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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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

 

Weather resistance in windy Wales

A friend and I decided to go camping in Wales, which perfectly coincided with the passing of the ex-hurricane Bertha! To many this is a bizarre time to choose to go camping, but from a landscape photography perspective, angry weather equals exciting weather.

At the moment I am trying to train myself to only use prime lenses as Fujifilm offers such a wide variety covering lots of helpful focal lengths (the announcement of the XF90mm f2 R and XF16mm f1.4 R being added to the lens roadmap is very exciting). The reason for this is that to me they inspire creativity, using the fixed focal length makes me think more about composition and simply take more time with each picture. However, the thought of changing lenses in high winds and heavy rain atop a cliff wasn’t particularly appealing so the ever-camera-bag-present XF18-135mm came into its own. Having previously used a prototype version of the lens on the Farne Islands (see my initial impressions here) this was the first time I had really put the production version through its paces and I have to say it passed with flying colours.

Because I was generally taking landscape photographs I didn’t miss the wonderful wide aperture capabilities of prime lenses. The other bonus of using the XF18-135mm was the fast auto focus and probably, more importantly, the weather sealing. Once mounted to the X-T1 the weather resistance system left me with one less thing to think about while battling the hazardous conditions.

I wasn’t the only thing out enjoying the powerful winds though, a few fulmar were flying around the cliffs, putting on a very impressive aerial display. This was a great opportunity to try the continuous focus in mirky conditions with a very fast moving subject. Once locked on the keeper rate was very high.

Enjoying the conditions

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Target ahead

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Cliff flyby

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Fulmar in the scene

Welsh cliffs

The other very helpful feature of the XF18-135mm lens is the 5-stop image stabilisation which proved very helpful in countering the blustery and often dark conditions.

Setting Welsh sun

Welsh sea

Going further against my plan to use only prime lenses, the other lens used extensively was the XF10-24mm R OIS on the X-Pro1. Again I went with the practicality and versatility offered by this wide angle zoom lens. Despite this being a zoom, I loved using it at the ultra wide 10mm end to capture as much of the impressive scenes in front of me as possible.

Incoming shower

Welsh coast

Boisterous waves

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Overall it was a great few days for photography, but before you go off camping in inclement weather, make sure you check with others you drag along, as the X-T1 – XF18-135mm set up is weather resistant and ready for anything, but they might not be so obliging.

Why do I love the XF18-135mm lens? Composition.

Good day everyone, I will have to call this a mini-blog as normally I ramble on for ages and bombard you with images – who knows, maybe I still will 😉

1504372_10154010549280534_5836271885610257265_oAs you may or may not know I’m an amateur photographer who loves to try out new types of photography – I’m sure this is not to different from many of you out there. When I first started out with photography I was educated that the more zoom you had the better. So when I was given the X100 for the first time I was quite baffled as to how to work a fixed prime lens. I felt restricted and puzzled as to why I would want one. Of course once I looked at the pictures from it, I was sold and this opened my eyes to the real aspects of what makes a great camera. The images were crisp, clear and full of vibrant colour, all I had to get used to was zooming without a telephoto lens – AKA the Hokey Cokey. Once I got this down though, there was no stopping me, I was out with my original X-E1 and 35mm prime lens and I loved every minute of it!

This leads me to the XF18-135mm. This time I had the promise of excellent image quality but with that lovely versatility of a zoom lens. When I first clicked it into position on the camera body and fired up the camera I was taken back by just how much I could see or not see depending on the focal length. It was something that took me back to the olde days of me using a camera, I was VERY excited to get out and use this new kit.

I decided upon a location in the local area that always seems to make a good picture, this being the Stevington Windmill. I looked at when the sun was going to set and got there about 50 minutes earlier to allow time for running across fields, fumbling with tripods and such like. Once I got a good position near to the windmill I shot this image.

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Focal Length: 49mm – f/5.6 – ISO200

I shot this image at the slightly wider-side of the lens to open up the landscape a bit – this to me gives a very peaceful feel to the shot. Compositionally (is that really a word?) I have dedicated two thirds of the frame to the sky as it is a sunset after all, and I think this really helps the landscape silhouette ‘POP-OUT’ from the skyline.

This next shot I really wanted to focus on the windmill and give a more intense feel. To do this I have used the lens at a longer focal length as this has a very clever effect on the composition. The more you zoom towards a subject, the more the background and foreground are compressed together. So this in turn pulls the Sun closer to the windmill and vice-versa. Not only that, but it also reduces the angle of view – cutting out all the peripheral stuff we perhaps don’t want in our shot.

As a side note – To get the composition I wanted using more zoom, I did have to move further back to accommodate the extra focal length. Basically this means I had to run like crazy across a field and keep checking to see if the composition was right as every moment I wasted meant the sun was getting lower and would soon disappear behind the hillside.

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Focal Length: 98.6mm – f/7.1 – ISO200

These next two shots show this compression effect quite well I feel. It really brings the background closer to the foreground making for a more intense composition that would not have been possible with my 35mm prime lens.

And in case you were wondering, this is my better-half with her camera at her side relaxing whilst I’m running about like a madman saying things like “That’s great, just don’t move. Pretend I’m not here..” which was all great fun. Photography should be fun and if you can get your friends and family involved, so much the better.

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Here’s a playful shot of some hot air balloons in the distance. I framed it up so that they sat on the furthest third of the frame to sweep your eyes across the beauty of the landscape. Because of the compression effect (pulling the background and foreground together) I could give the hot air balloons a bit more presence in the shot, especially when you consider the real distance between the main tree and the hot air balloons.

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I really hope this inspires you to go out and have a play with your camera, shoot a sunset, bring a friend, mix up your compositions and most of all have fun. When you do all that great pictures will naturally follow.

P.S: Seems I managed to get a good ramble and bombardment of images in after all 😉