A weekend at the BAFTAs

If you go back on my timeline you will no doubt find other posts from February’s past about the BAFTAs.

It’s an event I have been covering for quite a few years now and this year took a similar flow to years gone by; travel up on the Saturday, check into the hotel, cover the Nominees Party on the Saturday night, edit late, arrive at the Albert Hall for 2pm, cover the Red Carpet from 4pm till 7pm and then the Winners press room before heading back to the hotel at about 10:30 to edit till the early hours the next morning. A few hours sleep then finish the edit the Monday morning.

For the party I used 2 cameras, one with the 50-140/2.8 and the other with the 56/1.2 with the 56 used for only a few images like this one of the eventual Best Male Actor, Rami Malik

Rami Malik: X-T2/56mm @ F2

Just over 24 hours later, here he is with his award.

Rami Malik backstage: X-T2/50-140 @ F4

For the red carpet I used 3 cameras along with the 50-140, the 100-400 and again the 56 for the odd atmospheric shot

Lily Collins caught in a strobe: X-T2/100-400 @ F4.8 2000ISO

The 50-140 enabled me to get the fashion full length and half length images, combining with a Godox AD200 + remote head to fill in the shadows and detail. These are the images the magazines need as the following weeks publications around the world will be full of articles discussing the stars, their fashion successes and failures. (That is until the oscars when it will start again with a new set of outfits and stars). Getting these images is a case of setting the camera at the start and then continual concentration, the light is changing through the afternoon (white balance), the subjects may or may not look at you or even pose in front of you.

Rachel Brosnahan backstage: X-T2/100-400 @ 386mm/1/250th

Whilst ensuring that I don’t miss the fashion shots I like to keep a careful eye out for the images I find more interesting to shoot: Tight portraits showing the emotion, the stars standing in the queue waiting to have their photos taken (every year a queue forms consisting of the technical people that no one ever sees (the unsung hero’s), standing next to the up-and-coming actors, standing next to some of the biggest stars in the movie world.

Spike Lee waits in the queue: X-T2/100-400 @ 1/250th ISO2500

I shoot the close-ups with the 100-400, sometimes triggering a remote AD200 flash, sometimes on available light. This means using an higher ISO of 2000+ with a slower than standard recommendation shutter speeds (in most cases about 1/200th – 1/250th with the lens at about 600mm equivalence). A steady hand and good the great stabilisation of the lens rule here.

Steve Coogan waits in the queue: X-T2/100-400 @ 1/250th ISO1600

Over the course of the weekend I filed about 950 images, just under 20 were taken with the 56, about 170 with the 100-400 and the remainder with the 50-140.

I’ll post a fuller set of colour images (more likely to be seen in publications) later in the week but at the moment I thought a quick post featuring these images and a description of the working methods would give a good taste.

Time Out

It’s Saturday morning and I am on the train to London. This weekend in the BAFTA’s and I will be covering the nominees party tonight before heading over to the Royal Albert Hall for the main event Sunday.

It was with this in mind that at the end of Wednesday I headed over to Eastbourne and Hastings for 2 days “off the grid” (ok, I’ll be honest I looked at my emails twice because I have an important meeting Monday and I needed to confirm the time. I also answered one phone call yesterday about today’s job). I did not look at any social media, thats no Facebook, no Twitter, no LinkedIn, no blogging and no news. For someone who’s social media is a big part of their work, this is, to be honest, quite difficult but I did manage it. (This morning’s catch up was quite intense though!).

I spent the Thursday exploring Hastings, a town I have only really passed through. My plan was to visit the Jerwood Gallery and the Old Town and then spend some time painting (how I relax – see @artyfartyedwards on instagram). To ensure I did not take a work attitude to the photography, I took an old X-T1 with a 27mm Pancake set to extreme Black and White (thats with a Yellow Filter film simulation and +2 on the lights and shadows).

With Storm Erik in full force, the waves were stunning, I guess the shape and position of Hastings explains why the waves here were more impressive than my home town of Worthing.

