remote control.
This exposure of 125 seconds was shot using the above-mentioned remote control.

9 – Really Right Stuff L Bracket

This is an accessory which I haven’t used myself yet, but a couple of fellow Fuji shooters such as Matt Brandon use it to their satisfaction and therefore bumped it high on my wishlist: the Really Right Stuff L Bracket. This bracket allows you to quickly mount your camera either horizontally or vertically to your tripod. The L Bracket is designed in a way that it can stay on your camera and you still get to access the battery door and card slot. Some photographers like it just because it adds some extra bulk and grip to the camera. Although, if that’s all you want, you might just spring for Fujifilm’s own vertical grip for the X-T1, which has the added benefit of storing an extra battery.

10 – Fujifilm Instax Printer

I’ve saved the best for last. Really. I’ve started giving out instant prints to the people I photographed along my journeys as early as 2009. At the time, I used a Polaroid Pogo. Handing out prints allowed me to not only take a photo but give something back in return. And by doing it on the spot rather than on my return back home, it saved me the trouble of trying to decrypt hastily written addresses or trying to remember which photo I should send to which person. But what I hadn’t expected at first, was that handing out prints to people was also the perfect door-opener to photograph… even more people. More than once have I had the experience that someone did not want to have their photo taken, only to ask me to take their photo just minutes later after they had seen me give a print to someone else.

Matt Brandon, organizer of the 2015 Rajasthan Photo Workshop, with the Fujifilm Instax Printer. Read his review about the printer here.
Matt Brandon, organizer of the 2015 Rajasthan Photo Workshop, with the Fujifilm Instax Printer. Read his review about the printer here.

The Pogo did have its disadvantages, though: the battery lasted for only 10 shots and color fidelity was clearly not high on the specs list. So for a moment I dabbled with the idea of bringing a Fujifilm Instax camera, but then Fujifilm announced the Instax Share SP-1 Printer. If you get only one of the accessories that I have listed in this overview, make it that little printer. Especially in remote areas where people don’t have ready access to photography, you’ll spread joy with every Instax print you hand out. And, as a sign of good Karma, you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities, too. And you don’t have to take my word for it: check out the praise of Matt Brandon or Zack Arias in their reviews of the SP-1.

The Instax Printer helps to break the ice and is a great way to give something back to the people you photograph.
The Instax Printer helps to break the ice and is a great way to give something back to the people you photograph.

 

Bonus accessory – kind of…

I’d like to wrap up this overview with the smallest, lightest and cheapest accessory of them all: a pack of Sugru. Sugru is self-setting rubber and if I’m not mistaking, it’s invented in the UK. You open a small sachet, tear of as much as you need (the rest will dry out, unfortunately), you model it into shape, affix it to wherever you need to and then let it dry for 24 hours and it adheses perfectly to the surface you stuck it on. Now what do Sugru and my X-T1 have in common… Well, as much as I love that camera, there’s one thing I like less than on my old X-E2: apparently because of weather sealing, the 4 way control buttons around the central Menu/OK button are too flush with the rest of the camera, at least to my taste.

Sugru allowed me to raise the profile of my X-T1 4 way controller buttons which makes it easier to find them with my thumb while keeping my eye at that gorgeous viewfinder.
Sugru allowed me to raise the profile of my X-T1 4 way controller buttons which makes it easier to find them with my thumb while keeping my eye at that gorgeous viewfinder.

Now I love the fact that there are 49 AF points on the Fuji cameras and that – contrary to DSLRs – they are literally everywhere across the image. Howver, my right thumb often has trouble finding the buttons without taking my eye of the EVF (tip-within-the-tip: all these buttons are programmable, so I’ve programmed them all to change the AF-field). I used Sugru to raise the profile of the buttons just enough so that I can find them, even in the dark. It’s a small mod but it makes a gigantic difference in my workflow.

