Story behind the photo – The goat herders on Triund Hill

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By Danny Fernandez

As I took the final few steps and reached the peak of the hill, the Himalayas came into full view for the first time, and left me speechless.

But let’s begin the story several hours earlier.

I had been staying in Dharamkot, in the foothills of the Himalayas, for an incredibly relaxing 2 weeks. My days had been spent walking through beautiful forests, reading in a hammock and eating delicious organic food.

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A monk walking through the forest in Dharamkot

But before leaving Dharamkot, there was one thing left that I had to do; spend a night on Triund Hill (don’t let the name ‘Hill’ fool you, as for me it seemed more like a small mountain, casting a shadow on the village of Dharamkot and standing at 2,875m high).

On the morning of the trek I left my guesthouse and began the ascent up the hill. The beginning of my trip did not go smoothly. There are 3 things in life which I suck at: singing, playing football and following directions. Somehow, I managed to get exceptionally lost – before I had even found the path which takes you up the hill. The problem began when I came to an intersection along the track which I was following. I glanced in both directions as I tried to remember the directions that the lady at my guesthouse had given me, and then took the path leading to the right. I passed through the garden of a house, and asked a young girl if I was walking in the right direction. She said that I was, and gestured to me to continue walking up the side of the hill (which was essentially a pathless mountain covered in thick, and at times impenetrable vegetation). My instincts told me that this couldn’t be the right way, and I debated turning back and starting again, but as I had already been walking uphill for most of an hour I chose to continue up the side of the mountain.

The bush became thicker and thicker and started cutting at my legs, but stubbornly, I refused to turn back. After a long struggle, I eventually crossed a foot-wide, crumbling flint ridge, which then opened into an area of flat ground which I thought offered some hope in leading me to the top of Triund. I carefully paced back and forth through the labyrinth of plains, but I kept facing dead ends; thick wild bushes that required a machete to pass through. After about 20 minutes of trying to find a walkable route, I decided that this had been one big bad idea, and turned around, attempting to retrace the steps that had led me to this next level of lostness. I walked along the ground on which I thought I had trodden, but to my frustration, I was hit by another dead end. I walked back and tried again and faced another dead end. I began to panic as I remembered those basic tips you hear when doing things like walking up a mountain. Things like “tell someone where you’re going”, “make sure you have a phone” or “make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing”. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going (other than the lady at my guesthouse), I didn’t have a phone and was wearing a pair of old beat up Nikes with barely any tread left.

It was one of the first times when I’ve felt truly scared and alone in the wilderness. I thought about how this is how people probably end up dying on mountains, and became annoyed at myself for getting into this situation. I was frustrated, scared and felt defeated. I decided that as soon as I found my way out, I would check into another guesthouse (as I was too embarrassed to return to the guesthouse where I had been staying – as it was supposed to be an easy trek), spend the night in a bed, and then leave Dharamkot the next day without reaching the top of Triund Hill.

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On the left of the image is the path I took. Clearly not the right way.

I knew that I had to remain calm, and took a few moments to recompose myself and look over the way which I thought I had walked. I tried to logically plan a route back to my starting point and to my relief, I eventually came across the narrow flint path which had led me into the labyrinth. From this point, it was easy to return down the side of the mountain and past the house with the garden.

I finally relaxed and felt an extreme sense of relief. My negativity began to lift as I walked towards familiar territory and came across a path which actually looked walkable. I came to the crossing that had been the origin of my nightmare, and after a few meters saw a spray painted sign reading ‘Triund’, with an arrow next to it. After my brief ordeal of getting lost, I finally felt safe again, and made the decision that I would not return to Dharamkot today, but would trek to the top of Triund Hill.

I soon crossed paths with two American girls who were also walking to the top, and shared the journey with them. The trek to the top was a breeze in comparison to my first attempt. The walk took about 3 hours and took us though some incredible scenery. Hand built wooden Tea shacks were dotted along the route where trekkers could rest and stock up on supplies. Occasionally we would have to squeeze to the side of the path as a drove of donkeys passed, hauling supplies to the top of the mountain.

