Preparing and maintaining your kit for the great outdoors

Sloth - Ben Cherry
When I’m heading out for a long day(s) in the outdoors this is the kind of equipment I usually take with me. Now it may be more than you would ever need, but for those looking to get into landscape or wildlife photography, particularly those about to head out on safari – this blog is for you.


A bag for your gear

Camera gear ready for Costa Rica!

There are too many camera bags in the world, meaning that the choice available is verging on ridiculous! If there is one item that ignites G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) over anything else it is probably camera bags. I’m currently using a Pelican 1510 hard case with a Thinktank Ultralight (discontinued) that fits inside the case. This basically acts like a backup backpack as it isn’t the comfiest bag for long treks, so it generally acts as a safe and secure place to store gear. I took this set up to Costa Rica because I’m based there for such a long time so the pain of travelling with such a heavy pack was negated by the benefits it offers me over the six months away, namely water-tight, lockable security.

All fits in my Millican Dave

For when I’m out and about I have two non-camera bags to choose from: Millican Dave, a great hiking bag that when combined with a cheap padded insert becomes a very good camera bag. Or a dry bag backpack which I often use on light treks where the conditions are looking a little ominous. This isn’t to say that Dave isn’t up to the challenge (he’s pretty good at being water repellent and has rain cover), but out here in the rainforest, when it rains, it pours! And having a bag that can in fact be submerged helps to ease the mind. The advantage of both of these bags is that they are easy to stuff lots of items into. One of the issues I usually have with camera bags is that once all of it is padded, it has lost of significant percentage of space for misc items. Misc items are usually seen as add ons with certain bag companies, leaving little room for other helpful items, so hiking bags can be really helpful non-camera gear.

Gear for Ice Hotel Commission
Gear for Ice Hotel Commission
Kit in action, covering ice church!
Kit in action, covering ice church!

What photography equipment do I take?

Cameras:

  • 2 x X-T1 (fantastic all-round cameras, definitely brought the X-Series to a wider audience, and very much looking forward to trying out the new X-Pro2!)
  • X100s (Out of all the Fujifilm cameras I’m lucky enough to have this is the one I’d probably sell last! Does everything very well, wonderful lens/camera, makes you think much more about your photography. Above all else, it is small enough to carry around everywhere. So some of my most treasured photos are taken with this because otherwise it would have been left to my phone. Combined with the wide angle and telephoto adapters, makes for a brilliant little system. I haven’t had the chance to work with the T yet.)

Lenses:

  • XF10-24mm (Almost perfect – fantastic lens, hoping for a WR version in the near future.)
  • XF16mm (Generates so much creativity, from the extremely close focusing to the fantastic depth of field control, 24mm equiv. is quickly becoming my favourite focal length.)
  • XF16-55mm (Fantastic workhorse of a lens, built to last and equipped with image quality to make any prime-lover happy.)
  • Soon to be – XF35mm F2 (when I get back to the UK this is high up on my list – 50mm equiv. lens, small, fast and discrete WITH WR!)
  • XF50-140mm (My most used lens – can’t really say a bad word about it, produces the goods every time, simply fantastic!)
  • Nikon 300mm F2.8 ED Manual focus (The elephant in the room, because my current role is focusing on birds, I needed something longer than 200mm equiv. As the much anticipated:
  • XF100-400mm Isn’t quite out yet I opted for a quirky alternative… Yes it is heavy, yes it is manual focus, but thankfully peaking assist and a sturdy tripod help to make this a viable option. Nevertheless, my back is looking forward to Fujifilm’s new super telephoto zoom!)
  • Fujifilm extension tubes and Nikon 2x teleconverter (yep, that gives me a 900mm equiv. lens… Absolutely bonkers!!)
Frankenstein X-T1 filming sloths

Misc:

  • Filter system (Depends on what you prefer to photograph but I highly recommend a neutral density graduated filter set up and a circular polariser.)
  • Flash system (Lots of options out there, depends what you can afford/prioritise – space or power output.)