About Piet Van den Eynde

Piet Van den Eynde is a Belgian freelance travel photographer, author and trainer. He’s a Fujifilm Ambassador and has published over 10 books and eBooks on digital photography and postprocessing with Adobe Lightroom. He also organizes two travel photo workshops each year in India with X-Photographer Matt Brandon from www.thedigitaltrekker.com. Next one up is the beautiful Indian state of Rajasthan and has only two spots left. His English eBooks such as his bestselling Lightroom 5 Unmasked are published by Craft & Vision. Discount code FUJISAVINGS will save you 30% on any of his Craft & Vision eBooks and his Photoshop for Photographers video training until end of February 2015. Piet’s own blog can be found here: http://www.morethanwords.be/blog

My 10 favourite accessories for Fujifilm X-cameras – Part 1

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By Piet Van den Eynde,

For my travel photography, I now work entirely with the X-system. I like the fact that it’s lighter, smaller and manages to look great yet unobtrusive and produce great looking images at the same time. I love the direct feedback of the manual controls, dials and aperture rings. I use two X-T1’s, a X100s and a slew of Fujifilm lenses. One of the advantages of using a smaller and lighter system is that it frees up some space (and weight) in your camera bag for other accessories that can help you create better shots. In this two-part series, I’ll have a look at my top-ten favorite accessories for Fujifilm cameras – from a travelling point of view. Here are my first 1 – 5 accessories.

1 – Flash and modifier

I love using flash while traveling. In fact, I wrote two eBooks on the subject: Making Light 1 and Making Light 2, available on www.craftandvision.com. Generally, I like to use my flash off-camera, but on those rare occasions where I use it on-camera, I will often bounce it to my side or my back in order to diffuse the light as much as I can. When I’m moving around and bouncing an on-camera flash, I prefer to work in TTL because the flash-to-subject distance (and hence the required flash output) varies continuously. TTL will automatically calculate and adjust that power for me. For those instances, Fujifilm’s own EF-42 flash is just perfect because it’s fairly powerful and it has TTL.

When I use the flash off-camera however, I prefer to work in manual mode but I do like the ability to wirelessly trigger my remote flash and set its power. For off-camera use, I really like the Godox V850 flashes: they’re powerful, affordable, built like a tank and thanks to the optional radio FT-16s triggering system, I can change the power remotely. But best of all, the V850 is powered by a rechargeable Li-ion battery that lasts up to 600 full power flashes. No more fussing around with AA batteries! One of the few dislikes I have about the Godox flashes is that the receiver comes off way too easily. Therefore, I’ve stuck some Velcro and gaffer tape to it.

From left to right: The Godox V850 manual flash with its handy Li-ion battery, the trigger to put on the hotshoe of the camera and the receiver which clips on the side of the flash.
From left to right: The Godox V850 manual flash with its handy Li-ion battery, the trigger to put on the hotshoe of the camera and the receiver which clips on the side of the flash.

For the 2015 Rajasthan Photo Workshop (a 2 week workshop in India hosted by fellow X-Photographer Matt Brandon and myself which attracts a lot of Fujifilm shooters and for which at the time of writing were only 2 spots left), I have my eyes set on another, bigger flash: the HD600 II, a 600 Ws (that’s about the lighting power equivalent of 6 to 10 small hotshoe flashes) portable system by Jinbei.

The Jinbei HD600 II packs 600 Ws of power (that’s about 6 to 10 regular speedlights) in a relatively lightweight 2.4 kg package, battery included.
The Jinbei HD600 II packs 600 Ws of power (that’s about 6 to 10 regular speedlights) in a relatively lightweight 2.4 kg package, battery included.

Now if you go through the trouble of bringing a flash, there’s one accessory that’s almost as important as the flash itself, and that’s something to diffuse it: by itself, a flash is a very small light source and therefore it will create harsh shadows. That’s where modifiers like softboxes and umbrellas kick in: they increase the size of the light source (at the expense of some flash power) and throw softer shadows, especially if you use them close enough to your subject. Although I generally prefer the increased control that softboxes offer, while I’m travelling I have three big constraints: my modifier must be easy to set up, light enough to carry and small enough to put into my camera bag. That’s why I love the Lastolite Trifold umbrellas. As a bonus, they’re cheap, too. A flash and umbrella add some 800 grams to your camera kit, but they also add a wealth of opportunities.

