Capturing Dance Choreography in Cuba

By Mickael Marso Riviere

Mickael Marso Riviere is a Bboy (break dancer), creative director and choreographer. Being a keen photographer, Mickael enjoys shooting his choreography work, as well as travel photography in locations where his work takes him. In this article he shares his images and experiences using his Fujifilm kit on a recent trip to Cuba. Continue reading Capturing Dance Choreography in Cuba

Help! I don’t know whether to buy and X100T or an X70.

By Kevin Mullins

KevinMullins-Headshot-200x200When I first received the Fujifilm X70 I looked at it and thought…….hmmmm.  Then I scratched my head and glanced sideways at my X100T which was looking back at me with suspicion and concern.

I have to admit that I also had suspicion and concern when I first picked up the X70.  It’s teeny.  In terms of length and width it’s almost a third smaller than my mobile phone.

My X100T, on the other hand, is larger.

So I challenged myself to see if size really does matter and, more importantly, does the X70 live up to its big brother X100T when it comes down to image making.

fuji-x70-review-1-2

Brief Differences and Similarities between the X70 and X100T

This isn’t a review of either camera but it makes sense for me to point out the fundamental differences, and similarities between the two cameras.

Both cameras share the same 16-megapixel APS-C X-Trans II sensor but that, possibly, is where the similarities end.

We already know about the size difference, but really the biggest differences are the interface to shooting and the lens and so I will concentrate on these during this post.


“Beat the fear of Street photography by allowing people to come to you, instead of you to them.
Then just… Click.
No pressure.


The Lenses

The X100T has an excellent 23mm F2.0 lens.  Way back when I was shooting DSLR, my preferred focal length was 35mm (full frame equivalent), and actually it still is.

I LOVE the lens on the X100T and this is one of the critical changes because if you also LOVE the lens on the X100T, you need to know that the lens on the X70 is different.

The lens on the X70 is a slower F2.8 but wider 18.5 mm focal length or 28mm (35mm equivalent).

So straight away, we can see that the X100T is going to be better at low light shooting, albeit marginally.

However, the size and weight of the X70 means we can shoot at slower shutter speeds to mitigate this to a certain extent (depending on the subject matter of course).

For me, I love that 35mm FF focal length and I’m getting used to the slightly wider view from the X70.

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Taking Pictures

I instinctively lifted the X70 to my eye when I first got it out of the box.  Big mistake as there is no viewfinder in the camera (you can purchase an external viewfinder attachment that slots into the hotshoe).

For me, the reason I never really gelled with the Fujifilm X-M1 was because of the lack of viewfinder.  But then the X-M1 was bigger…..and didn’t have the X-Trans II Sensor.

I’ll give it a try I thought.

And you know what, I have learnt to really like the LCD shooting experience of the X70.  I’m not a hundred percent convinced I wouldn’t prefer a viewfinder as at least an option, but obviously one of the reasons this camera is so small is because of the removal of the viewfinder.

Instead of the traditional way of shooting, in the X70, you have a remarkably versatile tilting screen, which even tilts vertically above the camera to allow you to take “selfies”.

When shooting with the X100T I have to use the viewfinder, or shoot from the hip using a zone focus technique.

I can still use zone focusing with the X70 of course, but the benefit of the flip down screen is plain to see.  Additionally, the X70 implements some neat touch screen features where you can use your finger to very quickly touch, focus & shoot.

That’s a great advantage when out on the street shooting.


“I adore elderly people holding hands and I strive to look for pictures like that.
Pretty much, I just want to be like that with my wife when I’m elderly too.”


Which camera would I use?

This is the question I’ve been asking myself a lot.  When would I use one over the other?  And I actually sat down and came up with a list of scenarios where I would use either the X100T or the X70.

In really low light I’m going to need the X100T.  I don’t use flash, and I find that I use the Optical Viewfinder on the X100T a lot when shooting in low light.

For that reason, and also because of the build and form factor, the X100T will remain one of my primary cameras as a wedding photographer.

