Press photography with the FUJIFILM X-Pro2 and XF50-140mm lens

Nigel Farage

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Rachel Megawhat is a British photographer based in London. Having trained as a photo-assistant Rachel has worked both as a Fine art Photographer, and commercially focusing on Fashion, News and Portraits. Her work has been published in countless newspapers, magazines and books, both in the UK and Worldwide, including The Sunday Times, Financial Times, Guardian and The Sun


I’ve had the FUJIFILM X-Pro2 on loan for 2 weeks, along with the FUJIFILM XF50-140mmF2.8 and it’s been a real pleasure (and no, I don’t actually want to return it!). Normally I work with an X-T1 as my main camera and I still have my X-E1 as a back up so that’s what I am comparing with.

“I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised.”

One of the main differences is the dual function viewfinder, at first, I found it a little confusing and found myself automatically using the digital finder, but I realise it has its uses, especially with the longer 400mm lens. The ability to switch between the two is extremely helpful.

Without a doubt my favourite feature is the focus stick / lever. I quickly became so used to it that I was searching for it on my X-T1. This is such a user friendly design, perfect for fast shooting conditions.

The design aesthetic of this camera also really attracts the attention of photographers, I’ve had more people come over and ask what I’m shooting with than a year of using the X-T1!

The 2 card slots is also a major plus. I often shoot jpeg only as much of my work is online and the speed of the edit and distribution is vital, but the option to have separate cards with raw and jpeg makes it a brilliant piece of logic that works well for me. I can still have the speed of a card with only jpegs to upload, but backed up with raw.

The only thing that I did find a little fiddly was the ISO & shutter speed being on a combined dial, as there were times when I wanted to change the ISO but I accidentally moved the shutter speed instead. In most shooting conditions this isn’t an issue but when you need to change quickly back and forth it can be trickier.

I was worried with August being a slow news month that I might not have much interesting content for this review but I have used the X-Pro2 to photograph our two most marmite politicians (people either love them or hate them), a trip to the zoo and a studio shoot with a couple of fashion models.

I covered one of the many rallies that Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party has been attending up and down the country. This one was in Kilburn and this shows the range of the 50-140mm lens, obviously 50mm on the left and a slight crop of a 140mm image on the right. As you can see I couldn’t resist experimenting with the distortion through the perspex podium.

The next morning I met with Nigel Farage. Some people will be aware that he recently grew a moustache so I had planned a very simple black and white shot hoping to feature that but unfortunately for me he had shaved. I used the Acros settings for this shoot. Here is a screen shot from Breitbart London.

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As I would have gone for something more creative had I not been hoping the moustache would be the main feature, here is an image from the shoot that I played around with just because.

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I also managed to do a small studio shoot with a couple of young fashion models, Hazel Fuller and Nathan Taylor.

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My absolute favourite way to shoot is very low-light studio work and the Fuji cameras are a joy to work with in these conditions. In fact, it was shooting this that I decided that I have to own the 50-140mm lens asap.

I have also done a few daylight shoots, covered a few protests including two burkini protests in as many days. This man decided he needed a selfie of his ‘beach ready body’ in front of the burkini protest. I’m not sure what it all means.

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As well as looking and feeling very stylish the X-Pro2 proved to be a good workhorse of a camera, I think with longer to play with it I would get more out of its settings. I had assumed I would move from the X-T1 straight to the X-T2 but now I need to think seriously about whether or not the X-Pro2 is a better option for me. I guess I need to get my hands on the X-T2 to decide. Fun decisions to be making either way.

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Trip to the zoo

X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Chris Upton

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

20150718_chris_0042I am a photographer based in Nottinghamshire, UK with a passion for Travel, Landscape and Social Documentary photography.

My love of photography started in my teens when I used the camera to record walking and climbing trips around the UK but especially in the Peak District and Lake District. As my knowledge developed and results improved, the emphasis changed from less walking to more photography. In those days I was shooting 35mm slide film and enjoyed processing my own black & white prints in my darkroom at home. As with many other photographers the shift to digital helped to improve my photography and it’s certainly more comfortable processing images in the digital whiteroom!