To paraphrase Capa: ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, your clothes aren’t dirty enough’. In this case, I’m holding my Godox flashes and Lastolite Trifold umbrella while participants of the Rajasthan Photo Workshop are practicing their off-camera flash skills on these great characters we rounded up at a small tea-stall.
To paraphrase Capa: ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, your clothes aren’t dirty enough’. In this case, I’m holding my Godox flashes and Lastolite Trifold umbrella while participants of the Rajasthan Photo Workshop are practicing their off-camera flash skills on these great characters we rounded up at a small tea-stall.
And the resulting image...
And the resulting image…
I call this my two lights for the price of one technique: I will often put my subject between the sun and my flash. The sun acts as a rim light (look at how beautifully it backlights the water coming out of the pump) and the flash will fill in the shadows. By positioning my flash to the left, I created a so-called Rembrandt look. Using an umbrella made for softer shadows and created big catchlights in her eyes.
I call this my two lights for the price of one technique: I will often put my subject between the sun and my flash. The sun acts as a rim light (look at how beautifully it backlights the water coming out of the pump) and the flash will fill in the shadows. By positioning my flash to the left, I created a so-called Rembrandt look. Using an umbrella made for softer shadows and created big catchlights in her eyes.
In this case, I lay down and handheld the flash and my umbrella in my left hand. I used the sun as a natural rim light, exposed for the sky and then brought my underexposed foreground up with flash. On moments like these when you’re handholding a flash and umbrella in one hand, it’s not difficult to appreciate the light weight of the XT-1 and a prime lens you’re holding in the other.
In this case, I lay down and handheld the flash and my umbrella in my left hand. I used the sun as a natural rim light, exposed for the sky and then brought my underexposed foreground up with flash. On moments like these when you’re handholding a flash and umbrella in one hand, it’s not difficult to appreciate the light weight of the XT-1 and a prime lens you’re holding in the other.

When I’m not using my Brian tripod (see tip #3) to hold the flash for me, I’ll either handhold it myself (a lot easier to do when you have to hold less than one kilogram of camera equipment in your other hand) or have someone hold it for me.

I use flash mainly to increase the quality of my light, rather than the quantity. That’s why the sunnier my destination, the more likely I am to bring a flash with me!

In this shot, I could have pushed the ISO to 3200 and make an available light shot. But it would have been a flat, poorly lit available light shot with a washed-out sky as well. By adding an umbrella’d flash coming from the left, I was able to bring out the texture in these goat’s skin and give more dimension to the woman’s face.
In this shot, I could have pushed the ISO to 3200 and make an available light shot. But it would have been a flat, poorly lit available light shot with a washed-out sky as well. By adding an umbrella’d flash coming from the left, I was able to bring out the texture in these goat’s skin and give more dimension to the woman’s face.

2 – Camera bags

Ah. Camera bags. If only the perfect camera bag existed. The be-all-end-all camera bag. But I haven’t found The One yet. Instead, I pick one depending on my shooting plans for the day. So I want to give you my top-three of camera bags.

The Vanguard Heralder 38

The Vanguard Heralder 38 won’t win any beauty awards, but it’s a highly efficient bag that can also help you carry a tripod without bumping in to everything and everybody.
The Vanguard Heralder 38 won’t win any beauty awards, but it’s a highly efficient bag that can also help you carry a tripod without bumping in to everything and everybody.

I love this bag for its versatility: it can hold a lot of gear (in fact, it can probably hold all of the other accessories in this top-10) and has a separate laptop compartment. It has a big zipper at the top for quick access and the bright orange interior is more than a fashion whim: it makes your mostly black camera gear easier to find. Now, there are a gazillion other bags that are similar to this one (including a couple of smaller editions of the Heralder), but what the Heralder 38 has that few others have is a secret latch that can hold my tripod (see tip 3). The only downside is that, compared to the stylishness of my Fujis, it just pales.

Think Tank Speedracer

The Speed Racer by ThinkTank nicely distributes the weight between your shoulders and your back. I also like the fact that you can add extra modular pouches to the waist belt. This lets you pack as light or as heavy as you need.
The Speed Racer by ThinkTank nicely distributes the weight between your shoulders and your back. I also like the fact that you can add extra modular pouches to the waist belt. This lets you pack as light or as heavy as you need.

