The Wonders of Winter

FUJIFILM X-T2 | F5 | 1/8000sec | ISO1600 | Exposure bias 0

By Chris Weston

Winter is my favourite season for photography. For the camera, there is something uniquely special about the quality of light. For me… well, I simply love photographing in snow and cold climates. Give me the Arctic over Africa anytime.

Of course, the challenges in such wintry conditions are many. First of all, the gear has to be up to the job, which is the reason I’m so enamoured with the Weather Resistant lens technology that Fujifilm has put into the three lenses I mainly use: the XF16-55mmF2.8, XF50-140mmF2.8 and the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 zooms. Continue reading The Wonders of Winter

Capturing Winter – a photographer’s guide

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X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Chris Upton

With low raking light, crisp clear air, lingering morning mists, beautiful frosts and (hopefully!) a covering of pristine white snow it’s no wonder that winter is a photographers delight. The icing on the cake is that at this time of the year sunrise and sunset are at civilized times of the day so you can enjoy a lie in and be back for a family meal at the end of the day.


What to shoot

You will not be short of subjects to photograph in these conditions but you may have to be quick as the light or the mist may only be present for minutes or even seconds. From big sweeping landscapes, to isolated trees or barns, to detail shots of frosted grass, icicles or bubbles under the ice there are shots everywhere.

It’s the harsh weather that creates those Continue reading Capturing Winter – a photographer’s guide

Extreme field test of the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and X-T2

By Tommy Simonsen – Harstad, northern Norway

I am a documentary photographer who works with animals in the natural world, and my environments are often extreme. If not remote Arctic regions, I’m in expeditions in tropical jungles or high elevations. Being able to pack light is crucial. When working on a mountain top, skiing alongside dogsleds, or walking for days, my tent and everything else I need for living in the field goes into the big pack on my back. So my camera equipment, by necessity, is in a small bag around my neck. You simply don’t get good shots from your backpack!

Equipment size and weight are critical considerations for my work – when I first packed the X-Pro2 for a three week field trip to Svalbard in March 2016, it was true love.


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X-Pro2 and X-T2 in the Arctic

These are both highly anticipated sequels of already very popular cameras.

The X-Pro2 was made for street photography and similar, the X-T2 as a good all rounder. I have used the former since March 2016, and participated in the testing of the latter when Fujifilm released the pre-production models to some photographers in April 2016.

Much has been said about these cameras, through lab tests and personal tests, but most users are photographers who shoot in urban environments. I use these cameras in somewhat different surroundings: in northern Norway, with its peculiar, capricious climate, and spectacular light. Polar night and midnight sun. Here, weathersealing is tested to the max!

I am particularly impressed with the X-T2 and X-Pro2 in several dog sledding and snowmobile expeditions in the high Arctic: Spitsbergen, Svalbard, 78 degrees north. The reference temperatures from Fujifilm’s test lab don’t exactly apply here!

Here is what I’ve experienced with Fujifilm cameras in the deep freeze.

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Weathersealing

Both these cameras are impeccable in all types of weather. Last week I worked with the Nordic Lynx (mountain cats) in heavy rain, without any plastic covers. All I needed handy was a dry microfiber cloth for the lens front: Wipe and shoot, wipe and shoot!

Handling

I LOVE that all the cameras’ basic adjustments are easily accessible on the top plate and with the aperture ring on the lens. No small nonsense buttons or menus to mess around with – this is crucial when working in the Arctic with thick gloves or mittens. Everything I need for the immediacy of making images is on the body: aperture, shutter, ISO and exposure compensation.

However, I did find that with the X-Pro2 turned on, I would occasionally bump the buttons on the back, especially in the cold where I wear a lot of clothing. I have unwittingly changed settings while moving around with the camera over my shoulder, which can be rather confusing when taking it up to use afterwards!

On the X-Pro2, there’s a simple solution to this: Hold the menu button down for three seconds, and you lock both the menu and buttons. Hold for three seconds to unlock. Ingenious!

On the X-T2, Fujifilm has added lockable dials which keeps my settings securely in place.

I find the top dials a bit low on the X-Pro2. Fujifilm fixed this with the X-T2 though – its dials are higher and easier to grip. This is particularly important to Arctic freaks like me who shoot with thick gloves on. Fujifilm has also put the movie, metering and other functions into a lower ring under one of the top dials.

On both cameras the focus and metering are absolutely insane! I have never experienced anything like it before. It focuses even in heavy blizzards, and works the same way when using the 1.4x converter.

Battery life

Some camera systems “shut down” in extreme cold, or are reduced functionally.

This has not happened with the X-series cameras.

