How to Capture the Beauty of Nature in Flatlay Photography

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By Ja Soon Kim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Cultivate Your Own Style

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

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

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

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

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

 

24 Hours in Yosemite

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By Bryan Minear

As I sat on a plane bound for San Francisco, staring down some 40,000 feet to the clouds passing underneath me, excitement and anticipation filled my soul. It was the beginning of a journey – an epic adventure creating unique images and memories. I hoped that this pilgrimage with fellow photographers would live up to my expectations, and further inspire me to follow my dreams.bm_7After being awake for 30 hours, we arrived at dusk. On the way into Yosemite, we stopped off at tunnel view. It was my first glimpse of California that wasn’t being hidden away by the night. The rock faces lit up underneath a sea of endless stars. In that moment, it all felt like a dream. I was now experiencing this miraculous destination that I had experienced so many times before through someone else’s eyes. We spent an hour shooting before heading to drop off our bags and get settled in our condo. At 4:30 AM, we were off to glacier point to prepare for our first sunrise.bm_5I stared into the face of half dome, brilliant and gleaming in front of me. In some ways, I was taking a photo that millions of people had taken before me – but at the same time, I took pause to remember that the beauty of photography is that each moment captured is infinite and unique in its own way.bm_2The sun began to glow, and I was able to catch the last few stars in the sky over half dome.  My X-Pro2 clicked away on a timelapse and my X-T2 shifted in my hand as I tried to find my perfect composition. I was awaiting the shot that I was planning on taking since the trip’s inception.

“First light over half dome” is something that I had wanted to see for myself since I knew Yosemite existed. My lens of choice for the perfect capture was the XF10-24mmF4 R OIS. It gave me the versatility I needed to grab a few shots at various focal lengths in order to choose my shot in post.

After a short and much-needed nap, we ventured down into the valley to see the golden light as it passed over us. Fall color was in full swing and there was a slight chill to the air, only further enhancing the experience. We found a spot along the Merced River with a beautiful view of half dome reflected in the water. Along a nearby boardwalk, we took in Yosemite Falls as it towered above us. The falls were not supposed to be running at this time of year, but luckily, a storm passed through the night before we arrived, giving the falls a second wind.bm_6I framed up a shot with a 10-stop ND and 3-stop ND Grad to get some cloud and water movement. Shooting long exposures during the day is one of my favorite things to do because it gives me some time to enjoy the scene around me. Oftentimes I get so caught up in getting the shot that I don’t “see” things for myself. The photos are the best way to relive the moment, sure. But it’s equally as important to live in the moment and enjoy your surroundings.bm_4As the light started to drop in the sky, I shifted into creative mode trying to make the absolute most of the light that I have left. I set up another timelapse in front of the half dome with my X-Pro2, and with my X-T2 and XF16mmF1.4 R WR attached, I began walking around finding different compositions to maximize my last few moments.bm_1Over the course of the next few days I experienced close to all that Yosemite and the surrounding area had to offer: Taft Point, the 7,503 ft lookout point, Tioga Pass, and the desert-laden Eastern Sierras that lie just outside of Yosemite proper. The trip was full of friendship, laughter, and best of all, amazing scenes to photograph.

A Day in Cuba with the X-Pro2

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By Daniel Malikyar

I’m often asked, “How excited are you for your next trip?” The truth is, the anticipation for adventure never really kicks in until the abrupt lift off from the airport runway – signifying the beginning of a new chapter on my photographic journey.