Things to always keep in your bag

Get some silica packs and store some in your backpack, these can be the difference in saving your precious lenses. Many believe that fungus is an issue reserved for older lenses, unfortunately this isn’t the case, and in particular non-weather resistant lenses are vulnerable so please look after your expensive investments! Bearing that mind, always have some lens cleaner and lens cloths in your bag. You never know when a speck of mud or raindrop will ‘attack’ your lens. Though easy to deal with they can easily ruin a photo, so best to deal with any artefacts asap.

Other items I have in my bag:

  • Duck tape (If you use lights in particular duck tape can be invaluable to secure lights in obscure locations to light your photos or simply to repair your watertight gear)
  • Pen knife (Always ends up being useful for different things but of course be mindful of this when travelling internationally.)
  • Table top tripod (Lets face it, tripods are always annoying to carry around and generally always scream PHOTOGRAPHER, but they are invaluable for certain situations. Nevertheless on some occasions you might not be carrying around a full size tripod so as a small, light back up is generally a good idea, so have a little tripod in the bag.)
  • Remote trigger (I have a variety from wired to wireless, all with their own pros and cons)
  • Rain cover (Generally not for me as in the tropics it is nice to get rained on! But I have a cover for my camera if I’m still shooting in moist conditions.)
  • Rogue Flashbender (A relatively inexpensive flash accessory, easy to pack and very effective, especially when used off-camera to help quickly improve a portrait.)
  • Food and water (Especially if you are trekking, these are the most important items to have on you!)
  • Insect repellent (Insects love me so I usually carry some form of bug spray, DEET is the best but pretty grim stuff to cover yourself with so I have a natural remedy that I prefer. Also a form Vitamin B is meant to be good for repelling mosquitoes so if you know you’re off to a problem region then start some Vitamin B pills or alternatively marmite.)
  • Hat and layers (Yes suncream helps to fight off sunburn but a hat can make all the difference when you are out all day. Depending on where you are, the weather conditions can change quickly so it is important to have spare clothes if it is likely to get cold.)
  • Rehydration sachets + general medication (You can never fully guarantee what is going to happen when you go out and about so it is best to carry some simple things with you to negate any ‘niggles’ that could hamper your day.)
  • Communication (Generally a normal mobile phone to contact anyone if necessary. Not for selfie usage!)
  • Scarf/shall (This might sound strange, being described as a ‘must have’ item, but they have a wide range of uses, from portable shade, towel, dust remover, etc.)

Thick straps, and a comfy all-round design. Makes long days so much more enjoyable!

Thick straps, and a comfy all-round design. Makes long days so much more enjoyable!

Other items to pack in the hold:

  • Sensor cleaning kit (I’ve made the mistake far too many times of not bringing this with me and regretting it pretty quickly. The X-Series is very good for countering this problem, especially considering how often I change lens, but it’s best to pack safe.)
  • Spare chargers/cables (This may well be over the top for certain trips but if you are going into very remote regions the last thing you want is to not be able to charge your batteries or download your photos.)

Kit care in the tropics

Taking a look at the gear I have brought with me to Costa Rica. From camera gear to items keeping the cameras working, I hope this will give you a good visual representation of what to take on your next adventure!


Keep your kit dry

If visiting the tropics or areas where conditions can often be very humid then it is important to figure out a way of keeping your kit dry, generally wiping away any moisture and having some silica gels in your bag should be fine but for my current placement I created a form of ‘dry space’, an area which I draped a tarpaulin in front of and had a light bulb at the top, this is generally left on whenever it is raining and works as a dry location to keep kit dry, anything slightly damp is kept as close as possible to the light bulb to dry it out and to hopefully kill off any fungus.

My camera bag system is constantly evolving but hopefully this will help some of you looking to take your camera into the great outdoors. First and foremost, remember to enjoy yourself, that is the priority. Cameras are wonderful tools for enjoyment and capturing moments, but don’t let the very item you use to capture moments get in the way of them. If you have any suggestions or ideas for other things to take with you in the great outdoors then comment below.

Until next time, happy shooting!

Ben


Ben CherryA little about Ben

Ben is an environmental photojournalist, zoologist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. His passion is showing the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Find more of his work at:

The Fujifilm X-T1 – The wedding photographers preferred choice?

Fuji X-T1 | 16-55 f2.8 – 1/200th @ f8 ISO 200

By Scott Sharman

I’ve been a massive fan of Canon since becoming a professional photographer around ten years ago. Photography is in my blood, passing down through family generations, and I currently shoot around 60 to 70 weddings a year in Staffordshire, Cheshire and throughout the UK.