The challenge however, is battery capacity. Driving at a good speed on snowmobile increases chill factor, turning minus 20 degrees C to minus 60 degrees C – THAT eats batteries!

In fully electronic cameras like these two, batteries are a challenge. Sometimes, solar charging stations are an option, but I often have to work for several days without being able to charge my batteries.

So I have batteries, many batteries. And I use them with care. Batteries to be used must be kept warm. The batteries I think I’m going to use during the day, I keep in the pockets close to my body. My winter pants are high with braces and additional pockets on the stomach, which is kept warm close to my stomach, well hidden and isolated by the sweater and jacket. This is where the rest of the expected day’s consumption of batteries are kept warm.

The batteries that I don’t intend to use that day, I keep frozen in my big backpack.

When batteries are not in use, they keep their charge when frozen. If a battery is empty in the cold, I replace it with a new one. But the used one I put in my left pocket to ‘reheat’ it. When it is heated, I can put it in the camera again, and get decent amount of power out of it. This may well be repeated two to three times before it is completely empty.

Moisture challenges in cold climates

Cold traps moisture in camera bodies and lenses. Once I leave civilization on a winter expedition, the camera bag NEVER comes into my tent or cabin. Bringing cold camera gear into warmth means that condensation will immediately cover surfaces and particularly, lens elements. Moisture that builds up inside lenses does not evaporate easily. Once the camera is back out in the cold, this moisture freezes and optics turn into ice blocks, and are unusable for the rest of the trip.

The cold is dry, and both cameras tolerate it exceptionally well. So I often put my camera bag in a waterproof sack outside the tent – securing it to something solid so it won’t blow away if there is a storm during the night – in the cold outer corridor of the cabin, cargo crates on the snowmobile or dog sled. But NEVER into the warm room.

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Dust challenges

You can´t get away from this topic with a mirrorless system. And it is a challenge in the field. I’ve learned to shelter the camera from the wind when I change lenses, so it doesn’t blow straight in. I keep the housing close to my body, back against the wind with the lens down, and change fast to limit any dust entering. The best is of course to have two bodies.

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Threeway tilt screen on the X-T2

Love it! Absolutely invaluable for landscape and documentary. Never has it been easier to go so low with super wide angles in the terrain!

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Wifi

JPEG files that come straight out of the camera are of very high quality. Of course I shoot in RAW, but it’s okay to save JPEG simultaneously for quick use on social media when there is internet connection. The Fujifilm Camera Remote app for smartphones and the cameras’ built-in wifi is brilliantly simple to use, allowing me to post photos instantly, rather than wait weeks to get home and edit the raw files.

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Lenses

When it comes to lenses, I mostly use these:

XF 10-24mm F4 (hoping for an F:2.8 option),

XF 16-55mm F2.8,

XF 50-140mm F2.8, and

XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6.

In addition, I sometimes use a 1.4x converter.

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Thoughts on the XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6

Polar bears and landscapes are at the top my of list, so I had high expectations for the XF100-400mm. With the 1.4x converter, it gives me 600-800mm full frame equivalent focal length, something I never had previously. It was so small and light that it went in standard bag.

But what a fulfillment of expectations! The autofocus surpassed them all. I have never experienced such accurate AF before. The rapid location of the focal point with the rear thumb joystick was a pleasure, and especially important when working with animals that move and change direction quickly. The long focal length allowed me to be far enough away from the animals that they were aware of me without being disturbed.

This was especially important in the period where ring seals were born on the ice. The newborn seals can´t swim, so they are very vulnerable if the mother is scared away. I came across several that could only have been a few hours old. They were aware of my presence, but I was far enough away to not be considered a threat. A few minutes after I arrived, the seal pup lay down to drink the milk of the mother. They had accepted me, and I got close-up images from a good distance away.

Final result, print

I print a lot of my work, so I was excited to see how it the crop factor files from the X-series would compare with my older full frame files in print. I typically make prints around 50x60cm to 60x90cm, and could not see any difference between the old and new.

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Build quality

Both cameras are sturdy, good looking workhorses which can withstand rough treatment in the field. One of the more serious incidents I experienced was a solid dogsled turnover going downhill on glacial moraine, where I was dragged several meters after the sled, with cameras underneath me. I thought there would be some serious damage to the cameras, but they were fine! I have slipped on ice and fallen with the cameras several times, but they tolerate A LOT of beating.

I bought my first SLR system back in 1991, and have used it continually since. But a change has come. At this point, I have had X-series equipment for a while, and have been able to test the gear under different conditions and all types of shooting.

 

Am I going to go back to the heavy and old-fashioned system?