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Walking up the mountain. A tea shack in the top left of the frame.
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Donkeys hauling supplies to the top of the hill.
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Tea with a view; trekkers rest at a tea shack on their way to the top.

After a few sweaty but exciting hours, I approached and took the final few steps over the peak of the hill, and as I did, the Himalayas came into full view for the first time, and left me speechless.

I was extremely satisfied with reaching the top, and after walking along the ridge of the hill taking in the beautiful views, I needed to organise my night’s accommodation as well as get something to eat. I entered one of the few huts at the top that supply tents and food to tired and hungry trekkers. As I rested and ate a snack there was a middle aged man sitting opposite me. He was smoking a cigarette and had an incredibly interesting face. His looked different to most of the Indians I had seen until then, with light eyes and thick skin. My X100s was in my hand and after a few minutes, I began taking photos, firstly of the hut and the area, to allow him to get used to the camera. After a few frames, I gestured to him to ask if I could photograph him. He agreed and continued doing what he was doing, and looked lost in his thoughts. I shared my food with him and then left, as I didn’t want to be intrusive.

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The goat herder in the tea tent.

I hired a tent, found a clear spot on the ridge and set it up. My view overlooked a part of the Himalayan mountain range. I was blown away by the beauty.

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A room with a view.

The mist that was present as I approached the peak subsided and the golden light of the setting sun began to illuminate the mountain. I became excited as I was basically in landscape heaven and everything I saw looked astonishingly beautiful.

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I decided to take advantage of the golden light and explore the length of the ridge. As I passed the other campers and approached the elevated side of the hill, I could hear the bleating of mountain goats in the distance.

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I continued walking up the hill and came across the goats. There were lots of them, grazing and playing on the rocks. I enjoyed quite some time taking pics of them. They were very fun and cute to watch and I found their noises very entertaining.

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After a few minutes I saw the man from the hut. I now realised that he was tending to the goats, and had taken them to the other side of the ridge to graze. He had made a fire and was drinking chai tea. He had seen me taking photos of the animals and after a while I approached him with a smile. He invited me to sit down and poured me a cup of tea. With few words being spoken we shared each other’s company, and again, he allowed me to take some photos of him. He seemed extremely peaceful.

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Sharing tea with a goat herder

The sun was going down behind the mountain and I was excited to carry on shooting. I shortly came across another animal herder, this time a man who was shearing some of the goats.

A herder shearing his animals
A herder shearing his animals

After maybe an hour with the goat herders, I walked back down the hill as dusk approached.

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On the horizon the reddest moon that I have ever seen began to rise. I watched in astonishment as it peaked over the mountains and into the sky. I chatted to fellow trekkers about the colour of the moon.

the blood red moon rises over the mountains
The blood red moon rises over the mountains

As night fell, small bonfires lit up the hill to keep the trekkers warm. I joined a group of Indian guys around the fire for food and tea, but decided to get an early night as I knew I wanted to be up before sunrise to take photos.

Trekkers keeping warm around a fire.
Trekkers keeping warm around a fire.

After a pretty bad night of rest (due to a lack of warm clothing) I crawled out of my sleeping bag, unzipped my tent and walked into the fresh mountain air. It was still quite dark as the sun had not yet began to reach over the mountain top. I decided to walk to the far end of the ridge that I hadn’t ventured to the day before. I had my mini tripod with me and began taking photos. In a distant tree I saw a huge eagle, which was another first for me. After about 40 minutes, I heard the familiar bleating sound that I had heard the day before coming from behind me. As I turned around, I saw lots of goats (perhaps more than 100) running and jumping towards me. This instantly made me smile and as they ran past me, I climbed onto a rock so they could pass without knocking me down. The goats raced past playfully.

It was around this time when the sun began to appear over the mountain, bathing Triund Hill with glorious golden light, which also brought a warmth to the brisk mountain air.

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I followed the herd of goats and whenever possible, climbed upon a rock to get a better view of the scene. There were different goat herders from the previous day, and I followed them along the length of the ridge, snapping away. As the other trekkers were sleeping, I was grateful to be witnessing this unique moment and felt invigorated to be there.