Over the years I have been fortunate to travel widely and consequently this has become my favourite genre of photography. I find it an amazing experience to observe and photograph a variety of cultures, people and landscapes, and hope that through my photographs I can bring a little of this to the viewer and inspire others to experience the beauty and diversity of the world for themselves.

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

Having used a DSLR system since their launch I had always hankered after a small rangefinder style camera that I felt would offer more freedom and enjoyment in my photography. When the Fuji X-E1 was launched I bought one straight away thinking it would complement my DSLR and would be a great walk around camera. As soon as I got the camera I was smitten. It was so lovely to use, it felt just right, it was intuitive and it made me want to take pictures. The only area where I needed reassurance was image quality, could an APSC sensor really match my full frame DSLR? Well I should have had no concerns. The combination of camera and stunning Fujifilm XF lenses delivered superb results and there was a further revelation, jpegs! I hadn’t shot jpegs for a long time but when I saw the results I was amazed. They were sharp, the colour rendition was spot on and the overall feel of the image was beautiful, almost film like in their appearance. I bought a couple more lenses, the XF10-24 and the XF55-200 and the brilliant Fuji X-T1, and this opened up more creative opportunities. I started to use the Fuji kit more and more, no longer was it a back up to the big, heavy DSLR. It had earned its stripes and I loved the combination of a smaller, lighter, robust system that was so intuitive and simply a joy to use. Today the DSLR system sits in the cupboard waiting for the inevitable ebay listing as the Fuji accompanies me everywhere at home and abroad.

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What & who inspires you?

I love great pictures whatever the subject matter and as a travel photographer you have to be pretty adept at different genres as you will be shooting architecture, people, landscape, detail, street and many other subjects in the quest to capture the spirit of the place. Therefore I have many sources of inspiration. I marvel at the landscape work of Charlie Waite who seems to capture scenes at their absolute best with sublime composition and feeling. David Noton, Elia Locardi, Ric Sammon and Steve McCurry are among my favourite travel photographers and Art Wolfe’s images combine the best of nature and travel with fine art. Sebastio Salgado has to be there for his amazing documentary and people pictures. I just think it’s important to open your eyes to the world out there and draw inspiration from as many sources as possible.

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

Without doubt the number one priority with Travel photography is planning. We don’t have unlimited time or budget when travelling so we have to make use of every moment. That means understanding key locations, viewpoints, weather conditions, sunrise & sunset times and direction and any local factors such as opening & closing times. The internet is an invaluable resource for this and I will check out tourism websites, Google images, flickr and 500px. You will find some stunning images of your locations that you should use as a starting point. Of course you will want to shoot the iconic views of famous locations but when you have those in the bag look for something different, put your stamp on the place. You will be surprised that it’s so often those images that give you the most satisfaction.

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The majority of my images are taken using a tripod. Now whilst some photographers regard a tripod as an unnecessary evil there are many good reasons to use a tripod other than just avoiding camera shake. Sure there are times when I shoot handheld but using a tripod slows you down and makes you think more carefully about your subject, enabling more precise composition. It also helps makes the use of gradual neutral density filters easier with more accurate positioning.  Creative opportunities are also opened up by using longer shutter speeds in daylight, including the use of ND filters, to capture movement. But of course it’s the ability to capture the best light of the day at sunrise and sunset that make the tripod an invaluable part of any travel photographers kit.

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I love photographing people, but for many the prospect of approaching a stranger and asking to take their picture is a real challenge and that’s why some take the easier route of a long lens grab shot. Whilst there is certainly a place for the candid approach I have found that taking pictures with permission yields far better results. So I would urge you to pluck up the courage and try to make that connection with your subject. I always try and learn a few words in the local language which, even if I get wrong, usually results in smiles and breaks the ice, creating a perfect start for your people photography. Check your equipment before you approach your subject including lens selection, aperture, battery life and frames remaining on your memory card. Also once you have permission don’t just take one shot and move on. Shoot a few images, move around and work with your subject. Resist the temptation to keep chimping your screen but use it to show your subject the results, this works really well with children and of course thank the person when you’ve finished.

