Primes for the Prime Minister

I am just back from 3 weeks of party political events, photographing the autumn conferences of our largest political parties; starting with the Liberal Democrats in Bournemouth, moving on to Labour in Brighton before finishing up with the Conservatives in Manchester.

It’s a gradual build up of importance culminating in the Prime Ministers speech – arguably the most important event of the 3 weeks (especially this year with BREXIT and the stories circulating about our Prime Minister Boris Johnson).

I headed up to Manchester having the 200mm/F2 Fujion lens on hire again, along with the 1.4TC (giving the equivalent of 300mm/F2 and 420mm/F2.8 on my Fuji X-T2 bodies). Added to that I took my normal supply of 3 x X-T2, the 14mm/F2.8, 27mm/F2.8 pancake, 90mm/F2 and the 50-140/F2.8 (just in case but the plan was not to use it).

My workspace on the final day – taken using the “miniature” filter on the X-T2 with the 14mm

On the morning of the PM’s speech, we arrive early for a briefing that informs us of the plan for the speech; entrance, exit, timings, security arrangements (where we can stand, where not) etc.

With the stories circulating about the PM it was clear that “the picture” of the day would be Boris and Carrie (his girlfriend) leaving at the end of the speech. However the briefing made it clear that getting this image clearly would be very difficult and as the pool photographer would get it perfectly, it was not worth worrying about.

So I formulated a plan..

I would start at the rear at the top of the stadium seating to photograph the PM as he enters, I would then bit by bit move around the rear of the hall, over the stadium seating at the other end before working round to the rear quarter, photographing Boris “conducting” his troops before working my way back to the original position for his exit.

Arriving in the hall before a good while before the speech I was pleased that as I suspected, most of the photographers covering the event had opted for the central positions to shoot the “traditional” speaker image. I was happy to be sitting up at the back near the entrance alone, hoping the others had missed a trick and that my plan was not totally unworkable.

Waiting, I shot a few images of party members around me and the general atmosphere. Then the moment arrived, the PM walked in alone down a dark part of the hall below me to greet members down the bottom of my seating area.

Atmosphere before the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 14mm

My plan with the blog post now was to show two totally out of focus images showing that we all make mistakes totally contrary to how we are supposed to portray ourselves online. However going back through the images I have found one that was in fact useable, one that I missed in the heat of the moment editing on the day…

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, enters to make his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. X-T2 + 90mm @ F2

Starting with establishing shots on the 200, 90 and 14….

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 14mm
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 90mm

Then adding the TC on the 200 (giving an equivalence of 420/F2.8) before moving down the back and shooting through spaces between the seating. A quick nod with one of the PM’s security detail to confirm all was ok with the location (next to him) , staying there for 5 minutes or so before moving on to the next location …

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC

Having been briefed that the speech would be 40-45 minutes I allowed myself approximately 5 minutes in each location before moving on, getting the the far point on time for the “conducting” shot, before returning via the same method to my original position.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC

Once back, I was joined by one other photographer in this position for the exit but as there were about 8 positions reserved for us there was plenty of room. Planning for a “melee” image as the PM leaves, I removed the TC….

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, exits the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. Boris huged Carrie Symonds, his girlfriend, before greeting activists as he exited the hall. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm

In all, photographing the speech and editing took about 6 and a half hours; from entering the hall at 8am for the briefing , planning, re-entering the hall at 10:30am through to leaving it at about 12:45 and then finishing my edit with all images with the agency by about 2:30pm. All for a set of photographs that I knew were unlikely to make the front page the next day because, as I said, the story was Boris and Carrie.

Not every paper went with the pooled “couple” image.. but most did…

Onwards…

Photoshot with Luna

Luna and I had been talking about getting together for a photoshot for a couple of years now. We met working together at Frightfest where she is one of the presenters of Frightfest TV.

When discussing the shoot we decided we needed a prop or two. She suggested she could use a Mustang GT for the day and so I outline planned an outdoor shoot. I say outline planned as with this kind of arrangement I only like to put together rough ideas as when heading outdoors weather is a a major consideration (especially in the height of summer in the UK). I also like to spend some time with the model, chatting and gauging their mood on the day before firming up my shots.