Not a chance!

I know what I will bring with me on the many exciting adventures to come: Of course Fujifilm will continue with me on these journeys! ☺


To see more of Tommy Simonsen’s work, click here.

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Technique: Shooting in cold weather

Don’t put your X-series camera into hibernation for the winter, get outside and make the most of the conditions

We may be in the colder and darker months of the year, but there are still photo opportunities. The good news is Fujifilm X-series cameras are ideally equipped to make the most of the season with a range of features that will help you to get the best possible shots in all wintry conditions. As the temperature drops, there are a few extra considerations for your camera gear.

Power

Battery performance can be severely affected by low temperatures, so it’s worth buying an additional cell if you’re going to be out regularly in freezing conditions. Make sure all batteries are fully charged before you leave home and if they do die while you’re out, putting them somewhere warm – next to your body, ideally – can often grab a few extra frames.

Misting up

Going from a warm house or car into cold air will inevitably cause your X-series camera to mist up with condensation so, if possible, you should avoid subjecting your kit to large temperature changes. If it’s safe to do so, put your kit (without batteries) into your car a couple of hours before you go out so it can acclimatise. Similarly, putting your kit in a colder part of the house will help reduce condensation build-up – just don’t forget the batteries before you leave. The same applies when you come back in after a cold shoot. Reverse the process, placing them in a colder part of the house first, then gradually warming them up to room temperature. Sealing kit in a plastic bag with a silica gel pack can help. While you’re out, keep lens changes to a bare minimum or, better still, avoid them altogether. Should you get condensation, avoid the temptation to wipe it away and wait until it clears naturally. Unless you own a weather-proof X-T1, using a camera cover and keeping a chamois leather close to hand is a good way of keeping your kit dry.

And don’t forget to apply all these rules to yourself, too. Layer your clothing to stay warm and dry and be sure to take warm drinks and food to keep your batteries charged!

After some cold snaps? Try these…

Frosty close-ups

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This is the perfect subject matter for the XF60mm Macro lens on interchangeable lens X-series cameras or the Macro/Super Macro mode on a fixed lens model. Suitable objects abound so keep an eye out for interesting patterns and subjects that can add a welcome splash of colour.

Snow scenes

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For simplicity, select the Snow program setting. For more control, dial in some + exposure compensation – try +2 in sunny conditions – to avoid the snow rendering as grey sludge. Early morning starts are best and use the Velvia Film Simulation mode for vibrant blue skies.

Starry nights

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Grab your tripod and head out on a clear night. Consider using the open flash technique to illuminate foreground subjects. Avoid including the moon in the shot and use an exposure of at least 30 seconds to render some stars.

Mist and fog

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Look for distinct shapes and try using either the Soft Focus filter setting or increasing the ISO to introduce some grain. Shooting in black & white can be effective, as can fitting a telezoom such as the XF55-200mm to pick out more distant details. Check out this blog for more tips for shooting fog.

Winter portraits

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A great option, regardless of the weather. Hats, scarves, big coats and umbrellas all make great props. The XF56mm is the ideal portrait lens and be sure to make the most of that super wide aperture to throw backgrounds out of focus and deliver beautiful bokeh.

Capturing winter

Winter is a bit of a funny period in the UK, spring is full of life beginning and the promise of summer approaching, summer (when not raining) is probably our favourite time of year to be outside. Autumn has a charm about it as the leaves turn and forests transform into a vast palette of colours before winter takes over. The coldest and darkest season, many of us associate this with dark, damp days other than the Christmas period. For me though, I find that winter has a certain charm about it.

