How to Capture the Beauty of Nature in Flatlay Photography

guest-blogger-strip-black

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.

IMG_2935.JPG
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.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
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.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
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.

fullsizerender-1
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

Processed with Snapseed. Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

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!

 

Inspired Coastlines with X Series

X-Photographer strip BLACKBy Bryan Minear

At the beginning of December, I was on my way to California for a part-work, part-fun gig in SoCal.  Being that this was only my 2nd trip to California and my first to the coast, I wanted to take everything that I thought I might need. One of the perks of the FUJIFILM X Series system is that I’m able to bring a lot of gear without having to worry about my bag being too heavy, on account of everything being so small and light compared to a DSLR system.ona_bryanminearblog_4Gear List:

  • FUJIFILM X-T2
  • FUJIFILM X-Pro2
  • FUJIFILM XF10-24mmF4 R OIS
  • FUJIFILM XF16mmF1.4 R WR
  • FUJIFILM XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
  • FUJIFILM XF35mmF1.4 R
  • FUJIFILM XF56mmF1.2 R
  • FUJIFILM XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR
  • FUJIFILM XF1.4x TC & XF2.0x TC
  • Formatt-HItech Firecrest Holder
  • Formatt-HItech Firecrest 10-stop ND & 3-stop ND Grad
  • 13” Macbook Pro
  • 1TB SSD Hard Drive
  • Anker PowerCore 20000
  • The Camps Bay ONA Camera Bag in Smoke

ONA_BryanMinearBlog_6.jpgI’ve always had a love/hate relationship with shooting out of airplane windows. I’ve taken some beautiful shots, and some terrible ones, but regardless I always give it a shot and hope for the right combination of clouds and terrain to come away with something cool. For the first time in the sky I gave the X-T2 with XF50-140mm and XF1.4X Teleconverter a shot and it ended up being really awesome. Typically I have always tried shooting wide and always seemed to get the wing of the plane, reflections, or window scratches that made my shots unusable. But zooming in that far, and having the crazy good image stabilization of the 50-140 gave me some spectacular results.ONA_BryanMinearBlog_8.jpgWhen I finally landed in San Diego, I only had a few hours to get checked into my hotel and find a good spot to shoot the sunset before I had to shoot the event I was in town for. I grabbed my ONA bag and ran out the door to see what I could find. I just made my way toward the west-facing beach of Coronado.  This was my first “true” California coastal sunset, and it was a colorful cloudless sky. I took a few shots but mostly just took it in and enjoyed the moment.dscf5272Day 2 started when a friend picked me up and we drove out to Anza Borrego. It was an unbelievable experience for this midwestern boy; in just 2 hours, we went from beautiful rolling hills and coastline to mountainous desert. We spent some time shooting from Font’s Point which gave a breathtaking view of the terrain spread out in front of us. This was everything I always expected from California: palm trees and vast expansive desert spread out in front of me. We spent a few hours shooting the beautiful textures and colors of the desert before moving on.fxp23658Heading back towards the coast, we decided that the next stop would be the rocks of Corona Del Mar. Despite slipping multiple times and having extremely soggy shoes, I was thankful to have experienced one of the most beautiful sunsets of my entire life. Having 2 camera bodies is absolutely essential for the kind of work that I like to do. I split my time between my X-Pro2 with XF10-24mm set up on a tripod shooting long exposures, and my X-T2 with XF50-140mm combo in hand snapping away at boats, water and really fine-tuning my compositions with the compressed field of view. Having the 50-140 lens has turned me from a 100% wide shooter to a 60/40 tele/wide shooter and it has made such a huge impact on the work that I create.dscf5758The next day was spent shooting around the picturesque Laguna beach area. It was a semi-low tide so we climbed to an area along the coast that has a sinkhole with beautiful swirling water, and set up our gear. After a bit of droning and waiting to see what we would get in terms of a sunset burn, we all got a bit ambitious and ventured further out on the rocks that were exposed by the low tide. While setting up on a tripod to get some water movement shots, a rogue wave came out of nowhere and completely soaked me and my camera. There has never been a time that I was more thankful to have weather-resistant gear. I spent the rest of the night soaking wet from head to toe, but was able to continue to shoot the rest of the sunset.dscf5947After drying off at my hotel and grabbing a couple hours of sleep, I decided that my final morning before flying home was going spent in Long Beach shooting the sun coming up behind The Queen Mary. I arrived to a beautiful star-filled sky, giving me enough time to nitpick and get the composition that I really wanted. As I sat there on the rocks with my X-T2 on-tripod in front of me just waiting for the perfect moment, I thought about all I was able to experience on such a short trip, and how there is so much more of the world to see and explore. I couldn’t ask for anything better than being constantly inspired to create by my surroundings, and the gear that helps me capture it all. ona_bryanminearblog_12

