DraigPhotography: Blog http://draigphotography.com/blog en-us (C) DraigPhotography draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) Mon, 05 May 2014 12:31:00 GMT Mon, 05 May 2014 12:31:00 GMT http://draigphotography.com/img/s5/v133/u25581919-o661246458-50.jpg DraigPhotography: Blog http://draigphotography.com/blog 110 120 2 AM, FujiCreate and X-T1 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/5/2-am-fujicreate-and-x-t1 Well, another project comes to a close, 2 AM.

After many months of shooting at night, from Bournemouth to Edinburgh, I have edited, printed, produced a book and finalised the project.

After my "The Munchies" project I felt something was unfinished, a path not yet fully explored, hence 2 AM. Here in the UK, my place of birth yet somewhat of an enigma to me after so many years living overseas, much has changed. Licensing hours changed to come into line with the rest of Europe, smoking was banned in public places and Bouncers have become Door Supervisors. The night time world has changed from my youth and the social night time world is now very different.

It was a fun project, both challenging and exhilarating in equal amounts. The aim was to document the current night time social world, which created many challenges in itself. Shooting at night, in a pure documentary manner (that is without subject knowledge and active participation) is a challenge in itself. Then there is the issue of images of suitable quality taken handheld at high iso. These are things which remind me why I love my Fuji cameras. The size is such they are unobtrusive and can be carried easily and with a form factor which does not make you stand out. Couple that with their outstanding high iso capabilities and I would struggle to find a better tool for the job. Sure a Nikon D4 may be great at high iso but it's size and weight have nothing subtle about them whatsoever. The whole project was shot with my XE-2 and 35mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 lenses. What! I hear you exclaim, 56mm for documentary? A lens is a tool, no more no less. Yes different focal lengths have different characteristics but for the most part the choice of lens is a practical and personal one, not some decree etched in stone. Imagine it is not practical to stand in the middle of the street to frame a scene, or get so close to the subject that they have no question that you are taking their photograph and the ambiance surely changes. So, worry less about what tool and more the right/appropriate tool to create with.

I have now succumbed and own a new X-T1 but this was not used for this project. Although not a review, I will touch upon this later.

 

Some have said I am "brave" to have shot at night potentially surrounded by drunken people. Some have thought I was mad to live an almost nocturnal life for so long, the truth is, it was another project and planning and research was taken just like any other and this is what made it run so well.

 

Personal Projects

As photographer's we are creatives. We make images and revel in what we do. To me it's not why I am a photographer, more I cannot imagine not being a photographer. Whether we seek to make a living from our imagery or we do it just for love, Personal Projects can be of unimaginable importance. Believe it or not, but commercial clients are often more interested in your personal work than that which has been commissioned. It provides them an insight into you personally, your thoughts, concepts and style in a more intimate way than a commissioned piece can do. In fact some will commission you directly due to a piece of personal work as it provides ideas for them they had not yet considered.

Even if not working professionally, personal projects are so very helpful. They allow us to concentrate on something, pursue an idea and to learn so much whilst working.

Many undertake 365 day programs, weekend shoots etc. but I would encourage trying a defined project to challenge yourself. It dosn't have to be huge nor groundbreaking but it will challenge and inform you like nothing else.

When first undertaking a project (after the initial idea) I research, a lot. This gives me great insight, both into the validity of my idea, the likelihood of a positive outcome and the knowledge to begin. I read books, not just photography books but books that have anything to do with my idea and subject matter. Sociology, psychology, history, reference, art etc. I make notes and keep a log. It may sound like hard work but believe me it all helps and I believe makes the project not only more real but also more interesting and relevant let alone making it easier when it comes time to shoot.

I give myself a timescale for completion. Surely this is unrealistic? Well, it is loose yet also I adhere to it best I can. You see, without direction things can become muddled and undisciplined very quickly. This is not how a professional should work and even if amateur you will get lost quickly trust me. By setting a guideline for completion I have a goal, a time when I need to finish and begin my edit. Without such self imposed rules we can become lost and roam without direction which is neither useful nor helpful, a timeline helps, trust me.

Very early on in a project I can become familiar with my working practice and the most appropriate tools to use. I don't try and use every piece of photographic equipment I own, I work smarter and not wider. I hone in on the most appropriate tools for the job and I stick with them. You need conviction in your choices. Making yourself think and act rather than falling back on changes makes us become stronger image makers. It allows us to create rather than rely upon technology to solve problems encountered. We have chosen the project, we have researched it and we have given ourselves a deadline, it only makes sense to choose the tools we will use and stick with them also.

The most difficult part of any project is the editing. As photographers we are passionate artists. Every image is created by our hand and is precious, yet undoubtedly we have shot far more images than required and also many are "fillers" rather than the stars that show our work as we want it to be seen. I spend countless hours choosing images, comparing, laying out single images to tell the story. This is never easy. Something I think that makes life so much easier is, once a rough edit is reached, printing out the chosen images (even on plain paper from a home printer at A4 or 5x7) and laying them out in front of you. Collating a series of images on the computer screen is close to impossible. It may seem an extra step to print out images pre final edit, but boy does it help you to actually see what works and what does not. Also, whether on a website or a book, we need to put the images in an order that makes sense and tells our story, by printing out rough edits we can shuffle, peruse and change our edit with ease.

Our work may define us to some extent as photographers, yet I believe our personal work bares our very soul. It enriches us technically, visually, conceptually, it hones our research skills and it provides a lesson which is hard to replicate. Personal projects are less an "indulgence" more a necessity for any photographer to truly grow.

 

 

FujiCreate

For this project I wanted to make a book. I didn't want to compromise, thus I wanted a quality book, landscape form with A3 size.

Again, research came into play (something done once and never wasted as we can always go back and reference) and I found many Book Binders, Printers and Publishers. I thought I had chosen the perfect printer, then it all changed and I discovered FujiCreate.

Yes I am an Official X Photographer and use Fuji camera equipment, but I am neither sponsored, paid or indeed in this case was made aware of FujiCreate, indeed I came upon them by accident.

Books are costly, not break the bank costly, but they are still a cost to produce so choice is everything. You spend much of your time shooting a project, you are rightly proud of your work so you want to show it in the best possible light.

What I like about FujiCreate is simple, their product is beautiful, their prices are very reasonable and their staff (as are all Fuji staff here in the UK at least) are extremely nice and helpful.

FujiCreate books open FLAT! This is huge! Your images can span the gutter and yet be seen in all their glory as they are flat and one image.

The binding is a new system which is sublime and very high quality allowing the lay flat approach. The paper used (of utmost importance to us as photographers) is FujiFilm Crystal Archive silver halide photographic paper and I can tell you it is so vibrant and true it has to be seen to be believed. I print on a Chromira 30" printer and the comparison is superb.

The whole book is extremely well made and feels very hard wearing indeed in it's construction.

The cover is thick and strong. The only small point I would like is that they offered a choice in cover material. But all things considered this is a minor point and I am more than happy with the finished product. More than that, everyone who has seen the book so far has been wowed!

 

Fuji X-T1

Ok, I did succumb. I got my hands on Fuji's newest offering, the marvel that is the X-T1.

Now, is this a major departure for Fuji? Yes and no. My XE-2 has same sensor and screen (and the EVF is just as speedy after the recent update, along with choice of peak focus colour) and in many ways they are the same camera in a different skin.

I applaud Fuji for this somewhat bold move, adopting a more SLR style shape and providing a choice now to their more "rangefinder" shaped bodies.

There are reviews aplenty so I will not dwell, I will just give a few personal impressions.

YES, the new EVF is all that and a bag of chips! It is quite frankly amazing. You can be forgiven for forgetting you are actually looking through an electronic viewfinder and not a pure optic viewfinder. The size is immense and the implementation of a "dual view" setup in manual mode (where a 100% view alongside the overall view can be seen, along with focus peaking et all). No longer should anyone question manual focussing on this camera, it's a joy and simplicity itself.