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What’s next for you?

I have just completed a major Social Documentary project on the closure of Thoresby Colliery, the last pit in Nottinghamshire. Being such a significant event in the county’s industrial and social history I was keen to produce an enduring record of the colliery and to share the images with as wide an audience as possible. So I am delighted to have produced a major touring exhibition which opens in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire and runs until 27th February and have also published a book, “Thoresby The End Of The Mine”. Full details of both can be found on my website www.chrisuptonphotography.com  So in the short term I am busy publicising and promoting but I am also looking forward to a few trips abroad including Venice, India and Andalucia.

Thoresby Colliery
Thoresby Colliery
Thoresby Colliery
Thoresby Colliery

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Thoresby. The end of an era

By Chris Upton

personThe 10th July 2015 was a landmark date in the history of Nottinghamshire. When the last shift at Thoresby Colliery finished on that day not only did it mark the end of 90 years of mining in the village of Edwinstowe but it signals the end of mining in Nottinghamshire.

The pit opened in 1925 and over the years has employed tens of thousands of local people. It was one of 46 coalmines in Nottinghamshire, which supplied more than 14 million tonnes of coal per year at their peak in the early 1960s.

The first two shafts were sunk to 690m in 1925 and subsequently deepened in the 1950s to the current pit bottom at around 900m depth.

Thoresby Colliery was the first to have fully mechanised coal production and also the first to achieve an annual saleable output of more than a million tons, it became a star performer in the British coal mining industry.

In the late 1980s it raised output to exceed 2 million tons, regularly smashing it’s production records, and the colliery became known as the Jewel in the crown of Nottinghamshire mines. A crown sits proudly on the headstocks in recognition of this achievement.

When the coal industry was nationalised in 1947 it employed a million men at 1,503 pits; prior to the miners’ strike in 1984, there were 180,000 miners at 170 pits. Today there are just two deep mines left, employing about 5,000 men, at Thoresby and Kellingley in Yorkshire. Kellingley will suffer the same fate as Thoresby and closes in the autumn.

UK Coal say market pressures have led to the closure of Thoresby Colliery. Coal generates more than a third of Britain’s electricity, but it is cheaper to import coal from countries such as Russia, South Africa and Colombia than to mine it in the UK.

For the past few months I have been recording the colliery, it’s buildings, plant and people for posterity. It was my aim to create a comprehensive record of the pit at a specific point in time immediately prior to its closure.

It was a chance conversation after giving a camera club lecture that started the ball rolling. A chap in the audience worked at Thoresby and was unfortunately in the first wave of redundancies. He asked if I would be interested in visiting the colliery to take a few pictures. It was a fantastic opportunity and I jumped at the chance. He put me in touch with the Health and Safety manager, I explained what I would like to do and we were off and running. It was at this point, after I had gained their agreement to document the colliery, that the full extent of the task dawned on me.

Starting the project

I visited the colliery on seven occasions, at different times of day, in different lighting conditions, including dawn and dusk. I planned each shoot but found that an outline plan whilst retaining a degree of flexibility to react to opportunities worked best.

At the outset I just toured the site to give me an understanding of the buildings, the machinery, the operation and the people. I took snaps to create a digital scrapbook to help me plan my approach. Essentially I was imbibing the atmosphere much as I would do when visiting a foreign destination for the first time. I wanted to get a real feeling for the place before I started the photography in earnest.

Health & Safety manager Grant was so supportive of my visits giving me more time than I could have wished for.  Even coming in at 3.30am for a dawn shoot and returning to work late in the evening to get “the best of the light” didn’t diminish his enthusiasm. In fact he joked that, after watching me, he would now be able to take the best holiday snaps ever! I hope he does.