However, the X70 really comes into its own when I pick up a camera to go and shoot street photography.

In fact, for me, its superseded all other cameras in the range when it comes to shooting on the street.

I like to get in close and I like to observe and prepare to shoot.  Unless I need to use different lenses (for example, I may use a MF lens on the X-Pro2 or X-T10 for rapid zone focusing and shooting), the X70 is an ideal camera for shooting on the street.

The fact that you don’t even have to press the shutter button is a marvellous thing in itself and lends the camera perfectly to candid street shooting.

The X70 isn’t going to replace my X100T, but at the same time, my X100T will be a lot less active for my personal and street photography work.


“These images below were shot using Auto Focus, at F2.8 without the flip screen down.
Simply pointing and shooting from the hip.
One handed (as the other was occupied with Guinness at the time).”


To see more of Kevin’s inspirational images, click here.

 

 

Tutorial: Street photography

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerToday I’m going to take you through some of the advice given to me by UK wedding photographer Kevin Mullins. Kevin’s approach to candid wedding photography translates precisely into his street photography style. 

What makes a good “street” shot?

The three key factors that make a good street image are;

  • good light
  • good composition
  • interesting subject

Get all three and you have a great shot. Two of them can result in a good shot. If you can only have one, make sure it’s the interesting subject

Assignment 1 – Shoot with a theme

Start by simply shooting how you want, but with a theme. Try the theme “angles”. When I took this shot below, it was a nice sunny-but-cool day in Cambridge so there were plenty of things to choose from. Look for good light, some sort of interesting subject, and carefully consider the complete composition.

The bright sun meant that to me, the ‘angles’ would need to come from shadows. This guy caught my eye because he was using his phone before getting on his bike. I wondered who he was contacting, or whether he was just checking a map. About 20 mins later we saw a cyclist nearly get taken out by a car so I wonder now if he was sending a ritual “goodbye, just in case” message. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/640 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
The bright sun meant that to me, the ‘angles’ would need to come from shadows. This guy caught my eye because he was using his phone one last time before getting on his bike. I wondered who he was contacting, or whether he was just checking a map. About 20 mins later we saw a cyclist nearly get taken out by a car so I wonder now if he was sending a ritual “goodbye, just in case” message. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/640 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200

Assignment 2 – Frame your subject

Try to use people to frame shots of other people. Pair up with another photographer and go hunting interesting shots together. Use your partner to help provide a frame for the shot. The theme of “angles” was dropped but otherwise everything applied; light, composition, something of interest that tells a story.

Although personally I find the arm in the foreground a bit distracting, it does give a bit more depth to the image and the bright blue of this guy’s jacket and the sign pull your attention away from the frame  . X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
Although personally I find the arm in the foreground a bit distracting, it does give a bit more depth to the image and the bright blue of this guy’s jacket and the sign pull your attention away from the frame . X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
I like this one because the conversation is framed by the arm on the left, and also the stranger on the right. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
I like this one because the conversation is framed by the arm on the left, and also the stranger on the right. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
This last one failed the assignment in that it wasn’t framed by a person in the foreground. However, I like it because of the way the light fell on the faces of the people having the conversation. Nice light and begins to tell a story about a meeting in public. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
This last one failed the assignment in that it wasn’t framed by a person in the foreground. However, I like it because of the way the light fell on the faces of the people having the conversation. Nice light and begins to tell a story about a meeting in public. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200

Assignment 3 – Spot Metering

The next thing to try is pre-focusing and spot metering. Put your cameras into spot metering and manual focus mode and stand facing a place where people would “break the light”. In other words, pedestrians and cyclists would travel from the bright sunshine, into the shade, or vice-versa. Use the “AF-L” button to pre-focus on the ground where we wanted them to be when we shot and then simply time them right to shoot them just as they cross from the light into the shadow. The camera will adjust for the exposure according to light on the subject, rather than the total light in the scene.