 

The tilt screen will not only keep your clothes clean and dry for low level shots and allow those above the head focussing worries to vanish, but you can also pretend to be shooting a TLR camera at waist level.

Of course the body is now also weathersealed, great with all the buttons and dials available. And speaking of dials, a stand alone ISO dial, YES! a true real camera.

The ability to fully remote control the camera from a smart phone or tablet should not be overlooked, this is immense and lends itself to so many possibilities. So many "small" additions yet as a whole they build into such a huge improvement. My XE-2 is going nowhere, but it now has a firm buddy residing in the the same bag.

What did strike me, the size. It's all very well seeing images everywhere but the mind kind of plays a trick on you. It looks like a dSLR so expectations are such. But, the thing is tiny, I mean wow this is dinky. It was a surprise, not a bad one but my mind had taken over all reasoning and information to the extent that when I held it I was shocked.

Hand in hand with this is ergonomics. To me portability is the key and part why I love my Fuji gear, thus I did not order the battery grip. In fact with the new body and more pronounced front and rear grip on the X-T1 I thought I would be fine. Very quickly though I found my long fingers were not happy. My pinky was actually quite uncomfortable under the camera body. Hmmm, oh well, Fuji has me covered, enter the MHG-XT. The non battery grip is perfect. It gives more purchase, a safer feel when holding the camera, but even more this time Fuji gave us a battery door cutout (a later consideration for the X-Pro1 and XE grips) and an Arca Swiss style rail. Bravo Fuji, you have read my mind and done it again.

So, there we are, project done, printed and book made. New camera entered the family (and along with the sublime 56mm f/1.2 lens) exciting times ahead.

Time to start research on the next project I think!

 

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) 2AM Book Fuji FujiCreate Personal Photo Projects X-T1 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/5/2-am-fujicreate-and-x-t1 Mon, 05 May 2014 12:31:29 GMT
X Night Tales http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/3/x-night-tales So, my extended book project nears the end. Still a few more trips into the night to complete and a few more images desired, but the bulk of the project sits on hard drives awaiting the giving of life which is the print itself.

Being an Official X Photographer you may surmise I am biased, but I can assure you this is not the case. The little Fuji X cameras made this project possible.

Of course I could have shot with another camera, brand, design, format, but I am convinced that I would have caused more of a stir, been recognised more (leading to more "posed" mages) and imho the images would not have looked as good (at least how I envisaged and wanted them).

Like many, I started where it all began, with the original X100. Sure the camera had it's flaws, but it had something many will not understand, it had soul! Now Fuji have a plethora of offerings, something to suit everyone, even those that hark after/more desire the SLR look with the X-T1. They are all tools for the vision and all excellent at what they do. Personally I am working with the XE-2 and X100s mostly, although "The Munchies" series was shot exclusively on the X Pro 1. The lens lineup, well, Fuji has now got such a range and of such quality only the mentally challenged would argue otherwise. The new 56mm F/1.2 is a marvel! I have not been using it as a portrait lens (it's a tool and should be used when appropriate, it is not a specialist lens at all) but rather to uncloak the night time world and all it's wonders and eccentricities. 

The editing of any large project is probably harder than the photography. After only several months of shooting I have a deep respect for W. Eugene Smith and his tribulations. How to edit down the mass of images, all remembered, all personal to a degree, all vying for attention and acceptance. No easy answer. Personally I favour a simple approach. I do a first edit (all using Lightroom), then consult several trusted non photographers, after all they are the ones I am most aiming to view, question and enjoy my work. Then I consult a master photographer or two (established industry professionals, in this case also with an MA in photography and well exhibited nationally), and finally, I filter all they have said and take which is useful/I agree with and forget the rest and choose my edit :) Live by the sword and die by the sword, well it is my project.

Working with the XE-2 and X100s on a harness, walking miles at a time, under my coat, ready and waiting to jump to attention and capture that moment is a joy. Their lack of weight and size make any lengthy forays into the night a non issue. But then, when called upon, it's their willingness to perform, capture that moment with professional dexterity, thats the truly amazing thing.

I am neither paid nor cajoled by Fuji to write these things, being an X Photographer does not come with "strings attached", so what don't I like? Honestly, I am a very happy photographer. I wish the XE-2 could cycle view mode the most, I dislike reviewing images in the EVF (however fantastic it is) and the lag from LCD to EVF actuation when bringing the camera to the eye is annoying. Sometimes a split second is all it takes to miss magic, so please Fuji, give us a firmware fix already for this.

The stealth nature of these cameras is superb for this type of shooting. It's not that I am trying to accomplish anything nefarious, but to the general public they don't normally understand why someone is taking their photograph, especially at night. I am shooting in a voyeuristic manner as I don't want too much recognition. That too often breaks the natural behaviour and all too often results in a false pose "watch the birdy", so these cameras are perfect indeed.

The controls are superb also. Many of my students are now Fuji x camera owners, why, simply they could see the simple beauty of my cameras, their stellar performance and minimal size/weight and jumped on the Fuji train. Teaching with these cameras is about as close to teaching with a 35mm manual film camera (probably the best tool for the job, yet sadly most would not entertain the idea) as can be and I have seen time and again the accelerated progress made by students using these wonderful tools.

So, why no X-T1? I am not ruling it out but I don't feel I need (working photographers are not generally rolling in cash sadly) to buy one right now. The XE-2 is the same architecture minus the flappy screen, full remote and new evf (yeah weather sealing too but have not had a problem keeping a camera as small as an XE-2 or X100s dry tbh). Simply put, the files are the same and quality of image produced the same. I also am not a fan of the dSLR style look. I may get one down the line, but much prefer the rangfinder layout. I do applaud Fuji for their bold design choice though as firmly believe many are so used to the "prism hump" look that the X-T1 will be more of a runaway success for them, and success for Fuji is long overdue in my book.How about that firmware update (along with view mode) to evf response to the XE-2 then, huh huh :) And is it possible to give the XE-2 the remote capabilities too? after all it has wifi.

So there we are, the Fuji X cameras conquer the night! My biggest "grin" moment, the first shot with the new 56mm F/1.2 without  doubt, a stellar lens by any stretch of the imagination.

Best get planning the next project I guess (actually, already have plans there too, but shhhhh ;)).

 

p.s., these are all sooc jpegs atm, just saying :)

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) 56mm F/1.2 Fuji Night Photographer X X100s XE-2 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/3/x-night-tales Fri, 28 Mar 2014 12:09:28 GMT
Edinburgh at F/1.2 and X lineup http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/3/edinburgh-at-f/1-2-and-x-lineup So, last Thursday the 13th my project moved to the amazing city of Edinburgh.

It was my first visit to Edinburgh and I truly did not expect it to get under my skin the way it did!

The people, the architecture and overall feel captured my heart. I will definately be going back and may even consider a prolonged stay.

I took the full compliment of Fuji X goodness but the XE-2 and 56mm F/1.2 shone once again.

This combo just cuts through the night like a guided missile. Even though the F/1.2 is a large lens (in relation to many of the Fuji X lenses) it is neither a chore or issue to carry and shoot with. Indeed I calculated I walked close to 22 miles or so the four days I shot there. I always carried the XE-2 fitted with the 56mm and X100s/X Pro1 + 35mm F/1.4

Focus is unnervingly accurate, speed is excellent and contrast/rendition of scene is superb. This is truly one fantastic and inspiring tool to use.

So here are a few of the rough outtakes. I have not long returned home and not had chance to process so these are straight out of camera jpegs.

