If you have read this blog for a long time or if you follow me on social media you will know I ride a motorbike and do not drive a car. This means if I choose to go to a festival and camp on the bike, I need to pack carefully. Some would say, right take 2 zooms, 16-55 & the 50-140 however one of the reasons I go to WOMAD is i don’t know what I’m going to get, which acts might become more relevant to press or who will be reviewed therefore I go with no pressure, no expectation, just having the aim of producing lovely images (there is always lots of colour here).
So my packing was 2 x X-T3, a 14/2.8, the 35/1.4 , a 56/1.2 & 90/2.0
Add to that a small tent, minimal wardrobe and the MT-07 is loaded.
Taking prime lenses means I have to work (slightly) harder to get the images, working the angles but this makes me think and slow down and think about how I want to portray the act.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again “there is no point having fast lenses if you shoot with them closed down all the time” so probably 90% of my images are shot wide open
Japanese vocal performer Hatis Noit was a joy to shoot – bright colours, amazing shapes and lighting that shouted “play with me” and with the 90 on camera and the 56 on the other I obliged with both lenses rendering the colours (in Astia profile) really nicely with (the 56 mainly) beautiful flare.
Kae’s set was in complete contrast, more simple, stark and emotional
I was sad to read the demise of regular visitor Carters Steam Fair and although the modern replacements are colourful, making lovely images, I feel they are just too brash, not meeting the the atmosphere of the festival.
The 56 is well touted as a great portrait lens – shooting wide open with eye tracking as I did for this backstage portrait of Wayne Coyne, lead singer and songwriter of the Flaming Lips, renders the background and even the hair lovely sand soft ensuring the eyes and face get all of the views attention.
The 14mm was useful a few times none more so that with Taiwanese contemporary dance troupe B.Dance, closing the aperture down slightly to keep them all in focus.
Im writing this on the Sunday morning before I shoot the acts of the last day, (the super efficient workflow you have been reading about 🤪 means I am totally up to date with my editing and sending) .
I think the images from the first 3 days give a good enough flavour how I use (and am inspired by the quality of) the Fuji prime lenses.
I have tried not to use the same images as I have posted on my social media channels in this post so if you do not follow me, there are links elsewhere on the page.
So, break out the primes, don’t just twist, use your feet and brain, and go create some images.. I look forward to seeing them.
Ok, I know I said a few posts back “no camera reviews” , however – a few thoughts….
At the time of writing (a week or so ago), I had completed 4 “proper” jobs with the new flagship camera. Below are some images and thoughts from 3 of these jobs:
Kermode 3D at the BFI
Mabel at Somerset House
Bullet Train Gala
The above image is Nick, running the clips on the Kermode show at the BFI. He’s only lit by his laptop, no house lights. He is laughing (hence movement blur on the face). The camera had absolutely no problem locking onto his eyes. The technical details are below.
I’m closer this time – the eye tracking locked onto Nick’s eye despite so much of the face being covered.
The next job was Mabel performing at Somerset House. Shooting with the 90mm fully open on AF-C, face tracking. No issues with the flashing lights, dancers, fast movement or profile shots.
I’m still trying to get used to the button layout but as my camera’s are in Manual mode 90% of the time, the P-A-S-M dial is not an issue. That said I find it really annoying that in Manual mode I cannot re-assign the front command dial to roll the ISO as then it would match my X-T3’s and be far faster to adjust. When most of my lenses have aperture rings it really makes no sense to dedicate this dial to aperture!
The last of the 3 jobs was the Bullet Train UK gala screening. For this I used the X-H2s with the 100-400 for headshots. The eye tracking always found its target – tracking accurately as they walked and moved, even finding Brad Pitt’s eye on a 3/4 rear view (i.e. the dip in the profile where the eye was as he turned – i am wondering if it was the reflection on the sunglasses!)
Overall this camera is a HUGE step up from any of the other Fujifilm cameras with subject tracking that can be relied on at speed. Additionally although the CFExpress cards are expensive – seeing the RAW files download in a fraction of the time that it takes to download JPG images from the SD, the switch is positive.