24 Hours in Yosemite

X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Bryan Minear

As I sat on a plane bound for San Francisco, staring down some 40,000 feet to the clouds passing underneath me, excitement and anticipation filled my soul. It was the beginning of a journey – an epic adventure creating unique images and memories. I hoped that this pilgrimage with fellow photographers would live up to my expectations, and further inspire me to follow my dreams.bm_7After being awake for 30 hours, we arrived at dusk. On the way into Yosemite, we stopped off at tunnel view. It was my first glimpse of California that wasn’t being hidden away by the night. The rock faces lit up underneath a sea of endless stars. In that moment, it all felt like a dream. I was now experiencing this miraculous destination that I had experienced so many times before through someone else’s eyes. We spent an hour shooting before heading to drop off our bags and get settled in our condo. At 4:30 AM, we were off to glacier point to prepare for our first sunrise.bm_5I stared into the face of half dome, brilliant and gleaming in front of me. In some ways, I was taking a photo that millions of people had taken before me – but at the same time, I took pause to remember that the beauty of photography is that each moment captured is infinite and unique in its own way.bm_2The sun began to glow, and I was able to catch the last few stars in the sky over half dome.  My X-Pro2 clicked away on a timelapse and my X-T2 shifted in my hand as I tried to find my perfect composition. I was awaiting the shot that I was planning on taking since the trip’s inception.

“First light over half dome” is something that I had wanted to see for myself since I knew Yosemite existed. My lens of choice for the perfect capture was the XF10-24mmF4 R OIS. It gave me the versatility I needed to grab a few shots at various focal lengths in order to choose my shot in post.

After a short and much-needed nap, we ventured down into the valley to see the golden light as it passed over us. Fall color was in full swing and there was a slight chill to the air, only further enhancing the experience. We found a spot along the Merced River with a beautiful view of half dome reflected in the water. Along a nearby boardwalk, we took in Yosemite Falls as it towered above us. The falls were not supposed to be running at this time of year, but luckily, a storm passed through the night before we arrived, giving the falls a second wind.bm_6I framed up a shot with a 10-stop ND and 3-stop ND Grad to get some cloud and water movement. Shooting long exposures during the day is one of my favorite things to do because it gives me some time to enjoy the scene around me. Oftentimes I get so caught up in getting the shot that I don’t “see” things for myself. The photos are the best way to relive the moment, sure. But it’s equally as important to live in the moment and enjoy your surroundings.bm_4As the light started to drop in the sky, I shifted into creative mode trying to make the absolute most of the light that I have left. I set up another timelapse in front of the half dome with my X-Pro2, and with my X-T2 and XF16mmF1.4 R WR attached, I began walking around finding different compositions to maximize my last few moments.bm_1Over the course of the next few days I experienced close to all that Yosemite and the surrounding area had to offer: Taft Point, the 7,503 ft lookout point, Tioga Pass, and the desert-laden Eastern Sierras that lie just outside of Yosemite proper. The trip was full of friendship, laughter, and best of all, amazing scenes to photograph.

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

wp-1474623951033.jpg

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!

aj8a7806-1024x683
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.

fpotd-4
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:

2016_0923_13330800

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.

2016_0923_13462200.jpg

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.

2016_0923_13440500

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/

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-14-12-53

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!

wp-1474629750068.jpg
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


 