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Gear used

All of the images were shot on a Fujifilm X-T1 or X-E1 camera using a selection of Fujifilm XF lenses including the 10-24, 18-55 and 55-200 zoom lenses and 14, 23, 35 and 56mm primes. I also used a Nissin i40 flash for some shots, though preferred to use natural light wherever possible.

For my portraits, the unobtrusive Fuji equipment allowed me to concentrate on building a rapport with my subjects rather than intimidate them with a large DSLR and f2.8 lens combination. Miners might be tough guy’s and supermodels they certainly are not but they seemed to relax pretty quickly in front of my Fuji lenses.

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There were several challenges to overcome not least the light levels that were typically pretty low in all of the buildings. Because of the poor light I used a tripod fitted with a ball and socket head for as many shots as possible. My cameras are fitted with arca swiss type plates so that I can switch from landscape format to portrait very easily and without having to waste time readjusting the tripod.

The mix of different light sources from tungsten, to fluorescent and natural meant it was difficult to assess the ideal colour temperature. However the decision early on to convert all the images to black & white certainly helped counter that problem!

In a coal mine dust was another inevitable and unavoidable issue. As the miners told me it’s not only the dust you can see that is the problem and I was very careful when changing lenses and using two bodies certainly helped. Thankfully the in camera sensor cleaning worked well and I was pleasantly surprised at the minimum amount of dust spotting required.

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Working on a project

As my photography has progressed I have found that I prefer to look at a series of images that tell a story rather than seeing individual impactful pictures. Whilst I have adopted this storytelling approach in my travel and landscape photography this project was a whole different ballgame. This wasn’t going to be a six or ten image set but a large body of work that had to be planned and created in a certain style. I found this experience fascinating, though at first it was pretty daunting. However after a couple of visits I had captured some shots I was very pleased with and the plan started to fall into place. I think the discipline required in a project such as this has helped me to improve my photography and it felt good to be succeeding in this new genre of social documentary photography.

In an attempt to capture the “feel” of the colliery, and to bring completeness to the project, I also recorded various sounds around the pit and organised a series of interviews with miners past and present. I will be producing mini AV’s including these sounds and using the miner’s comments in my presentations.

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Stretch yourself

It is very easy to stick to what we know in photography and limit yourself to a particular genre. Whilst my experience as a travel photographer, where you are required to be adept at many different genres, undoubtedly helped me there were aspects of this project that were not so familiar. As a result I feel I have grown as a photographer and I would urge you to move out of your comfort zone and try something new. There will be similar opportunities in your area, seek and ye shall find!

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Capturing a piece of history

As I progressed through the project I realised that I was not only taking pictures for myself but that I was actually recording a piece of history, an enduring record of a place that, in just a few months time, would be gone forever. With that came a feeling of responsibility, not only to do myself justice but also to represent the life and work of the mining community. Apart from my family photographs, this project is the most important and worthwhile piece of work that I have ever created. Whilst there is clearly interest in the work now, what will its importance be in another 10 or 20 years?

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A personal perspective

This project has been a fantastic experience. It has improved my photography, taken me into a different genre and enlightened my knowledge of an otherwise mysterious industry.

It has been a pleasure to work with the team at Thoresby, without whom I would not have been able to produce this body of work. Whilst the colliery may not draw its workers from the immediate village area, as in years gone by, their camaraderie, team spirit, hard work and no nonsense attitude in this tough and uncompromising industry epitomise the best of British workers. The closure of Thoresby truly is the end of an era.

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What next?

I feel it is important to showcase my images to as wide an audience as possible, especially in the local area. Therefore, after securing feature in the local and national press, I will be staging a major exhibition in Nottinghamshire and am planning to produce a book – more details to follow.

