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….

12 Days in Cannes… with the X-H1

May brings the annual Cannes Film Festival, it’s a tough job (no really, it is!) but someone has to do it!

Last year I was just switching to the X-T2’s and shot the festival on a mixture of X-T1’s and X-T2’s, sometimes teamed with a borrowed 90mm/F2. This year I was offered the chance of the X-H1 and I thought that the un-stabilised 90mm would be the perfect partner for testing.

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X-H1 / XF100-400

That left me traveling to the south of France for 2 weeks with 2 X-T2’s, an X-H1, a 16-55, 50-140, 100-400, 56 and 90mm, plus the usual collection of flashes, batteries, cards and laptop. It’s a wonder there was room for clothes (don’t worry – there was!).

Unpacking the X-H for the first time, it feels bigger, more chunky and heavier than the X-T but putting them alongside each other shows that the actual size difference is quite small. At first the shape is quite alien; the grips are more pronounced, there is a top LCD, the shutter button is quite a way forward (and has a very light touch).

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X-H1 / XF90mm @F2.0

The menus are *mostly* the same however it took me quite a time to set up the buttons how I like them. The main issue was with the front dial, I usually have this set to switch between ISO selection and exposure compensation but the compensation is handled in a totally different way now – having no dial (the LCD is in the same location as this dial is on the X-T), instead exposure compensation is adjusted with its own button a-la DSLR. Pressing this button allows the compensation to be adjusted on the rear dial. The front dial can be assigned multiple functions (I think the idea is that you press down to switch), but the only way I could get it working how I like was to assign both functions to ISO.

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X-H1 / XF90 @F2.0

Whilst on the subject of menus, the connection set-up is also very different with the camera also supporting Bluetooth. In the end I did not use the WiFi connections at all as I just did not have time to “play” and understand them.

Apart from that I was able to configure the camera the same as my X-T’s (it would be so nice to be able to use SD cards to transfer settings between cameras). Film simulations, white balance etc etc are all handled the same and as the sensor / processor are the same as the X-T, image look, feel and quality is identical.

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X-H1 / XF56 @F1.2

Once in Cannes it started to become apparent the real difference with this camera compared to the X-T’s is speed! It is much more like how I remember a DSLR to be. Mounting the 100-400 to shoot tight headshots the focusing felt far more snappy, in fact with all the lenses, just in general, the camera felt quicker to use… The bigger, heavier lenses I tend to use felt more balanced on it, it was nicer to hold – especially when not shooting (I know, that sounds silly but I have a habit of hanging my cameras from my finger tips when walking or waiting – the bigger grips made this easier and more comfortable). The lighter shutter is nice but when using in conjunction with an X-T I did find I was making accidental shots.

X-H1 / XF50-140 @F3.2

In use on the first day, being unused to the button layout, somehow I managed to switch the image size down from max to 2000×2000 px. I can’t remember the size on the menu but the pixel size is ingrained on my brain after the panic when I got back to edit. Now no doubt this was my inexperience with the camera, but, I have been using Fuji’s for a long-long time, in high pressure situations, using both new and old cameras together and I have never managed this before. I was shooting jpg/jpg so there was even no going back to the raw. Luckily this was only one of three cameras I was using at the time, it had the 90mm mounted and I was shooting the “arty” stuff so it was the camera with the least important images (in theory). It also meant on this camera I was being very particular with composition etc. Luckily every image I liked did not need any cropping and could be sent out as it was shot (well, probably with some exposure tweaks and curves).

The rest of the time it did everything I asked. I shot slow with rear-sync to use the in-body stabilisation, I tried all of the lenses I had with me. It just worked. As the festival carried on I found myself reaching for this body before either of my X-T’s, it did feel better in the hand (despite my initial worries).

X-H1 / XF100-400 @F5.6

The add-on battery grip also has the more pronounced shape and with it’s two batteries I found it lasted most of the day, although it still suffers from what seems like inaccurate battery condition indicators. Having these on the top panel LCD though is a huge improvement, being able to see the (supposed) battery condition without turning the camera on and either looking at the LCD or EVF is much better. I still find the grip on this (and most other grips) poorly designed. Hanging it just off of the tripod mount screw without any other mechanical lock (apart from alignment spigots) just seems inadequate. They always work loose over the day, especially if the camera is being used in the portrait orientation. Why a small hook type spigot (I.e. push in and slide along to align) cannot be designed in to aid the screw I do not know.

