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

 

FPS – FUJIFILM Professional Services

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 )

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.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Like many photographers I must confess to not enjoying the “business” side of being a photographer as much as meeting people, creating images and being creative but the fact its, photography is a business and every transaction or project must be treated that way.

I don’t really write about the business of photography here so if you want to read my latest thoughts on this, head over to my main website and blog: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

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..