 

XE-2 56mm F/1.2, iso 800, 1/75, F/1.2

 

XE-2, 56mm F/1.2, iso 1600, 1/60, F/1.2

 

XE-2 , 56mm F/1.2, iso 1600, 1/60, F/1.2

 

XE-2, 56mm F/1.2, iso 1250, 1/60, F/1.2

 

XE-2, 56mm F/1.2, iso 1250, 1/60, F/1.2

 

XE-2, 56mm F/1.2, iso 1250, 1/60, F/1.2

 

XE-2, 56mm F/1.2, iso 800, 1/200, F/1.2

 

The low noise, excellent low light ability of the XE-2 never ceases to amaze me, pair it with the F/1.2 and you have a nocturnal capture machine !

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) 56mm Edinburgh F/1.2 Fuji Night X XE-2 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/3/edinburgh-at-f/1-2-and-x-lineup Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:13:46 GMT
85mm Scalpel http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/3/85mm-scalpel For most of my recent career I have made much of my living with an 85mm f/1.4. I love that lens, it has been updated and remodelled by the manufacturer but I hold onto my original, it holds sentimental value. It has shot commercially on three continents and produced some of my most popular images, in short I love the 85mm focal length.

Since moving back to the UK from the US my life has changed somewhat. I teach now and also no longer regularly shoot commercial fashion or portraiture, now my love is extended projects (whether you call them art, documentary, it's a process of love and exploration and enriches my soul more than commercial fashion). I still shoot fashion and portraiture, heck, I teach it, but it's not now my mainstay. So, surely the 85mm focal length is now forgotten? That focal length is a portraiture lens right? Humbug, a lens is a tool, certain focal lengths have "historical" context but all lenses are tools for our vision and imagination.

So, here we are, I still have my old faithful 85mm f/1.4 but now it is joined by the young upstart, the Fujinon XF56mm F/1.2R.

Fuji know a thing or two about quality glass and as such this most anticipated lens was worth waiting for. Yes it's big (it's F/1.2, hello, thats a lot of glass), and yes it's quite heavy (all relative of course and we aren't talking dSLR equivalent heavy here) but it's bootiful!

On the XE2 it certainly looks a beast. The combo may lesson one handed shooting overall, but a two handed grasp feels just right. Focus is assured and snappy and the lens is buttery smooth (and this would be butter churned by dusky maidens with long limbs and faultless skin smooth). And the bokeh, well it's a Fuji lens with a max aperture of F/1.2, it's fujilicious. 

So, with my recent shooting why am I so excited about this lens? Surely the 35mm F/1.4 would be more exciting. Well, as good as the Fuji X-Trans sensor is (and it's amazing), ultra low light shooting (i.e. out and about when only Vampires should be roaming the streets) every little helps. Composition and framing are key to me and neither the 35mm or 50mm work sometimes. Also, that extra lil help of F/1.2 is very welcome.

 

After a long day teaching I quickly snapped this (handheld ISO 1250, 1/60, F/1.2) before heading home. Technically it stinks, but as a test, well. Btw, this is a straight out of camera jpeg. Now, see that lobby area and flat screen TV on the wall?

Don't know about you, but I am impressed! 

So many (pretty much all) of my colleagues and professional friends are quite astounded when they see my last project work (and grabs from current project) to find they were taken with an X Pro1 and XE2. Large prints, shot at night and basically noise free with great dynamic range. It's when they invariably ask "How do you handle the tripod on the streets at night?" that I smile as I watch their jaws drop when telling them Everything is hand held. 

As superb as the X-Trans sensor is, it needs good glass to compliment its magic. The 50mm (Fujinon XF 35mm F/1.4R) is a superb lens, but this 85 1.2, just wow! And I'm not just talking about the added .2, the build quality is improved, the focus nicely dampened and the feel is as premium as any lens I have used before.

 

Roll forward a couple of days and I was out shooting my book project for the first time with the 85.

Now, I am shooting on the streets but am not completely "street shooting", in the typical understanding of the genre. So 85mm may sound an odd focal length, but sometimes not having to stand in the middle of the road at night to frame and compose is desirable, thus 85mm is another tool. Focal lengths can produce different aspects to an image (WA distortion, Tele compression etc.) but all are tools in the photographers arsenal to be used and each has it's place.

The difference between the 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm F/1.2 you might imagine is mostly just one of focal length, I mean what can F/0.2 really change, quite a lot it turns out. The 85 locks focus (on XE2 at least) much faster and more assuredly, renders beautiful out of focus areas and is Samurai Sword sharp. I was truly impressed in a way I was not expecting.

 

XE2, 56mm F/1.2, iso 800, 1/60, F/1.2

All the images here are more "tests/grabs" and straight from camera jpegs using NegH.

The low light (read extreme conditions) capabilities, colour rendering, swift focus and sharpness of this lens is beyond impressive in my opinion.

 

XE2, 56mm F/1.2, iso 800, 1/100, F/1.2

This is the first working outing with the 85 and I am overjoyed with it's performance. YES many will buy this lens for portraiture (after all 85mm is a classic portraiture focal length) but don't dismiss it's further capabilities. Shooting in such harsh conditions, dark, crappy artificial light, hand held, speed of focus requirements, this lens excels. And if it can conquer such extremes, imagine how it will coast through less taxing situations.

With each new offering from Fuji they get better and better. This lens has been a long time coming and many have been waiting patiently for it's availability. The good news is, as far as I am concerned, the wait was so worth it!

As per, although I am an Official X Photographer, I am neither asked nor expected to write glowing praise about Fuji products. These are my own personal and honest findings with this lens. 

 

And one last grab, I stumbled upon this very happy and alcohol infused gentleman. I think he's quite possibly the newest Fujinon XF56mm F/1.2R fan ;).

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) 56mm Bokeh Drunks F/1.2 Fuji Night Street XE2 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/3/85mm-scalpel Sat, 08 Mar 2014 11:05:26 GMT
Official Fuji X Photographer - Latest Project and XE2 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/2/official-fuji-x-photographer---latest-project-and-xe2 Well, today I am very proud to announce I have become an Official Fuji X Photographer.

Very proud indeed to be part of such a wonderful family and be associated with such an amazing photographic company!

 

The weather here in the UK has been apocalyptic of late but finally I have been able to get out and shoot for my book project "Nocturnis".

I am shooting at night (roughly between 10pm and 4am) so quite extreme, especially for a camera.

The Fuji's (the X Pro1 which I used for the majority of my last project, along with X100s) are perfect for such extreme conditions. This project is a bigger scale to my last "The Munchies" and even more challenging. Most cameras would struggle with such conditions. Dynamic range continues to get better and low light capability grows with technology, but right now the Fuji's (am currently using the XE2 a lot) eat this all up and attack the scene with aplomb.

I am forever astounded with the performance of these little cameras! I am sure I could use another but the size, stealthy presence and performance (especially the colour renditioning and noise to single ratio) of the XE2 is simply superb. A camera is but a tool to record our vision and the XE2 (along with it's siblings) allow me to do just that, see the scene and record it as I desire.

 

Fuji XE2 + 35mm f/1.4, 3200 iso, f/3.6 at 1/60

To document life unobtrusively is never easy, but the small size (and the colour, I have a black XE2 and X Pro1) helps greatly in the stealthy approach. I walk many miles each outing on this project yet the size and weight of the Fuji's never pose any problem at all. Whether in a bag or slung under my coat on a "Moneymaker" harness, I forget they are there until needed.

It has been said many times before but this X Trans sensor literally sees in the dark. Sure many images have been taken in lowlight over the years but the lack of digital noise in the resulting image with the Fuji's is awe inspiring! And this is at a shutter speed/ISO and aperture required to freeze any movement also.

Fuji XE2 + 35mm f/1.4, 3200 iso, f/2.5 at 1/60

The project continues, many images are required to tell the story and culminate in a book but with the Fuji's working with me (not against as many cameras would) it's a joy to work. The XE2 (and it's siblings the X Pro1/X100s) allow me to concentrate on my vision and capture the results and in such a calm way it's truly effortless.

