An Interview with Adam Baidawi after a Trip To North Korea with the FUJIFILM X100T

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you enjoy crafting a story using the imaging medium?

I’m a 26-year-old writer and photographer. The bulk of my work is a combination of celebrity profile pieces and long form reportage. I’ve reported on stories from Iraq, Colombia, and all throughout Europe and Australia. Most recently, I travelled to North Korea to write and shoot a feature for the Australian edition of GQ magazine. I also do a little brand consulting and wedding photography.

As a younger freelancer, I started to realise that the more ambitious stories that I wanted to tell needed to be supported by imagery. We’re visual creatures. Photos stimulate us and pull us into a story. Now, my best features prioritise words and photography equally.

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Based on your first impressions before going to North Korea and what you know now, are you surprised by the way people live there?

This is a tricky one. Tourism in North Korea is so impeccably controlled, so micro-managed, so on-rails, that it’s impossible to say whether or not what you see represents the reality.

We spent most of our time in Pyongyang, the city of the elites. You don’t make it in Pyongyang unless your family has paid its dues. It’s not representative of life there.

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For me, the closest we came to seeing regular life in the DPRK was in the in-between moments: The famers carrying heavy loads on the side of a rural highway. The kids being petulant to their parents on the way home from school in a little country town. The way our tour guides would relax and go a little red in the face after a few beers. I loved those mundane moments. People still go to work, and save up for the clothing they want – they still get a little sleepy in the mid-afternoon and like bragging about accomplishments. They’re just people. Those moments meant more to me than any choreographed events on our itinerary.

You mentioned to us you were planning on taking a Digital SLR to North Korea. Can you tell us why you chose to take the Fujifilm X100T instead?

I actually did take a full DSLR kit to North Korea – I had a full-frame Canon and a slew of lenses. My big ol’ kit. But, by chance, I’d bought an X100T a few months earlier. I’d been craving something smaller and snappier. I bought it along to North Korea too.

I was a few months into owning my X100T and was starting to fall in love with it a little. I’d just shot a feature all over South Africa with it – I was feeling confident. I loved its small size, its silent operation, and its insanely pretty straight-out-of-camera colours.

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But this was a bigger, once-in-a-lifetime assignment. I never expected to use the X100T as much as I did. After a few days in Pyongyang, I couldn’t help myself – I benched my bulky DSLR, and made the X100T my go-to. Seeing the end product, I have no regrets.

How did you find the Fujifilm X100T for capturing spontaneous and candid moments? Was there any stand out feature(s) you loved using?

This will sound a little naïve, but coming from DSLR land, I was totally blown away by the viewfinder. To see, more or less, precisely how an image will look – exposure and all – before I even take it? Unreal. It gave me so much confidence. It also meant that I could pay way more attention to the moment that was unfolding in front of me. The X100T’s viewfinder has improved my framing dramatically.

The whole experience has me teetering on the edge to switching my professional kit to a Fujifilm mirrorless system. Maybe the X-T2. We’ll see.

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When capturing photographs in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did you ever think the officials would take the photos away from you? Was there any moments where you were a bit worried or became paranoid?

Totally. I was paranoid the whole time I was there. After I Facetimed my girlfriend from Beijing airport to say goodbye, I had no way of communicating with my friends or family for a week. Not being permitted to wander off alone, and a persistent, sinking feeling of being watched takes a mental toll on you.

Without an invitation from the government, travelling to the DPRK as a journalist was risky. Despite working for a magazine, I embarked on this story as a lone freelancer. If everything went to hell, I’d be in it on my own, and I’d only have myself to blame.

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As tourists, we were told not to photograph any military officials, nor residents in poorer rural areas. Happily, the tiny, unassuming design of the X100T helped me operate a little more stealthily. Aside from being super pleasing to the eye, its retro styling conceals the power it has under the hood.

There was one moment that I do regret – while travelling on a bus en route to a rural destination, I snuck a photo of a soldier at a security checkpoint. I didn’t even have the camera up to my eye, but he instantly knew I’d photographed him. I was pulled off the bus and grilled for a few minutes. I was lucky to get away with it.

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On the journey back to Beijing – a 24-hour train-ride – we were stopped at the Chinese border and had our belongings inspected thoroughly. They went through every camera and every phone, shot-by-shot. I’d deleted every incriminating photo off my camera, and had the whole week backed up on several SD cards, which were stashed all through my luggage.

