A quick post. As I am in Cannes covering the annual film festival, I thought I would share some images from the first 7 days here:
I’ve been working hard on two major projects for the last couple of months, really taking over my work life and reducing time out actually shooting.
Well this week the first came to the first major milestone and huge pressure has lightened. The second rumbles, the second opens next week and it is something i am really proud to be involved in: Assignments 2019, the regular exhibition from theBPPA (British Press Photographers Association) showcasing the work that press photographers do.
Not only have I been involved in the design of the website along with the social media images and campaign, I was also asked to be a curator due to my thoughts on Entertainment photography.
I’m going to make a confession….. I like tech… I like it when I find a new piece of technology that can improve what I deliver to my customers, that speeds up my workflow, that makes nice images or just makes my life better.
Thats not all tech though. My confession is not the liking tech (most photographers do) its that I hate one particular type of tech: Storage! Hard disks! Big, small, fast, slow, firewire, usb, thunderbolt, it does not matter, I find it boring and annoying. Why? Just look at the reasons I gave for loving tech, storage meets none of these. Its just a constant, a necessity that grows year on year, each year needing more space, each year replacing older failing drives, not actually adding value to the business, just providing something that the business cannot do without.
So what has brought on this rant? I have known I was running out of storage space for a while now and I had been trying to work out the best way forward. Then, last week, my OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock failed. Totally. A few exchanged emails and I have sent it back for exchange. A quick visit to Amazon.co.uk and I was working agin, with all 4 thunderbolt ports on my MacBook in use; Power, External SSD, DisplayPort and Ethernet/USB3 and a right mess it looked too. Every time i needed to back up the system, I had to choose which device to remove whilst I plugged in the Time Machine disk.
Back to the storage situation. Most of my storage solutions are LaCie, I like how they look and they use high quality drives internally. I know they are a “marmite” company, with as many swearing at them as those who swear by them. It was whilst browsing their site, thing about how I could expand my storage and backup that I came across the LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt 3 Dock (the name just trips off the tongue doesn’t it). So I started to re-think my workflow and storage to see it this might be a solution.
My practice has always been, ingest into the local disk on the MacBook, edit there and when complete and delivered drag the folder(s) onto my server based “Library” disk (within Lightroom). The server then runs nightly backups making sure I have 3 copies of everything (a phrase I will never forget and I live by – if you do not have a file 3 times, you do not have it at all). The server is a Mac Mini with USB3 and Firewire connected drives, running Carbon Copy tasks each night to complete the replication. The problem with this solution is some of the jobs I work on are too large for the space on the MacBook disk, so I have to work on an external SSD which in my mind is just too messy. I have never had a large external disk attached to my main working computer, always only as an archival deice on the network.
The smallest of the Lacie Dock’s features 2 x 4TB drives that can either be RAID0 (striped for speed) or RAID1 (mirrored for redundancy). It also features a daisy-chaining Thunderbolt 3 port, a DisplayPort and card readers, which would mean it could handle most of my devices whilst I was waiting for my OWC to be returned. Much googling and reading later and I came to the conclusion that maybe I could totally change my workflow and for once, invest in a storage solution that I found mildly interesting. The reviews pointed to the LaCie being extremely fast in RAID0 configuration and with 8TB in this format, it would fit my main library and leave masses of “working” space. It’s clear that the target market for this device is video editing and it is not designed as a long term storage solution (especially in RAID0) but if I am fastidious in my backup regime I am pretty sure this is a good solution.
So now I have a very fast Thunderbolt 3 LaCie dock as my main working disk holding the main library also. A single Carbon Copy task wakes up the MacBook overnight to mirror the data to the server with the Carbon Copy Safety Net future enabled to keep all data for 90 days, so even if I delete a file from my working working area, it should be on the server for 90 days. (unless of course I delete it before it’s backed up). The main library is also mirrored to a third disk as before. When working at home, new jobs are ingested straight into the working area on the LaCie, if out then as soon as I get home, they are moved from the MacBook internal drive onto the LaCie. Not only is it providing storage, whilst my OWC dock is being replaced, it is also connecting my MacBook to my 27″ monitor and the ethernet, meaning I am only using 2 of the 4 thunderbolt ports on the MacBook. Its much neater.
I have been running this solution for a week now and so far I am very happy: the speed of the system is great. This morning, having the main library available on a fast disk was a great boon as well: In the run up to the the 20th FrightFest this year, I have been asked to share some of my favourite photos (having covered the event as official photographer for 10 years), being able to go back to an image that is 10 years old, edit it quickly in Lightroom, bring it up to the my latest standards, then share it to social media at the same speed as if I had shot it yesterday was great. Finally a storage solution that makes me smile.