I had been reading some excellent reviews about the new Fuji X-T1 cameras and lenses.  Lightweight, portable, compact and an incredible (EVF) electronic viewfinder which enabled the user to see live changes including white balance, exposure and so on.

Fuji X-T1 | 23mm f1.4 – 1/640th @ f16 ISO 400


And yet, was I really ready to move from my trustworthy Canon 5D MKIII’s and 1DX to the lightweight Fuji X-T1?

I contacted Fuji regarding loan units but all the loan units were out with other photographers.  So here’s the brave bit.  I jumped straight in and traded-in my tried, tested and trustworthy Canon 1DX there and then for the new Fuji X-T1, together with the 56mm f1.2 and 23mm F1.4 lenses.

And the results?  Incredible. Fuji had since then gone on to loan me an XF16-55 F2.8 and XF50-140 F2.8 lenses to use with the X-T1. Although I was apprehensive at first to use this new Fuji equipment at weddings, I eventually found myself over the past month or so using it more and more.

Here’s why I was so blown away with the results:

• The lightweight and compact Fuji X-T1 camera has revolutionised my working day – more portable, increased maneuverability, and less back-ache!
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Fuji X-T1 | 56mm f1.2 – 1/4400th @f1.2 ISO200 (The first image out of the X-T1, natural light, no adjusts, image direct out of camera)

• The EVF is amazing – One massive advantage and top tip. When shooting manual focus or ‘back button focusing’ I get a split screen image in the EVF which contains a 100% preview of the focus point and a overall framed image. I am also able to adjust and see live results of exposure changes giving me a full knowledge of exactly what the finalised image will look like.  In fact, I’ve found myself shooting fully manual most of the day as opposed to 60-80% Aperture priority on the Canon’s.

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Fuji X-T1 | 23mm f1.4 – 1/80th @ f1.4 ISO 1600

• The nifty folding screen helps me to reach those awkward high-up shots and low-down shots much more easily, albeit reaching high above the bride during bridal preparation or shooting low, such as ground or water level.

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Fuji X-T1 | 23mm f1.4 – 1/160th @ f1.4 ISO 800 (Read LCD screen used, camera raised into a light fitting)

• The 56mm F1.2 lens is amazing – it’s one of the sharpest lenses I have ever worked with.

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Fuji X-T1 | 56mm f1.2 – 1/500th @ f1.2 ISO 400

• And the 50-140mm F2.8 lens is really good too, in fact, seriously good – the lens is pin sharp throughout the whole focal range.

Fuji X-T1 | 50-140mm f12.8 - 1/640th @ f2.8 ISO 400
Fuji X-T1 | 50-140mm f12.8 – 1/640th @ f2.8 ISO 400

• Amazing natural light images are captured, the colour warmth and depth to the images is stunning. If you process in Lightroom like myself I would strongly advise changing the ‘Camera Calibration Profile’ back to Fuji’s own profile as Lightroom as a tendency of applying ‘Adobe Standard’ to all imported images. The photographs seem to show a ‘film look’ using Fuji’s profile and can be a little bland when using Adobe Standard.

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Fuji X-T1 | 23mm f1.4 – 1/30th @ f2.8 ISO 200

Any negatives?  Not many. I need three or four batteries to get me through the day (bit more than usual). And, with only one SD card, I miss that automatic back-up throughout the day.  Plus, the Fuji focus tracking falls a little short of Canon’s.  And I still prefer to work with raw images, despite Fuji’s track-record on JPG quality.

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Fuji X-T1 | 23mm f1.4 – 1/2500th @ f1.4 ISO 400

And finally, the million-dollar question..

Would I recommend the Fujifilm X-T1 and the above mentioned lenses to other wedding photographers?

Most definitely, yes. The 16-55 f2.8 is a direct competitor for the Canon 24-70 f2.8 and the 50-140 f2.8 for the Canon 70-200, pretty bold statements I know as these lenses have such a proven track record and any wedding photographer will tell you these are the ‘must have’ lenses.

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Fuji X-T1 | 56mm f1.2 – 1/950th @ f2.2 ISO 400

Why do you love photography?