Just a couple of images above to give a flavour of the project. 

I always shoot RAW + jpeg and the interesting thing is that the jpegs are usually soooo good (the above images are jpeg out of camera) that the RAW images aren't used! Truly a magical camera indeed.

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) 35mm Fuji Night Official Photographer X XE2 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/2/official-fuji-x-photographer---latest-project-and-xe2 Mon, 24 Feb 2014 13:10:38 GMT
The Times, They are a Changin' http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/1/the-times-they-are-a-changin Having just written a 26 page paper on Documentary Photography and the Citizen Reporter I thought it was useful to make a comment here.

As most know, it's a hard time for professional photographers these days (not to mention photographic equipment companies).

Things have changed since the film era and technology has exploded exponentially. First digital cameras and now we have mobile computers with cameras within, which we commonly know as the smart phone or camera phone.

Now, I am not deflating nor condemning the worth of the camera phone, it has tremendous applications and has allowed so many more to discover the joy of photography. But the smart phone has it's limitations. Although manufacturers are feverishly striving to improve the camera quality with every new incarnation, the phone as an imaging device is still lacking. Control and quality are the main failings, but then they are surely offset by size, convenience and speed.

The simple fact is that it is hard to even purchase a phone nowadays sans an included camera. Therefore these are devices that are most commonly with us as we go about life. At any given moment we can use our phone to capture a moment, a situation, anything that happens before us. Then, and what the current consumer has come to expect, publish this immediately. Technology has driven us to have expectations. We have less free time and that we have we want to enjoy so everything is at a frenetic pace and through technology we demand speed. We want everything we are used to but we now expect it NOW! 

In professional terms the citizen reporter can capture and upload an image with the efficiency and speed the consumer demands. This then creates a desire and then everything else tries to follow so the audience is not lost. More and more publications are going digital and online so they can be accessed by the mobile masses. On a social level instant gratification and sharing of life events is now expected so the consumer can share their thoughts and life with the rest of the world if not just their family and friends.

But back to the professional, apart from a few photographers (who, depending upon opinion) have used mobile devices professionally to prove a point or for personal attention? the smart phone supplies neither the quality (camera phone images don't generally print well) nor the control to satisfy the need. We are rightly proud of our craft and nothing less than the best quality to capture our images will do.

So we reach an impasse in many ways. The audience is ever demanding immediacy in their consumption of data, yet the device that most readily supplies this, in use and portability, is inferior in it's output.

Something rather overlooked (in my opinion and from reading/hearing comment) is the implementation of WiFi into the Fuji XE2. The X100s has a menu option for an EyeFi card and many other cameras allow such operation (but this requires more expense from a alternate source).

With the ubiquitous smart phone found in many of our pockets and the very portable XE2 we have a superb quality imaging device which will effortlessly allow us to transmit our images just as easily as the inferior phone camera.

 

 

A simple free download of the Fuji photo receiver application to a smartphone and a single push of the dedicated WiFi button on the XE2 and your professional image is ready for cyberspace consumption.

The paring of devices was effortless on my Android phone and transmittal is fast and simple. Yes the app is limited at the moment, but it does what is required, allow quality images to be uploaded in an instant. I understand for many this is not a necessity and of little consequence, but overall it is something which I believe is invaluable and gives us back that which we lose against smart phones. We now have the quality, control and speed at our fingertips.

I could write about the continuing mistrust of photography shown by much of the public, the age of photoshop and incidents like the Anan Hajj Beirut photograph and Reuters are a prime example, and how the immediacy of camera phone imagery and its raw publication can illicit a certain trust in what is shown. Suffice to say by narrowing gaps between professional imaging tools and transmittal of images is a huge step in the right direction. A professional can now be on location armed simply with the very portable XE2 and a smart phone and almost instantly upload images to a trusted publication or anywhere else in cyberspace. The implications are vast and I personally trust that professional photojournalism (with the skill, sensitivity and research implied) can only benefit from this technology and hope they embrace it's use. I can count several Magnum photographers right now who use mirrorless cameras professionally and hope this is an indication of forward thinking on behalf of the professional community. The Fuji X system is superb in it's ergonomics and imaging quality, it's small, light and quiet and now the XE2 has WiFi built inside the possibilities are there to be taken advantage of by the professional on location.

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) Documentary Fuji Photojournalism WiFi XE2 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/1/the-times-they-are-a-changin Thu, 16 Jan 2014 15:23:39 GMT
First Night of Training for the XE2 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/1/first-night-of-work-xe2-workout So, it's -2 deg. outside, yes I know it's not a Polar Vortex but it's cold, and the XE2 starts it's training for my latest project.

The focus speed, well, all assumptions are correct. It leaves the X Pro1 wanting in these conditions. Not that the X Pro1 is any slouch, my last project was all done with the Pro, just the XE2 is more eager and locks onto it's subject with more willingness, in fact the speed and absence of shutter lag can surprise. The newer heart inside with increased low light AF speed is not hype, it works brilliantly. The XE2 is much nippier, like a terrier darting straight to target.

What seems like a lifetime ago, in my previous career, I used S.I.T. cameras (Silicon Intensifier Target). These were amazing and could see clearly when we reached a mile below sea level. The Fuji XE2 is from the same family it appears (along with X100s), it sees in the dark! I would almost call it "Vlad the Camera" for it's night-time prowess.

The noise to signal is still amazing, noise, what noise.

The absence of the View Mode button is a royal PITA though. Well, really it's not, but it would be much more convenient to have the option (please Fuji, firmware upgrade soon). After shooting film for so many years the screen is a bonus rather than necessity, but we all know how quickly we can become accustomed to these things. 

Also, the lag to turn the EVF on through eye sensor is a little slow. Something else that can be negated by carrying extra batteries (always advised anyway and my pocket carries several) and keeping EVF only on. Hopefully this may be another tweak the Fuji wizards can cast a magic wand over in the future.

However, these points are largely trivial. The XE2, on it's first project outing in hideous lighting conditions, performed like a champ. The size is not a concern (as pondered after X Pro1 use for so long) but the grip is a welcome addition, at least for me. The controls fall to finger naturally and everything feels that little bit tighter in operation. The X Pro1 is still an amazing camera (as is the X100s) so there really is no wrong choice. But Fuji have definitely honed/polished and improved upon many things to produce the XE2.

The increased focus speed is very welcome as this project continues on from "The Munchies" and will be even more testing. The challenge is to produce a book, one which is more complete, so the little XE2 has a long and tough road ahead, but it never complained once (unlike my frozen digits).

 

One quick outtake from the night and a sneak idea of what the XE2 has ahead in coming months.

Fuji XE2, 35mm f/1.4 @ f2 iso 1600 1/60th sec.

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) Fuji XE2 dynamic light low night project range http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/1/first-night-of-work-xe2-workout Tue, 14 Jan 2014 08:48:10 GMT
X not Y or Z, PerfeXtion? http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/1/x-not-y-or-z-perfextion We photographers can be a sentimental bunch. We have long and fond memories and often prefer familiarity to change.

For me, as I work professionally and teach, the quality of print is and always will be my benchmark for my tools of choice. If my film and or camera can produce what my mind sees and a quality print, I am a happy photographer.

Since starting with photography many years ago I chose the film that gave me the results I desired. I don't shoot much film these days, but when I do load some Medium Format or some 5 x 4 I am still comforted when I open that vivd green box.

I know the quality is there and my prints will be as gorgeous as they always have been. Sentimental perhaps, nostalgic certainly, but I trust Fuji Film.

Now I shoot predominantly digital but my choice of tool is no less important.

I want something that not only produces the highest quality prints I am used to but is also a pleasure to carry and use. Something that compliments my style and does not fight me too much. Something that works with me and not against me.