Although the Fujis themselves are light enough and a lot lighter than my fullframe DSLRs and lenses are, when you add enough lenses, accessories, flashes and a tripod to the mix, the weight can start to add up again. A bag that only hangs from your shoulder can become hard to carry all day. And I don’t like backpacks. I find them good to transport gear from A to B, but not to walk around in A or B. So, if I want to go easy on my back, I use the Think Tank Speed Racer. This bag has a shoulder belt but also a waist belt that you can tuck away if you don’t need it. The waist belt helps to divide the weight between your shoulder and your waist and lets you attach extra modular pouches to it. It’s a great system and my partner-in-crime on the Rajasthan workshops Matt Brandon (www.thedigitaltrekker.com) uses the smaller Speed Freak much the same way. I just wished they looked better. The bags, not Matt Brandon. He looks fine. For his age, at least J.

Ona Astoria

The Astoria is Ona’s biggest bag. If you carry less gear than I typically do, you might want to check out their gorgeous but slightly heavy full leather Brixton.
The Astoria is Ona’s biggest bag. If you carry less gear than I typically do, you might want to check out their gorgeous but slightly heavy full leather Brixton.

So, this brings me to the last in this round-up. When style does matter, the classical black nylon camera bags just won’t cut it. In those cases I turn to the Ona Astoria. This mixed canvas and leather bag holds a laptop, two bodies, a couple of lenses and even a flash. It’s not the cheapest bag in this overview nor is it the biggest or the most practical, but it makes up for all of that by its stunning looks. Visually, it is a perfect match for my Fujis. In fact, the bag looks so good that putting a regular DSLR in it would be a crime! In the same league, I recently discovered the Roamographer by Holdfast Gear. This leather bag opens like a doctor’s bag and also has a strap for a tripod. The only thing holding me back is forking out another $500 on a bag and the fact that it weighs almost 6 pounds. Empty.

3 – Tripod

The Brian by 3 Legged Thing. It doubles as a light stand, too!
The Brian by 3 Legged Thing. It doubles as a light stand, too!

The smart way to go about the weight savings that switching to a mirrorless system offers, is to pass those savings on to your back: it will thank you later. However, I decided to ‘reinvest’ some of those economies into more gear that would allow me to do things that I previously could not do. One of those extra items I now bring with me a lot more than when I was lugging DSLRs is a tripod. I use the Brian, by British manufacturer Three Legged Thing. I specifically chose this model because it’s the only one I know that extends to over 2 meters. Not that I’d want to put a camera that high, but I’ll often use my tripod as a makeshift light stand as well.

The Brian in use: I thought the daylight (left) was too flattering and soft for the drama I wanted to add to this shot of this memorial stone at the German war cemetery of Langemark in Belgium. So I put up my tripod and used it as a light stand for my Godox V850. A grid (by Honl Photo) helped to concentrate the light even further.
The Brian in use: I thought the daylight (left) was too flattering and soft for the drama I wanted to add to this shot of this memorial stone at the German war cemetery of Langemark in Belgium. So I put up my tripod and used it as a light stand for my Godox V850. A grid (by Honl Photo) helped to concentrate the light even further.

At GBP 359, it’s not the cheapest tripod around, but if I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that with tripods cheaper often means compromising, which in turn makes me leave it at home. My first tripod only cost me $100. But it was big, bulky and didn’t extend high enough for what I wanted. As a consequence, I’ve used it twice and now it’s collecting dust. So it cost me $50 per shoot. My Brian’s only one year old and it’s already averaging a lot better than that!

Although 1.2 kilograms is very light for a tripod as versatile as the Brian, sometimes even that is too much to carry. In those cases, I’ll almost invariably bring an alternative solution: the Joby Gorillapod. It exists in a heavy and quite bulky DSLR version, but for my Fujis, I chose the much more convenient (and affordable) Hybrid version. That’s just one more advantage of a smaller and lighter system like the X-system: not only your camera and lenses are smaller: your accessories (like filters, or in this case tripods) can be lighter and often cheaper, too.