On the X100T, X-T1, X-T10 and X-Pro2 there is a setting that allows you to link the spot metering with the AF box. Activating this allows you to choose the point in your composition to expose for. On cameras without this function the spot metering will only occur in the middle of the frame so you may be slightly limited in your composition.

This shot was actually taken by Kevin himself using his X100T; 1/320 sec; f/16; ISO 640
This shot was actually taken by Kevin himself using his X100T; 1/320 sec; f/16; ISO 640

Assignment 4 – Zone focusing

Get close to your ‘subjects’. Getting close obviously means more chance of affecting the resulting image so it’s key to try to appear like you are not taking photographs. The main reason people need to really see what they are shooting is to make sure you are focusing on the right thing.

Guy working on a market stall. Bikes were everywhere in Cambridge. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/90 sec; f/11; ISO 400
Guy working on a market stall. Bikes were everywhere in Cambridge. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/90 sec; f/11; ISO 400

Keep your camera in Manual Focus mode, select a nice small (big number) aperture value and then used the focus distance indicator on the screen of the camera to understand where the range of acceptable focus would be.

Focus on the ground a few metres in front of you. Your next challenge is to get in close to people and inconspicuously shoot them getting on with their life. Continuous shooting is also very handy here as it allows you to shoot a few frames, especially good if your subject is moving through your zone focus area.

Assignment 5 – Turn invisible

There is now no need to hold the camera up to your eye so all of your shooting can be at waist level, looking down onto the tilting LCD screen (if your camera has one) to check the overall composition. After a while you will be able to simply look around and be confident that you’re going to capture the interesting subject without them knowing, therefore not influencing or changing the subject, but merely documenting what is going on around you.

Not many people "at work" seemed to really be working.  Zone focussed and shot from the hip with X-T1; XF18-55mm @ 35mm; 1/64 sec;   f/13;   ISO 1000
Not many people “at work” seemed to really be working. Zone focused and shot from the hip with X-T1; XF18-55mm @ 35mm; 1/64 sec; f/13; ISO 1000
One of my last images as we were about to lose the sun completely. This is the only guy who looked like he was working, although I question his choice of office. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/125 sec; f/16; ISO 1250
One of my last images as we were about to lose the sun completely. This is one of the few guys who looked like they were actually working, although I question his choice of office. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/125 sec; f/16; ISO 1250

Summary

  • The three keys to a good street image are; good light, good composition, interesting subject. All three of these results in a great shot. Two of them can result in a good shot. If you can only have one, it has to be the interesting subject
  • Shoot with a theme. This will make you consider your shot more carefully and not just fill your card.
  • Try to frame your subjects with parts of the background, or even make your own frame by using other photographers
  • Setting your camera on full auto with Spot metering allows you to ignore the exposure settings and let you worry about looking for a good shot
  • Zone focusing allows you to not worry about accurate focus, but rather understand that if a subject is within a certain “zone” in front of your lens, it’ll be sharp and in focus
  • Tiltable LCD screens allow you to shoot at waist level and still see the frame. The camera remote app takes this one step further and you look like you are just using your phone while actually shooting people with the camera hanging around your neck.

Keep practicing, hope for something interesting to unfold in front of your eyes and be ready with your camera when it does. Hopefully these techniques will help you get a great shot without anyone even knowing you were there!

8 shots with the Fuji X-T10 & XF27mm pancake lens

By Kevin Mullins

Last week I purchased a Fuji X-T10 as I wanted something a little smaller than the X-T1, but with interchangeable lens options, for my street photography.

Although the camera has been out for a while, I’d never actually used one until my one arrived. But as soon as I got the camera I immediately knew it was going to become my 27mm pancake lens camera option.

The 27mm is a lens I love to bits.  It’s also a lens I’ve lost twice and I’m now on my third XF27mm lens and I suppose it’s a testament to just how small this lens is that I keep losing them!

I won’t be using the X-T10 as a wedding camera; for me, it’s not quite at the level I need for me to be comfortable shooting weddings with it.