The aim of the photography was just to please me. I feel that we professional photographers often get so lost in the business of photography, the commercial aspects of the image, practicing techniques to use professionally that we often forget to take time and shot just to please ourselves.

The fishing boats are a very common subject for photos in the town, its easy to see why, there are pictures every which way you look.

Of course with so much fish around, you can expect gulls and here I did switch to the one other lens I brought with me, the 35/1.4. It’s been around for quite a while but it is a favourite of mine despite being slow to focus.

The storm clouds of course do not only bring “poor weather” they can also be responsible for funnelling the light, particularly at either end of the day.

I think these images show that chasing the latest technology, the latest gizmo is not the best way to get lovely emotional images. Taking time, settling into the location, taking it slow, not worrying about what is going on elsewhere and in fact focusing 100% on whats in front of you is far more important!

I have a confession to make though. I spent a while on the beach photographing the waves. I could see what I was capturing and was loving it, in my head I was visualising how a set of these images could be printed and presented and for the first time ever, I had a yearning to be shooting on the medium format GFX (yes despite all I said above!).

So as I walked back to the car in the afternoon light after a relaxing day looking at paintings and creating photos just because…. this little thought raised it’s head… “you really do need to try the GFX you know” … “nothing to do with business you understand.. just because“..

P.s. The thought did not last long… I spent the next day painting and not worrying about the business of photography.

P.p.s. I will try the GFX once I get a suitable moment… maybe on my next time out off the grid…

Snow on the Beach

I quite often enjoy a wander along Worthing beach first thing on the morning, usually with a cup of tea in my hand (I do not live far back from the beach). However this morning that tea would have gone cold rather quick.

UK Weather: Snowy and icy seafront at Worthing, West Sussex

Photographer on the beach :  X-T2 + XF100-400 @400mm 1/100 F5.6

Worthing quite often misses the snow when the country is hit, probably due to being shielded by the South Downs. However, this morning, last night’s snowfall remained and the beach still had a slight dusting. Having lived here for over 11 years now, I think this is only the 2nd or 3rd time I have seen the beach like this.

Snow meets the sea on at beach as Snow hits the South East of the UK on Friday 1 February 2019

Snow meets the sea : X-T2 +XF100-400 @ 1/200 F5.2

The combination of having the white of the crashing waves vs the white of the snow I thought looked quite surreal.

Commuters walk along the icy promenade as Snow hits the South East of the UK on Friday 1 February 2019

Commuters walk along the icy promenade : X-T2 + XF16-55 @16mm 1/250 F6.4

A cyclist rides along the icy promenade as Snow hits the South East of the UK on Friday 1 February 2019

A cyclist rides along the icy promenade : X-T2 + XF16-55 @16mm 1/250 F8

While snow and sea makes for nice landscapes, as a press photographer it’s the human aspect that is important, which means hanging around, watching and trying to show people dealing with the weather whilst at the same time trying to make a pretty picture.

The range of images here show working with the 16mm end of the standard zoom all the way up to the 400mm end of the long telephoto zoom (24mm to 600mm equivalent)

UK Weather: Snowy and icy seafront at Worthing, West Sussex

The sun rise & Ice : X-T2 + XF16-55 @16mm 1/1000 F8

Finishing with a nice pretty image – where I placed the camera in the snow and used the adjustable rear live view to see what I was doing….

Always be on the look out for those different angles..

 

Fuji and Godox at an event.

Once a month I can be found at the British Film Institute (BFI) working as the official photographer at film critic Mark Kermode’s live show.

Steve Coogan, Nadine Labaki, Mark Kermode, Liv Hill, James Gardner and Cyril Nri backstage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. The guests gather backstage before the show. Picture by Julie Edwards.