For this night shot of a cruise ship in Stockholm, I needed a five second exposure. Too much even for the OIS of my 18-55 lens. Luckily, I had brought my Gorillapod with me. I simply attached it to a metal fence to my right. There’s even a small hotshoe accessory available that allows you turn it into a light stand or should I say light ‘hanger’...
For this night shot of a cruise ship in Stockholm, I needed a five second exposure. Too much even for the OIS of my 18-55 lens. Luckily, I had brought my Gorillapod with me. I simply attached it to a metal fence to my right. There’s even a small hotshoe accessory available that allows you turn it into a light stand or should I say light ‘hanger’…

4 – Filters

I use Formatt Hitech’s graduated filters when I need to balance out a sky and foreground beyond what Lightroom’s Highlights and Shadows recovery can do. Alternatively, I might make a series of bracketed shots and merge them into an HDR. I’ve recently started to experiment with long exposure photography.

This picture was taken during the highly recommended London by Night and Low Light workshop by Doug Chinnery. Doug is also a Fujifilm user.
This picture was taken during the highly recommended London by Night and Low Light workshop by Doug Chinnery. Doug is also a Fujifilm user.

For my long exposure photography, I use the Formatt Hitech ProStop 10 stops IRND filter – I like that it’s relatively neutral compared to other brands – and I can’t wait to use their new Firecrest 16 stop ND filter. That’s 16 stops of Neutral Density in one filter! No need to stack multiple filters and run the risk of vignetting or other image degradations. To give you an idea: a 16 stop ND filter will do: it will turn an exposure time of 1/250th of a second into 4 minutes so you can use it for long exposure photography at noon!

The Firecrest 16 stop ND filter from www.formatt-hitech.com is available as a square filter or as a circular screw-on filter in 72, 77 and 82 mm sizes.
The Firecrest 16 stop ND filter from www.formatt-hitech.com is available as a square filter or as a circular screw-on filter in 72, 77 and 82 mm sizes.

As mentioned higher-up, I also use a lot of flash. Because the Fuji has a sync speed of 1/180th, this means that during the day, in sunny conditions, even at my lowest ISO of 200, I’ll be stuck with apertures of f/11 to f/16. But what if I want to shoot my fancy 56 f/1.2 at f/1.2? I might need a shutter speed of 1/4000th or even beyond that. Which is way beyond the sync speed of my flash. The solution lies… again… in neutral density filters. A neutral density filter allows me to use flash in bright daylight (e.g. for fill flash) with a wide open lens and still keep my shutter speed at or below the 1/180th sync speed. But on the other hand, when using ND’s for flash, I don’t want to use a fixed ND, because the lighting conditions can often change quickly by a couple of stops. So, suppose I’d need a fixed 6 stop ND in one outdoor location, 30 meters further the light might be 3 stops less intense. With the same filter, I would suddenly be at 1/25th of a second, which becomes dangerous to handhold. And I don’t want to have to continuously change filters. So, the solution I came up with is the following: I use a 6 stop ND and a variable 1-5 stop ND. Depending on whether I stack them or not, that gives me between 1 and 11 stops of sun-stopping power without having to change filters too much.

This setup may look complex but you get used to it pretty quickly. By combining a fixed and a variable ND, I can use my 56 1.2 and the other fast Fujinon primes wide open in bright sun and still keep the shutter speed at or below the 1/180th sync speed, so I can use flash if I want.
This setup may look complex but you get used to it pretty quickly. By combining a fixed and a variable ND, I can use my 56 1.2 and the other fast Fujinon primes wide open in bright sun and still keep the shutter speed at or below the 1/180th sync speed, so I can use flash if I want.

And the beauty is that, if there’s enough sun (and I wouldn’t use them if there wasn’t), my X-T1 still manages to focus through 10 stops of ND! Brilliant, isn’t it? Oh, and by the way, that lens hood you see is a collapsible one by Caruba: I needed a lens hood with a wider diameter because instead of buying separate circular NDs for each lens diameter, I bought them to suit my biggest lens (the 10-24) and I use step-up rings.