To see more Thoresby images and to keep updated on the project developments please visit my website  www.chrisuptonphotography.com

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Monument Valley, Arizona with Gary Collyer

Technical details Lens: XF18-135mm OIS WR Exposure: 1/400sec at F8, ISO 200
Technical details Lens: XF18-135mm OIS WR Exposure: 1/400sec at F8, ISO 200

The trip of a lifetime for X-T1 user Gary Collyer delivers some truly memorable imageGary Collyer mugshots

A photographic enthusiast for many years, Gary Collyer got more serious six years ago and started going on ‘urban safaris’ to shoot candid and street images. His switch to Fujifilm came two years ago when he bought an X-E1 and XF35mm lens, and he’s since sold all his DSLRs and moved to using two X-T1s, an X-Pro1 and various lenses. “Using Fujifilm cameras takes me back to what felt to me, as a very natural form of photography,” he told us. “Their ease of use coupled with a very high-quality output leaves me to concentrate on the content and story of the image.” Recently, Gary’s storytelling quest saw him visit Monument Valley, which is where these shots were taken. “It had been on my list of places to visit for a while,” he said. “For me, it presented a unique opportunity to capture images that I had seen not only in the movies, but throughout photographic history.”

The Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei Mesa (Holy People)

“We had been out for about an hour watching and photographing the sunrise, on a beautiful clear morning. The sun had risen just enough to start bringing out the colours in the sand, whilst still being low enough to give definition to the ripples. The low-light capability of the X-T1 coupled with Fujifilm’s excellent stabilisation system allowed this to be taken handheld at a relatively slow shutter speed.”

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Technical details Lens: XF10-24mm R OIS Exposure: 1/60sec at F4, ISO 400

Sun’s Eye Arch

“These eroded holes in the sandstone pepper the landscape, with some being more spectacular than others. This one stood out with me because of the water patterns in the rocks matched by the direction of the thin strips of cloud in the sky. The capability of the X-T1 to cope with difficult lighting conditions meant that I could shoot with confidence, knowing that the dynamic range would cope with the shade of the cavern against the bright sky.”

Technical details Lens: XF10-24mm R OIS Exposure: 1/60sec at F9, ISO 200
Technical details Lens: XF10-24mm R OIS Exposure: 1/60sec at F9, ISO 200

Old shack, backcountry area

“It’s difficult to explain the sheer scale and beauty of these lands. Much of it is sacred to the Navajo people, and it is a privilege to be invited onto it, and to capture images of it. “By this time of the day, the sun had brightened considerably, causing deep shadows on this side of the shack, and this for me was the most interesting side to shoot from. That meant really testing the Fujifilm X-T1’s ability to get a balanced shot that delivered details in both light and shade. For this I relied heavily on the manual exposure preview, to get just the right balance.”

Technical details Lens: XF10-24mm R OIS Exposure: 1/1000sec at F4, ISO 200
Technical details Lens: XF10-24mm R OIS Exposure: 1/1000sec at F4, ISO 200

Juniper tree, Mystery Valley near the Square House Ruin

“I had been fascinated by the fallen and broken juniper trees from the start of the tour of Monument Valley and the adjacent Mystery Valley. All day I had been lining up shots, and taken a few, but they just didn’t feel right. Then we came across this tree, and I was really happy with the shots.”

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Technical details Lens: XF10-24mm R OIS Exposure: 1/2000sec at F4, ISO 200

Mitchell Mesa at sunrise

“This image was taken from the public balcony area of the View Hotel. I had been out an hour, capturing silhouettes of the nearby rock formations, when the sun came up over the horizon, revealing the cloud formations and lighting the Mitchell Mesa. For the sunrise I had two X-T1s set up. The first was on a tripod, taking longer exposures, the second that took this was handheld.”

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Technical details Lens: XF18-135mm OIS WR Exposure: 1/125sec at F3.5, ISO 200

West Mitten from the WildCat Trail

“The Wildcat Trail is the only unaccompanied walking trail available to visitors. At 3.2 miles long, in high temperatures, it can prove to be fairly challenging, particularly at the end, walking steeply uphill on shifting loose sand. So everything was stripped down… one camera, one lens, one spare battery, one spare card, sunblock, hat and plenty of water. Not knowing what to expect, I also needed maximum versatility from the lens, hence the choice of the 18-135mm. It allowed me to take this image of West Mitten (and believe me it’s only when you get close up on foot, that you realise the scale of these rock formations), and later fallen trees and stone piles. The dust and weather sealing proved invaluable with the occasional swirling wind.”