However, it will likely be one of my backup cameras for weddings and it will definitely be a camera I take on my street photography trips out.

It really is a very discreet camera.  Couple it with something like the 27mm lens and you can really just blend in and behave like anybody else with a small point & shoot camera.

These are just a few processed snaps from a day I spent in Southampton running one of my street photography workshops.

“I’m a huge fan of the 27mm lens and I think I’ve found the perfect compliment for it in the X-T10.”

I’ve recently been using a prototype of the new Camslinger Streetomatic which is an upgrade to the version I’ve been quite comfortable with for a while.  The new bag is PERFECT for street photography. The clasp is better and yet it’s still possible to quickly remove the camera with one hand and start shooting.  I used it with the X-T10 and 27mm lens.  I had plenty of room for two spare lenses, my wallet, phone and notebook etc.

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Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/4,000 f/5.6 ISO 200
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Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/1,700 f/7.1 ISO 400
Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/1,800 f/7.1 ISO 200
Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/1,800 f/7.1 ISO 200
Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/350 f/8 ISO 400
Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/350 f/8 ISO 400
Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/420 f/10 ISO 200
Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/420 f/10 ISO 200
Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/4,000 f/2.8 ISO 200
Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/4,000 f/2.8 ISO 200
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Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/4,000 f/2.8 ISO 200
Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/150 f/3.6 ISO 200
Fuji X-T10 / XF27mm 1/150 f/3.6 ISO 200

About Kevin

KevinMullins-Headshot-200x200Kevin Mullins is a Wiltshire-based award winning wedding photographer who specialises in telling stories, through pictures, of weddings. The style of wedding photography he uses is known as documentary wedding photography, or reportage wedding photography and he is passionate about photographing weddings authentically, sympathetically and responsibly.

Visit Kevin’s website for more inspirational and educational posts


A journey to Marrakesh

9. DSCF5376 mercato medina - sitoby Jesper Storgaard Jensen

About me

Jesper Storgaard Jensen bwI’m Danish, born in 1964, and have been living in Rome since 1997. I have always loved writing and at a certain point, after my arrival in Rome, I started to collaborate with magazines producing travel articles. It was from this that the Danish Daily wanted to publish a travel article of mine from an Italian island. Unfortunately the PR-photos were of a too poor quality. In other words, I had to do the photos myself. This is when I purchased my first ever 5-mega-pixel camera. That was back in 2003, and since then, my interest in photography has been steadily increasing. I had been working for the Danish Embassy in Rome for ten years, but in 2009 I took the jump to become a full time freelance journalist and photographer shooting travel, culture, food & wine and interviews. Everything with my own imagery.

The journey to Marrakesh

We – a total of eight persons – were doing a 7 day on-the-road-trip round Morocco, two days of which were spent in Marrakesh. As I needed to travel light, I packed only my Fuji gear – Fuji X-E2, the 18-55mm kit lens and the 35 mm lens for portraits & food. I must say that I find this a excellent combination and the overall weight is significantly reduced compared to DSLR gear.

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Travelling in a country with a completely different culture to my own I wanted to play it safe. So I asked most people if I could take their photo, especially regarding portraits, which I guess is quite obvious. There were occasions where some scenes were too good to miss, and in these circumstances I fired from the hip, looking elsewhere.

6. DSCF5536 Amir Marrakech - sito

5. DSCF5591 street portrait marrakech sito

8. DSCF5345 pink all over - sito

Generally speaking, Marrakesh is a very photogenic location. There are so many varied situations, so wonderfully exotic, with such incredible faces, emotions, the colours, the textures. Everything seems to be calling you to be immortalized.

3. DSCF5470 butcher marrakech - medina

11. DSCF5408 medina nr. 2 - sito

2. DSCF5480 man with hat - sito

1. DSCF5566 medina - sito

Future projects

Aside from my daily work, I like to have detailed, lengthy photographic projects and I’ll soon be leaving Rome for my summer holidays. I’ll be driving through the south of Italy to the island of Pantelleria, south of Sicily. During that month of holiday I’m planning on doing a project called “People I met”, taking portraits of people I’d casually meet during that month. On a long term basis, I’m working on a project where I’ll be photographing different kinds of Roman artisans in their working environments. This project will be continuing into 2016.