Looking at your photographs what did you want to portray as an overall body of work?

I hate dehumanisation. I hate it when a population is painted with the same brush that its leader is. That thinking has been the cause of so many horrific things. When I chatted to people in Iraq on the ten-year anniversary of the invasion, I was astonished at how gentle, considered, thoughtful and empathetic they were. Yet the citizens of Baghdad had been painted uniformly as America-hating, dictator-worshipping would-be insurgents. That thinking is dangerous – I want to counter that.

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I was determined to show a different side of the DPRK – something beyond the marches and mass dances and the iconic leader. Something more dull and mundane and familiar and warm. It’s a little cheesy to say, but humanity always finds a way to show through, especially in adverse situations. I wanted to show that humanity.

You were there to participate in a marathon, did you end up capturing any photographs in the stadium and surrounding areas? What were your observations and reaction when taking photos of the people?

I did. The citizens of the DPRK were as fascinated by us as we were them. The whole thing was like a symbiotic zoo – staring at each other with amazement, but wholly unable to communicate meaningfully.

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If you were to change or add one feature on the Fujifilm X100T to make it a better camera what would it be and why?

Can I be greedy and ask for more than one? It’s so close to my dream camera.

My priorities would be:
• Improving the battery life. I’m the type to get serious battery anxiety – I remedy that by bringing a portable USB powerpack around.
• Increasing the megapixel count (I love printing photos at ridiculous sizes).
• Giving the video functionality a little more love. The film simulations and viewfinder give it an unbelievably cool foundation. I’d add smart autofocus, OIS, and a high FPS mode for silky, filmic slow motion.
• Add the ACROS film simulation!! I’m dying to try it.

To view more of Adam’s work we suggest following him on Instagram or visiting his website.

How to Capture the Beauty of Nature in Flatlay Photography

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By Ja Soon Kim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Cultivate Your Own Style

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

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

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

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

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

 

Flight of The Swans – Final Chapter

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X-Photographer strip BLACK

Recap – My name is Ben Cherry, I’m a Fujifilm X-Photographer focusing on environmental photojournalism. Currently I am part of the WWT Flight of the Swans conservation project, where Sacha Dench is flying from Arctic Russia back to the UK; following the declining Bewick’s swan as they migrate to overwinter in warmer climates.

You can find the first blog explaining how I got involved in this unique project and what I’ve brought along with me here.

While the second installment, talking about incredible Russia can be found here.


Well we eventually got out of Russia, after a 19 hour border crossing. Estonia was instantly different. It had a significantly different feel to it, from seemingly greener, richer forest to just a different culture. It was all quite refreshing!

I broke off from the core team to focus on finding Continue reading Flight of The Swans – Final Chapter

El Camino with the Fujifilm X100S

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The Camino de Santiago (also commonly known as ’The Way of St James’, or ‘El Camino’ in Spanish) is the name given to the pilgrimage routes that start all over Europe, but all lead to the same destination: the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Northwest Spain).


By Danny Fernandez

Since moving to Spain in 2011, I had heard many people talking about doing ‘El Camino’, and each of them saying how incredible the experience is (life changing for many). For the past few years, it has been on my ‘to do’ list, and this August, I decided to combine three of my passions (travel, cycling and photography) and see what all the fuss is about!

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The first choice I had to make (although it wasn’t really much of a difficult one) was whether I should walk, or cycle. As a keen cyclist, the choice was simple; I would do a cycle tour. By cycling, it also meant that I could see much more of the coast in a shorter time, and also easily take detours if I wanted to explore the area.

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The second choice that I had to make was which camino to do. It was a toss up between the most popular, but easier and better facilitated route; the Camino Frances, or the more difficult and less crowded Camino del Norte. I decided to do the ‘Camino del Norte’. This is the route which follows the northern coast on Spain. I chose to do this route as I had heard it is the most beautiful but also one of the most difficult routes due to all of the mountains! I decided to start in the beautiful coastal town of Castro Urdiales (50km west of Bilbao), and had approx 17 days to cycle the 780km to Santiago de Compostela.

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The third choice that I had to make was where I would stay. Typically walkers (commonly known as Pilgrims during the camino) stay in Albergues (which is like a simple hostel, solely for pilgrims). However, cyclists get the last priority of beds in Albergues (walkers first / those on horses – yes, horses – second / cyclists third). As I had no guarantee of a bed, I decided to bring a tent and camp where possible.