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The walk along the length of the ridge took about 30 minutes, and on my part, it was a process of running ahead, stopping, shooting, and then running ahead again. These leap-frog manoeuvres lasted until we reached the elevated end of the ridge.

I gestured to one of the herders with my camera, and he stopped for a moment to allow me to take his photo.

A portrait of a herder.
A portrait of a herder.

After reaching the high end of the hill, the herders stopped and allowed their animals to feed. I thanked the herders and returned to the camp feeling extremely grateful and happy with the events that I had just seen.

After some breakfast, I began my descent back down Triund Hill, with extremely high spirits (and an increasingly swollen ankle – which later turned into an infection). My experience on top of the hill was fantastic, and reminded me how nice it is to be surrounded by nature and simplicity. I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on the trek after my bad experience at the start, as Triund Hill proved to be one of the most memorable events of my trip.

About Danny

Danny Fernandez is a creative photographer living and working in Barcelona. He likes cycling, records and vegetarian food.
To see more of his work, please visit:

Danny Fernandez’s official website

follow him on Flickr

follow him on Instagram

X-Photographer’s Spotlight – V.Opoku

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

Hey hey, I shoot weddings and travel – I am a creative, contemporary wedding story teller and London is home for the time being.

I became a photographer by accident; I went to university to study economics, it was during this time that I decided to buy a camera instead of a PS3 to kill time. I would hop on my bike for a ride and have the camera along with me to capture the things I saw in my new surroundings.

Even though I have achieve a level of consistency within my body of work, I like to think that I am still training my eyes. It is an ongoing process and I find that I switch things up every two years – not everything, but I have noted that every two years I make a change in one area or another. I guess you can say that how I feel often translates into the approach I take to the work I create, and as someone who is still young and curious about the world, I don’t think that I will ever stop developing my style.

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

Out of curiosity really, and after 2 years and some change, I am happy that I took the risk. They offer a unique and refreshing way of doing things – having to compensate for parallax when using the OVF due to the rangefinder design of the X-Pro 1 & X100s, or the traditional shutter speed dials & aperture values on the lenses, this is a fun way to create images. For some strange reason, the image quality that I get out of these little cameras still amazes me, and the lenses that I have used have all been stunning.

A very important element of the Fujifilm X-Series that maybe doesn’t get enough attention is the community that these cameras have created, I have exchanged emails with people from all over the world about these cameras. I have discovered the work of other amazing photographers who use these cameras and even became friends with a few, like Bradley Hanson (USA), Patrice Michellon (France), Robin Weil (France) and Fred Frognier (Belgium) for example. All these guys were complete strangers at one point.

I would love to network with other official X-Photographers too! I have exchanged words with a few but thats not enough, I am thinking along the lines of a collaboration on project or something.

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

There Is Always More! I think photography is a lifelong journey without a destination so we have to keep going, keep striving to improve and never settle – There Is Always More!

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Key Inspiration- What & Who inspires you?

The What – Life, all aspects of it – the good and the bad. Music, football, culture and the people I meet and exchange stories with on my travels.

The Who – Those who strive to master their craft and set new rules, e.g. Lionel Messi and Nas. In terms of photography, there are so many good photographers out there that it is difficult for me to pick one. I like to draw inspiration even from those that don’t shoot the type of stuff that I shoot.

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Do you have any tips or tricks you could share?

Create limitations in a world where is there none, mine was deciding to shoot with just two focal lengths for the majority of my work these last two years and I couldn’t be happier! In fact, deciding to shoot with just prime lenses 5 years ago was probably the best thing I could have done for my portfolio and development as a photographer.

Remain curious about the world, be willing to learn and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Shoot through the tough and uninspiring periods.

V. Opoku-7What’s next for you?

Um, the X-Pro 2 😉 – haha. I really want to live in various countries & cities around the world in the next couple of years. To explore and experience different cultures etc and even shoot some epic weddings whilst I am out there too – the thought of shooting a Japanese wedding in Tokyo one day really excites me. I will be starting this chapter of my life with a move to Barcelona at some point this year, things haven’t gone as I had hoped but I am determined to make it happen. Then from there, maybe NYC + LA for a year, Cuba too at some point, Japan – who knows. I want to explore as many places as possible and meet as many interesting people as I can.