I’ll finish with that 10 year old image. With this being a blog about using Fuji X-Series, I really should not as I was not using Fuji cameras back then as they did not exist! However, the image has made be smile so here is Myleene Klass being attacked by Zombies at Frightfest 2009 (and no – the colours in this image are not as good as the colours we now get from Fuji).
This week I had the need to return one of my X-T2’s for a repair. It has been worked hard and for some reason had developed an intermittent fault where it would not turn on.
Luckily I qualify for FPS – FUJIFILM Professional Services. Logging on to the page ( https://fujifilm-connect.com/en/fps.php ) , I selected the camera from the list of my registered bodies, entered the fault and accepted the quote. After paying online the booking was confirmed.
As the repair was not too urgent, I waited for the pre-paid packaging that Fuji send out (otherwise I could have sent in urgently myself). Fuji send a pre-paid Royal Mail Special delivery bag with custom box and packing for the item being returned which just needs dropping at the post office. 2 days later the camera was back in my hands having been delivered by courier back in the custom packaging. Nice and pristine it looked too, obviously having had a good clean as well as the main circuit replaced (according to the delivery note).
I have read varying comments on the Fuji service but I have to say my experience was very positive once I understood how it worked.
FUJIFILM Professional Services is also free for all people that register two qualifying X Series cameras and three qualifying XF lenses or free for all people that register a qualifying GFX camera body and a qualifying GF lens. It’s worth taking a look at . ( here )
In my role of Social Media and Web officer for theBPPA, I have been working on the marketing and launch of our forthcoming “Assignments” exhibition, the details of which may be found below…
The exhibition of the best of British press photography returns – this time on Londons South Bank – taking over the Barge House at the OXO Tower.
The opening night is Thursday 16th May – and will run until the 19th to coincide with London Photo Week.
We are doing things slightly differently this year – full details on the website – but here are the key facts:
- Entries open on April 1
- Entries close April 12th
- Pictures taken between 31st August 2017 and 14th April 2019 are eligible
- We have increased the maximum number of pictures you can enter to 10 this year
- There is a £10 registration fee to help us pay for everything
- There is NO framing fee this year – our friends at Canon and Fixation are very kindly picking up the bill for us!
- We will be doing the “catalogue” and the “contact sheet” again
- (every image entered makes the contact sheet – so you can choose your own favourites)
- Everyone who enters gets a pair of invites to the opening night party!
- The exhibition is open to BPPA members – but if you have lapsed or haven’t got round to joining you can do so now
Check out the Assignments website for the full rules and details of how to enter: https://assignments.thebppa.com
I mentioned in my last post that I had hired a GFX50S for a major interiors photoshoot (well, I’m not sure if I mentioned interiors).
Given that I am mainly a press photographer, you might consider it a bit strange I am shooting interiors, the short line is, I actually started out many years ago shooting and teaching very technical architectural and historical building photography including producing rectified images that could be used for measuring features.
Back to the present day and I have reinstated building photography (well actually venue photography) to help grow my business (new website coming soon).
This led me to using the GFX50S with the 23mm and 32-64mm on a Tripod in the BFI Southbank in the second week of March.
Working in mainly performance venues and cinemas, my typical subjects have very bright lights (stage lights and projectors) in very dark rooms (with typically black dark walls). This means a very high luminosity range in most scenes and therefore my go-to method in the past has always been a form of HDR, bracketing all shots and then choosing how I combine them to get the get, most realistic result back at the office.
When I moved over the the X-Series cameras, shooting bracketed series became so much easier. On my old cameras I could set the bracket but I still had to press the shutter for every exposure i.e. Correct exposure, +1, +2, -1, -2 having to count each shutter press, every now and then I got out of sync and had to start again. With the X-Series (and now the GFX) this became so much easier, turn on the bracketing, switch to continuous and a single press fires the 5 shots. So much easier!
I shot the BFI with a mixture of X-T2 and GFX. For the larger auditorium the X-T2 and 14mm was mounted on a correctly set nodal ninja to produce a wide panoramic image (interesting note – although Lightroom has introduced panoramic blending, ptGui still does a better job with more control in my opinion).
I triggered both the GFX and X-T2 using a Pocket Wizard PlusIII with a cable plugged into the 2.5mm socket. One thing to note that although the pocket wizzard can trigger the Autofocus, it is far more reliable to manually focus each shot, making use of the focus peaking to check the DOF. (For panoramas I never refocus, I choose an appropriate aperture and use hyperfocal).
So how is the GFX an improvement over the X-T’s for this work? If we ignore that the fact that the camera is producing bigger images there are 2 key points.