We live in an ever accelerating technological surge. New equipment is seemingly announced weekly and our choices expand to dizzying proportions. Choice is good, yet if you are like me when walking down the breakfast cereal aisle of any supermarket, too much choice can be confusing rather than helpful. 

When a company gives us choices with the same fundamental heart and soul within though, that's just clever. The aesthetics, ergonomics and abilities are different, yet the inner workings that provide the actual output are the same, that's the kind of good choices.

With my happy trio above I have so many options. Yet all contain that gorgeous beating heart of the 16 megapixel X-Trans sensor. I have choices for carry, aperture, ND filter, leaf shutter, fill-flash, optical and EVF, all choices that I can make for shooting and which I would most need, yet I am assured the file output is consistent, that's my kind of choices.

Low light, noise free high iso and amazing micro contrast.

 

Amazing dynamic range and colour rendition.

 

Effortless night time shooting for documentary with stunning rendition.

 

Elegant studio performance with strobes.

 

Whatever I have thrown at my brace of Fuji X cameras they have performed stunningly and complemented my work in an effortless and yes fun way. Of course they are objects, tools, yet they have seemingly become my friends. Never before have I bonded so with a camera or smiled so much when using one. It's like going on an adventure with an old friend and sharing the experience with an unseen smile.

Many times I have read, "if only this were included", "if this was faster or that was sealed", "if it was only FF". But how many of these people have stopped to really think about there excuses?

I printed my recent "The Munchies" series on A3 paper and could so easily have printed to A2 or larger due to the quality of file (this series was photographed using the X Pro1). There was no visible noise, the colours just jumped off the paper and the dynamic range was huge.

Many seem to "think" they want the "do it all" camera, what we have come to think of as "the Swiss Army Knife" in terms of features. But guess what, Swiss Army Knives currently come in over 150 flavours! Guess they are not the be all and end all answer in one tool either :)

The point is, if you need ,say Medium Format, then probably that is what you need to buy. There are so many kinds of camera then there surely is one for everybody and every need. But if you need a great all round tool, with a small (yet very useful) choice, then the Fuji X cameras take some beating! With a range that contains the same heart and soul you can be assured of consistent output. And furthermore, Fuji not only listens to us as a photographic community, they constantly upgrade the firmware in their cameras to make our lives even more pleasant and easier.

So, I choose Fuji firstly for file output for my prints, then perhaps equal parts comfort, function and sentimentality. But no matter why I choose to professionally use Fuji for work and teaching, there is never a Perfect camera, but for me my Fuji's are PerfeXtion.

 

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) camera film fuji pro1 x x100s xe2 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/1/x-not-y-or-z-perfextion Mon, 13 Jan 2014 08:30:43 GMT
Extension of the Mind http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/1/extension-of-the-mind So, the holidays are over and we welcome 2014.

New start, new year, new opportunities and new projects.

The camera as a tool, in it's purest form, should indeed be an extension of our imagination. It should enable our vision and NOT get in the way. It has a simple task to perform (no matter how complicated the technology may be).

Sadly many manufacturers forget this, the ergonomics, simplicity of setup and use and combine that with the quality of output.

Getting ready for more major projects (some overseas) I stumbled. I always shoot with two bodies. Old habit perhaps but I like to be ready for any possible issues. I had been shooting with my favourite X Pro1 with the excellent X100s as the secondary/backup. But I had become nervous, I needed two interchangeable lens bodies like I was used to. 

So, with CES bringing no new options I bought the XE2 to accompany the X Pro1. I will not give an indepth review as many others revel in this and do a much better job than I, but I will offer my impression.

 

 

I was a touch concerned with size. The X Pro1 fits perfectly in my hand, it's form and weight make it a joy to use. I have the Fuji grip on the X Pro, as before this I really didn't enjoy the feel so much. But the XE2 is smaller, lighter, oh dear. But NO, I ordered the XE2 with it's grip and can safely say the feel is excellent. Yes it's smaller than the X Pro but the ergonomics and weight are still spot on. It feels as premium a tool as it surely is and inspires just the same confidence.

It feels, well, tighter is the best way I can describe it really. All the controls just feel that bit more clinically adjusted, more refined in a way. I will say the the adjustment wheel is more of an effort to depress for say magnification of the image upon playback, but nothing I won't become used to.

First order of the day was to mimic the Q settings of my X Pro1, now we have a mirrored settings style no matter the body used.

 

 

The focus speed is most definitely improved. Good light, well all the range focusses amazingly after the multiple firmware upgrades Fuji continues to implement (are you listening Canon, Nikon et all? shame), but the focus in less than ideal light, wow!

Of course, paired with a magnificent lens as the 35mm f/1.4 the images are stunning as always (and depth of field/bokeh as dreamy as you wish).

 

As you may have deduced, I have not had the XE2 long at all but decided to try some trickier scenes in the workshop. All these images are jpeg with NegH or B&Wr , as amazing as all the presets are.

 

 

So, what else does the newest generation of current X camera offer us? Of course it has the inner heart and soul of the amazing X100s but it has been to techno school and picked up a few more tricks.

I honestly doubt I will use face recognition but never say never. It does work very well as, well y'know, had to test it ;) It's great to have a dedicated flash sync speed setting on the top dial! The EVF is as smooth as butter and detailed as irish lace, the write speed is very fast and all controls are tighter and harder to accidentally knock.

 

 

The camera is indeed a large step up and feels more "grown up" and "matured" honestly. Don't get me wrong, I adore my X Pro1 (and X100s) but the XE2 just feels more finished in a way. Indeed it may be tousling with the X Pro1 for first attention.

 

Recently I wrote and academic paper on Professional Documentary Photography and the Citizen Journalist. I will not bore you with the 1000's of words here, but suffice to say the XE2 also brings tools to the pro that the citizen takes for granted. Much citizen journalism is produced on a smart phone. Nothing wrong with that and indeed phones get better daily. Yet the control and quality still lack. What phones do enable is speed of publication. The audience is now a voracious consumer of information (much of it on the go with their phone or tablet). The ability to upload images and quickly have them distributed to online publications and social media sites should not be sniffed at, the public demands speed of consumption and at times uploading to a computer to process and then upload can be too slow and lose us work. It may be rudimentary but the built in WIFI of the XE2 should not be overlooked! The ability to link to a phone/tablet and immediately send into cyberspace (as is or after some processing) is priceless. My XE2 connected to my Android phone seamlessly, I was surprised just how quickly and easily. I honestly think more and more cameras (esp. the ones for professional users) need this ability.

Now if only Fuji would give me more video control in the X range I would be a totally happy camper.

 

Of course, the low light ability and dynamic range of the XE2 continues and is quite frankly astounding!

So, as the new year continues to unfold I now go forward and work on more projects with a slightly more easy mind. I now have the two bodies to make me more relaxed in professional work (and purely use Fuji as my equipment of choice!), happy days.

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) Fuji Pro1 WIFI X XE2 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2014/1/extension-of-the-mind Tue, 07 Jan 2014 15:22:18 GMT
"The Munchies" Project and Fuji X http://draigphotography.com/blog/2013/11/-the-munchies-project-and-fuji-x Some projects just come to you. You see something and it lingers deep within the mind, nagging at you, enticing you, yet you know there is more to it yet.

 

Many months ago I walked past a late night takeaway on my way home.

The lights, sounds, smells and people all around struck me aesthetically, I could visualize the image, it interested me, yet there was more to it than one image.

 

So, later, much later after a great amount of research came “The Munchies”.

 

Robert Capa told us “If your photograph’s aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”, many would take this literally.

Yet another great photographer, Tod Papageorge says “If your photograph’s aren’t good enough, you haven’t read enough”.  Curious, yet if you think about it they are both the same thing, less literal more “You need to know and understand your subject to attain the best possible images”.

 

Thus I researched, social interaction, proxemics, Maslow’s theory, medical papers, human biology and habits.