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So I’ve been thinking.. Why do we love photography so much? I thought I’d put brain-to-keyboard to see if I could justify it all.


Firstly let me say welcome back to our blog! As with anything I’m sure you won’t agree with all of my reasons for loving photography, but I wanted to share my thoughts to see whether you agree, disagree or even have different reasons why photography is great. So don’t forget to share your reasons for loving photography in the comments section below..

We are emotionals.

The first and foremost reason we love photography is not because of a particular brand, it’s not because of a particular photographer or even because we love being creative. It is simply that pictures make us feel something; something that words fail to describe – It could be the love shared between newly-weds at their wedding, that picture that takes you back 20 years or even the shot taken just as your son wins his first sports day race.

It is a moment, caught in time and a feeling, caught in time – forever.

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And here is the picture that takes me back 20 or so years (on the right!)
We are observers.

Just think when you have had a hard day in the office or a tough time at home, everyone needs a release – some people run miles & miles until their feet ache, some try their hand at baking, but for you and me – we keep our eyes wide, wide open to see life and to capture it in its most fleeting yet beautiful moments, as it happens.

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We are storytellers.

Because it’s so easy to pick up the basics in photography and pretty much everyone has a camera of some sort, we write our own lives down for others to see & remember, it’s just that we don’t use words to do it – we use pictures.

And this isn’t anything new either, this has been going on for many a year. The only difference is that it’s easier for people to take part in it. If you think about it, most families have a few old tea stained images that show members of the family that you wish you could’ve met. And it tends to jog the memory of people that did know them. You might find out that your old Great Aunt May was in fact a star musician in her day playing the sousaphone! You are part of this trend for your family’s family in years to come. They can look back and say “Wow what super pictures your Great Grandad Dale used to take!”.. 😉

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We are light chasers.

We love to chase good light and when we can’t find it, we create it. Once we’ve found a good subject, we want it to look its best or sometimes its worst depending on the emotion you’re trying to portray. This is where creating or finding the right light is so important. I think this is why the great photographers are great – they find the light and sculpt it to fit their intimate needs. Whether it be a beam of light, lighting a dark cold corridor for dramatic effect or the soft lighting from a window to create beautiful, natural looking portraits. This is one of the most fun and creative things a photographer can work with, after all it’s all about light.

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We are creatives.

My final reason is that it allows us to explore our imaginations once more; just like when we were kids playing with Transformers pretending to save, or in my case, destroy the world. And we can create any world we like, any emotion just by working with our own creativity and developing it.

Imagine if every photographic idea you’ve ever had was an individual ball in your very own ball pool, just dive in and lose yourself in your own creatively until you hone your style.

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 We are photographers

And there we have it, my top reasons why I believe people love photography. Agree? Disagree? Or have a different reason? Why not share it with us below.

Happy snapping & keep enjoying photography, whatever the reason may be! 😉

 

 

 

Product photography with the X-A2

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By LAURA HARVEY

Photos are super-important for anyone selling online – our customers aren’t able to pick up our products. They can’t get a feel for our cards, prints or mugs as they would in a traditional bricks and mortar shop.


Although we have stockists in the real world, we also sell our products online via our own website, as well as on marketplaces such as notonthehighstreet.com and etsy. These are ultra-competitive marketplaces, with a lot of products all shouting for attention. Type ‘birthday cards’ into etsy and you get 184,757 (and counting) results.

Having an eye-catching design and an appealing price can only take you so far. You need strong SEO and, just as importantly, professional-looking product shots.

This isn’t only important for catching a customer’s eye, but also for getting the attention of the people running these sites, who will promote products with superior photography.

That’s why we love using the X-A2.

I had been using an old DSLR, which did a job for us, but was a bit of a pain for my partner Jack, who has very little camera experience (he claims to have taken GCSE Photography many years ago, but you’d never know) to use on a day-to-day basis.

The X-A2 is far more intuitive, operating more like the compacts he’s used to from family holidays and so on.

Having a camera we can both use makes taking product shots – and promotional photos for our social media posts – a breeze.