Technical details Lens: XF18-135mm OIS WR Exposure: 1/400sec at F8, ISO 200
Technical details Lens: XF18-135mm OIS WR Exposure: 1/400sec at F8, ISO 200

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

pic30333by Jay Blum

Photographic style and foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ElectroBlum

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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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What focal length should I use and why?

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerHere’s a quick, hopefully informative snippet as to why you might choose one focal length over another, and why.

The idea for this blog came about when I was asked recently “Why don’t you just zoom-out to get the person in the frame?”. This is a very good question and I felt it needed a mini demonstration to really help answer it. All one needs to conduct this experiment is the following:

  • A willing volunteer – I had a Marc
  • A zoom lens of any kind – In my case, the XF18-135mm lens
  • Oh, and a camera!

The experiment is simple; frame your subject (Marc) the same each time and take a picture at different focal lengths. I chose four focal lengths along the barrel of the lens to best demonstrate. With this, we had the ever-helpful Terry to hand with a camera to capture the experiment from the third person perspective.

Hopefully what you will notice is that the wider the angle, (18mm) the more clutter there is in the image whereas at the 135mm setting, pretty much all clutter has ‘disappeared’.

Why does this happen?

Without going into huge mathematical detail (that I don’t even fully understand) it is because wide angle shots will achieve a larger angle of view and long zooms won’t. This is how much ‘fits’ into the shot – peripheral vision if you like.

As a rule of thumb, wider angle lenses work great for landscape photography and indoors (where you don’t have a lot of room to manoeuvre) as they can fit more in. Wider angles, however, are not great for portrait shots as they will pull the centre of the frame forwards creating distortion in perspective – example image below.

Longer zooms on the other hand work great for de-cluttering a frame to create stunning portraits. This is because the angle of view is smaller, and more importantly, they have a compressing effect. In essence, a long zoom pulls the background closer to the foreground and can give a more natural, slim looking head shape whilst also helping aid the bokeh effect – increasing the focal length of a lens decreases the depth of field.

Here are two example shots I took that hopefully help demonstrate the difference:

The image on the left (135mm) shows Marc’s head in proper perspective. However, the right shot (18mm) shows the nose being ‘pulled’ forward towards the lens and his head being turned into a rugby ball! You will also notice there is more of Marc’s surroundings in the wider angle shot – this diverts some attention away from his face, which, in a portrait shot we don’t want to do.

I hope this post gets you thinking more about which focal length to use rather than just zooming in and out for convenience.

Having a zoom lens is incredibly helpful at times, but it would best to think of your zoom lens as a series of prime lenses. Most photographers, if not all, use specific focal lengths for specific purposes; this is due to the individual optical effects each focal length provides. It really does make a difference to the end result – as (hopefully) shown above 😉

If you can, please go and try this yourself to get a real feel for it. It will help with your own understanding as to what focal length you might want to use, and for which subjects

 

Yerbury Studio and Fujifilm Power of the Portrait Seminar

I’m so lucky. I have one of those jobs where I get to speak to creative people on a daily basis, share ideas, see amazing images all the time. It can be quite overwhelming, inspiring visions springing out of nowhere, ideas being converted from the written word to a physical printed image. In an industry which is (thankfully) teeming with creative types, there are certain names which keep being talked about. One of those names is Trevor Yerbury, in fact two names Trevor and Faye Yerbury. For those who don’t know Trevor and Faye own the Yerbury Studio, based in Edinburgh, one of the most highly respected and regarded photographic studios in the UK. Trevor Yerbury is a 4th generation photographer, the business founded by his great grand­father in Edinburgh in 1864.

2Trevor joined the family business in 1968 and has been driving the business forward, with his wife Faye and team, ever since. Together they create the most amazingly simple, striking and sophisticated images, creating an overall elegant and timeless collection of images. Both Trevor and Faye have received accolades over the years from Masters of Photography, Fellowships and between them hold 15 Kodak European Gold Awards. Internationally they are also respected judges.