Then, I felt I was ready to begin my project about late night takeaways, “The Munchies”.

 

 

This was a long and tiring project, not so much due to the hours, more the unsociable hours. Walking the streets between 9pm and 3am for the most part.

 

I wanted to attain a consistent look, something that flowed rather than images composed and framed differently. Thus I shot in a precise way.

I could have used many cameras to do this, from the 5x4 field camera (big, costly, heavy, difficult to set up in this environment) to the dSLR and beyond.

Yet what I needed was a tool I could comfortably walk with for hours, not stand out, produce wonderful images (which have already been printed at A3 size), had a very good noise to signal ratio and was a joy to use.

The choice was actually simple, my trusty Fuji X Pro1.

 

 

Yes, as said before, I could have used any number of cameras, so why the Fuji?

I wanted to produce a series with a continuous feel, so the level in the Fuji’s EVF was a great bonus for getting the framing level. The histogram guided my exposure, the professional lenses offered by Fuji are more than perfect for such night time shooting.

Couple this to the fact the Fuji is inconspicuous (as I wanted to blend into the background and attain the most natural images I could) and small and light. In fact a Heavyweight fighter in a Bantamweight package.

Walking for hours at a time, fuji’s slung under my coat, as natural as taking a stroll until ready to shoot, was not so much a task but a pleasure.

I shot mainly with the amazing 35mm f/1.4 but had a couple of occasions (distances were important for continuity, and not standing in the middle of the road so I didn’t get run over of course) to use the 60mm f/2.4 also (the Fuji X100s always came along for the ride also).

Both lenses performed flawlessly in this rather extreme test. Couple that with the truly amazing sensor inside the X Pro 1 and I have images that needed little to no post production and have printed brilliantly (currently on A3 prints but could go larger without a hesitation).

 

So, what was this project all about? Born from a single vision one night and morphing into weeks of work later.

Well, it’s up to the viewer to look and decide what they feel. Photography is always a personal thing no matter what, so I will leave it up to the audience.

 

For me, it turned out to be many nights walking around cities and witnessing life which I would not normally pay so much attention to. And doing all this along with a very capable tool at my side, one which aided me and thus felt more of a friend than an object.

 

 

 

I must also mention that I hate camera straps. I dislike the “falling off the shoulder” syndrome and also hate feeling confined, which is how I feel when a strap is worn across my chest. Neither of these solutions lent themselves to this project where I needed my camera/cameras close at hand, ready to go and comfortable beneath my coat (this is Autumn/Winter in the UK remember J). To this end I found and bought a “Moneymaker” camera harness from Hold Fast Gear in Oklahoma.

I wrote about this amazing piece of craftsmanship in my last post but it’s worth mentioning again that without this piece of leather perfection this project would have been much less comfortable and enjoyable to shoot.

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) 35mm f/1.4 fuji holdfastgear moneymaker munchies night pro1 x x100s http://draigphotography.com/blog/2013/11/-the-munchies-project-and-fuji-x Tue, 26 Nov 2013 11:28:06 GMT
"Moneymaker" Camera Harness, Harness the Style http://draigphotography.com/blog/2013/11/-moneymaker-camera-harness-harness-the-style In small town Oklahoma lives an Artisan, Visionary and Hand Craftsman by the name of Matthew Swaggart!

 

I have a hate/hate relationship with camera straps. I have never used the strap that ships with a camera and every aftermarket strap has been the same “slipping off your shoulder” affair as you move around working.

I have experienced “claw hand” from constantly carrying a camera many times due to not wanting to have it dangling on a strap, worse still working with two camera bodies.

I need to be free to move, to direct, to document and to employ my vision. It wasn’t until I came across this small company in Oklahoma that I finally found my freedom!

 

 

HoldFastGear is Matt’s company and he makes all kinds of hand crafted goodies for the photographer, but the Moneymaker enthralled me!

 

Some may balk at the cost, yet how much do many spend on branded coffee and the like each day.

Top grain leather, true craftsmanship and a vision of perfection are all perfectly combined in HoldFast’s products.

Matt not only has designed a truly remarkable camera harness he has poured his heart and soul into the quality he employs.

 

 

Thus I am now the proud owner of a HoldFast Moneymaker, no more strap slippage or cross body madness, now I can work on documentary projects and editorial commissions with two camera bodies stylishly and effortlessly at my side. No fatigue, no worry and built to meld to me personally and become a friend for life!

 

 

Hold Fast Gear  http://holdfastgear.com/

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) HoldFastGear Moneymaker camera harness http://draigphotography.com/blog/2013/11/-moneymaker-camera-harness-harness-the-style Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:28:54 GMT
(Fuji) X Marks the Spot http://draigphotography.com/blog/2013/11/-fuji-x-marks-the-spot Once again I find myself apologising for my lack of content and absence.

Things have been hectic and exciting and photographic life tends to carry me along like an endless wave.

 

Much time has been spent teaching (designing and writing a new university taught course) both Fashion Photography (to an International class of students) and an advanced class.

 

I have also been immersed in some long running projects, but more on that later.

 

As my previous post shows, I welcomed the Fuji X100s into the arsenal awhile back. Still going strong and still a constant companion.

It has created rather a stir however, for now it has a stable mate of an X-Pro 1 with flurry of lenses.

 

I adore the files from the Fuji X cameras but wanted more flexibility with focal range, welcome the X-Pro ! And what a camera it is!!!

 

This is not going to be a review per se, the net is littered with such writings, but more a why for me.

 

Both the X100s and X-Pro 1 are small cameras with amazing sensors (superb high iso) and very user friendly manual controls. Of course their form factor harkens back to days of old (a good thing in my book as I remember those days fondly) and their size/weight makes them effortless to carry for extended periods.

 

My Nikon D800 spends most of it’s time hibernating now and I look upon it as a “specialist” camera.

My X-Pro 1 has become my true workhorse!

 

Curiously, as I have no issues with the X100s, I found I was not in love with the X-Pro 1 without it’s (optional) grip. I have large hands with long fingers and the grip makes it much more of a pleasant and ergonomic experience (I do not use a “thumbs up”) as I use the camera with my Elinchrom lights also.

 

So, what makes these Fuji camera’s so special to ME?

Ergonomically I enjoy using them (something oft overlooked yet vital when working a lot).

The files they produce are nothing short of spectacular!

Their file sizes are just right (not the massive files of the D800).

They are small and discrete and people notice me less (if at all) and when do they are not worried as the body covers very little of my face and is thus not as intimidating.

They weigh little and I can carry them all day with no fatigue at all.

And, most importantly to me, their size, weight and functionality means I carry them everywhere! This makes photography a joy and also means I can take images I would have missed. Walking around with a dSLR is too much like work, it’s big and heavy and puts you into a mindset of work. This is not always a bad thing but who wants to “work” every single day? The Fuji’s don’t have this feel, they accompany me like a well trained terrier, ready to pounce at any moment but well heeled and unobtrusive the rest of the time.

Simply put, they are an absolute joy which has brought the fun factor back to photography for me, which is HUGE!

 

 

Below are a few images (I would NOT have taken where it not for the Fuji’s being with me).

The ocean ones were in fact very quick captures (could’nt help myself) whilst I was teaching an all day Fashion Editorial class on location this weekend.

 

The B&W is of my long suffering buddy Murphy and was taken with a Minolta Rokkor lens attached to the X-Pro1 (another wonderful possibility, using old glass on the camera, which now has amazing manual focus attributes).

 

And lastly a couple of images from a new project I have been working on (finishing soon) and will be revealed in coming weeks. This project would have been sooooo much harder without the Fuji’s. Their size, quality and iso capabilities made walking the streets for hours at unsociable times of the night an effortless task indeed.