We work from home, in a spare room converted into a store room for all our cards, packaging material, mug press, printers, blank mugs… you get the picture. Oh and this room also doubles as our photo studio. This means that when we need to photograph our products, we have to do a quick transformation of our designated packing area into a mini photo studio. The quicker we can do this, the better. So being able to stick the X-A2 on to our tripod and shoot away is a real bonus.

Of course, we’re not just limited to the studio and with the X-A2 being so lightweight and compact, it has joined us on our travels this summer, including a long-awaited visit to Wimbledon (on the hottest day of the year, no less) which meant I was able to get some great photos that I will treasure forever.


In a nutshell, here are our 10 favourite things about the X-A2

Image quality.

What can we say? When we want a bright, sharp image to show off our colourful designs the X-A2 does not let us down. This gives our customers the closest experience possible to actually picking up the products in their own hands.

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Reduced noise at a low ISO.

I knew that the photos I had taken with my DSLR had more noise on them than I’d like, even at ISO 100, but it wasn’t until I blew up an old image and one taken on the X-A2 side by side that I noticed just how grainy the old photos were in comparison. When your main selling tool is a product shot, quality is everything and could make a huge difference to the overall appearance of our online shop.

Selfies.

You can flip the screen over the top of the camera body and take a mean selfie (Jack particularly likes this feature. Boys…)

Exposure preview.

Being able to preview the exposure before shooting is really time-saving. Our studio doesn’t always have the best light, it’s natural and changes in seconds. With the X-A2 I can keep adjusting and previewing the exposure quickly and easily, which saves heaps of time.

Liveview.

The liveview screen is ultra clear, exceptionally responsive and tiltable. I hadn’t really fully appreciated the point of an tiltable liveview screen until I started using the X-A2. Our studio space-cum-photography studio is pretty pokey, with stacks of cards, boxes of envelopes and postage tubes all coming in and out all the time. Being able to tilt the screen rather than stand back and crouch down makes photography a pleasure rather than a chore.

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It ain’t heavy.

How can a camera packed with so much clever stuff be so lightweight? It must have come from the future. Going back to the DSLR after using this is like trying to pick up a Rottweiler when you’re used to a Pomeranian.

Hip to be square.

The square format mode is a big bonus for us. The standard photo format on our website and notonthehighstreet.com is square, so this not only saves us time in cropping, but also helps us to shoot specifically with these websites in mind. Seeing the crop in camera first, rather than having to imagine a square crop from a landscape or portrait image is a huge benefit for us.

Battery life.

We kicked the heck out of the battery, really going to town on what we thought would be real energy-sapping sessions of lengthy liveview use, but the X-A2 just kept on keeping on.

Wireless transfer.

Being able to zap the files straight over from the X-A2 to our computer, tablet or phone not only makes us feel a bit like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, but saves time and, teamed up with the square format, makes Instagram a doddle.

It looks cool.

Well, it does, doesn’t it?


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After a few weeks of launching new products – and mainly studio-based work, we’re keen to get the X-A2 out on the road to get some great new content for our blog. Watch this space…


Laura Harvey is the founder and designer at Paper Plane

Paperplanedesigns.co.uk | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Learn more and buy now

X-A2_Front_Right_Silver16-50mm_FlashClick here to find retailers selling the Fujifilm X-A2

Elephant Close Up – Story Behind the Photo

Pygmy elephants are endemic to the island of Borneo, famous for their slightly smaller size, they are endangered with a population of roughly 1,500 left in the wild. This species is increasingly vulnerable to human impacts as a result of deforestation and conflict with palm oil development. They are the least understood elephant and in my opinion the sweetest, with their oversized ears and long tail to keep them cool and usher away insects.
Our first encounter was through an opening where there were about twenty elephants grazing. Our presence obviously wasn’t too big a concern as we were still observing different behaviour which is only seen in relaxed environments, such as play fighting and suckling.
Elephants play fighting
Taken with the XF50-140mm.
We moved on in our boat and headed around to a more suitable location and the view that greeted us was unbelievable! 
Elephant-3
Taken with the XF16mm.

I didn’t think the XF16mm would get much work but I was wrong. Having that mounted on one X-T1 and the XF50-140mm on another, sometimes switching to the XF16-55mm too, made for a brilliant set up.