After a 4-day long tour traveling with musical artist Marshmello through several states, we ended our final show at 3:30 AM in Las Vegas on a Sunday night. Immediately following the show I rushed up to my room to grab my bags and headed straight for the airport. After a 5:00 AM flight, I arrived at LAX where I met my cousin Haroon and childhood friend, Joon. Despite running on no sleep, we made our way to our connecting flight. A short layover and a several hour flight later, we arrived in Cuba.DSCF1634.jpgFrom the moment we exited the airport doors of Jose Marti International, taxi drivers lined the terminal swiftly coaxing the array of people to follow them to their cars. Being able to speak Spanish has proven valuable on many occasions, and helped us find a fair deal for such a late time of the night. The 30-minute drive from the airport to our apartment in the city of Vedado felt like Havana’s version of Tokyo Drift, lead by an aggressive local cab driver in his beat up old school car. Weaving through pedestrians, alleyways, and several animals we made it to our apartment in one piece. Upon arrival the driver insisted the price was higher than he had agreed upon, introducing us to our first taste of the local Cuban hustlers. After relentless persistence from the driver, we settled for a new deal and made it up to our apartment to call it a night. As I went to bed, I couldn’t wait to explore the city of old Havana, Habana Vieja, in the morning.DSCF2210.jpgBefore I visit a new destination, I always do my research to ensure that I’m well prepared, know what to expect, and plan out locations to shoot. After taking our first cab ride in an old school car, or coche viejo, to Habana Vieja, I quickly learned that Cuba is by far the most unique country I’ve ever visited. The shock factor of wandering the post-apocalyptic streets of Habana Vieja made it nearly impossible to comprehend what I was seeing. The streets were lined with colorful decaying buildings guarded by locals who spend much of their day on their front porch observing their surroundings. From stray dogs to barefoot kids running through alleyways playing soccer to the cigar-selling hustlers on every street corner, the ambiance of the city was something you have to physically experience to believe.dscf2128The most exciting aspect of this trip was the addition of my Fujifilm X-Pro2 to my X Series arsenal. After my first day with the camera, I immediately fell in love with the system. My favorite aspect of the X-Pro2 is the aesthetic of the body. The sleek, classic design avoided the intimidation of the locals when I kindly would ask for their portrait or to enter their residence. Whether the body was accompanied by the compact FUJINON XF10-24mmF4 R OIS, XF35mmF1.4 R, or the XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, the camera always stunned the locals when they asked to see the images.DSCF8326.jpgWhile I did encounter a couple strict denials from potential subjects, the sketchiest moment of the trip took place when I noticed a very interesting opportunity for a photograph of a mother and her infant son. When I approached what appeared to be their home, I realized it was the gateway to an entire storage lot of bike taxis. Slowly making my way forward, I called for the attention of the mother to softly introduce myself and ask for permission to take a photo. As she shook her head no, a dog that looked like a hyena out of The Lion King on steroids emerged from the darkness and bolted towards me, snarling and foaming from the mouth. I took off, and after a few blocks I made my way back to meet with my friends, avoiding whatever plans the mutant dog had for me.DSCF2181.jpgAs the day continued, we explored just about every neighborhood we hadn’t seen in the area. Thanks to my cousin’s strong sense of direction, we continuously encountered new people, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and a wide variety of subjects throughout the day. From the reflective puddles, to the daily life of the Cubanos, to the hissing hustlers of the streets, there were endless moments to photograph. We ended the day off along the seaside Malecón street for sunset. The array of classic cars, ocean views, and fisherman lining the Malecón made it one of my favorite spots in all of Havana. I was able to document the experience in all of its glory with the help of my X-Pro2 and FUJINON XF10-24mmF4 R OIS lens. After a very eventful first day in Havana, I could not wait to experience what the city would have to offer throughout the rest of the week.DSCF1325.jpg

 

Backyard Bokeh: Find Everyday Inspiration!