Contact

Web
Instagram
500 px
Picfair

Official X-Photographer’s site – Galleries updated!

So here’s some exciting news, the official X-Photographers website has been updated!

Six of our UK X-Photographer’s have seen further images added to their current galleries to bring even more beauty to the site. So relax, grab a cuppa and take a moment to discover some stunning new works of art within the Fuji realms.

Damien Lovegrove

damien lovegroveDamien Lovegrove left his role as a cameraman and lighting director at the BBC back in 1998 after 14 successful years to create the renowned Lovegrove Weddings partnership with his wife Julie. Together they shot over 400 top weddings for discerning clients worldwide. In 2008 Damien turned his hand to shooting beauty and portraiture and has since amassed a dedicated following for his distinctive art. Damien now divides his time between teaching the next generation of photographers and photographing personal projects. His book Chloe-Jasmine Whichello is highly regarded as a portrait style guide and his website galleries have over 2000 images to browse through among the 30 categories.

Described as a living legend, Damien is on a roll with the best of his work yet to come.

View Gallery

damien

David Cleland

david clelandDavid Cleland is a landscape and reportage photographer based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
He is best known for his landscape and documentary photography which has featured in a number of photographic exhibitions. His solo exhibition, an exploration of the decay of a 400-year evacuated mill received critical acclaim. David also teaches film and animation applying the rules of still photography to the art of moving image.
David’s work has been accepted by Getty Images and been published in a number of national publications and used in numerous book covers.
David has written for a number of publications on the importance of photography in education and also produced tutorials and papers on a range of photography techniques.

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david cleland

Jeff Carter

jeff carterMacLean Photographic was founded in 1996 and takes its name from owner Jeff Carter’s full name – Jeffrey Stuart MacLean Carter.

With over 20 years experience in several fields, including commercial, sport, landscape, travel and photo-journalism, Jeff Carter is based in Dunbar, near Edinburgh in Scotland. However he travels the world with his work in the motorsport and automotive industry and is constantly on the lookout for that next great image to capture.

As well as providing photographic services to editorial and commercial clients, MacLean Photographic runs a number of Photographic Workshops and Tours for individual or small groups of photographers of all abilities in and around East Lothian.

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Around the track in Belgium

Kevin Mullins

kevin mullinsKevin is pure documentary wedding photographer. He started shooting weddings professionally in 2008 and since then has photographed weddings right across the UK and Europe. Shooting in a documentary style he strives to tell the story of the wedding through photojournalism, rather than “traditional” contrived wedding photography.

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kevin mullins

Kerry Hendry

kerry hendryKerry is an award winning fine art equestrian photographer, shooting commissions across the UK and worldwide. Her work has also been published in a number of UK and international magazines, websites and blogs. Kerry was also the first female UK photographer to be named as a Fuji X-Photographer, joining a group of brand ambassadors worldwide.

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Kerry Hendry

Matt Hart

matt hartMatt is a black & white street and event Photographer based in Liverpool, England.
His journey through photography has been over 40 years mostly using film. He still shoots film, but most recently he prefers the freedom and flexibility of the digital medium striving to retain the integrity of the original image.
Annual projects have helped him to focus on his personal development within the industry, constantly challenging his own ideas and concepts and forcing him to learn new skills. In 2013 he carried out a Year of Black and White project, this made him rethink his whole style and camera system.
Matt’s stock images have been used in advertising all over the world, his work has also been published in many books and magazines, including many photography magazines.
Matt runs Street Photography workshops and courses around Liverpool and other UK cities passing on his tricks and techniques in Street Photography and processing in black and white.

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matt hart

Street photography workshops with X-Photographer Matt Hart

If you’d like to learn more about Street Photography, there’s no better way than to get some hands-on advice from an experienced professional photographer who specialises in candid street shooting.