One set up that proved to really work was the XF10-24mm and the X-T1 on a monopod fired via wireless triggers. Using the electronic shutter mode meant that I could have the camera really close to the elephants with no sound being produced so they stayed nice and calm. I couldn’t have done this with an SLR or in mechanical shutter mode. Using that set up on a monopod meant that I could shoot from a really low (or high) angle and still stay on my feet incase I needed to move. The tilting screen meant that I could see exactly what was in the frame and I used continuous auto focus as I trusted it to keep the focus on the subject. the wide perspective really worked well with these large animals, they may be called pygmy elephants but the adults still stand 2.5 meters tall! The other advantage of this lens was the OIS which worked fantastically. Considering I was holding the camera on the end of a 1.5 meter poll, in a busy environment and still getting sharp photos at 1/60sec is a testament to the OIS. 
Elephant Close Up
The lower perspective offered by this set up helped to place the elephants in their environment.
However when the conditions were particularly gloomy and I didn’t want to push the camera past ISO3200 (ISO6400 is fine but on this occasion I decided not to) I switched to the ever-present XF16mm and utilised the F1.4 aperture. Though the angle of view was much narrower the benefit of the faster shutter speed was huge. This was particularly important as when the sun was shinning it would often create very strong dappled light which would often result in blown highlights. As a result the best results were usually from overcast conditions as it meant that everything was correctly exposed, but this meant there was less light available. 
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A mother and baby share a quite moment.
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An elephant checks out my remote set up. XF16mm.
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XF16mm at F4.
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Walking along an elephant pathway through the undergrowth. XF16mm at F4.
To get some close ups I used the ever-present XF50-140mm utilising the wonderful sharpness at F2.8.
Elephant (3 of 36)
F2.8
Elephant (6 of 36)
F2.8 – This lens is so sharp wide open.
This was a truly incredible experience, one that I will never forget and I am so pleased that the X-Series produced photos to do the interactions justice. From the XF50-140mm to the XF10-24mm, the Fujinon lenses were exceptional across the range. We were even lucky enough to see the elephants beside a river just as the evening light reached its vivid climax.
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The XF16mm being utilised again at F5.6.
I hope you have enjoyed this series of photos, let me know your thoughts. The X-Series is developing into a great, lightweight wildlife system, I can’t wait for the forecasted XF100-400mm to complete this fantastic system!
You can find more of my work via the following links: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram.

WARNING TCL-X100 causes more X100 series love

I was lucky enough to receive the TCL-X100 for Christmas and have barely had it off my X100s since. My beloved X100s goes with me everywhere and this is why it is probably my favourite camera. Though the TCL does make it far less ‘pocketable’, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyable shooting experience. The jump from 35mm to 50mm equiv. doesn’t sound like much but it does change how you shoot with this camera. It is definitely better for portraits, where the narrower angle of view helps to isolate a subject.

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This isn’t the best example, but if this was taken without the TCL then you would see a lot more of the barn, which might distract from the dog. For some reason I seem to have used lots of dog pictures as examples!

In terms of how this affects image quality and auto focus, I haven’t really noticed any difference, the images are still coming out wonderfully and auto focus doesn’t seem to have been affected in real world situations.

What is nice about this converter is that it is so simple, no electronics, just a well made metal barrel filled with beautiful glass. This is nice as it doesn’t add anymore complexity to X100 series shooting, which is so wonderfully simple and intuitive. Combined with the WCL-X100, this gives you a lens set up option of 28mm, 35mm or 50mm equiv. focal length, giving this little package a whole lot of usage options.

TCL-4

Though the original joy of the X100 series is that it is a fixed lens, the ability to simply screw on an adapter for a wider or narrower lens option makes this a really flexible set up.

TCL-6

The XF35mm F1.4 is a gorgeous lens but the benefit of using the TCL-X100 over the 35mm for portraits, especially using lights, is the leaf shutter which gives me flash syncing up to 1/1000 second! Yes I lose a stop from F1.4-F2, but generally for low light situations when working I would have the XF23mm F1.4 and the XF56mm F1.2 because they are wonderfully fast and sharp. I’m sure there are people who will still prefer the XF35mm F1.4 over this converter but for me it is going to replace it.