Adventuring with Mother Nature and X Series

X-Photographer strip

By Daniel Malikyar

From the moment I truly began to pursue photography, I strived to distinguish my work from the millions of images flooding digital media across the world. In doing so, I’ve always been an advocate of doing whatever it takes to get the shot. Whether that means hiking a treacherous mountainside all night to capture the beauty of first light from an unseen perspective, or hanging from an abandoned bridge 2,000 feet above the ground, capturing timeless moments are what I live for. Through my experiences, I have learned that photography is a key factor in the difference between being alive, and actually living. Abiding by this principle, I set out on road trip from Los Angeles to Seattle accompanied by two talented friends and an arsenal of Fujifilm X Series gear.DSCF7316We left LA for Oregon on a Tuesday afternoon, and after a brutal sleepless 16-hour road trip, we made it to our first destination – Abiqua Falls. Fortunately our car for the trip was a 4WD Jeep, and allowed us to take the mile long off-road path to the trailhead for the falls. With tattered sneakers accompanied by a light rainfall, I ventured through Oregon’s lush landscape for my first time. The abundance of massive trees and greenery were like nothing I had ever seen before. The hike down to the river was pretty intimidating, and required you to scale down a lengthy and steep hillside that was only accessible by a rope tied to an old tree at the top. I went first, and discovered that the last hundred meters of the slippery, muddy terrain had no support rope. After my first step I went down with no control, and slid for about a hundred feet, ruining my clothes and scratching up my hands in the process. Nevertheless, we all made it down eventually and hiked alongside the river to our destination. I had never seen Abiqua Falls, so when we turned the corner that revealed it’s jaw-dropping beauty I was in awe.DSCF7013The picturesque landscape was surreal, and I immediately began planning out the perspectives I wanted to capture in order to do it justice. What I didn’t realize was how difficult the blistering backwash from the water crashing to the surface made it to snap a photograph without drenching the camera lens. The remarkable durability and weather-resistance of the X-T1 matched by the speed, precision, and quality of the XF10-24mmF4 R OIS conquered the conditions, and allowed me to capture my experience before the backwash fogged up the lens. From Abiqua, we drove through the countryside to two of Oregon’s most iconic waterfalls, Multnomah and Latourell. These two were conveniently located very close to one another, and neither required a difficult hike to get to. Their overwhelming size was a humbling reminder of the power of Mother Nature, and gave me a challenge to capture them true to scale. Running on no sleep in almost 48 hours, we left the falls and enjoyed the hospitality of a friend and Oregon local, who took us to a famous Portland brewery before getting a couple hours of rest to continue on our photographic journey.DSCF7041Several hours of sleep, a warm shower, and a cup of coffee later we were on the road again… this time headed towards Washington. We got up before sunrise to capture first light from the Rowena Crest. The dynamic range on the X-T1 did Rowena justice by capturing all the tones and colors of the current season. After a brief session at Rowena, we drove straight to Olympic National Park. We encountered wildlife along the way, including a bear and bison. It was my first time seeing such large animals up close, and thanks to compact size of the X-T1 I was able to take it out of my pocket in time to capture the moment. Olympic National Park had otherworldly nature-filled roads whose cinematic foregrounds looked like something out of Planet of the Apes. With the help of the XF16mmF1.4 R WR lens, I was able to capture the detail of the nature before me.DSCF7291After exploring through Olympic, we returned to the hospitality of a friend’s home in Seattle, anxious for the adventures that were to come the next day. After a few more hours of sleep we set off to catch the infamous abandoned railroad known as Vance Creek Bridge for sunrise. Vance Creek is very dangerous if you’re not careful, and trespassers of the area are given a hefty fine if caught by authorities. This didn’t stop us; we were determined to get to the bridge and get our shots as quickly as possible. Running on minimal sleep, the excitement of visiting Vance eliminated any sense of fatigue and gave us motivation to get through the hike to find one of the most amazing abandoned locations I had ever seen. I cautiously maneuvered all the way across the bridge, and after documenting every angle I could, I hung my body off the edge of the bridge to capture the vertigo-induced lookdown perspective that is seen throughout most of my travels.DSCF7374This image gives me a sense of conquering that location, and I strategically waited until I was done shooting to make my mark with the widest lens of my kit, the XF10-24mm. After leaving Vance Creek without any issues, we headed back to Seattle to take on the skies of the city in an R44 helicopter with Classic Helicopters. While I’ve had helicopter shoots across several cities in many different conditions, it was my first time shooting in harsh light, and in an unfamiliar city. Nevertheless the X-T1 and XF10-24mm combo proved their worth, showcasing the very impressive speed and accuracy of the auto-focus feature. About an hour after the flight concluded, the sun had set, signifying the end to an amazing few days spent with friends shooting in new environments with an awesome camera system. We returned to our friend’s house to catch some sleep before we set off on a 20 hour road trip back to Los Angeles.

In addition to my Pacific Northwest road trip, I also had the pleasure of shooting with Fujifilm X Series gear this past December in the winter wonderland that is Alberta, Canada. The camera withstood unbearably low temperatures, snow, and everything in between. I even hung my body out of the car at 100kmh in -20 degree weather to capture a symmetrical road shot during sunset on the way home from our final day, which consisted of a trip to Yoho National Park to capture a direct vantage point of an endless blue river. Although my winter hat flew of my head and my face turned bright red from the extreme temperature and heavy wind, the camera gear had no issues withstanding the harsh conditions and delivering excellent quality images.

In conclusion, the most valuable aspect of traveling for me has always been capturing my experiences. In doing so, I’m able to make my memories timeless and share them with the world. With the help of Fujifilm’s cutting edge X-T1 system and expansive Fujinon XF lens lineup, I was able to document my recent travels throughout Alberta, Canada and the Pacific Northwest. The durability of this mirrorless camera is incredible. The compact size and endless internal capabilities of the X-T1 also set it apart from any camera I’ve used before. One of my favorite design aspects is the moveable LCD; this made it much easier to shoot reflections and difficult perspectives that cannot be seen through a viewfinder. The XF lenses are also very impressive. Their power and design compliment the body by providing lightning-fast images of excellent quality, color and sharpness. The auto-focus feature is also remarkably consistent and accurate across all subjects, and allowed me to make the most of every rare photo opportunity Mother Nature presented along these two trips. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with Fujifilm’s X Series gear, and I highly recommend it to all photographers looking to take their work to the next level with a conveniently sized, sleekly designed system.