 

So has Fuji taken over my photographic life? I think it’s well on it’s way to be honest :-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) Fuji X Pro1 X100s" http://draigphotography.com/blog/2013/11/-fuji-x-marks-the-spot Tue, 12 Nov 2013 10:17:11 GMT
Choose Your Tools http://draigphotography.com/blog/2013/4/choose-your-tools I have not had chance to write of late, so apologies, project work has been keeping me far too busy.

 

A new tool has arrived in camp, the Fuji X100s camera, and what an amazing tool it is!

 

I have owned and enjoyed the original Fuji X100 for quite some time, it's form factor, size, functionality and file quality have always excited and delighted me, but it did have it's few shortcomings and quirks.

Much has been written about both the X100 and X100s so I am not going to provide a full review here, you can find many wonderful ones with a quick search, what I am going to do is give a first impression of why I enjoy the upgrade.

With any new tool I take my time to learn it before using it in a commercial field. I want to be sure of my results and understand all it's workings. Thus, as the X100s is still quite new, I have yet to have extensive time to use it fully.

I have had the chance to test it on two recent shoots though, a Documentary project I am working on and a commercial shoot in studio. Both times it exceeded expectations.

Apart from the obvious change in sensor from the X100 to X100s the "s" has some very useful features that I am loving. The "Q" menu makes changing settings a breeze now and much quicker and intuitive on the go. It still possesses the excellent 35mm equivalent lens that is f/2 and incorporates a leaf shutter. The manual focussing is now an absolute joy to use! I prefer the focus peaking option to the split image but either way the auto zoom when focussing is wonderful and no longer do you have to rotate the ring endlessly to attain critical focus, bravo!

Also the iso range is superb, wonderful RAW and jpeg files across the board and to my mind definately useable up to 6400 iso, brilliant.

During a break in a documentary shoot I stepped outside for a moment and captured the below image (this is straight out of camera jpeg shot at 3200 iso at f/4 with custom white balance setting, which is a breeze to attain and actually easier than my D800 rig),

 

 

It's just a snap, playing whilst taking a break as it were, but I am very impressed with the ease of use and quality of files from this little camera.

 

During a recent studio shoot I also tested the X100s, this time with my Elinchrom Ranger A/S Speed lights.

This shot was with one gridded soft box and at 200 iso at f/4, again a jpeg straight from camera,

 

 

Did I "need" to upgrade from the original X100? well, maybe not but the added responsiveness, easier control (over menu's especially), new sensor, better EVF and way better focussing (especially manually) has made me smile wider and has convinced me personally that the upgrade to my original X100 was well worth the effort.

Does this camera fill every requirement? of course not, tools are chosen for the job at hand and (at this present time, for me anyway) one tool does not cover every job I undertake. However, it is an amazing camera, even moreso than the original to my mind and a superbly capable tool for many many situations. It's a camera to learn, cherish and take with you everywhere that can attain professional and superb results and after all what more could we ask of a tool in our arsenal.

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) elinchrom fuji ranger tattoo x100 x100s http://draigphotography.com/blog/2013/4/choose-your-tools Fri, 12 Apr 2013 09:41:03 GMT
Too Much Light ! http://draigphotography.com/blog/2012/11/too-much-light I wanted to talk about a different problem today, one which we may encounter and that can be a challenge to overcome. Too much light on a shoot.

As usual, there is always more than one answer to a problem but I thought I would take you through what happened at a recent commercial shoot I did and how I tackled this very issue.

 I was hired by a client to shoot their newly opened Fitness Studio. They would be concentrating on massage and pilates and wanted shots of the studio and them working with a client. Simple enough you might say, and indeed most was, but the problem came when they wanted some shallow depth of fields shots of them assisting the student with exercises

The studio was quite compact, had light coloured wooden floors and white walls and ceiling. Now, to get the shallow depth of field I was going to have to be quite close to my subjects (due to the area of the studio) and I wanted to control the light rather than use the nasty artificial light within the studio. With all the light surfaces in the studio and the wide open aperture I needed to facilitate  my client's wishes I was going to have a greatly overexposed image.

I had a few options here, my lights (Elinchrom Ranger Quadra and Elinchrom Ranger A/S Speed) do go to a very low output but sadly not enough for the f/1.4 - f/2 range I would need. I could underexpose (which is something I have seen many people do before) but this is not a good idea and I will tell you why. When we underexpose we lose detail in shadow areas and when we try to correct for this more often than not we introduce unwanted digital noise. Not only this but it is stated that by underexposing we lose much more overall digital data from our file than overexposing. So this wasn't a good option.

So, what did I do?, I used my trusty Lee Filter holder and some ND (Neutral Density) filters. Now, normally most people associate ND filters with outdoor landscape photography, but the simple explanation is that an ND filter cuts down on light hitting the sensor (or film) and thus lets us use a wider aperture (or of course a slower shutter speed, not required in this task).

 

 

We simply fit the filter and adjust lighting and aperture accordingly.

I use Lee filters over others as I believe they are not only simple to use (as they drop in the holder rather than screwing onto the lens itself) but of the best quality available! There are other manufacturers and many people will also mention a "variable ND filter" but the quality cannot be replicated from a Lee. A variable ND filter is two rotating pieces of glass you are shooting through (and was mainly intended for video work) so it's doubtless obvious that a pure filter system like the Lee is preferable.

So, we have the aperture, lights and framing and we take the shot the client wants. Nothing groundbreaking but very important as we have fulfilled a wish for our client. As I was at ground level, to be on a similar plane to my subjects, care needed to be taken hand holding the camera steady, but apart from this the whole image was no more difficult nor complicated to take than any other.

 

 

Above is a quick unedited shot of the image I was asked to produce. Clean, simple and most importantly "controlled completely by myself" thanks to Lee filters. I could control iso, shutter speed, aperture and light giving me the look and feel of image required without having to compromise.

 

http://www.leefilters.com

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) ND density exposure filters lee neutral pilates studio training http://draigphotography.com/blog/2012/11/too-much-light Thu, 22 Nov 2012 11:04:24 GMT
The Mirror Concept http://draigphotography.com/blog/2012/11/the-mirror-concept Since their invention, mirror's have been used by artists. Often to depict reflections alone, but also very often as a metaphor for another world, dreamlike.

Surrealist's such as Dali, Magritte and Deveaux all played with mirror's in their artistry. Cinema too is fond of the effect a mirror can illicit with memorable sequences such as those in Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon" and James Bond's "Goldfinger".

I was thinking how so often the mirror, although portraying the present, actually conjures the future in our mind. When we get ready to go out we are actually looking at ourselves in a context of where we WILL be and not where we are at that precise moment.

I think Charles Dickens "Nicholas Nickleby" sums it up;

“What do you mean, Phib?" asked Miss Squeers, looking in her

own little glass, where, like most of us, she saw - not herself, but

the reflection of some pleasant image in her own brain.”

 

So my itch needed to be scratched. I firstly tried an acrylic mirror (those sold for garden applications) but it was woefully thin and was quite distorted. I also tried a framed mirror but felt the frame took away from the image. So eventually I custom ordered a frameless mirror of 3.5 x 2.5 ft.

 

Even working with my team I always felt slightly unnerved working with such a piece of glass, it was almost like working with fragile eggs. 

I always knew angles and lighting would be the key but it's not until you actually start framing the shots that just how critical angles (pitch, yaw and roll) have a dramatic effect upon the framing with a mere few degrees change culminating in a drastic change in composition. It also transpired that for the shots to work, and for me to frame the model, all the model could see in the mirror was myself (rather a surrealistic experience in itself).

 

At this point I have to say that two tools made the whole task much easier. Firstly my "Eddie" tripod from Three Legged Thing. A gorgeous piece of equipment in it's own right with it's carbon legs and anodised fittings, but moreover very portable and light and extremely adaptable.

 


 

And also the shutter remote release from Triggertrap which (in Bang mode) allowed me to step away from the camera, converse with my model and fine tune their posing and then trigger my camera/lights with an audible clap.