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+18-55@1/2000,F4

There are a number of ways to shoot a darker, gothic feel type style on a bright sunny day, my preference being for high shutter speeds with high power flash units. I worked with a couple of AD200’s combined with the X-T2’s on High Speed Sync.

The first set of images we shot right in the centre of worthing, near home, with my “assistant” holding a Godox AD200 with a beauty dish, just to get a feel of the light and how the shoot would go.

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+18-55@1/3200,F2.8

Now I had a feel, we packed a couple of the flash units, a couple of lightstands, modifiers and lenses and headed out of town (to the mighty burble of the 5.0L engine).

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+18-55@1/1000,F5

On the day, the light was really variable and most of the time I was having to use the Godox at full power (some of the shots had a second light) whilst waiting for the clouds to help with the light also.

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+18-55@1/4000,F3.2

I wanted the images to have a “film” quality to them and so back in the office I edited the RAW images in Lightroom using either the Classic Chrome or Astia simulations before moving them in to Photoshop for retouching. These two simulations gave me a choice of base tones (especially skin tones, where Astia is my favourite).

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+18-55@1/4000,F3.6

The final look was applied using the NIK collection (now owned by DXO) running inside Photoshop. I learned a thing or two here as well; It had always frustrated me how adding a NIK layer to a PS image was a “one hit” action. If I decided I did not like the look after I had applied it (or subsequent edits), with my old workflow it was a case of deleting the layer and restarting. However a quick goggle on a train this week revealed the “magic” recipe. Convert the source layer to a smart object first and then the NIK filters are applied as Smart Filters meaning they can be edited with a right-click..

As you can see above, I used a combination of Colour Efex Pro to get the contrast and colours where I wanted them before adding a subtle film look and grain with Analog Efex Pro.

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+XF56@1/8000,F1.2

The style may not be to everyones taste but we had a loot of fun shooting these and they definitely work with Luna’s style.

Cannes. A few of my favourites

I know it’s a few weeks ago now but I have finally managed to get round to adding this years Festival du Cannes images to my website.

 

Leila Conners and Leonardo DiCaprio poses at on the red carpet for Oh Mercy! on Wednesday 22 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Leila Conners , Leonardo DiCaprio. Editors Note: This image as been converted to monochrome. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. 

 

Quentin Tarantino poses at a photocall for Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood on Wednesday 22 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Quentin Tarantino. Editors Note: This image as been converted to monochrome. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Quentin Tarantino and Daniela Pick poses on the red carpet for Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood Premiere on Tuesday 21 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Quentin Tarantino , Daniela Pick. Editors Note: This image as been converted to monochrome. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Elle Fanning poses on the red carpet for Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood Premiere on Tuesday 21 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Elle Fanning. Editors Note: This image as been converted to monochrome. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Winnie Harlow poses on the red carpet for Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood Premiere on Tuesday 21 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Winnie Harlow.Editors Note: This image as been converted to monochrome. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Aishwarya Rai waits before walking on the red carpet for La Belle Epoque ( The good times ) on Monday 20 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Aishwarya Rai. Editors Note: This image as been converted to monochrome. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Leyna Bloom and Cast poses at a photocall for Port Authority on Sunday 19 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Leyna Bloom, Transgender . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra poses on the red carpet for The Best Years of a Life on Saturday 18 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Nick Jonas , Priyanka Chopra. Editors Note: This image as been converted to monochrome. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Pedro Almodovar, Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas poses at a photocall for Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria ) on Saturday 18 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Penelope Cruz, Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Pedro Almodovar, Pedro Almodóvar. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Antonio Banderas and Nicole Kimpel poses on the red carpet for Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria ) on Friday 17 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Antonio Banderas, Nicole Kimpel. Editors Note: This image as been converted to monochrome. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Street Life – Wednesday 15 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: . \

 

Amber Heard poses on the red carpet for Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria ) on Friday 17 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Amber Heard. Editors Note: This image as been converted to monochrome. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Amber Heard poses on the red carpet for Les misérables on Wednesday 15 May 2019 at the 72nd Festival de Cannes, Palais des Festivals, Cannes. Pictured: Amber Heard. Editors Note: This image as been converted to monochrome. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

 

Head over to this gallery to view a few more of my favourite monos….

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.

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….

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..