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….

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

A weekend at the BAFTAs

If you go back on my timeline you will no doubt find other posts from February’s past about the BAFTAs.

It’s an event I have been covering for quite a few years now and this year took a similar flow to years gone by; travel up on the Saturday, check into the hotel, cover the Nominees Party on the Saturday night, edit late, arrive at the Albert Hall for 2pm, cover the Red Carpet from 4pm till 7pm and then the Winners press room before heading back to the hotel at about 10:30 to edit till the early hours the next morning. A few hours sleep then finish the edit the Monday morning.

For the party I used 2 cameras, one with the 50-140/2.8 and the other with the 56/1.2 with the 56 used for only a few images like this one of the eventual Best Male Actor, Rami Malik

Rami Malik: X-T2/56mm @ F2

Just over 24 hours later, here he is with his award.

Rami Malik backstage: X-T2/50-140 @ F4

For the red carpet I used 3 cameras along with the 50-140, the 100-400 and again the 56 for the odd atmospheric shot

Lily Collins caught in a strobe: X-T2/100-400 @ F4.8 2000ISO

The 50-140 enabled me to get the fashion full length and half length images, combining with a Godox AD200 + remote head to fill in the shadows and detail. These are the images the magazines need as the following weeks publications around the world will be full of articles discussing the stars, their fashion successes and failures. (That is until the oscars when it will start again with a new set of outfits and stars). Getting these images is a case of setting the camera at the start and then continual concentration, the light is changing through the afternoon (white balance), the subjects may or may not look at you or even pose in front of you.

Rachel Brosnahan backstage: X-T2/100-400 @ 386mm/1/250th

Whilst ensuring that I don’t miss the fashion shots I like to keep a careful eye out for the images I find more interesting to shoot: Tight portraits showing the emotion, the stars standing in the queue waiting to have their photos taken (every year a queue forms consisting of the technical people that no one ever sees (the unsung hero’s), standing next to the up-and-coming actors, standing next to some of the biggest stars in the movie world.

Spike Lee waits in the queue: X-T2/100-400 @ 1/250th ISO2500

I shoot the close-ups with the 100-400, sometimes triggering a remote AD200 flash, sometimes on available light. This means using an higher ISO of 2000+ with a slower than standard recommendation shutter speeds (in most cases about 1/200th – 1/250th with the lens at about 600mm equivalence). A steady hand and good the great stabilisation of the lens rule here.

Steve Coogan waits in the queue: X-T2/100-400 @ 1/250th ISO1600

Over the course of the weekend I filed about 950 images, just under 20 were taken with the 56, about 170 with the 100-400 and the remainder with the 50-140.

I’ll post a fuller set of colour images (more likely to be seen in publications) later in the week but at the moment I thought a quick post featuring these images and a description of the working methods would give a good taste.

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..

 

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.

Godox : At last a full flash system for the Fuji’s

As soon as I say this I will be corrected “but I was able to do HSS with Cactus and …. ” etc etc. So let me clarify.

“At last we have a flash system for our Fuji X-Series cameras that scales easily from quick snaps with on-camera flash with TTL to a full system for location or studio with High Speed shutter Sync”

I’ve been working with the system for about 6 weeks now and I’m happy.

Firstly, the important stuff, the colour temperature of all the lights seems fairly constant. They are stated to be 5600k but I have found on the X-T2 with no tweaks this is a little orange and needs pulling back slightly. If shooting with a WB card they come out at about 5500 and a tweak…

The TTL is also, again, consistent and much in line with what the Nikon SB900 / SB800 used to offer on my old Nikon systems.

The system I have put together consists of:

  • AD600B
  • 2 x AD200
  • TT685F
  • X1T-F
  • XT-32 (manual only)
  • Canon off camera TTL flash cable (I state this to clarify what is needed)
  • Also the Canon XS – cable is the one you need to connect to a ProPak 960.

First things first.

I unpacked the 685, AD200 and XT-F on the same day and the first issue was firmware updates for the AD200 and AD600 to enable them to support the Fuji’s fully. This is not the easiest task with two different firmware loaders required (G1 or G2) – one to update the AD600 and another for the AD200. Another issue is the firmware uploader(s) only work on Windows based systems, which, as a Mac user made life really difficult as I could not even get the software to work on a parallels virtual machine. In the end had to resort to my partners windows laptop. Also note that the firmware(s) are very model specific – particularly the AD600 vs AD600M, these are not interchangeable as I found out!