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My Way

There seem to be as many reasons for doing the camino, as there are pilgrims. I met people from all walks of life, including entire families, married couples, adventurers, grandparents and even one guy who had walked out of his front door – in the Netherlands – 11 months ago, and is still walking now!

At the start of my camino, I overheard people saying things like “The Way gives you what you need”. I rolled my eyes and blew this off as some hippy thing, but after 17 days of cycling, I agreed with this.

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I think that the nature of any repetitive action (in this case ‘wake up/eat/cycle/sleep/repeat’), gives you a lot of – almost meditative – headspace, and can teach you all sorts of things about yourself. I had a lot of time to ponder on things (I was, after all, cycling by myself for on average 5 – 8 hours a day).

I also feel that the challenges taught me a lot about myself, and man, there were challenges! It was way more difficult than I could imagine. Some days I would battle a constant uphill mountain for more than 2 hours without escape. On average, I was ascending and descending between 800 – 1000 metres of altitude a day. And when it’s 32 degrees, and your loaded bike weights 30kgs, you feel every meter.

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Before starting, I expected to have many highs, and many lows (such is the beauty and the curse of solo travel), and the camino gave me both of these. I had extreme highs after making it through hours of rainy mountains to be rewarded with parted clouds over the most breathtaking views. And I had extreme lows when I questioned my reasons for this ‘stupid idea’ and was 90% sure that I was going to quit and just hang out on a beach for the remainder of my trip.

Each persons experience of the Camino is unique and I feel that if you listen, you can learn a lot about yourself during this journey.

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Why I chose the X100s

I’m not sure if other photographers are like me, but I spend so much time in a constant debate over which camera equipment to bring before any trip.

Since selling my Canon gear 3 years ago and slowly building a collection of Fuji (X100s / X-T1 / X-T10 / XF16mm / XF35mm / XF56mm) I was fortunate enough to have the choice of what to bring for this trip.

x100sI had narrowed it down to the X100s, or the X-T10 + XF16 and XF35 lenses. After changing my mind on a near daily basis, I eventually decided to simplify EVERYTHING on this trip, therefore I would only bring my X100s. I had previously spent 3 months backpacking around India with this camera and think it’s an incredible travel camera.

My reasons for bringing just the X100s was that I wanted simplicity. This was very much my philosophy behind the entire trip – to get away from every day life of choices and go back to basics (this was also the basis for my terrible decision of bringing only 2 pairs of socks for a 17 day cycle trip). I was clear that this was not a photography trip; it was all about the experience of the camino, and the X100s was always at hand to document it.

And if I had to choose only one reason why this is still my favourite travel camera, it’s because it doesn’t interrupt your experiences; but instead is there to complement them. Photography has taught me how to see, and when a camera fits in so seamlessly with your life, it can help deepen your appreciation of that moment.

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X-Pro2 in Barcelona

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X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Derek Clark

My aim for a recent trip to Barcelona was to travel light. Last year I was in New York shooting jazz musicians for a book I’m working on and I had to carry a lot of kit. The Fuji gear was light, but I also had a laptop, flashes, light stands and a background too. But traveling light was a high priority for this trip to Barcelona.

I packed the X100T with the WCL-X100 (giving me the full-frame equivalent of 28mm & 35mm), plus the X-Pro2 with the 35mm f2 and the 18-55mm f2.8-f4 zoom. The zoom was the tough choice as I prefer primes, but I wanted to take something longer than the 35mm. The 56mm f1.2 was an option and I also considered the 16mm f1.4 because Barcelona has so much great architecture and I knew a really wide angle would be useful. But I had to be strict about travelling light and so opted for the 18-55mm. In the end, I probably shot 95% of the X-Pro2 pictures with the 35mm f2 and 95% of the X100T pictures with the WCL (so 50mm and 28mm in FF).

“I fell in love with the optical viewfinder all over again”

X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2
X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2

I have to say upfront that the X100T is probably my all time favourite camera, even though at this point it has been overtaken in performance by newer models. But it’s still a design masterpiece in my opinion that just begs to be held and used.