This entails working backstage to get a nice group shot of Mark with all of the guests as well as joining everyone for a pre-show run though to make sure I know the order as well as the host and the guests. This way I can make sure that I am always positioned in the best possible position to get good images of both Mark and the guests which are suitable for both social media and press. For the group shot I use an X-T2 with the 16-55/F2.8 coupled with a Godox TTL wireless controller and an Ad200 handheld high above me near the ceiling. This way I can be sure to get (fairly) even lighting without flash fare or reflections in any spectacles.

Steve Coogan on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. Steve joined Mark to chat about his film Stan and Ollie which he is watching here. Picture by Julie Edwards.

During the show I work with 2 X-T2’s, usually in Astia film simulation, preset to a fixed kelvin white balance, one with the 16-55, the other with the 50-140. As well as photographing the obvious, I am always looking out for the less obvious, the images that might capture the atmosphere of the event. The image above was shot at 10000iso, 1/100th and F2.8, and as you can see, with a little bit of an edit on the RAW file, its fine for social media and press use.

Nadine Labaki on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. Nadine joined Mark onstage to discuss her film Capernaum. Picture by Julie Edwards.

I tend to have the focus set to “s”, sometimes with Face Recognition, sometimes without. Using it makes images like the above a whole lot easier to capture.

Mark Kermode on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. . Picture by Julie Edwards.

Within minutes of the show ending, the images are on my laptop, loaded into lightroom and I start posting to social media (facebook, twitter and instagram) to publicise the event (with fully researched hashtags and handles where appropriate). At the same time, appropriate images are syndicated to press.

Working this way I am able to help build the reputation and visibility of any event I am employed to cover…..

Steve Coogan on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. Steve joined Mark to chat about his film Stan and Ollie. Picture by Julie Edwards.

Fujinon XF 200mm F2 and the Dancing Queen

From the August Bank Holiday with Frightfest through to the start of October via the Liberal Democrats and Labour to the Conservatives is always a ridiculously busy time for me.

The final week always catches up with me but at least this year I had something to smile about, the loan of the latest “big” lens from Fuji, the XF200/F2. The images below are not the most exciting or even (depending on your political viewpoint), the most lovable, but these were my subjects for the week and as I always use images from my every day work in the real world of press photography, these are all I have.

XF 200mm F2 with 1.4TC

Let’s start with some things this lens is not… It is NOT a walk around lens (despite being on my shoulder for the best part of 4 days).. It is not a subtle lens (its BIG and light in colour unlike all the other black Fuji lens) … It is not just a sports lens (as I have heard quoted) … It is not cheap (with a list price of approximately £5400.00) … Bottom line.. it is not your typical mirrorless camera lens…..

That’s the negativity out of the way…

So what is this lens? In short.. It’s BIG … It’s smooth (to focus) … It’s quiet … It’s snappy … The Aperture ring feels lovely … It feels worth every penny of that price tag … every penny (if you will use it often enough to justify it).

My original plan was to keep the lens locked away when walking around the conference venue, only taking out to use in the main halls but once I had shot a few frames out and about including at an Anti-BREXIT demonstration and taken a look at the images, it stayed on my (protesting) shoulder all the time.

Conservative Party Conference: 200mm/F2.0 1/125 at 100ISO

This meant I was walking around with 3 X-T2’s loaded with a 16-55/2.8, the 50-140/2.8 and the 200/2.0. As it was pointed out to me multiple times over the past few weeks, “what was the point of saving weight by switching to mirrorless if you just carry more kit”. They had a point. Of course the key is, at no point did I need to switch lenses, I traveled with 3 bodies, 3 lenses, job done.

The configuration 200mm F2.0 has quite a history with both Canon and Nikon having versions going back to the 1980’s which are often still raved about by photographers that have used them (in fact Canon had a 200/1.8). One Nikon shooter commented to me “I’ve never thought of that, putting a 200mm on a crop body to make a 300/F2” … That is, in a nutshell, the point of this lens. On the crop body of an X-T or XPro , the result is the equivalent field of view and depth of field of a 300/2.8, but letting in the amount of light of an F2! In low or difficult light situations it’s wonderful!