 

 

The layout on location was also somewhat peculiar as I was facing the mirror with my back to the lighting and model, something that gave passers by much consternation.

 

 

This indeed satisfied my itch in a way though. The images produced have a certain feel and indeed convey that feeling of being in one place but thinking of another. It's a concept I will revisit in time (probably when the seasons change and weather improves) but for now I am happy that an idea, however fraught with problems, turned out so well.

 

 

For clarity I again used the amazing Nikon D800 paired with the stunning Zeiss 100mm f2 T* Makro-Planar ZF2 (I attained stunning A3 prints with this combination and could easily print so much larger still).

This time assisted by a Three Legged Thing "Eddie" and the Triggertrap mobile once more. And lighting was with Elinchrom Ranger A/S Speed.

 

http://www.3leggedthing.com

 

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) d800 eddie elinchrom legged makro-planar mirror nikon ranger thing three triggertrap zeiss http://draigphotography.com/blog/2012/11/the-mirror-concept Thu, 08 Nov 2012 13:29:03 GMT
Shutter Release http://draigphotography.com/blog/2012/11/shutter-release Following on from my last post I thought I would write about another amazing innovation that makes life so much easier. I am near to finishing a recent project which used a large mirror on location in conjunction with models and this little tool really helped.

To attain the best quality I could (and to make life easier) I used a tripod with the Nikon D800 and Zeiss 100mm f/2. But to negate even more possibility of camera shake I also used a shutter release cable.

Many cables from many different manufacturers are available with varying triggering choices from the straight forward one press release to timed releases. They are all quite costly for what they are and somewhat limited also. Not only that, they take up more space.

Enter "Triggertrap Mobile" which actually utilises your smartphone (IOS or Android). Most of us would have our phone with us so this certainly lessons the amount of equipment carried. But much more exciting is the vast array of modes that can be used with triggertrap. The "app" is downloaded to your phone (either free app with 3 triggering modes or a very reasonable paid app with 13 triggering modes. I truly recommend the paid version with it's extra modes). All you then need is to order a triggertrap "dongle" with the correct connection cable for your camera's port. 

It's then as simple as plugging the dongle into your phone, the connector into your camera and choosing your firing mode. Out of the many modes available, from HDR to timelapse, motion detection and distance lapse to name but a few, I have only tried standard Cable Release and Bang modes myself.

The cable release mode is as simple as it sounds and I used it just as an ordinary cable release would work, depress and fire shutter. This took anyway any chance of camera shake altogether (with camera firmly attached to tripod) to gain sharpest image possible. But where the fun began was with the Bang mode. This mode employs the phones speaker and you set a decibel meter on the screen to a volume you desire. Then, when a sound exceeds this volume the shutter is triggered. Simply put you can set it so that if you clap an image is taken! Now imagine you have your shot set, the model is in the right spot, all the lighting is good but a small costume tweak is required, you can step over to the model, deal with the small change and clap and voila, image captured. I will add that I have seen too many photographers that have poor interaction with their models which almost certainly culminates in images that are less than could have been. As humans we like interaction, it makes us more comfortable and puts us at ease, so being able to face your model, talk to them, provide them with feedback and directing them in this way whilst capturing the image with an audible signal is a wonderful possibility (not to mention their astonishment the first time you do this without telling them and an image is captured).

I have merely touched upon the possibilities with this amazing tool and have only started exploring them myself but thus far I am very impressed. All I need carry is a small lead and my phone (which I have with me anyway) and I have countless ways to remotely capture an image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Triggertrap Mobile Dongle V2 for iOs & Android [TT-D2] Bundle Version with Connecting Cable for Nikon D800E, D800, D700, D4, D3s, D3x, D300s, D300, D3, D200, D2, D1, Fujifilm S3 Pro, S5 Pro,Kodak DSC Pro 14n

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) android iOS mobile phone release shutter smartphone triggertrap http://draigphotography.com/blog/2012/11/shutter-release Sat, 03 Nov 2012 15:47:24 GMT
Current tool of choice http://draigphotography.com/blog/2012/10/current-tool-of-choice I am often asked about equipment. What I use and what's best. The truth is it's all subjective and what works for one may not for another.

Back when I was regularly shooting film I used Nikon, Canon, Hasselblad, Leica, all sorts of cameras, depending upon situation and requirement.

Now, when I switched to digital I knew a system needed to be chosen. To me it came down to simple ergonomics. Both Nikon and Canon had similar offerings at the time but the Nikon felt better in my hand.

I have been a Nikon Professional for many years now so, although I will/have used Hasselblad, Phase One, Leica and Fuji depending upon the need, I use Nikon as my go to equipment

Recently there have been exciting times within Nikon with the release of the D800. A full frame, 36.3 megapixel powerhouse that (many say) rivals a lot of Medium Format bodies.

 

I am not going to review this goliath of a body here, there are many websites that will do a much better job of that than myself, but I am going to explain how this has impacted my photography. Now, just because you have a driving license does not mean you can drive a Bugatti as well as a Mini (not to their potential anyway) and this camera is no different it will highlight every slight imperfection (both in technique and subject). If you do not show it due respect it will chew you up and spit you out! For many years I have preferred the freedom and flow of shooting handheld, and although it's perfectly possible with the D800 a steady platform (i.e. a Tripod) is truly a good idea to eek out all the sensor's potential. Also, although my collection of Nikon lenses are no slouches in the quality department, the D800 cries out for the best glass possible to show it's incredible sensor off.

Enter my newest tool, the Zeiss 100mm f2 T* Makro-Planar ZF.2.

So, we have the sensor, we have the quality of optics, yet still (for me anyway) there is something missing. Remember, I am trying to eek out every possible ounce of quality this amazing sensor can offer here, it is indeed an amazing body in it's own right (I am just searching for MY ultimate setup). As with so much in life, a sum is only as good as it's parts and I feel that the viewfinder and rear LCD screen are far outresolved by the sensor on this camera. The best way (arguably) to focus the D800 is on a tripod, using liveview and the electronic zoom function to fine focus. However, the lcd screen could be enhanced in my opinion to provide a better visual performance (and therefore better focussing leading to superior quality images, the quest for the ultimate remember).

Do I have a solution? I am not sure yet but I do have a plan. To add another tool to my kit which I believe will enhance my shooting experience even more and lead to possibly the best quality I can hope for from this camera, an EVF from the award winning company Zacuto.

I will write more about this little marvel soon and explain why, although it is mainly marketed as a video aid, I believe it will aid with the D800 and it's ultimate photographic capabilities,

For now, if you would like to read about the amazing EVF you can click below;

 

 

 

Zacuto Viewfind.Z-Finder Evf Pro]]>
draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) 100mm Canon D800 EVF Fuji Hasselblad Leica Nikon Zacuto Zeiss f2 http://draigphotography.com/blog/2012/10/current-tool-of-choice Mon, 29 Oct 2012 16:25:44 GMT
New Site, New Blog http://draigphotography.com/blog/2012/10/new-site-new-blog After almost 20 years living overseas I have been back in the UK for a couple of years now.

I am pretty much acclimated, have life and studio sorted and continue to work in the wonderful world of Photography.

I intend this blog to be a peek into what is going on behind the lens. My images can be seen in the galleries but how they came about, how I constructed them, what thought process developed them and what equipment I used to capture them is what I intend to talk about here. Along with further conceptual ideas and how they may develop.

I don't want this to be a pseudo "review" blog, but I will discuss some of the more technical aspects of my work and my thoughts and ideas. 

So, without further ado, lets get started.

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draigphotography@gmail.com (DraigPhotography) UK concepts development equipment ideas photography http://draigphotography.com/blog/2012/10/new-site-new-blog Mon, 29 Oct 2012 15:03:59 GMT