X100T & The WCL
X100T & The WCL

That said, I’m in love with the X-Pro2. The camera feels great in my hands, especially with the Gariz half case (Fuji half case also available). The performance is amazing and I’m still being surprised on a daily basis by how great the focus is (especially with moving subjects). Autofocus has reached new heights on mirrorless cameras and I can think of two major DSLR brands that could be an endangered species if they don’t wake up, see what’s going on and adapt quickly.

 

“The X-Pro2 takes things to another level”

X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2
X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2

Shooting on the streets of Barcelona was a blast! The X100T is my favourite street camera, but I have to say that the X-Pro2 did out-perform it and produced far more keepers. I’ve always been happy with the image quality on the X Series cameras, more than happy in fact. But the X-Pro2 takes things to another level wth the 24 megapixel X-Trans III sensor giving a welcome increase in resolution. But I’m glad to say it is without doubt the same Fuji look and feel, which is more important than megapixels!

X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2
X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2

Film Simulations have always been a big part of the X Series cameras. A while back Fuji gave us Classic Chrome, which was unexpected, free, and became an overnight success. I use it most of the time and love it. These are my settings for Classic Chrome.

-1 Highlight tone
+2 Shadow Tone
+3 Colour
-3 Noise Reduction
+2 Sharpness

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X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2

But when light gets low I find this can be a little harsh and the shadows can get blocked up, so I reduce the Shadow Tone setting to -1 or even 0. Sometime I’ll switch over to Provia as it’s a good general all rounder and much more forgiving.

I don’t often use Velvia (too saturated for me), but I found myself quickly switching to it when photographing rooftops against an orange Barcelona sunset.

X100T & The WCL
X100T & The WCL

Another film simulation fanfare came along with the X-Pro2 in the shape of Acros. The original black and white film simulations were pretty good, but I didn’t shoot a lot with them unless I was in RAW+JPEG to have the option of the colour version later.

I just preferred to do my B&W conversions in Lightroom or Silver Efex Pro. But with Acros I find myself wanting to shoot in-camera B&W a lot. In fact I have to force myself to switch out of it again.

X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2
X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2

X Series cameras have always had the option of bracketing three film simulations at a time, but I wish we could shoot two at a time with our own recipe of Highlights, Shadows, NR, Colour and Sharpness baked in, but without the delay of bracketing (where you can see the processing in the viewfinder). Classic Chrome and Acros…ahh. But I digress.

X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2 (Acros)
X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2 (Acros)

Acros is beautiful, especially with a bit of highlight & shadow tweaking. There’s a grain in Acros files that just gives the pictures a timeless documentary look, and that’s without using the grain feature of the X-Pro2. On the subject of the in-camera grain feature. The two settings of light and heavy are great, but the same again with larger grain would be nice too!

I like high contrast black and whites, so my settings for Acros are:

-1 Highlight tone
+3 Shadow Tone
-3 Noise Reduction
+2 Sharpness

Don’t worry if you like to see tons of detail in the shadows, because Acros can do low contrast B&W too, plus you still have the option of adding a red, green, or yellow filter as well (I mostly use Red).


Derek explores the Acros mode further in ‘Jazz With Fuji’s Acros & The X-Pro2 – SOOC

The Hybrid viewfinder is now an Advanced Multi-Hybrid Viewfinder, similar to the X100T’s where you can have a tiny screen in the bottom right corner (as an option) that shows a zoomed area of the focus point to assist with manual focus. I use this now and again and it works really well.

X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2
X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2

I fell in love with the optical viewfinder all over again on this trip. I wear glasses, but peer over the top of them when looking through the viewfinder (I’m so happy to see a built in diopter on the X-Pro2), so I can’t get my eye right up close. With the OVF I can see the frame lines and some space around them which allows me to see what’s about to enter my picture.

With the EVF I need to move my eye around, looking at the corners of the frame individually, but there isn’t always time to do that. Plus the Harsh sunshine of Barcelona can make it hard to see the EVF because your eyes are adjusted for the brightness, which makes it hard to see if your exposure is ok. That’s when I like to dial in my exposure 100% manually and switch to the optical viewfinder. It’s not as big as the X100T’s OVF, but it’s still big and bright and the frame lines are easy to see. Using the OVF just feels more old school and I like that!
X100T
X100T

‘My Menu’ is another great feature that allows you to store frequently used menu items on a single page. The best part of this is that it pops up as soon as you press the Menu/OK button. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make all the difference!