TCL

Have you had a go with the TCL-X100? If so then let us know what you think of it. Any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

 

That photographer friend…

As an amateur photographer like many of you, I’m always looking for an excuse to shoot. Whether it be a day out, a wedding (as a guest), birthday party and the list goes on..

Because of this, the people close to me are used to me carrying a camera everywhere and posting out of context, random images to my personal Facebook wall on a very regular basis. I think as a result of this I have made it a bit of a personal responsibility to document events in my life and for others close to me. Maybe it’s so in the future I can look back happily nostalgic, or even to review my own photography, but for whatever reason it means that if you invite me to a party, gathering, or day out, you will end up with some images to remember it.

I think everyone has someone like this in their family or their group of friends and when I think back, my Grandad was that person. He would film all the family occasions with his cine-camera and every now and again we would have an evening to enjoy the images & film he’d taken on his slide projector.

These images are demonstrating exactly the kind of documentary photography that I have come to love. The opportunity came about when I was kindly invited as a guest to a birthday party. I even remember saying to my better half whether I should take the camera and “Do you think they would mind if I took images for the evening?” but then I answered my own question with “Why wouldn’t they? It’s capturing a beautiful moment in their life.” So I packed as light as I could, as after all, I was a guest as well as the unofficial photographer.

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Once I arrived, I set up the basic camera settings that I would use for the night. In my case this meant classic chrome, ISO AUTO, shutter set to AUTO and aperture set to f/1.4 (to keep the ISO to a minimum in the low light environment).

I started by enjoying a snack or two (of course!) and then looking around the room for the best costumes (fancy dress theme was the letter ‘T’), best expressions and where the best lighting was in the room. As you may or may not know my favourite set up is the X-E2 with XF35mm lens, this night was no exception. I had only this gear with me and a spare battery just in case.

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After the initial ‘Venue set up shots’ I began to focus my attention to people, being people – looking for those little moments and expressions that may otherwise be missed. From the happy & silly to the indifferent, any moment that could portray emotional involvement with the event would be snapped.

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The evening was going well and mingling had just started to make good pace when something brilliant happened – a magician turned up! And what was even better? Simple, this guy was superb. He immediately had people huddled in small groups laughing and puzzling over his close-up magic wonderment. This was the perfect element for me to focus on, I wanted to capture the suspense, surprise and bemusement that followed after each and every trick.

My approach here was to keep an eye on where the ‘actual’ excitement was in each moment. For example it could be the expression of an individual, the trick itself, the movement in the image etc. These are some of my images hopefully showing just that.

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I did occasionally stray away from the automatic focus and automatic shutter to help capture this fast fingered magician in motion.

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What is the next essential part of any family party?…. Yes, you’re right, it’s dancing! 😉 And not just any old songs either, it had to be the ‘classic’ Macarena.

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It’s all about those little moments that create one collage of memories and emotions caught in time.

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And most importantly, trying to capture the single most significant moment that sums up the whole event. The shot below shows my best attempt at this. Here you can see the family coming together after a rousing speech and the DJ reflects perfectly how their emotion is shared outwards by others around them.

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So the question is… are YOU that photography friend that everyone knows? Are you the one who makes it your passion to capture life as it happens for you and for your family? If so, I salute you! If your answer is no, why not give it a go? It will expand your skills, your confidence and very importantly it will develop your own style further. For me, if you haven’t noticed, I can’t help but shoot a lot of Dutch Angle style, rightly or wrongly, this is part of my style that has developed over time.

Please share your own experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

Happy Shooting! 🙂

Story behind the photo – Strong Contrasts

I thought I’d put together a blog on how I came about taking this image and the thought process I went through.

It was a grey and gloomy day, not overly inspiring for photography but I thought I’d bring my X100s with the TCL-X100 converter attached with me while I took my dogs out for a walk. Most of the walk was spent either trying to avoid slipping over in the thick, wet mud or turning my body to avoid having a face full of rain. I was shooting with the black and white + red filter preset as it worked well with the gloomy conditions for some moody shots. As I reached the top of the hill I was walking up, I noticed how quickly the clouds were moving across an adjacent hilltop and instantly decided to drive back to this location with my tripod and filters*.

I was imagining the image I want to produce while walking back down with the dogs. There was a strong contrast between the immovable trees and the blustery clouds so I wanted to exaggerate this.