By Seth K. Hughes

As someone who has traveled 50,000 miles in the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize you don’t have to go far to have fun and make great photos. Truth is, no matter where you live, all you have to do is step outside your back door. I guarantee that if you slow down and look closely at what’s around you, you’ll find many interesting subjects. Whether it’s literally in your backyard, in the nearest park, or an adorable pet —these things are right there under your nose just waiting to be noticed.New Orleans, LouisianaWhile visiting Louisiana, I headed out with my weather-resistant FUJIFILM X-Pro2. Within just a few yards I found leaves, flowers, insects, frogs, and my beloved pooch Emma. Admittedly, I wasn’t feeling very inspired in the beginning. At first glance, there was nothing particularly interesting about my environment. I walked out my door, down a paved road and stumbled upon a nondescript nature path. I had to force myself to slow down and peer into places I would otherwise have overlooked. By the end of the shoot, I was having a blast.Mckinney State Park, Austin, TXI recommend keeping it simple and just grabbing your camera and one or two lenses (tripod optional).xIMG_3399I chose my FUJINON XF56mmF1.2 R APD prime lens known for its sharpness, clarity and beautiful bokeh effects. The FUJINON lens lineup pairs perfectly with – and optimizes – the X Series camera system. This APD prime is the only lens I’ve ever used that ships with its own apodization filter (think ND filter) which creates smooth bokeh outlines and enhances the three dimensional feel of an image. To maximize the bokeh capabilities and create a macro-lens aesthetic, I opened the lens up all the way to f/1.2 and manually set the focus to its closest distance. Then I just explored and moved the camera in and out on various objects. When I found something I liked, I framed up an interesting composition and further refined the focal point.

**Lighting tip: look for subjects in the open shade or go out on an overcast day. This will ensure your light is soft, your colors are enhanced and your exposure values are under control.New Orleans, LouisianaThe other lens was the venerable XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR which is one of the best lenses available today for image quality and stabilization. I find this lens to be excellent all around and I’ve always enjoyed shooting portraits in this focal range. Enter my beloved brindle boxer — Emma. She emerged in a bed of flowers and I instantly had a muse!New Orleans, LouisianaI found close to a dozen pictures in under an hour while I was just meandering around. It really pays to take your time (and your camera) and absorb whichever features happen to be around you. You will see the beauty and details in everyday life. I guarantee you’ll find something interesting.

Why do you love photography?

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


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

We are emotionals.

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

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

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

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

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We are storytellers.

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

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

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We are light chasers.

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

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We are creatives.

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

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

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 We are photographers

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

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

 

 

 

Get Creative with Multiple Exposures

Using the Multiple Exposure mode

Multiple exposures have been around for almost as long as photography itself and almost certainly came about as much by accident as by design. In the early days of photography, exposures often took many minutes, so any subject or camera movement during the time the shutter was open would cause a distinctive ‘ghosting’ or ‘double impression’ effect. This also occurred when a camera’s shutter opened twice or more on the same frame, exposing it more than once.

Many early photographers were only interested in documenting the world as their eyes saw it, and to them multiple exposures were a hazard. Others saw multiple exposures as an opportunity: a way to present a more artistic view, where reality could be turned on its head and a new way of seeing created. In the digital age, multiple exposures are more popular than ever and while many are created in image-editing software like Photoshop, it’s fun to take the traditional approach of doing it in camera. Fujifilm’s X-series cameras offer a smart, easy way to do this.

Multiple Exposure

How X-series makes it easy

When shooting multiple exposures on film, tricky mental arithmetic was involved because you had to work out the overall exposure settings, then divide that shutter speed by however many times you wanted to expose the film; do it wrong and you’d end up with an under or overexposed picture. What’s more, some guesswork was involved wherein you had to watch out for clashing elements in the scene that could spoil composition. Fortunately for X-series users, these concerns are a thing of the past, because using the screen as your guide you can make a perfect assessment of how the final image will look; you simply shoot the first exposure, then compose the second with it overlaid on the screen.

Multiple Exposure 

Creative ideas

Once you’re comfortable with shooting in Multiple Exposure mode, you’ll have a great time experimenting with different subjects and styles. For instance, try shooting your subject with the first exposure, then overlay it using a texture of cloud-scape with the second. It’s also a good idea to try shooting from a tripod; with the camera’s position locked off, static parts of the scene will look like a regular photo, while moving parts will turn into ghosts. Have fun!