X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2
X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2

Fuji have took a great camera like the X-Pro1 and improved everything that needed improving. Then they added all the best bits from the other X-Series cameras and threw in a few features that we didn’t even know we needed. The fairies then sprinkled just the right amount of magic dust and hey presto – The X-Pro2. It’s an absolute joy to use!

X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2
X-Pro2 & The 35mm f2

I now have a dilemma. Do I upgrade my two X-T1’s for two X-T2’s or sell them both and buy another X-Pro2? But while I’m thinking about that one, Fuji – how about a 24mp X100 with identical features and an identical button layout as the X-Pro2.


To see more of Derek’s work, click here. 

 

The Fujifilm First Timer

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guest-blogger-strip-blackBy Naomi Butters

Being married to a photographer has its ups and downs. On the plus side, you never have to worry about a bad photo being taken and your life is filled with (sometimes too many) images and memories! However, it does have its downsides too – mostly that it led to me becoming lazy when it comes to recording my own memories. While I take the odd snap with my phone (which rarely does justice to what I’m seeing), up until recently I’d not picked up a camera myself for around 11 years!

Determined to do something about this I decided that this year I was going to embrace the passion my husband enjoys so much and I would learn to take better photos. But first, I needed to find myself a new camera…


One of the things that frustrate me about DSLRs are their size. They’re big, even the entry-level models. You can’t take a photo discreetly when you’ve got a massive camera in front of your face! They’re also heavy and when you’re a girl who likes to carry a handbag, carrying a weighty camera as well… Well it doesn’t happen! And, don’t get me started on lenses! You basically leave the house with more equipment and luggage than a mother with a newborn.

So when Jordan suggested the Fujifilm X-Series I was intrigued. He loves his X100S and it’s usually his go-to camera for our city break adventures. It’s the perfect size to carry around when he’s having a break from his ‘work’ cameras.

I’ve used the X100S before, but I wanted something that I could zoom with, in order to shoot a variety of subjects – from days out with friends to landscapes and portraits. Jordan suggested either the X-E2S or the X-T10 and, after looking at them online, I opted for the X-E2S – there wasn’t much between the two and I simply preferred the viewfinder location and layout of the X-E2S.

When the camera arrived I spent an evening getting used to the camera – I must have taken around 100 photos of our dog, Archie! Fuji sent me two lenses to try: the XF35mmF2 R WR and the XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. I have to admit – I had no idea what the differences were between them did or how to best use them! I’m not sure Archie enjoyed sitting for photos for hours either, although he’s used to it!

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FUJIFILM X-E2S – Silver

In July, we travelled to Italy for our summer holiday, making stops in Venice and Florence. These locations offered the perfect opportunity for me to get comfortable taking photos, improve my skills and, for once, prove that I don’t just go on holiday by myself by getting some shots of Jordan too!

I’ll admit, at first I was nervous. I know that sounds silly but when you’re married to a photographer, you’re aware that your images will come under scrutiny! But with a bit of guidance I quickly started to enjoy taking photos with the X-E2S.

If you’ve ever been to Venice you’ll know it’s full of beautiful scenery around every corner and crossing every bridge, there’s a stunning view or timely gondola approaching ready for you to take that perfect shot. Jordan suggested I use the 18-135mm lens as it has a good zoom and would be versatile when walking around the city. Although the lens was long, it didn’t add much weight to the camera and I could fit it in my small hand bag. Bonus!

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Usually when Jordan and I go away, I take in a landmark, maybe take a photo on my phone and then move on to the next point of interest. However, Jordan can take at least ten minutes at a landmark, capturing shots from various angles. I once lost him in New York because he’d stopped to wait for that decisive moment and I’d walked several blocks before I noticed he wasn’t with me!

However, with a camera in front of my face and the view of the grand canal in front of me, we both spent several minutes trying out different angles and compositions. At first, Jordan had to tell me how to set the camera up – adjusting the aperture and ISO were things I’d never done with my phone! However I quickly got the hang of it and started to feel comfortable in using the camera on my own.

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Although the larger lens was great for wide angles or zooming in on a distant subject, I did find the smaller 35mm f/2 a lot lighter and easier to use. I liked that the aperture was marked on the lens so I could quickly check what I’d selected without looking at the screen. I left the camera in aperture-priority mode and, with some go-to apertures explained (f/2 for portraits, f/8 to f/11 for landscapes, etc), I really enjoyed taking close up shots and wider views of the city.

