WOMAD

Despite using, writing about and loving the XF90/F2 lens over 2 years ago in Cannes (and borrowing one since), I had not purchased one until a few weeks ago, when I took advantage of the (recently expired) cash back offer to pick a shiny new XF90 up from my preferred dealer Fixation.

It’s with this new purchase, a pair of X-T2’s plus a XF14/2.8 and XF56/1.2 that I rode down to cover WOMAD this weekend. Travelling by motorbike means I like to travel as light as possible. I had guessed that the XF90 (equivalent of approx a 135mm) would be ideal for half length images on the main stage, with the XF56 for full length. I guessed right.

The 2 most effective ways of using a wide such as the XF14 is either to get in close to exaggerate the perspective or to take a step back for the wide general view.

Moon Hooch performs on the Charlie Gillett Stage WOMAD Festival (World of Music Arts and Dance) on Friday 26 July 2019

Moon Hooch performs on the Charlie Gillett Stage : X-T2 & 14mm@F11

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage WOMAD Festival (World of Music Arts and Dance) on Saturday 27 July 2019

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage shot from the top of the Light/Sound Tower. X-T2 & 14mm@F2.8 (1/5th sec)

On the smaller, less bright stages, the speed (wide aperture) of the XF56 enabled a lower ISO and higher shutter speed than the slower F2.8 lenses.  Gigs (should) feature bright lights, strong colours and high contrasts which can make them tricky. Shooting with the  Astia simulation dialled in, I set a fixed white balance (depends on the venue) and the dial down the hilights in camera whilst increasing the shadow contrast. The resultant jpgs require minimal work. (If it is a tricky venue, I do switch to RAW).

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage. X-T2 +XF56@F1.2

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage. X-T2 & XF56@F1.2

Macy Gray performs in the Saim Tent at WOMAD X-T2 & XF56@F1.2

Macy Gray performs in the Saim Tent at WOMAD X-T2 & XF56@F1.2

The XF90 allows me to stay further back and produce an image with a lovely soft out of focus background. To enable a wide aperture on bright days I sometimes resorted to the Mechanical + Electronic shutter option. As long as there are no artificial lights or fast moving subject the ES is fine.

Atmosphere at the WOMAD Festival (World of Music Arts and Dance) on Friday 26 July 2019

Relaxing in a hammock checking a smartphone. X-T2 & XF90@

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

I must admit i got a bit carried away with the bright reds of the robes against the dark greens of the arboretum and did not really shoot enough wide images to put the brigade into a wider context. I did love the images i got though..

So that was WOMAD, shot on 3 fixed length lenses. Zoom lenses are very handy but they are not the only tool!

Next up, probably Brighton Pride next week…..

DXO / NIK Suite

Today is my last full day in Cannes for this year and tiredness has caught up. Luckily I had a few hours this morning to relax before heading out for the amFar event.

Its quite obvious from the work I post here and to instagram (@edwards_photo) that I love to work in black and white. Although my personal “walk around” fuji at home is set to the ACROS film simulation and I therefore shoot in monochrome, whilst working, I have to shoot colour and so use Silver Efex Pro, part of the NIK collection now owned by DXO to convert copies to Black and White. (My shooting style does not change , colour or mono, my images are still very much driven by light and shade).

Silver Efex Pro is included in a suite of products that also includes Colour EFex Pro and Analog Efex Pro. I originally purchased the suite back in the days when it was still owned by NIK (before the days of it being brought by Google, released for free and treated very poorly). Luckily DXO have now taken it on board and are moving forward.

Although I use Silver EFex all the time, I rarely play with the other applications, despite having them all set up as export/edits in my Lightroom.

In my free time this morning I decided to play with the other tools, looking back over some of the images I have taken on the streets of Cannes this year whilst moving between venues.

Combining the tools allows a large number of effects to be added, either subtly or completely over the top.

Filters and the like are scorned on in professional photography circles and of course a severe no-no in the press photography world but it’s always nice to have some creative fun and additional tools in the armoury do not hurt.

Storage

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.