The image to the left was made with flash, but I did not have any filters handy. As a result, I had to use an aperture of f/11, which made the entire background too much in focus for my taste. The image to the right was shot a year later with a three stop ND filter. This allowed me to open up the aperture to f/4, giving a softer background.
The image to the left was made with flash, but I did not have any filters handy. As a result, I had to use an aperture of f/11, which made the entire background too much in focus for my taste. The image to the right was shot a year later with a three stop ND filter. This allowed me to open up the aperture to f/4, giving a softer background.

5 – My iPhone

An iPhone (or any smartphone, for that matter) is a great travel photo accessory. First of all, by means of the Camera Remote App (iOS link, Android link), I can remotely trigger my X-T1. That’s not only helpful when doing longer exposures, but it also helps me if I want to take photos inconspicuously. Mind you, I generally ask permission (with the flash setup that I often use, it’s hard not to, anyway) but every once in a while there are scenes where raising the camera to my eye would probably kill the scene. In those cases, I use the Camera Remote App and frame the shot from my iPhone. I can even tap the screen to choose my focus point! I also have the free Snapseed editor – it’s so good at improving your images that on the last Rajasthan Photo Trek, we’ve come to call it ‘Snapcheat’! (iOS link, Android link).

If you have an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet, you just have to pick up a copy of Snapseed. Don’t let the price deter you: it’s free, which saves you some money for the other goodies in this overview!
If you have an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet, you just have to pick up a copy of Snapseed. Don’t let the price deter you: it’s free, which saves you some money for the other goodies in this overview!

Other essential apps are the instax SHARE App (iOS link, Android link) which – while waiting for the firmware update that allows for direct printing from my X-T1 to the portable Instax Share printer (see tip 9) – lets me print images that I saved from my X-T1 and processed in Snapseed to that little wonder of a mobile printer.

The Instax Share App. You can even add some text to the photos you print (not shown).
The Instax Share App. You can even add some text to the photos you print (not shown).

Finally, I also like to use the Camera Remote app for bracketing for HDR. For reasons unknown to me, the bracketing in the Fuji cameras is limited to 3 shots with only 1 stop difference between them. For capturing scenes with extreme contrast, that’s often not enough, as shown below. While I could use the EV compensation wheel on the camera, that causes me to physically touch it and even the smallest displacement can lead to alignment issues and ugly artifacts afterwards.

A super tip for HDR-lovers: use the exposure compensation on your Camare Remote App to get up to 7 bracketed shots, one stop apart, without touching your camera!
A super tip for HDR-lovers: use the exposure compensation on your Camare Remote App to get up to 7 bracketed shots, one stop apart, without touching your camera!
The end result: I often convert my HDR images to Black and White.
The end result: I often convert my HDR images to Black and White.

Other than that, my iPhone comes in handy because it allows me to geotag my photos using the same Camera Remote App. However, because that requires me to set up a connection each time I want to geotag, I generally use a dedicated geotagging App (I use Geotagphotos Pro) (iOS link, Android link) and then sync the App’s tracklog with my photos in Lightroom. Finally, I also have a Depth of Field calculator app.

The Geotag Photos Pro app creates a GPS tracklog which you can then sync up with your images in Lightroom.

Part 2 can be read right here!

About Piet Van den Eynde

Piet Van den Eynde is a Belgian freelance travel photographer, author and trainer. He’s a Fujifilm Ambassador and has published over 10 books and eBooks on digital photography and postprocessing with Adobe Lightroom. He also organizes two travel photo workshops each year in India with X-Photographer Matt Brandon from www.thedigitaltrekker.com. Next one up is the beautiful Indian state of Rajasthan and has only two spots left. His English eBooks such as his bestselling Lightroom 5 Unmasked are published by Craft & Vision. Discount code FUJISAVINGS will save you 30% on any of his Craft & Vision eBooks and his Photoshop for Photographers video training until end of February 2015. Piet’s own blog can be found here: http://www.morethanwords.be/blog

Yellowstone’s Winter Wildlife Seven Day Photo Safari

Start the New Year a new photographer

By Simon Weir – Professional X-Photographer

If you’re like most people, much of the time you live life on autopilot. Everyday tasks, like taking a shower and driving to work are managed by long-established habits. This leaves the mind free to think but rather than exploiting this freedom the mind, left unattended, fills its day with internal chatter about what happened yesterday or last week or what you have to do after lunch or this coming weekend. Sometimes it all gets a bit too much.