How it’s activated

  • First turn the main Mode dial to Adv. (Advanced), then use the sub-command dial to set your desired aperture and shutter speed combination; Advanced mode is like Program mode in that the camera chooses the optimum settings, but you can still bias the aperture, shutter speed, ISO or exposure compensation.
  • Next press the MENU/OK button, select the Adv. MODE in the Shooting menu and choose MULTIPLE EXPOSURE.
  • Hit OK, then BACK to return and you’ll see overlapping squares in the bottom left of the screen showing you’re in the right mode. Now you’re ready to shoot.
  • Frame up and shoot your first image and it will be displayed on screen.
  • Hit left on the D-pad to cancel and try again, or if you’re happy with it, press OK to move onto the next shot.
  • Now, using the screen as a real-time guide, frame your second shot. At this point you can also change the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and most importantly the Exposure Compensation, making sure the two exposures work together and aren’t too light or dark.
  • Shoot and once again, you’ll have the opportunity to cancel and try the second shot again or hit OK to confirm.

That’s all there is to it!

What to shoot now – spring into life

It won’t be long before the natural world starts showing signs of life, which will give photographers across the globe plenty of subjects to train their cameras on.

To start, look low to the ground where bulbs will soon start to break the surface of the soil. Getting down low is the key to success and those X-series cameras with an articulated rear LCD will come in handy to help you frame up shots without having to lie on the floor.

Don’t be afraid to crop in close on snowdrops and daffodils, selecting the macro mode to ensure you focus as close as possible. If you’re shooting on a sunny day, placing your camera flat on the ground and pointing the lens upwards will deliver a ‘worm’s eye view’ of the flowers, which works particularly well with yellow crocus, tulips and daffodils set against a deep blue sky. Consider using the Velvia Film Simulation mode to boost colours, or fit a polarising filter to really saturate primary hues.

Feeding time

If you don’t fancy scrabbling in the dirt, birds and wildlife get a little bolder in the springtime as they start searching for mates and building nests. Use a telephoto lens like the XF55-200mm or XC50-230mm to keep a safe distance and make sure you shoot against a clear, uncluttered background such as foliage or even the sky to be sure nothing distracts from the subject. With any wildlife subject you’ll need to be patient; the best shots will come to those who wait… or those who set up feeding stations in their gardens!

Window light portraits

The low sun at this time of year is perfect for people shots indoors. Carefully choose a window – you want sunlight to bathe your subject in, not to blind them. Position your subject nice and close, then switch your camera to aperture-priority mode, using a wide aperture to throw the background out of focus.

Window Light Portraits

A day in your life

If a 365 project is too daunting, perhaps you can manage 24 hours. Pick a typical day and document your life. It’s easy to do with the portable X cameras. Start with your breakfast and only put the camera down when you go to bed. Apply the usual rules though: think about your shots and compose carefully, don’t simply machine-gun it.

A day in your life

Striking silhouettes

Set aside the usual approach to exposing your subject and expose for the background to get a dark, striking silhouette of a person, tree or church – easily recognisable subjects work best. Switch to spot metering and take a reading from the bright background to ensure your subject is rendered as an outline.

Striking Silhouettes

Film fanatics

Emulate the look of yesteryear’s photos with one of the X-series Film Simulation modes. All the X-series cameras offer these magic modes; the X-Pro1 boasts a stunning selection of 10, including names you may remember from film boxes, such as Provia and Velvia. Find them in your camera’s Shooting menu or via the Q menu.

Film Fanatics

Carnival spirit

In countries around the world, Shrove Tuesday (4 March) is a day for celebration; in many, such as Germany and Italy, this means carnival, while in the UK, it’s the chance to flip pancakes. Whichever is happening near you, photograph it. For a carnival parade, try the Pop Color Advanced Filter (on the XQ1, X100S, X-M1, X20 and X10).

Carnival Spirit