Old Workflow

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.

New Workflow

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).

Zombies attack Myleene Klass at the Film 4 Frightfest at The Empire Leicster Square

 

Shooting interiors with the GFX50S

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).

Looking down on myself. BFI Southbank. GFX50S, 32-64/F4

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.

Bar & Restaurant , BFI Southbank. GFX50S, 32-64/F4

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).

NFT1 of BFI Southbank. X-T2, 14mm, Nodal Ninja

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.

Riverfront Upstairs BFI Southbank GFX50S, 23MM, Single RAF vs HDR comparison.

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).

BFI Southbank GFS50S, Handheld 32-64/F4

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.

The Riverfront , BFI Southbank. HDR GFS50S, 32-64/F4

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.

GFX50S – First Touch for a digital medium format 1st timer.

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….

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

IPad Workflow (Again!) – IOS11 & ShutterSnitch

It’s been a while since my last iPad (Pro) workflow post and I thought it was time to share how it’s changed and how I have moved on.

This time last year I posted how I was using the iPad for all of my editing, captioning and sending from out on location, I detailed how well it was working at Cannes 2017. Then something changed. Specifically IOS11 came along.

IOS 11 was touted as the great update that will make the iPad a real contender for replacing the laptop (which I had already done), it would make running multiple programs easier, moving information from one app to another would be easy. Yep – this was the “update we were waiting for”. So in September/ October last year I installed it… and the crashes started… I assumed it was Lightroom not updated for 11 so I waited for an update.. then I assumed that maybe IOS11 did not like my SD reader so I got the new and latest. Still it crashed, still it would not read JPG images off of the SD card.

Finally I gave in and went back to an Apple Store “Genius”, showed them the crashing. They got out a brand new empty iPAD Pro with IOS11. Again crashed reading the JPG’s. Dug around and found an iPAD in stock with IOS10 installed. Bingo, 900 JPG images imported no problem. Back to IOS11 – crash! SO they replaced my iPAD with the “new” one running IOS10.

This replacement worked for a couple of days, until it decided not to allow me to connect to the mobile network unless I updated to IOS11 – It seems once your account has updated to the latest OS there is no way back.

So here I was, left with a £900.00, powerful, fantastic device that would not pull more than 156 Fuji JPG images from an SD card.

The problem was reported to Apple back in November 2017. If you want my support case number, it’s 100365002050 its been open since then. My support engineer (yes I have an assigned engineer at apple), whom I contact after every update to let him know that I have tested it again and its still not fixed. No still not fixed after Apple have logged in and connected to my iPad 3 times. They have had the files that I am trying to import, the crash dump files from my iPAD, a video showing the crash. They have acknowledged the problem, my engineer is very pleasant but the bottom line is 6 months later and my iPAD will still only import 156 JPG images from an SD card (RAW / RAF files are fine).

My iPad is not totally useless though, I did write this on it. Actually its not that bad – I still use it when traveling for non-urgent work where I would work in RAW and I also use it for smaller news jobs where I will be importing less than 150 images or where I will be using WiFi to transfer the images.

ShutterSnitch is still my main stay here. With this simple switch to enable the Fuji WiFi on the app, I can either connect as normal and transfer selected images or I can wirelessly tether to the iPad and transfer every jpg as it’s taken.

The images import into a collection where I can edit them using the recent in-app-purchase of image adjustment to do basic crops and corrections.

I can apply a metadata preset and edit meta data using the Metadata Editor in-app-purchase

Before exporting via FTP or Dropbox to wherever I need them.

ShutterSnitch has come a long way over the past few months meaning for live news work, it is now a one-stop-shop. (So I no longer have to work with the unsupported PicturePro) .

I am more than happy to do a detailed review and technical post on ShutterSnitch if anyone is interested – let me know if you do!

As I am just finishing this post, Adobe Lightroom Mobile has just been updated, my initial look indicates its almost there in terms of capabilities now – cloning and custom presets are supported! I’ll look at this in a future post also. Let me know what you would like to know about first!

I look forward to your comments.

Julie x