Setting Up / Using.

As with most other systems, the control signals are sent out on one of 32 channels (1-32) so the first stage is to set all of the units (flashes and controllers) to the same channel.

  • X1T-F: There is a button marked CH, press this and rotate the dial.
  • AD200: Hold down the GR/CH button until the channel number flashes. Rotate the dial
  • AD600:
  • TT685: Press the Right-hand most button to enable one of the wireless modes and then one of the centre buttons is labeled CH, press this and rotate the dial.

Next are the Groups. This is a way of enabling the trigger to fire multiple flash heads at different flash values. Setting a number of flashes to the same group will ensure they fire at the same setting. Setting flashes to different groups enables them to be fired at different settings (i.e. manual power, a TL ratio or turned off). As at the moment I have 4 lights, I have set each light to a different group to allow them all to be controlled individually from the trigger.

  • Group A: AD200
  • Group B: AD200
  • Group C: AD600
  • Group D: TT685

The 2 AD200’s are on the first two groups as these are the most used off-camera units. The AD600 is on Group C as the trigger in the TT685 can only control Groups A to C (+ itself). The X1T can control groups A through E. All of my units have a letter on them to remind me of their setting.

Once set, the output value on each flash may be set on the X1T trigger.

  • Use the dial control to select (underline) the group to adjust.
  • Use the Mode button to cycle between the modes: TTL, Manual Power, Off (–)
  • Press the GRoup button to select the group and with its value flashing, use the dial to adjust the output power (or TTL ratio). Press the GRoup button again to confirm the setting.

First Job.

The day I unpacked the units I had a photocall in the evening, a BBC photocall in a hotel for the new Dr Foster series. Biting the bullet, I took an AD200 (with the fresnel head), TT685 & X1T-F (after full testing obviously). My initial setup was to use a single camera with the X1T firing both flashes (mainly because I had not tried or tested using the TT685 as a controller).  Having a bit of time to spare before the talent arrived, I was able to work out using the TT685 as a controller and so ended up with the “long” camera for headshots firing only the AD200 and the “standard” camera firing the AD200 & the camera-mounted TT885 for fill in.

X1T, TT685 on XT-2’s

The really nice thing was having the AD200 fire at totally different values from one camera to another as I swapped between them (with no further input).

Bertie Carvel attends a photocall for the BBC’s Doctor Foster at The Mayfair Hotel on Tuesday August 8th.

Suranne Jones attends a photocall for the BBC’s Doctor Foster at The Mayfair Hotel on Tuesday August 8th.

In anger at Frightfest.

At the end of August it was my annual trip to Frightfest in London. I have been photographing the event for the organisers for 7 years now and a few years back we added live social media from the red carpet (using the iPad workflow).

The festival runs over 5 days during during which I shot 41 separate “red carpet” photocalls. The setup was again an AD200 (this time with a standard reflector over the open bulb) with the TT685 for fill-in (and controller). The units were set to TTL (+0.7 & +0.3 to compensate for the white step & repeat board) and worked flawlessly for the many thousands of shots over the 5 days.

Adam Green , Kane Hodder

Eve Myles, Annette Crosbie.

Jason Flemyng.

Barbara Crampton.

Mel Wayman.

I altered the direction of the shadows by moving & turning the subjects – i.e. more straight on and flattering for the women, turning away from the light for harsher shadows on the men. (easier to do when you co-run the media wall and so are able to fully direct it). The battery life of the AD200 was good, lasting a full day with an overnight charge and both units kept up with the 5fps, 3 frame burst I tend to shoot.

One other thing I had not tried with the XT-2’s until this weekend was the additional sync mode’s, the flash control screen allows HSS, front curtain and rear curtain. HSS as I have mentioned before, allows better control of the ambient light whereas the two “curtain” modes control when the flash fires in relation to the shutter opening. Front curtain fires the flash as the shutter opens, freezing any action at this point and if  the shutter is open long enough, leaves a trail of any moving object away FROM the frozen object. Rear curtain is the opposite, firing the flash at the end of the cycle so that the blurring leads TO the frozen object. I played with this a bit at night… using Rear curtain to capture “Frightfest Ghosts” moving through the foyer.

Frightfest Ghosts 2017

When writing an article like this, it is so easy to miss points out but hopefully that gives you a good idea of how capable the Godox units are when used with Fuji system. Please ask any questions below via the comments and I will do my best to answer them all.

Happy shooting.