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…

Fuji and Godox at an event.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trumping with the Fuji’s

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

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

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

APC_0853-hdr

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

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

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

So how did it go?

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

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

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

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

HSS – The Godox TT685F & PocketWizards

As is my morning ritual (especially at the weekend) I headed down to the beach for 10 minutes peace before the day starts proper.

Normally I take with me an X-T camera of some description and a sketch pad – quite often I use the sketch pad and not the camera. This morning being bright and sunny I thought I would take the opportunity to see how the new Godox (On camera)  TT685F would work in conjunction with PocketWizards for remote camera use at Red Carpet Events.

My PocketWizards are a set of Plus3‘s which connect into the X-T2 via the Mic-In socket. This necessitates a 3.5mm to 2.5mm lead (using Younogo’s a 2.5mm-2.5mm lead is the requirement) .When first connecting the cable into the camera it prompts you to ensure the socket is set to the correct use – Remote Control or Microphone. (Edit: To clarify – this is to trigger the camera remotely and nothing to do with the triggering of the flash unit). The next key step is to pre-focus and set the camera to manual focus as it would not fire when set to either of the AF modes (I have not noticed this before when shooting interiors, however most of the time I am bracketing & pre-focusing on manual to ensure the focus does not change between brackets for the HDR merge).

Once this was working ok I fitted the Godox to the camera and had a play. This is not a particularly flattering image but it does demonstrate why HSS (High Speed Flash Sync) is such an important tool.

Self Portrait at Worthing, UK, 19/08/2017 : Julie Edwards. Picture by Julie Edwards

The key things to remember when shooting outdoors with flash are –

  • Shutter Speed only affects the ambient light (sun / surroundings)
  • Aperture affects ambient & flash brightness
  • ISO affects ambient & flash brightness

Therefore, shooting into bright sun I was able to balance the ambient (sun and background) by raising the shutter speed to 1/1250, setting the aperture and ISO to suit the flash output (in this case TTL output for laziness but probably near or at full output).

So.. The key is Shutter Speed! Actually no, I stand by the T-Shirt, the key IS motivation!

Have a great weekend!

Hyde Park in Classic Chrome

Since upgrading to the X-T2’s my X-T1 has become my standard “walk around” or “sanity” camera with the 35/1.4 fitted (as I also sold on my X100).

Most of the time my walk-around’s are set to Monochrome as I still really love the way it cuts straight through to the essence of a scene, letting the light and composition “speak”. I feel you really have to nail these two aspects to make a Black and White image really work but it’s clear from comments that quite a few [fellow press photographers] feel that its an “easy way out” or a way to disguise shortcomings in a colour image. So recently I have switched my walk-around to colour, well I say colour, sort of colour – the Fuji Classic Chrome film simulation. When this film simulation was first added to the cameras a few years back it was really overused but now the Acros simulation has been added and Chrome being a few years old, it’s over use has diminished.

As always my “walk-arounds” are set up to shoot JPG Fine only and I have also set both the Hi-lights and Shadows to +2 for a really contrasty look. Set this way the shadows do really block up a lot but I kind of like the look.

One of the places I shoot often is Hyde Park as I walk through. Today the mixture of clouds and strong light pushed the contrast further. The images were downloaded through ShutterSnitch over WiFi and edited on the iPADPro in Lightroom Mobile where I mainly pushed the curves further, added clarity and a vignette.

 

The formation of the blue boats in relation to the tower block, along with the dark trees and contrasty sky took my eye here.

 

Here I pushed the sky a little further with a graduated filter in LR but again I really like the layers and mood of this with the boat contrasting against the cafe which contrasts against the trees and sky.

 

Diagonals and Contrast. Its like a Monochrome image – but its not!

 

This tunnel always reminds me of the “Death Wish” series of films with Charles Bronson (filmed in Central Park, NYC).

 

Running in and out of the shadows.

Having an X-T1 as a walk around is kind of nice – now all of my cameras are basically the same format with mostly the same controls and handling, but being able to change what comes out of them in terms of images is really powerful aspect of the Fuji system. Why not give it a go next time you go for a wander?

Happy accident with the 100-400

With a few “long distance” jobs coming up in the next few weeks I thought it was time to purchase the XF100-400, I added the 1.4TC as the saving is reasonable and you never know when it might come in handy (as it works well with the 50-140 as my previous post proved).

As when I last used the 100-400 I did not have the converter I thought, despite the poor weather and light I would take the pair down to the beach and see what they made of the wind-farm that is sprouting off of the Sussex coast.

I took this image at the full 840mm 35mm Equivalent reach (ISO 800, 1/450th and F8 on an X-T2) because I liked the contrast between the old torn stark fisherman’s marker flags and the modern windmills softened by the atmosphere and weather. As I processed the from RAW (pushing the Velvia simulation to extreme) I noticed a dark patch in front of the windfarm.

Zooming in at 1:1 I saw this..

Im not sure how far out the Dolphin was (please don’t correct me on type / species etc, I understand I am probably wrong) but I was unable to see it by eye and although not a very technical test, given the conditions (it was blowing a gale, I was hand holding etc ) I am pretty impressed.

Ill follow up with more considered thoughts later.