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What is “enlightened photography”?

Photography provides an opportunity to give our minds a holiday but unless we also clear the mind of its senseless chatter, photographs only ever reflect our cluttered existence. That is why, on a Magic Is Photo Safari, we teach more than just the technical aspects of photography. We also help you to be mindful to the photo opportunities around you – to recognize each moment for what it is and connect with the land and the wildlife in a way that will not only transform your photography but possibly your everyday life as well.

Take a load off and fire your imagination

Imagine, then, that it’s February and you are deep in Yellowstone National Park. The quiet is absolute. The waist-deep snow is talcum powder-soft and the park’s ancient trees loom against the vast blue sky to create a landscape plucked straight from your wildest imagination.

The clean, crisp air, sulfur springs and pine nut-aromas unite to provide the perfect accompaniment to the natural geothermal features that are an ice age in the making. It’s an ethereal, ever shifting landscape of cryptic light and shadow that plays home to wild wolves, coyotes, bobcats, eagles, bison, foxes and elk – the perfect location to immerse yourself in nature and take a load off your mind.

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The highlights

  • See fantastic wildlife, including top predators and snow-covered bison and elk
  • Our specialised snow coaches give us brilliant winter access to the park
  • Immerse yourself in the solitude of this incredible landscape
  • Dawn ‘til dusk photography
  • Our flexible itinerary allows us to go where the action is
  • No single supplement
  • Learn from Simon Weir’s 10-years experience as a pro’ photographer
  • Hands-on tuition as you need it and optional evening seminars
  • Special extra lectures on Infrared, night and time-lapse photography
  • £300 discount for Fuji photographers

The experience

Let’s start off by saying that everything you’ve ever heard and seen about Yellowstone in winter is true. Every step you take can quickly become the best step you’ve ever taken. And through this land of ice and magic move the animals. Like apparitions, in the semi-corporeal mists they drift through the hinterland. Yellowstone may seem at slumber but in winter it’s awake and alive with wildlife.

Our photographic days begin at around 7:00AM, when we board our specialized snow coaches for a full day in the park. Initially, the road takes us east, following the course of the Madison River. This is an excellent area for sighting trumpeter swans, bald eagles, elk and bobcat. At Madison, there is a warming hut, which provides hot drinks and snacks and a warm fire, and is a favourite mid-morning stopping place with our guests.

The Madison Valley is a prime wildlife area and we can expect to see plentiful bison, coyote, fox and maybe the rare and elusive wolf and bobcat. From Madison we can take one of two routes: north-east following the course of the Gibbon River, towards the Norris Geyser Basin, taking in the famous Gibbon Falls; or south, initially following the course of the Firehole River towards Old Faithful, Yellowstone’s most famous geyser.

Each route offers a changing landscape, interspersed with ghost-like trees and the rising steam from distant geysers, and wildlife sightings of bison and elk and more. We spend the whole day in the park, returning as the sun disappears beyond the horizon, leaving behind its fire-red glow.

At day’s end, we head back to the warmth and comfort of our cozy lodge where, like old friends around the fire, we’ll share our stories from the day’s photography and visualize the next day’s adventure. Life – and photography – really doesn’t get much better than this.

The details

A 7-day photo safari from 8th – 14th February 2015 at just £2,255 per person with £300 “Fuji” discount (normal price £2,555). Price includes airport transfers, accommodation, lunches, Park entry fees and permits, snow coach transport and all tuition. Flights to and from Bozeman International Airport are excluded.

Booking

For further information and to book on this safari, simply click here.

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Film Simulation test by Dave Jackson

By Dave Jackson

My wedding workflow for the past few years whilst shooting with Nikon DSLR’s has consisted purely of shooting RAW and processing the files initially in Lightroom and with some additional tweaks in Photoshop with Nik and OnOne software plugins. The aim is to produce a set of colour and exposure corrected JPEGS for supply to our clients. Since switching to Fuji for most of our wedding work I wanted to compare the film simulations in ‘real life’ shooting situations. Just to clarify, this is not about shooting JPEG only which I know some photographers do but this is part of a bigger picture in exploring the possibilities of producing ‘in camera’ JPEGS from the RAW files for supply direct to the client with little or no external processing after the wedding.