The exposure adjustment dial made it straightforward to adjust the exposure without messing around with the settings directly too; simply + for brighter, or – for darker, easy! Before long I was showing Jordan what I’d captured on the back of the camera with confidence. The X-E2S captures bright colours and details beautifully.

I also made good use of the built-in Wi-Fi feature. After downloading the Fujifilm app to my phone it was simple to ping images across and upload them to Facebook or Instagram really quickly. #nofilter!

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By the end of our holiday in Italy, I was mirroring Jordan’s photography poses, delving deeper into apertures and lighting and thoroughly enjoying my new camera.

I always enjoyed capturing moments with my phone, but was left wanting by the image quality, let alone if I wanted any printing – forget it! The X-E2S made it simple for me to enjoy taking high quality photos without the bulk and attention garnered by using a DSLR.

I’ve had more photos printed in the couple of months since getting the X-E2S than I have in total up until this point!

If you like the idea of taking better photos but don’t want to get weighed down with kit, or bogged down with the technical side of things then I thoroughly recommend the X-E2S. It has the ability to create some amazing images – I look back at some of the scenes I captured and can’t believe they’re my photos!

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Flight of the Swans – X Series on expedition – Part 1

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X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Ben Cherry – Environmental photojournalist & Fujifilm X-Photographer.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of the volunteer media team covering a project called Flight of the Swans. This is an ambitious conservation expedition, where Sacha Dench will paramotor from Arctic Russia back to the UK over 10 weeks following the flyway of Bewick’s swans.

This charismatic species was what encouraged Sir Peter Scott to set up Slimbridge and eventually the Wildfowl Wetlands Trust (WWT). Now though, the species is under threat having gone through a dramatic decline over the past twenty years. Between 1995 – 2010 the Europe population fell from 29,000 to just 18,000. The purpose of this expedition is to raise awareness of their plight, to confirm the key reasons for it, and hopefully create solutions.

This is the first of three blogs covering the project. Here we will focus on the lead up to the take off and the ground team reuniting with Sacha. Then there will be a blog during the expedition and one just as we all return to the UK.


How I got involved

Ambitious and ‘out there’ projects like this don’t come around very often so when I saw the advertisement online I jumped at the chance to get involved. I was lucky enough to be shortlisted alongside an amazing group of people and the next step was a selection weekend in Wales, where we were put through a series of exercises to see how well we can adapt and collaborate. This was a fantastic weekend, supervised by seasoned explorers and everyone came together, despite the competition and lack of sleep!

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Image courtesy of WWT/Jessica Mitchell

Once I was informed that WWT would like me to be a part of the media team, I became as available as possible to help where I could, leading up to the off. We have been put through a series of training exercises from remote first aid, to satellite phone tutorials, as well as covering some of Sacha’s specialist training, like having to jump into a simulation pool at RNLI College, Poole to see how well her flotation devices for the paramotor work! It does help that she used to be a professional free diver…

You can find out more about the selection process here – choosing our dream team  To read my personal reasons for joining the project you can see that here – Meet Ben Cherry, one of our media volunteers.

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Long road ahead! Autumn is about a month ahead of the UK in Russia, which is why the Bewick’s have started migrating. X100T

What kit I’m taking

I have two bag set ups for two different purposes:

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Shoulder bag/go bag

This is basically the first thing I grab when we arrive at a general location. It contains an X100T, X-Pro2, XF16mm F1.4, XF35mm F1.4, 56mm F1.2 and an SP-1 printer. The set up encourages me to be creative as well as being small and not intimidating when first encountering a new community.

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Backpack – Wildlife/assignment bag

When I know we are going out to find the swans or capture other aspects of nature, then this is the bag I grab. Inside is an X-T2, X-T1, XF10-24mm F4, XF16-55mm F2.8, XF50-140mm F2.8, XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6. As well as miscellaneous items like filters, cleaning kit and a flash set up.

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Having the two distinct bags means that I can keep my kit focused for particular types of photography, as well as not constantly overloading myself with gear. This particular project has so many interesting factors, from tracking the swans which are very timid in Russia and much of Europe, to engaging local schools, conservation and hunting groups. My kit has to be able to maximise each and every opportunity.