Trevor and Faye organise a series of very successful seminars, both in the UK and abroad, sharing their experience, skills and passion with fellow professional photographers.

Both Trevor and Faye are now passionate users of the Fujifilm X range of cameras and Fujinon lenses, using them pretty much exclusively for all their work now. Trevor uses the X-Pro1 and Faye the X-T1, but as with all married couples they are pretty happy to share cameras and lenses. That’s how it works, right?

I recently joined them on one of their seminar tours in the UK at St Albans. They’ve been producing a series of seminars based around The Power of the Portrait.  Here they spoke to an eager congregation of professional photographers, who were there to learn the secrets to success in portrait photography and help fine tune skills in marketing and promoting a profitable portrait business.

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There are many things which I found fascinating. Firstly, just how generous Trevor and Faye are with their knowledge and understanding. Of course, they are experts in terms of photography skill, but they’ve fine-tuned all aspects of their business, will talk about most commonly made mistakes and also how to maximise the profitability, the relationships and the longevity of the business.  They will talk to photographers in a way which really resonates, especially elements such as creating your own photographic style, the importance of relationships, after sales and creating unique products.

Secondly, how passionate they are about our cameras – you may find this hard to swallow and a bit contrived coming from the PR Manager, but they really are. To hear terms like, ‘The Fuji system is the future of photography’ and ‘they should change the shutter sound to one that makes the same sound as a cash register’ is totally from their mouths, not ours.  It’s wonderful to hear because you know it’s honest. They wouldn’t be using the X cameras if it wasn’t going to work for them and help produce shots to showcase their work.  Obviously these guys have been in the business a good while now and know what they like and what they don’t like. It made me very happy to hear what they were saying and to see so many people in the audience already with their X cameras ready.

Throughout the day they shot a few attendees, showing how simply you can produce an amazing image, using one camera, one lens, one reflector and one light box.  Amazing.

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After the seminar you could tell that all the delegates were energised and motivate, ready to get back to their studios with fresh ideas and a revitalised view of how to run their business and also seeing some of the amazing pictures taken by two of the most respected photographers in the UK, on the X-cameras.

Further information regarding The Power of The Portrait can be found here, new dates have been added:

http://www.yerburystudio.com/power-portrait-2/

Information about the Fujifilm X- Series cameras:

http://www.fujifilm.eu/uk/products/digital-cameras/

Aspire and Fujifilm – Becoming a Storyteller with the X-Pro1 and X-T1

For those who don’t know, Aspire Photography are based in the Lake District. Set amongst the beautiful and dramatic landscape, along a windy road and built within converted stable yard, you have to walk over an old cattle grid to enter. This may not sound like a very poetic or creative start, but hang on a mo. As you walk over the cattle grid something really rather magical happens. You can’t see it, you can’t smell or taste it, but you can feel it. It’s as though invisible fairies are perched on the gates and sprinkle you with fairy dust as you walk into the entrance.

You may be thinking that I’ve had a bit too much to drink, or perhaps been out in the sun for too long, but bear with me.

Aspire Photography (rather, multi-award winning Aspire Photography) are a very special group of photography trainers, running courses for all different levels throughout the year. They specialise in styled shoots and empowering photographers to understand how they can become better photographers, and how to run a successful photography business. They also have a strong, but by no means exclusive, female engagement. It’s not just down to things looking pretty, or sets being styled to the most amazing standard. What Aspire teach is that it’s a totally safe environment to ask questions, to challenge your limits and to play – to really play with photographic techniques and leave with a portfolio of new images and a fresh outlook on your personal style of photography.

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One of the reasons we wanted to engage with the Aspire “tribe” is because the X-Series of CSC cameras has really connected with female photographers – they love how light the system is, the amazing image quality and the damage limitation the price point has on their business expenditure.