Happy shooting and back to the Workflow with the next post.
A slight intrusion into the workflow posts because the number of posts I have seen with this “loosing their soul” comment is making me smile. I do wonder why people are so blinkered nowadays and feel that “change is bad” or “this works for me so I cannot see why it does not work for everyone”
The thing that has upset everyone is the change in the top-plate dials. Gone are the separate shutter speed and iso dials and in their place, a PSAM dial & secondary display.
As you readers know, I’m a press photographer – I drive my cameras hard and need to change settings fast all of the time (I say this just to hilight I am not a studio photographer where the settings on the camera can be stable for the whole shoot).
I switched to Fuji with the X-T1 for work because I loved the colours in the images, the lightness and it was obvious that mirrorless was the way forward. I also loved the look, the feel and the dials – especially the aperture ring but to be honest – wonderful as these dials are – they are just not fast enough – in my world i need to be able to change the settings – all the settings – without removing the camera from the eye. My current X-T3’s are both set with the ISO on’A’ (so it can be adjusted with the front command dial) and the Shutter on ‘T’ (rear command dial), with the aperture on the lens ring.
If you are designing a camera that is all about speed (X-H2S – the clue is in the S) then having the default way of using to be the way I have my X-T’s set up makes sense, in which case, from a designers point of view, (logically speaking) what is the point of the dials? If the dials are of no use, then why have them? It’s just another possible location of a water ingress or other failure. Lets use that space for something else (when I used the X-H1 I loved being able see the state of the batteries without turning the camera on).
So have they lost their soul? Have Fuji abandoned their roots? I will argue no. My argument is not based on the dials, not based on going after financial rewards or entering difficult markets, it’s based on one fact.
The camera features a 26.1MP BSI X-Trans 5 stacked sensor. Not a bayer sensor, an X-Trans sensor! Its the sensor that is responsible for the look of the images that Fuji produce that we love so much, and having that sensor in this camera indicates, to me, that Fuji has without doubt not changed it’s path. The image is everything.
This is a professionals camera, a tool, that enables Fuji to operate in a market that it was not able to. We have to remember that the camera interface is just like everything else in the world. One size does not fit all.
I’m sitting here writing this the Thursday after Glastonbury and (just about) starting to get over COVID (It hit me hard on the Tuesday evening after testing negative on the Monday, I tested positive on the Wednesday morning).
We had arrived at Glastonbury a week ago to this wonderful (not) notice.
This was a first and to be honest, although we expected a couple of closed headliner pits, we did not expect all of them to be closed. I think this tainted my experience of the whole weekend.
The wording there is fairly specific “closed pit” not “no photography” so my colleague and I headed out into the crowd at the end of Sam Fender’s set and took up a position. The Fuji’s with the 100-400 are quite easy when working in a crowd, being smaller but of course do slightly suffer with resolving power and focusing (X-T3) compared to full frame bodies and faster 400mm lenses. We stayed long enough to ensure we got a reasonably varied set of images before fighting our way out of the crowd and filing.
The strategy worked….
So what was the workflow here? As I mentioned in my last post it followed my basic routine:
Create Collection in Lightroom for job
Import from memory cards direct into collection
Select and edit photos in lightroom
Create a collection in ShutterSnitch for the job
Share images to ShutterSnitch collection which completes the captioning and sends via ftp
Archive the images
You can see from the above image, I created a folder for the whole event and then a separate Album for each day, using my standard naming format.
The Lightroom Mobile tool is basically a web tool, wanting to store all of its images in the cloud. This is a real issue when speed is of the essence (and when you have a slow internet connection – which for some inexplicable reason at Glastonbury this year we had the worst connection at a major event I think I have ever known). There are 2 key steps to managing this.
First, when leaving on a trip I always pause the sync.