1. Detail. I know this has been covered to death but this camera really does capture all the detail and nuances of the scene in front of it. Even thought the delivered image might be no bigger than a file delivered from an X-T, the detail in even the downsized images still exceeds that rendered by it’s smaller cousins.
2. Dynamic Range. This to me is the real game changer. Scenes where I would still have typically used a second exposure just to add shadow detail, I could just lift the shadows on the GFX files. There really is so much more in the files as the comparison below shows.
Whilst there are a number of DSLR’s now with around 50MP, offering a similar sized file, what the GFX50 offers with its larger sensor are less tightly packed pixels compared to standard full frame (simplifying it somewhat) . This very visibly leads to better quality pixels, resolving more detail and packing a greater range of light sensitivity, giving greater detail and smoother graduations in colour and light/shadow.
Obviously there are downsides. Autofocus is not fast enough for my press or red carpet work (although I have ideas here). It is expensive (compared to the remainder of the X series, less so it comparing to the high end professional Full Frame Nikons & Canons like the D5 & 1DX). I am going to try the GFX50R next to see how it compares which at it’s lower price point, may be a more viable option (although no vertical grip may make this too much of a compromise).
So the bottom line, what value will it add to my business? Would it just be improved image quality or are there other benefits? Would these improve my profitability? These are the difficult questions every professional photographer has to consider when new cameras and technology are released.
At the price point, this camera in my mind is without comparison for photographing interiors and I will ensure I price all future work of this nature to enable me to hire this in. In such a technical genre of photography, this camera can feature as a sales point as well as production tool. The same is true for studio based portrait work where again, I will hire it in for the higher-end shoots.
At the moment I cannot quite justify adding this system to my owned arsenal but should the pricing change with the introduction of the GFX100 (100MP version), this point of view might change.
If you photograph buildings or landscapes, I highly recommend trying this camera if you have not already.
Next week I have the first of a couple of large interiors architecture shoot. As I was planning the shoot I realised this would be the ideal test bed for the Fujifilm “medium format” GFX50S camera.
Until this week my only experience with medium format is my vintage Rolliflex, so I have never shot with anything other than Full-Frame or APS-C on digital. With this in mind I arranged to hire a GFX with the 23mm and the 32-64mm for a good few days before the shoot. My plan was to carry it with me instead of a little X-T to get the feel of the camera.
The first day I had it I needed to pop up to Gatwick Airport. Shot with the 23mm at F20, ISO800 (Not the ideal settings, I was rushing!!) , this JPG was shot in ACROS. I love the graduations in the greys, which given it is a JPG with it’s limited grey levels is quite an achievement.
I was struggling to find the limits of focusing, reframing and at what speeds I could hand hold the camera. It’s not really that much bigger or heavier than the full frame Nikon’s I used for years but there is a whole different feel (especially where depth of field is concerned) . This is another ISO800 JPG.
(Sorry for mixing colour and monochrome, a big no-no normally).
I’m sure every photographer has a long suffering partner that is asked to pose of “just look up” again and again and again. This RAF was shot hand-held at 1/40th on the 32-64 at 64mm. At 3200ISO and F4, using the Classic Chrome profile in lightroom mobile I love not only the colours and the graduations from light to dark, but also the way the sharpness in the eyes transition to the milky soft out of focus areas.
Its this transition in sharpness that give medium format its “almost 3D” quality.
This final picture was shot this morning, at 1/3000, F9, ISO100. The RAF edited in lightroom mobile has had the Velvia Profile applied and a couple of selective edits. This is only a small version of the image, you will have to take my word on how much detail there is in the wave.
So after a couple of days, what are my initial thoughts?
It’s not as big and as heavy as I thought it would be, its not much worse than say a D800 with a decent lens on it. Of course it is slower than its smaller Fuji cousins but I kind of like that, it reminds me to slow down and this about the shot I’m taking, I cant take 2 or 3 frames at high speed so I have to concentrate on the moment.
I was nicely surprised on how well Lightroom Mobile handled both the JPG and RAF files on my 2018 generation iPad Pro . Sure the previews took a while to build in the photos application import but copying over was fast, as was the ingesting into lightroom and editing.
The only real niggle I have at the moment is a user interface issue. The GFX50S has most of the buttons (in similar places) that the X-T range have. Why then can I not assign the front dial to ISO like on the smaller cameras. I could argue with myself that “well fast use is not what it is designed for, you are probably not going to be following action with the GFX50S up to your eye needing quick adjustments”. This is true, on a tripod or in a studio the top-plate dial is fine but why limit it? It’s only software. Why are these things not more consistent??
I had avoided this camera since its release because I was worried that I would love its image quality, I was right to worry….
More to follow….