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X-H1 / XF90 @F2.0

Whilst mentioning the EVF I should mention the new Natural Live View. For the first day or so I was trying to understand why the X-H1 was not showing me the full film simulation as well as the exposure and white balance, it was previewing the exposure but the display looked very natural, far more natural than I was used to. DOH! Once I remembered about and disabled the Natural Live View, the EVF matched the X-T. This new mode is great but being able to see exactly what I am about to record to the memory card is one of my main loves about the Fuji. Undoubtedly the new mode gives a great view, being very natural and flowing and much more like an optical finder but once I had realised, I disabled it and did not go back. If I was using just the X-H1 or not trying to match the look and feel of what I was shooting between cameras maybe I would have stuck with it. I’m sure those switching to mirrorless from SLR’s will find this much easier to get used to.

X-H1 / XF16-55 @F3.6 + GODOX FLASH

BOTTOM LINE.

This camera is another great step forward. The more I think about it the more impressed I am with it. Mixing it with X-T’s is a bit of an issue, so if I were to change I would need to change all three cameras at once.

From an X-T1 it’s a¬†huge step forward and I think the transition to ¬†mirrorless from DSLR will be far easier if the mirrorless is the X-H.

X-H1 / XF90mm @F2.0

For me? trading up from the X-T2’s? For the sort of work I do there is no doubt it is a great step forward again but I’m not sure its worth the financial hit this year. As I have said before I work carefully within a cycle where every new piece of kit and upgrade has to justify itself financially. The X-H will do everything I am doing now, faster but it won’t do anything new, I can’t see it enabling me to get shots I would not get without it. If I did video however, it would be a totally different matter!

X-H1 / XF16-55 @F3.6 + GODOX FLASH

That said, I am feeling really good about the (what was a risky) choice a few years ago when I made the switch to Fuji. This camera is very very good and there may well be something better when my next upgrade cycle comes around. In the meantime the lens roadmap looks great also.

Here is a small selection of monochrome images that I produced at the festival.

Happy Days 

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 Рi.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.

 

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 Рquite 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!

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.

X-T2 : Finally!

I sort of stopped writing this blog a while back, the X-T2 was released and I was in a “no kit investment year” (I run my kit spending cyclicly where I have a year of investment, then a year where it all has to pay for itself before I invest again). Once the X-T2 was out I kind of realised that nobody really wanted to read about my using the older cameras so I put the blog on hold. (If thats not the case, let me know!).

Now we are into a new year, an investment year, and the first of those investments has just arrived following a good deal from Calumet‘s Jamie (and the help of a friend – Mike). I have added an X-T2 plus grip and a lovely Millican bag (that I will use for wandering with a single camera).

This morning I went for a wander, adding a 16-55/2.8 and the old 55-200/4.8. This was not really a test, more a “lets get to find out a little bit about you”. I’m a sucker for monochrome as you probably know so I set it to JPG and ACROS simulation. Heres a cross-section of images – mostly straight out of the camera, just cropped (unless I specify otherwise in the caption).

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 16-55, blacks pulled down slightly. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 16-55 , shadow and hi-light pushed in camera, SOOC. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.16-55 clarity +4. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Shadows lifted and whites pulled up. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Whites pulled up. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Shadows lifted and whites pulled up. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity, curve adjustment. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Hi-lights and exposure recovery. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.55-200, Levels adjusted, medium clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

There is nothing groundbreaking in these shots but they were all testing aspects of the kit and helping me get used to the new controls layout. I used the 55-200 because I wanted to see if the new AF made this lens more useful Рit does, it kept up with the birds better than my pre-coffee panning technique. I am pleased with the ACROS simulation and how it handles edits (to the hi-lights and shadows). This afternoon I will use it on a proper job but for now I can sum up my likes and dislikes:

Likes:

  • Focusing – the tracking is far better.
  • Joystick – moving the focus points is a breeze
  • Landscape / Portrait AF pattern – having different points selected in the 2 camera orientations is brilliant (Firmware 2.0)
  • Speed – A far more responsive camera
  • ISO adjustment on the front command dial
  • ACROS

Dislikes:

  • Back button focussing – my Tracking / Single shot trick (see this article) no longer works, BBF is less useful

So thats overwhelmingly positive then!

Now I have current kit, I will be writing a lot more again so make sure you head back. More thoughts to follow (and you can expect posts on the 150-400 soon also). Thank you for visiting.