The next step is on each folder, I enable the Store Locally option. To do this requires that there is an image in the album so if pre-shooting, I copy an existing image into each of the albums and then the Store Locally switch is available from the three dots options to the right of the album name
Now I am ready to import the images from the camera card into the Album (inserting the card/card reader into the usb-c slot normally displays the import options. If not the import is available in the lower right). The bottom line is the images do not touch the apple photos app at all. They go direct from the card into Lightroom and they may be RAW or JPG with no issues. In fact the Billie Eilish images were all processed from Fuji Raw (RAF) as I thought I might need more shadow & hilight recovery. The only difference between importing RAF and JPG is that in the import window, JPGs are previewed whilst RAF are just shown as empty boxes (no preview).
In this post I have covered how I set up the iPad / Lightroom Mobile and import the images. The next post will discuss selecting & editing the images.
As I finish this post I have just had a conversation with my supplier about my first X-H2, apparently I can collect it next week. Well that has cheered me up from my COVID slump..
It’s fairly obvious I have been neglecting this blog. Actually thats not true. I have not been neglecting it, I have been avoiding it. The question is why and what do I want to do about it?
I might be a poor writer but I do enjoy it (it took me 5 or 6 attempts to pass what was the English Langage ‘O’ level when I was at school (scraping through as I took my final ‘A’ levels). I also enjoy passing on knowledge.
When I started this page, it was the early days of the Fujifilm X-System, the early days of mirrorless and this place seemed the ideal place to put down my thoughts and experiences, passing these on so others (you dear reader) can learn from my errors and not make the same mistakes. Well that was something like 8 years ago and the technology world has changed as has the camera market with most of the manufactures having mirrorless products. Online review sites have exploded with video review sites getting far more views (and influence) than written sites with the actual experience of the reviewer seeming to be way less important to both the manufacturers and viewers.
Fujifilm has just announced the X-H2, it sounds like a very capable camera which I have not seen. The reviews are promising and so I have one on back-order with my supplier and if what I read is true, it will put us X-system users back on a more level playing field when it comes to Auto-Focus performance. However, when I get it, I wont review it. I might comment on some technology that makes my life easier but I will no longer review any product because basically, what interests me is what makes my job easier, faster etc.
If you want reviews stick to the sites that make reviewing part of their business. They get large follower counts, large followings means free review kit and good advertising revenue. How good they are as photographers, how deep their experience of photography and the “sharp end” of the photography business has very little to do with a good review site (and as far as the manufacturers are concerned, the only real measure is the number of followers). If this sounds like a gripe, it’s not. I get it. Who cares that I (or other photography writers) shoot more images in a month (or maybe even a week) and get them published around the world. That does not matter if only a few hundred of people know.
So I am going to stick with the “sharp end”, what counts. How do I work? What are my business practices? Can I improve how I (and you) work?
The next few posts will be about my new mobile workflow and the use of (the rather fast) M1 iPad Pro . In the meantime, here are a few of teh 6000 images I sent out from 10 days in Cannes, all shot on Fujifilm and edited/sent from the iPad.
One of the most annoying questions I see (almost every day) posted in Facebook groups and the like are “what lens should I buy next”, often with very little explanation. (I am willing to accept that this is my issue and lack of tolerance).
With this question in mind, this post is a run-through of the lenses I took to Cannes along with quick explanations of how I used them along with samples.
Tackling that list in order, I start with the workhorse; the 16-55/F2.8 Of all the lenses, this is the lens that is probably of most use in general purpose photography. From a wide angle through to a slight telephoto (full frame equivalence of approximately 24-70), it is suitable for almost everything and should (almost) be the starting point for any kit bag.
In Cannes, my main use of this lens is on the Red Carpet, mounted on a X-T3 with the V1 flash fitted for shooting the full-length fashion type images as well as half-length portraits.
At the start of the week, I experimented using the 27mm pancake lens on the Red Carpet – mostly I use it as a camera body cap and walk-around lens. The way it deals with light coming directly into the lens (flare control) means it was not really suitable on the carpet or at gigs
Both of these lenses are perfectly good and produce nice contrast images (if you set your camera up appropriately) but for me, they show up the limitation of using an APS-C sensor, there is a limitation on getting a shallow depth of field. For this reason my two really favourite lens are the 56mm/F1.2 & the 90mm/F2 . I use both of these in a similar way.