Jacob Rees-Mogg: 200mm/F2.0 1/160th at 2500ISO

Jacob Rees-Mogg: 200mm/F2.0 1/125th at 4000ISO.

The above pictures of Jacob Rees-Mogg were taken in very low light (particularly the second one), in a smaller fringe event off of the main conference. I had absolutely no problems focusing or hand-holding the lens in this light.

Liam Fox: 200mm/F2.0 1/250th at 400ISO

The above picture of Liam Fox was taken the more “helpful” light (TV broadcast light) and below is a 1:1 portion.

Liam Fox: 200mm/F2.0 1/250th at 400ISO at 1:1

In the hall, having the additional 2 – 3+ stops of light over my usual XF100-400 enabled nice, bright images at a lower ISO than I would normally use, giving me the confidence to send initial images direct from the camera, via shuttersnitch on the iPhone, without editing.

 

Prime Minister, Theresa May: 200mm/F2.0 1/320th at 1600ISO

Esther McVey: 200mm/F2.0 1/320th at 1250ISO

I love the depth of field of these images, although the Theresa May image probably shows I should have used the Facial Recognition option more (when I did use it, it worked well), as well as AF-C.

The product image at the start of this piece showed the lens along with the 1.4TC which was included in the package. Adding this to the lens (a smooth and easy fit, a change I was able to complete somewhat quicker than I am able to fit the 1.4TC to my XF100-400), increases the focal length to 280mm, a Full Frame equivalent of 420mm, although sacrificing  some light. Mind you a 400/F2.8 is a very useful lens and as there is very little drop in sharpness, its a very usable package.

Philip Hammond: 280mm/F2.8 1/320th at 1600ISO

Boris Johnson: 280mm/F2.8 1/320th at 1250ISO

All of the images above are edited as I sent them from the conference, mostly with the middle of the tone-curve lifted, a bit of clarity added and black/white levels adjusted. The lens is not only sharp but it felt like it was one of the more contrasty of the Fuji line up, producing punchy images and nice colours. In the main hall images, with a screen behind the speakers, fringing is visible but not at an alarming level and nothing that could not be reduced in Adobe Camera Raw/Lightroom.

IN CONCLUSION.

This lens is an amazing addition to the Fuji line-up and I feel shows a huge commitment, not just to the large main markets but also to the more specialist, lower grossing markets such as press, sports and wildlife.

At the moment I don’t have the capital nor the justification to purchase my own, if I could, I would not hesitate. However you will see me using this lens again, when the task at hand suits it, as soon as it’s available for hire… It’s a brilliant lens and I would not hesitate to recommend it.

J x

Trumping with the Fuji’s

In July two of my assignments were covering President Donald Trump meeting our Prime Minister Theresa May and then two days later, The Queen.

It was no surprise that on such high level jobs, that most (if not all) the other photographers were using the traditional press photographer kit of “Nikcanon” with 400/500mm glass – big heavy kit…

I travel on my bike.. 2- X-T2’s a 16-55mm, 50-140mm and the trusty 100-400mm – the lens that I knew would be the workhorse for these two events… So thats 2 bodies and 24mm – 600mm equivalent..

APC_0853-hdr

Being lightweight and easy to transport though does not mean a thing if the kit does not do the job…

The 100-400mm is a stellar lens, it’s pretty quick to focus, handles well on an X-T body with a grip attached (it’s very unbalanced on bodies without the grip) and the impressive OIS means I rarely need to reach for a monopod to keep it all steady.

The event at Windsor Castle was covered by a limited number of UK photographers (plus a few of the US press corp) in strategic positions, with pictures going out worldwide. Being one of a few photographers to cover such a major event always adds a further level of stress meaning that the kit just has to work, you really have no time to worry about it…

So how did it go?

Versions of this image (by other photographers & I) are probably the most widely reproduced of these events..

The Queen meets the President of the United States of America and Mrs Trump at Windsor Castle on 13/07/2018

For a wider selection of images from both events see here…

The kit, as always just did what I asked.. Hopefully what I asked of it were the right questions….