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Contact Info

Web : vopoku.com

Twitter: @vopoku

Instagram: @vopoku

Member of X100C – The Collective : http://x100c.com

Continue reading X-Photographer’s Spotlight – V.Opoku

The Fujifilm X Magazine is here! – Issue 9

Issue 9 of the Fujifilm X Magazine is now available to view online, or download to your mobile or tablet via the Android or Apple app.

In this issue check out the brilliant fine art landscape work of Pete Bridgwood and Bruno Morandi’s colourful Lisbon cityscapes. If you’re more of the indoor type, there’s advice and tips to help you shoot still-lifes and close-ups. Plus, don’t miss your chance to win a superb XF18-135mm weather-resistant zoom!

 

 

 

Interview – Pete Bridgwood

Pete Bridgwood explains how X-series cameras and lenses help him to produce stunning fine art landscapes.

Click here to read the full interview »

 

X Marks the Spot

Fujifilm cameras come in very handy for Bruno Morandi as he transports us to some of the most photogenic locations in Lisbon.

Click here to read the full article »

 

Still life technique

Camera tips and picture-taking advice to help you get better shots of still-life subjects. Great for rainy day photography!

Click here to read the full article »

 

Exhibition – People

A superb collection of people pictures from X Magazine readers, complete with how they were taken.

Click here to read the full article »

 

Master the X-series

How to capture close-up images using a macro lens or extension tubes, plus a review of the latest addition to the XF weatherproof line-up: the 16-55mm F2.8.

Click here to read the full article »

 

Competition

You’re just one simple question away from scooping a weather-resistant XF18-135mm zoom lens. Don’t delay, get your entry in today!

Click here to read more »

X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Bert Stephani

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

I’m from Belgium and recently when I turned forty, I realised I’ve been a professional photographer for ten years now. I shoot quite a wide range of subjects but it’s almost always about people. Although I’m a one man band, I feel my company has three divisions: The biggest division is my commercial photography in which I usually employ documentary techniques to capture real images for companies and agencies. Teaching is my second division. I really enjoy teaching and encouraging other photographers during workshops and video lectures. The smallest division is the one that caters to individuals, capturing weddings, family portraits, … It’s what I started my career with and it still gives me a lot of satisfaction.

As a kid, I was intrigued by the buttons and dials on my great-aunt’s camera but I didn’t give it much thought then. When I was seventeen I discovered some Time/Life books in the library. I got so intrigued by documentary and particularly war photography that I asked for an SLR for my 18th birthday. I played around with photography and developing my own film but soon photography had to make place for filmschool and writing. I rediscovered photography ten years later while I was following a Photoshop course in order to learn how to make nice DVD menus for my video work. I can still remember the moment I held my neighbour’s first DSLR and decided I wanted one too. Only a couple of months later, I decided that I wanted to become a professional photographer.

I spent all my free time (and some of the company’s time I was working for back then) to understand the world of f-stops, shutterspeeds and focal lengths to learn the craft. When bad weather and short days in the winter, forced me to learn about lighting, I discovered a whole new dimension and developed an ongoing passion for light. But after a couple of years I had become a photographer’s photographer. My work had become about the techniques, the gear and the fashion of the moment, while the pictures I really cared about where the simple, timeless, often imperfect shots of my friends and family. That was the moment that I went back to what I’ve been doing all my life: simply telling stories.

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

Very early on in my career, I already realised that a big camera can get in the way of photography and a friend recently reminded me that I once told him: “I wish someone would find a way to put a big sensor in a small camera with a compact fast prime lens”. So I guess I pre-invented the X100 back then ;-). But it would take a couple more years before mirrorless cameras became a reality and a usable option for professional photographers. I used a number of Panasonic and Olympus mirrorless cameras for family pictures and started thinking about using a small camera for part of my professional work. Although the prospect of reducing the weight and size of my kit, got my back and neck excited, it wasn’t the main reason to consider mirrorless cameras. Much more important to me is the fact that I can shoot without attracting attention and that a smaller camera removes the barrier between me and my subjects.