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What you can’t make out from this photo is the speed of the clouds moving from right to left. That is because the shutter speed used has frozen the clouds, so there is no sign of movement.

I decided to use the X-T1 and the XF18-135mm lens because it was very versatile and meant I could change my composition with minimal effort! I mounted the camera onto a tripod and attached a filter holder system. I have a collection of square filters, these are very helpful as you can use square filters with a variety of lenses with different filter thread sizes, all you need are different filter adapters. Though the systems are relatively expensive, in the long run they are more economical than circular filters. I also used a remote trigger which means I don’t have to touch the camera and introduce any unnecessary camera shake to take the picture, this is very helpful for long exposures.

Behind the shot If you look at the above photo you can see that I have a filter inserted into the filter holder. I decided to use a gradual neutral density filter as this allowed me to darken the sky while having less/little effect on the ground.

The left filter is a gradual neutral density filter, it isn’t square which means you can adjust how far down you want the gradient to affect your picture. The filter on the right is a neutral density filter, which is constant throughout. This particular one is a 10-stop filter hence why it is so dark as it cuts the amount of light passing through it by ten times, so slowing down shutter speeds drastically.

I put the gradual filter in first and set it up how I wanted it, set focus and then inserted the 10-stop filter. The reason why I set the focus first is the 10-stop filter can make auto-focus very difficult so it is better to have it all set beforehand. On this occasion the 10-stop filter didn’t take the shutter speed below 30 seconds, which means the camera is able to accurately read the exposure required. If a 30 second exposure is still too short once you’ve applied the filter, then you’ll need to refer to a chart that shows the difference.

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This was taken with only the gradual filter so the shutter speed was still high enough to freeze the clouds.

Despite the fact that I’ve used a graduated neutral density filter, I’ve deliberately under exposed the picture to keep it dark and moody, hence why the ground is still dark. The slideshow below is a collection of images that used the 10-stop neutral density filter to slow down the shutter speed and as a result capture the cloud motion.

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My photos are dominated by the sky – I deliberately kept the horizon low in the picture as the sky was the main subject for me. With the wider shots, I could have moved the horizon up more but the foreground content wasn’t particularly exciting, the sheep weren’t overly inspiring!

I hope this has been helpful and if you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to ask. There is one colour image above, I’d love to know which is your favourite out of the final four. For me it is the portrait orientated shot as I was lucky enough to capture the sun peering through the clouds.

*If you haven’t already seen my previous blog about photographing winter, then check it out here: https://fujifilm-blog.com/2014/12/31/capturing-winter/

Initial impressions of the Nissin i40

Nissin kindly sent me one of their much talked-about flashes – the i40 – to test out. I plan to write a full review of the flash in mid-February but before then I just wanted to share my initial thoughts. This is only going to be brief as I wanted to get this up as soon as possible as I know a lot of people are interested in this Flash for the X-Series.

Unboxing

Straight out of the box it is very nicely presented, coming with a great little case, a stand and even a diffuser (not always the case with other manufacturers).

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Usage

So what else is there to do when you get a new flash and live seemingly in the middle of nowhere…. Selfies obviously! I set up the X100s with the TCL-X100 attached on a tripod and had the i40 flash on a light stand with a little softbox attached. The camera and flash were connected by a TTL (through the lens metering) cable so allowing TTL. I moved the flash around a little bit and I’m pretty impressed with the flash (the same can’t be said for the model, what’s up with the constant smirk!).

The first image was taken with the camera exposure compensation set at 0ev. With the flash to the left of the camera and slightly higher. 2015/01/img_0699.png
The next two images were taken with the camera exposure compensation set at -1ev. You can see that the background is much darker compared to the above images. 2015/01/img_0704.png
For this image the flash was moved closer to the camera and a little higher so the flash was falling straight down onto my face. 2015/01/img_0705.png

Conclusion

As mentioned before, I will put together a more comprehensive review of the flash in mid-February once I am back from Romania, where I will be putting this little flash through it’s paces, photographing an Ice Hotel for Untravelled Paths.

Until then I have to say that I am very happy with this small but powerful flash. It looks a great addition to the X-Series with the flash balancing well with the cameras.

Where to buy

Click here to see retailers selling the Nissin i40 Fujifilm fit