The original RAW files were transferred back to a memory card and then processed in camera. All other settings eg colour. shadow,etc. were 0. The images are in the same order from top to bottom L-R as the film simulation selections in the camera’s menu, starting with the unprocessed RAW file then Provia, Velvia, Astia, Pro Neg Hi, Pro Neg Standard, BW, BW Yellow, BW Red, BW Green, Sepia.

Bridal portraits

bridal portraits 1
X-T1 / 18 -55 F2.8-4 F4 @ 1/250 1250 ISO +0.33 Exp comp. Auto WB

The first set of images (above) are some Bridal portraits taken in the reception room as we were rained off for outside shooting.

There was a large expanse of windows with natural, overcast daylight behind me.

Of the colour versions I don’t think it will come as any great surprise that Velvia is just a bit too saturated for this type of image and personally I find Pro Neg Standard to ‘flat’. That leaves Provia, Astia and Pro Neg Hi. Of these Astia has produced the warmest image, closely followed by Provia and then Pro Neg Hi. Astia will be my first choice for similar lighting / subject in the future.

So far as the black and white versions, my choice here for skin tone would be the Red filter but the overall contrast has reduced with Green producing the darkest lips. I think I might be wary in using the green filter as a ‘redder’ skin tone could cause the skin to darken more than I would wish.

X-T1 / 18-55 F2.8-4 F4 @ 1/150 3200 ISO +0.33 Exp comp Auto WB
X-T1 / 18-55 F2.8-4
F4 @ 1/150 3200 ISO +0.33 Exp comp Auto WB

This was at Bride’s home before the wedding (above). There was a window to camera right but it was quite dull outside and it provided very little light so we set up our Lupolux LED650 with a showercap diffuser to camera right.

Once again the winner for me is ‘Astia’, however they are all acceptable, even ‘Velvia’ hasn’t gone too far with a nice boost to the flowers. Of the black and whites, ‘Red’ has given the lightest skin tones and ‘Green’ the greatest contrast. Yes, you guessed – still a thumbs down for ‘Sepia’.

Wedding Couple

wedding couple
X-T1 / 18-55 F2.8-4 F4 @ 1/640 400 ISO Auto WB

 

The lighting was gorgeous here, with the sun low and diffused slightly through clouds to camera left. (Above) 

Would be quite happy to use ‘Velvia’ here. It hasn’t affected skin tones too much – and wow! – those Fuji greens! I was a bit surprised at the very little difference with the black and white filters. Understandably the ‘green’ filter has produced the lightest image with ‘red’ providing the most contrast – just. Still wouldn’t use ‘sepia’

Classic Chrome

Whilst putting this test together it became possible via an update to apply ‘Classic Chrome’ to existing X-T1 RAW files using Lightroom (5.7). Below are the 3 files with this mode.

classic chrome

For me ‘classic chrome’ is just a little on the ‘grungy’ side and I’m not quite sure yet where it might fit in with our current style of wedding shooting / editing. However, I can’t wait to use this in lots of other genres, especially ‘street’ and some ‘urban portraits’.

Conclusions

As mentioned at the beginning of the post, the aim here was to find out how usable the film simulations are straight out of camera in ‘real life’ wedding shooting. I am working on switching film simulation modes during the wedding to suit particular lighting and subject matter and then using the resultant JPEGS as part of our workflow to supply direct to our clients with no further post processing. DR settings are also going to play a big part in this, especially when shooting high contrast scenes. We will continue to shoot both RAW and fine JPEG and will of course use the RAW files as needed for post processing if the need arises.

To be honest I’m knocked out by the quality of JPEGS produced in camera, the noise reduction is also truly amazing. I would prefer a stronger filter effect with the black and whites as there isn’t a great deal of difference between them all.

For me the Sepia simulation is very limited for our particular requirements and I don’t envisage using it at all.

For full resolution image examples, please click here. 

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