My X-story started out with the X-Pro1 and just a 35mm lens, but I have to admit that we got off to a pretty stormy start the first few months. Coming from a well established high-end DSLR, it took a while to get used to the X-Pro1 in it’s first firmware version days. Although I had my share of frustrating experiences, I had to conclude that the X-Pro1 made me a better photographer and I just fell in love with the files it produced when I worked hard for my shots. I kept my DSLR within range for a while until I realised I hardly ever used it anymore. That’s when I sold all my DSLR gear and went all Fuji. As an early adopter I have seen the X-system going through it’s growing pains but I’ve been very impressed with the way Fuji has responded by spectacular firmware updates, listening to its customers and developing a complete system in such a short time. There are a lot of technical reasons why I choose to work with Fujifilm cameras but the main reason, is that I just love to shoot with them.

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

Most of the time, I would say: “keep it real”. But every now and then, I want to create something larger than life, surreal or whatever. So ultimately … no

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Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

My inspirations comes from everywhere and sometimes I can’t find anything at all. I follow young emerging Instagram photographers but I’m also hugely inspired my masters like Sally Mann, Jeanloup Sieff, Elliott Erwitt, … There are also photographers who’s pictures may not blow me away, but who inspire me by how they approach their work. In the last few years, I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in reading about the history of photography. And then that’s just photography. Music is also a great source of ideas. When I listen to good music and close my eyes, I see images. I’m often jealous about how musicians can convey emotions. When I’m stuck I sometimes ask myself the question: “How would Pearl Jam or Sinead O’Connor tell this story?”.

Life in general is my biggest inspiration, just take the time to really look around and you’ll see so many inspiring things.

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

Like with a good meal, a good picture starts with quality ingredients. For me, a photo always has to tell a story or convey an emotion. So let the story/emotion be the starting point of the photographic process. That’s not an excuse not to worry about technique, equipment, experience and skill. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to translate that story into a picture.

I see myself as a fat athlete that wants to become a top player in the sports of photography. In order to get there, just playing streetball with my buddies every Saturday, won’t cut it. It’s about recognising your weak points and target a lot of practice towards them. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone and working hard to become comfortable in new zones.

Instagram in combination with a small camera like the X30 or X100T has been an important training tool for me lately. I try to post a nice picture every day with mixed success. But the journey is more important than the goal. I’m training my eye, get my shots right in-camera, try out new things (like long exposures or landscapes), I learn how to get the most out of my small camera, … I can see the things that I learned that way slowly enriching my paid work and I love the interaction resulting from my Instagram activity.

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What’s next for you?

I’m not entirely sure what’s next but I should. The last couple of years have been a crazy rollercoaster that gave me amazing moments but also left me with a bit too much chaos. Life threw me some curveballs that I didn’t see coming and I was forced into a kind of short-term survival mode. I didn’t have much time and energy to spare to look at the big picture and think ahead. It’s time to change that, make some big decisions and move forwards.

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Contact info

Commercial website and blog: www.bertstephani.com

I’m a proud member of the KAGE Collective: www.kagecollective.com

Private commissions and weddings: www.lifelovebybert.com

Facebook page for workshops: https://www.facebook.com/bertstephaniworkshops

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bertstephani

Instagram: https://instagram.com/bertstephani/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bertstephani/videos

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Shooting amazing nightlife with New York-based social photographer Jay “Electroblum”

pic30333by Jay Blum

Photographic style and foundation

pic19895My style of photography is social and intimately in your face. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t feel close enough with my 18mm f2 lens. My goal is to capture your alter ego raging or to strip you of it to show a contrast between you and the environment. Depending on the parties, I aim to capture shots that one may never want to show their parents. I have heard a comment that my work is a cross between the board game candy land and blade runner. I love neo-noir and post apocalyptic films and I am a drop out toy designer so maybe that explains? Other inspiration draws from the 90’s X-Men cards by Fleer company, the color on those illustrations just popped.