The day started with Kerry Hendry, our first UK female photographer, talking us through her journey from Nikon to Fujifilm. Why did she decide to make the switch? What did it mean to her style of photography? We then move on to the technical aspects of the X-T1, X-Pro1 and lens line-up. There’s a mixture of attendees. Some are curious and open to the idea of the X-Series and others are already X converts but want to know how to get more out of their camera.

6After lunch the real fun begins, and I mean the opportunity to play! Three models have been dressed to embrace the Midsummer’s Night Theme and amazing stages of beautiful woodland fantasy scenery were created to make an amazing photographic landscape. Everyone was encouraged to interact with the models, to capture stunning still images that would demonstrate the creative capabilities of the camera and to have fun. The images from the day, from all the attendees were stunning.

I interviewed both Kerry and Catherine to understand their view of the day:

Why Fuji?

Kerry Hendry – Love The Image

Going back to using Fuji has been a remarkably natural progression for me.  I shot grainy Fuji film as a teenager and fell in love with the Fuji way right back then.

I am the one who misses the smell of film in the fridge!  More recently I’d gotten drawn into the whole ‘bigger is better’ perception – and that’s all it is, a perception – and it just didn’t feel right.  I was looking to find my photographic mojo again – and bought a Fuji X-E2 and one kit lens, and I’ve not looked back.

I adore the unique image quality the Fuji’s produce, after all, quality is still the primary influencer.  The smaller, lighter system gives allows me to feel free again – to try new things, to capture landscapes without 10kg of kit in my bag.  Travelling light in any respect is liberating – and for me, using Fuji kit has made me excited about photography again, given me new inspiration – and it also seems to bring a smile to my face.

I’ve worked with Aspire for almost a decade, in a marketing capacity and as a photographer – the Aspire way really does change your life!

The team teaches you to look at your strengths, concerns, opportunities, your creative ‘wish list’ and so many other aspects of becoming a better photographer – whether that’s as a hobby or with the aim to going pro.  And then of course, they help you achieve these goals.

On the Aspire/Fuji courses we leave the every day aspects of life – pressures, distractions and worries – at the Aspire gate.

Once you drive onto the estate it’s all about freedom to express your creativity within – while learning and developing too.

On the Fuji days of course we talk kit – and there’s the opportunity for guests to try and of the cameras and lenses they like – including all the latest releases.

Many courses will talk theory, but there’s no better way that putting what you learn, or new things you want to try, straight into practice on a professionally styled shoot.

It’s the perfect opportunity to capture amazing images for your portfolio, or simply immerse yourself in a friendly, explorative environment in which to learn.

Think gorgeous models, magical styling, likeminded new friends to work with, technical expertise to quiz – and of course Fuji freedom & fun!

Catherine –

Aspire Photography Training designs educational programs that teach and inform whilst inspiring those to push the boundaries of their photography.

We train those that have a keen interest in photography and those who are passionate about photography.  Whether you are a hobbyist or seasoned professional we have a range of courses to suit all.  We have been a significant influencer on some of the best businesses in the UK.  Education is at the core of all we do.

We believe the Fujifilm X-Pro1 range will revolutionise the perception of what a professional photographer should look like and already is essential gear for a professional to have over their shoulder. Women and men alike are leaping to change over to the X range, all for differing reasons.  We have witnessed photographers reach out to the X-range to seek sheer quality of the product, we also have seen many photographers change to the X-range to liberate themselves from an overweight camera bag, enabling them to deal with any scenario with ease. The Fuji X-Pro1 is high on Aspire’s agenda, we will be giving this camera and system a great deal of conversation, time and training space. The X range is making it’s mark with the professional photographers who are at the coal face of weddings, commercial and portrait shoots, mainly due to the freedom given and the sheer level of technical ability it gives them on a daily basis.

Aspire Photography Training is all about looking ahead, liberating and thinking out of the box.  In fact we don’t even have a box, just a broad and open mind to all the possibilities photography can give you when you choose to think creativity.

The next Aspire and Fujifilm workshop takes place on Wed 20th Aug, in the Lake District.

All images by Kerry Hendry at Love the Image.