Who is Matt Hart?

Matt Hart is a black and white Street and Event Photographer based in Liverpool. He is an official Fujifilm X Photographer; a Formatt Hitech featured Artist and the founder of The Fujiholics Social Media Group.

Matt is passionate about Street Photography, he has developed the skill to observe and be virtually invisible, letting the world carry on around him without affecting the scene. The subject is unaware. Matt keeps the system and process as simple as possible so as not to over complicate the task. This is why he has chosen the Fuji X system for his professional work which helps him to achieve his style.

Matt was recently voted for in a list of the world’s most influential Street Photographers by the Street Hunters social media groups readers.

Candid Street Photography workshops

Matt is running Street Photography workshops and courses around the UK and is passing on his techniques in Candid Street Photography.

His courses will give you the opportunity to work as part of a group, gaining confidence shooting Street within a group, as well as the confidence to go out on your own using the tips and tricks you pick up on the day in your future Street work, some people have now been on his courses a few times and every time their confidence has grown stronger and stronger.

Here are the courses he has available for June and July. You can also see his full schedule for 2015 by checking out his EventBright page here.

Brighton Street Photography Workshop

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Sat, 6 Jun 10:30
West Street, Brighton, BN1 2RE
More info

Brighton Street Photography Workshop

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Sun, 7 Jun 10:30
West Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 2RE
More info

Manchester Street Photography Workshop

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Sat, 13 Jun 10:30
Ducie Street, Manchester, England, M60 7LP
More info

London Street Photography Workshop

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Sun, 28 Jun 10:30
Bankside, London, SE1 9TG
More info

More info

Matt’s workshops are suitable for professional and amateur photographers of all levels and are fun, informative and relaxed. They are both challenging and highly enjoyable and designed to stretch your imagination.

They will give you an insight into the way Matt works and his style of Street Photography. You will learn how to anticipate and capture that decisive moment at various locations. Matt will guide you around the best streets for Street Photography, so that in the future you can come back and explore for yourself.

Matt uses the Fuji X100T and X-T1 with a 35mm or 16mm Prime lens. If you want to hire a Fujifilm camera and lens for the day this can be arranged, if notice is given well in advance of the event by contacting Matt direct.

You can bring any DSLR or mirrorless camera on this course; fixed lens compacts are also welcome. If you are wondering what lenses to bring 50mm (in 135 equiv) is ideal.

Matt will also cover the skill in spotting a possible subject, what to look for in a great scene, how to blend in and be invisible, how to capture the subject without intrusion and how to carry out your photography in public places safely. He will also discuss how to develop confidence in shooting Street photography; he will also cover body language and personal space.

The day normally starts at 10.30am with a coffee introductions and a discussion about the day. Matt will touch on the ethics and law and how to deal with challenges in this area. You will normally spend around an hour covering Street subjects then around 11.30am we head straight out on to the streets where you can watch the way Matt works and try out some of the tips and tricks that he shares with you.

You will break for lunch around 1.30pm where we can find a quite place for a snack to discuss the mornings work and share your experiences. You then go back out on the streets to practise your new Street techniques and try and find your Street rhythm and look for some interesting characters or great light !

You stay out shooting until about 4pm, we then find a quiet place to sit as a group to discuss the day and this will include lessons learnt. Matt will share his processing techniques and preferred software. Matt will give you his views on Critique and show you how to review your own work. There is no Critique session at the end of the day but you can send your work to Matt after the event to have your work critiqued.
You will be able to post your work and talk to Matt after the event through his Social Media pages or by e mail, this can includes a Flickr link to upload and share your best three images from the day and ongoing Street images.

Courses are around £99.99 full price but early bird tickets are available at most locations when booked in advance.

Full terms and conditions can be found on the event pages for every event.

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 – Kevin Mullins

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

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

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

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

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

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

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

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

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

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

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

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

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Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s next for you?

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

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Contact info

Main website
The Owl
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

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