The rangefinder cameras are brilliant as they are particularly inconspicuous. I keep them together as I use my right eye with the rangefinder cameras, while I use my left eye with the SLR style cameras. The X-T range cameras are generally more flexible, particularly the X-T2. So from my perspective it makes sense to keep the most versatile lenses (zooms) and cameras together. Generally the X-T2 has the XF100-400mm attached inside the bag so it is ready in case we come across any wildlife suddenly or Sacha has to take off/land quickly. The advanced autofocus and 4K footage makes the X-T2 ideal for this kind of project.


How has it gone so far?

At the time of writing this (23rd September, now I will hopefully be running around the amazing tundra!) we the ground team have just arrived in Arkhangelsk, Russia. Referencing the map below, that is where the blue line from the UK has stopped, as well as the green line coming down from the tundra, that is Daisy Clarke, one of our satellite tagged Bewick’s! Sacha is the highest, turquoise line. To get the latest on our location be sure to regularly check our live satellite map – https://www.flightoftheswans.org/live-map/

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Sacha has made amazing progress so the ground team have had to work double time to make sure we join up and keep on schedule. We left on the 14th September, and have managed to cover over 2,500 miles during that time, along with a 32 hour stay at the Russian border.. We will hopefully reunite with Sacha tomorrow!

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Part of the ground team moving north in Russia

From there we will then steadily start heading back to the UK all together. Along the way we will be conducting lots of press, conservation and community events. Please be sure to follow our social media channels as we will be trying to make our presence known along route and could be passing nearby! I am in charge of the social media channels from the field team, so I will be sharing images straight to my phone via the FUJIFILM Camera Remote app and sharing them across our social media channels (see below).

Once we are back in the UK we will be visiting some of the fantastic WWT nature reserves as well as holding other exciting UK events. We will be running various live broadcasts too so be sure to stay up to date! You can find all the latest information via our social media channels:

Facebook – Flight of the Swans

Instagram – @wwt_swanflight

Twitter -@wwtswanflight

Next month I’ll be giving an update on the project, as well as offering a photo travel guide for the locations we have passed through. Our focus so far has been making as much time as possible, once we are all on the return leg then our media team can really get to work so I promise there will be plenty of photos to share in the next instalment.

Be sure to stay up to date! From Russia with love. 🙂

Ben Cherry

Twitter – @Benji_Cherry

Instagram – @Benji_Cherry

Facebook – Ben Cherry Photography

Fujifilm X-Photographer Page


 

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.

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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.

 

 

Inside Bryan Minear’s Camera Bag

X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Bryan Minear

As a landscape photographer, I venture out to shoot – a lot. Much of my work is reliant on timing and interesting light. I’m based in Michigan, which isn’t conventionally known as a photo wonderland, so I am constantly exploring, scouting locations, and biding my time for that special segment of time where the light is just right and I can realize my vision. Most of the time, this involves me running out the door and into my car at the start of golden hour, and my Fujifilm bag (a unique co-branded creation) is perfect for those spontaneous moments.

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Admittedly, I’m a bag snob, and I struggled with settling with any camera bag for my minimal kit until now. I could never find one that was just right for what I needed. When I heard that Fujifilm and Domke were partnering to create a never-before-seen version of several Domke classics, I was definitely interested. If the same attention to detail and capability that Fujifilm puts into their products went into the bags, I was going to be in for a treat. Long story short, the camera bag does not disappoint. The FUJIFILM X Series Domke F-803 has just the right amount of storage for me to take my X-Pro2, XF10-24mmF4 R OIS, XF56mmF1.2 R, and X100T – my perfect minimal setup. Even with the kit, the bag still has plenty of room left over for the accessories and extras, like my 10-stop ND filter, polarizers, solar-powered battery backup, and even my lightweight Vanguard VEO 235AB tripod, rendering me completely handsfree.

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One problem that I usually have with messenger bags is that they end up being too bulky and uncomfortable, which is not the case with the FUJIFILM X Series F-803.  It has a very low profile and feels perfect when it is slung across your body, all while looking super sexy (yep, I said it). The combination of sand canvas and brown leather make for a really classic look. It pairs so well with the aesthetic of the X Series cameras – you know, for people who care about that sort of thing. On the run and chasing light, I’ll be suited up with my new favorite premium X accessory.

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Learn more about X Series Domke co-branded bags here!

Currently only available in the United States.