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My weapons of mass (“Oh god, can you please take down that pic! I don’t want my boss seeing that”} destruction!

I use Fujifilm X series cameras for all my EDM adventures. I shoot manual and control my flashes manually as well. I started out with a Fuji X10 because I loved the manual look and feel of the camera.
I soon followed with an X-E1 and recently to an X-T1. The X-E1 really gave me the results I was looking for and though the focusing was not as quick as it’s successor it still gave me satisfying results.

I currently use a X-T1 and the results are just art. This camera really gave me the courage to shoot on an ISO higher than 400. There are photos I do not have to adjust color or clarity. This camera is so on point that it locks on to the subject quickly and the results of the shots are crisp and clear.

On average my settings on the X-T1 are currently ISO 640, F5.6 at 1/4 on Velvia film simulation mode. My two flashes are set to 1/4 @ 23mm as my main light and my fill light set to 1/8 at 23mm (I set my second flash to 1/8 so the light fills the bottom of the portrait but not as bright as the main light on the subject). I always direct the main light on the upper body as one might usually do when shooting a portrait with an external flash. If the subject has an amazing outfit I set both my main light and fill light to f1/4. Mind you, these settings work for me in a dark venue that has disco lights and it also depends on how great the venue’s light is.

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I use an assortment of light diffusers and pieces from old video rigs I have acquired over the years. However, nothing beats having an assistant to help you out with positioning lights.

I use X-T1’s new WIFI connection and use it with the Fuji apps along with an app called shutter snitch. I use these apps to beam a photo to my iPhone in which I can upload to instagram immediately. An event photographer is like a journalist and a club promoter. You can upload a photo to social media with a hashtag and convince people to say “This looks wild and crazy, we’re going there for the night.”

As mentioned earlier I shoot with an 18mm f2 lens and it’s really made me a better photographer than any 50mm on a crop sensor. The lens has made me get up close and personal with my subjects because there is not much room to move around with in a packed club or concert.I had a 35mm f1.4 but that was stolen off my belt one night during a DJ set. I used it only a few times for those moments where I had space to focus on a portrait. I am currently taking in donations for a 56mm 1.2 lens so I can achieve some “bokehlicious” photos and take my work to new places!

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Shooting night life and what I’ve learned “so far”.

Night life is so fast paced, the emotions and energy people bring out with them are intense. What is not intense is their attention span.

Situations escalate and fade out quickly so pay attention because you may miss out on interesting photos.

You have at most 15 seconds to compliment your subject, tell them what you like about them, and be their friend. The faster you can relate with your subject and construct a relationship the better your love life might be (Just kidding, I mean your photos).

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Also, get lost on tumblr, pinterest, soundcloud and see what is inspiring people to express themselves. This will also inspire you and your work.

Use a prime lens. You aren’t shooting wild life. Night life is a social activity, get in there and meet people.

Want to take a photo of a hot girl with a boyfriend who doesn’t seem too excited to be out? No problem! Respectfully make your intent clear that you would like a portrait of the lady followed by a photo with her boyfriend. This will almost work 99% of the time and smooth out any uncertain feelings.

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Have a side pouch to store extra batteries, gum, mints, and SD cards.

Smile and look relaxed. If you’re nervous and timid this will reflect on your subjects and onto your photos like a mirror. Keep positive and remember that your goal is to get great shots of the night.

If you don’t want to take someone’s photo just tell them you’re out of film and walk away like you really got to reload film.

That’s all for now!
happy shooting and partying X-Toggies! <3

ElectroBlum

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X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Dave Kai-Piper

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

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

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

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

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

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

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

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

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

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

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

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Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s next for you?

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

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

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

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Cuba with X-Photographer Chris Upton

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by Chris Upton

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

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

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

What you were looking to capture?

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

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

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

How did you plan your adventure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kit did you take?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any general tips?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Matthew Maddock

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

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

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

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

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

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

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

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

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Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s next for you?

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

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

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Story behind the photo – Malojian

By David Cleland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here is the final image:

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X100T @ 1/200th f/2.8 ISO200

 

Links:

Malojian
FlixelPix 65 Photos captured with the X100 Series