In this blog we’ll be looking at capturing winter in all its glory, from the more accessible sunrises to the magic of colder temperatures. Sunrise is my favourite time of day during the winter months, where the mornings are cold, often frosty and if you’re lucky misty. I prefer sunrise over sunset because generally you’ll have frost/mist to photograph (if the weather is suitable) which might have gone by sunset. The added bonus of winter sunrises is that they’re much more forgiving than other times of the year, an 8am start isn’t too disastrous! A few weeks ago I put together a blog on photographing fog. Check it out for a few hints and tips. 2014/12/mist-7.jpg2014/12/mist-2-16.jpg2014/12/mist-2.jpg As the day progresses and the sun gets higher (if you can see it!) the quality of light drops off somewhat, making wide landscape shots less dramatic. Two fun things to do if you’re out and about is: 1. Slow down – slowing down your shutter speed when doing big landscape shots can make an image really dynamic, even if the light isn’t bright and dramatic. One of the ways to exaggerate the length of your shutter speed is to use a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor and so extending your shutter speed. 2014/12/img_0357.jpg This shot was 125 seconds long. There is no detail left in the mist as it has moved so much in that 125 seconds, making the fog look a bit like a white ribbon. 2. Focus on detail – winter is a great time for capturing the details of nature. From the hard frost on the ground to the last leaves hanging on a tree, detail shots in conjunction with some other, wider shots can really help capture the essence of winter as part of a photoessay. 2014/12/img_03471.jpg2014/12/img_0355.jpg2014/12/img_0352.jpg2014/12/img_0358.jpg All taken with the X100s + TCL-X100 (in love with this combo). For this walk I limited myself to only this combo so I focused on composing images for that focal length. This is a good way to try and improve creativity and compositional skills. As the day draws to a close then you can begin to take advantage of the “magic hour”. If I have a free afternoon then what I like to do is go on a walk and end up in a nice location for sunset. This is what I recently did in the Peak District, walking a circuit from Hathersage up to Stanage Edge and Higgar Torr before heading back down to Hathersage. This was wonderful, about 6 miles and a great way to spend an afternoon.2014/12/img_0296.jpg 2014/12/img_0270.jpg 2014/12/img_0259.jpg 2014/12/img_0253.jpg 2014/12/img_0268.jpg As I went along I was watching how the light changed as the sun came lower and how this affected the dramatic scenes in front of me. It was very interesting to see how the landscape evolved with the setting sun. Now we have been lucky enough to have had some snow recently, this is wonderful for pictures. Snow can take a landscape that you might see everyday and turn it into something magical. However, snow can be a little difficult to meter. This is where using the EVFs on X-Series cameras can be really beneficial, as you can see exactly how your camera has metered and adjust the exposure compensation accordingly. 2014/12/img_0202.jpg2014/12/img_0137.jpg2014/12/img_0146.jpg2014/12/img_0145.jpg Finally if you’re brave enough (I haven’t been so far) then you can get out on a cold winters night and try some star photography, especially since so much of the day is now dark. Remember that the most important things are to stay warm, be sensible, check roads and the forecast. 2014/12/img_0123.jpg Roads can be very dangerous so look after yourself especially if you’re going out in the early hours. I hope this has been interesting and given you a few ideas on how to photograph the great outdoors during the winter months. Why not share with us your results via Fujifilm UK’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

Tips on shooting in the winter

By David Cleland

Winter is a great season for photography and it is always worth forcing yourself to think differently. In my opinion, winter landscapes can be more about the narrative of the image than the technical aspects of the shot.

David Cleland

1. Visit your Favourite Locations in the Snow

When the Snow descends, think of the already beautiful locations you know and pay them a visit. This is a photograph Hillsborough Church, Co Down transformed under a blanket of snow. It also should be noted that you don’t have to shoot with a wide-angle lens to capture landscape images as this photo was shot at around 75mm.

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2. Use the Evening or morning light.

The sun is lower in winter and can cast long shadows or create a warm winter glows (especially in the evening). This image was shot using the X20 camera on a cold day in December on Tyrella Beach, County Down. On visiting my local beach during a winter weekend I discovered a range of activities I wasn’t expecting.

My advice is to pack a camera and head for the coast on a day that it would be the last place you would think of visiting as it might amaze you what you will find.

For low light photography you might need to increase your ISO, the Fujifilm range offer a capped auto ISO mode which can be very handy for outdoor photography during the winter months.  I tend to shoot auto ISO capped at 3200.

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3.  Use Winter to create dramatic scenes

The winter season can really create as sense of drama. This old ruin in County Donegal is made even scarier by the cold winter mountains in the background and the use of long exposure photography to make the sky even more dramatic.

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4. Shoot what you would tell people

During April, Northern Ireland saw the largest snow fall in decades. Roads were closed for days and the countryside was transformed to pure white. I took this shot with the X100s to document the level of the snow against some farm fencing. It wasn’t overly interesting at the time but as we look back it is great to have photos of just how much snow had fallen.  Close up shots against the reflecting snow can be a challenge, using ‘Spot metering’ can bring the clarity and detail to your main subject.

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5. Shoot Contrasting Landscapes

It can be great to head out on a sunny day after a snowfall. This image was shot with the X100s on the Murlough Bay path (County Down).  It was sunny which created an interesting contrast against the snow-covered Mourne Mountains.

The trick is to have a camera with you on your winter adventures so you document what you discover. I tend to pack the X100s wherever we go and it is amazing just how many images I managed to capture on days when photography was the least of my objectives.

About David

David Cleland is a documentary and landscape photography from Ireland. To see more of his work you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to his blog.