The 56 is a great portrait lens, the distances involved on the Red Carpet means I usually create 3 quarter or half-length images with it, always shooting wide open. After all there is no point using a nice fast lens and then not making use of the shallower depth-of-field.
The 90mm I use in the same way, just tighter images (normally on the X-T2 body as the focal length leads to the images rarely needing much cropping). One thing I will say is the 90mm does seem to produce richer images than the 56.
The 50-140 telephoto lens is another real workhorse lens, enabling me to get fairly tight portraits when the subjects are at a closer range or full-length group shots up on the staircase. I think (on my X-T3’s with grips) that this lens handles fantastically, the zoom ring is lovely and smooth.
Because of distances, crowds, my love of tight portraits and less posed images, my 100-400 is my second most used lens (after the 16-55). With it I can shoot the talent in the crowds at the head of the carpet, create really tight and personal looking portraits on the carpet as well as head-shots up the stairs.
Hope this post gives a little insight on how my use of lenses helps to create different images and gives me more creative options.
Next week I will write my guide to back restorative exercises needed after carrying them all around for 2 weeks. Actually I will probably write about the GFX50R which I purchased last winter during the lockdown with the prime aim of shooting more landscapes (and for use in the studio shooting portraits).
As usual this will not be a really technical write up (there are far more techie blogs and better writers for that), what follows are a few of my thoughts and experiences.
The first thing to talk about and one of the real reasons for getting this flash is the quality of the light. Not only is the fall off of the light at the edges far more pleasing, the hotspot in the centre seems, well less hot and more flat. (The above images have had the white and black points expanded to hi-light the fall off pattern.)
The second thing to talk about is the quality, this flash feels solid, well made, very similar to the AD200 and a definite improvement over their other on-camera units.
The battery is chunky and comes with it’s own USB-C charger which charges quite quickly. That said, even with heavy use (on the evening of amFar) I do not think I used more than one bar.
This quality and battery add up to a unit that is quite heavy and when top mounted on an X-T3 (even one with a fully loaded grip and 16-55/F2.8) the result is very top heavy. As my main use for flash during red carpet events is to shoot full length images, I use a custom flash bracket CB Mini-RC and in this configuration it does not feel to bad at all).
Actually using the unit took a little getting used to. Although it does support High-Speed Sync and has TTL Metering, in red carpet situations I found this combination to be a little sporadic and the additional power required for HSS meant slower recycling (and the manual states that the thermal cutout is likely to cut in earlier). In slower situations this has not proved to be a problem.
Once in manual the unit really is consistent (see the two images above). With a bit of experimentation I came to the power setting of 1/16 +0.7, which allowed the unit to keep up with my X-T3 in High Burst Mode for the short bursts I shoot (Its a technique to try and ensure no other flashes and open eyes on the subject).
With the manual power set and the shutter fixed between 1/200 & 1/250 (so not using HSS) I worked back to get a suitable iso from the selected F-Stop.
As the subject distance varied on the carpet, I needed to allowed for the fixed output of the flash by opening the aperture slightly (maybe 1.2 a stop) so I think the zoom head was also helping as little in this regard.
Overall I am very happy with the unit and its a great addition to my Godox kit, adding to the two AD200’s , the TT685 and single AD600. Like the other units it can act as a slave, controlled by any of the Godox Remote Controllers. Or it can act as the Master in a multi-flash set-up (which is how I will use it for portraits with the AD200 at the up-coming Frightfest where I will be returning as the house photographer)
I am just back from working overseas covering the 74th Festival de Cannes (Cannes International Film Festival).
I say “just back”, it’s actually 5 days now and I have just dropped off my “Day 5 test to release PCR-Test” so hopefully I’ll be back working soon.
I plan to write a couple of posts this week that will talk about the experience of covering the festival but in the meantime, here is a slide-show of monochrome photos from the 2 weeks, all shot on X-T3 and X-T2 Fuji’s.
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).
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.
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…
Starting with establishing shots on the 200, 90 and 14….
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 …
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.
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….
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…
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 Chromeor 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).
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.
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.