I was going to title this POV-POC but thought that was too cryptic even for me.
So what have I been to to? Well, playing of course.
I recently acquired a GoPro Session video camera with the vague idea of complementing my blog posts periodically with some behind the scenes video or time-lapse footage as I go about capturing images on my camera.
I’ve been wondering how best to present the footage and one idea was to mount the GoPro on my camera’s hotshoe and film as I line up and take an image. So, what you have here is a proof of concept video for a point of view style photo slideshow.
I think I can develop this over time to include footage of the wider scene captured on a tripod and who knows even get around to trying the video capabilities of one of my digital cameras. Would you believe that I have not shot any video with either my Nikons or Fuji cameras? I dabbled with the Canon 5D Mark III before my move to Nikon making updates for my course work as a visual diary but nothing since then.
It was raining for quite a bit of the time yesterday when I went out so photography and videography is largely completed one handed as I had an umbrella in the other hand! If you listen carefully you can hear me groan when I have to kneel for the final image.
I can already think of lots of things to improve upon this idea but considering this was the first time I’d used the GoPro and therefore the first time I’d used their editing software I am pleased with the start. If nothing else it gives me a good basis to move the idea forward.
Now, to find a narrator for the next masterpiece!!
Update: Monday evening I added a short narration to the original video.
During a short trip to London recently I used the Fuji X100T for some “street” photography. The camera handled brilliantly but some of the resultant images were a little hit and miss. With the benefit of looking through the files in Lightroom I realise that I could and should have used a far wider aperture. Probably as a result of using full frame cameras for so long I instinctively went for f8 or f11 and occasionally wandered to f5.6. But as the shot above shows even f5.6 on a 23mm lens with a cropped-sensor camera gives far more depth of field than is needed especially when you consider I was not zone focusing but focusing each image separately.
More importantly it meant that the camera was regularly selecting ISO 6400 which is the maximum I have set in Auto-ISO mode. Now that isn’t necessarily a problem as this camera handles ISO 6400 respectably well but I have found that it is vital to nail the exposure on your subject. The image above was underexposed by almost two stops, probably as a result of light bouncing back off the floor fooling the camera’s meter. I had turned the LCD screen off to avoid chimping and also to be more discrete on the streets. The JPEG was unusable to my taste but fortunately I was able to rescue the shot by careful processing of the RAW file. A tick for my RAW+JPEG strategy.
The second image however, below, also shot at 6400 ISO, was properly exposed and as a result apart from a crop this is the JPEG as-shot. No noise issues and almost no post-processing time required.
The third image here is not my finest hour by a long chalk but it illustrates the major knock-on problem of setting too small an aperture. I was stood by the top of the escalator in St Pancras and looking to capture an image which showed the hustle and bustle of such a busy location. This composition pulled together everything in one frame I thought; the traveller with his luggage, businessmen talking but clearly in a hurry to move along and the ubiquitous traveller on the phone as he rushes to his destination. It looked great on the back of the camera. If only I’d been watching all of the information in the the Fuji’s viewfinder though.
The EXIF data for the image above tells everything that is needed. It was a stop underexposed so needed brightening (which at ISO 6400 increased noise). It was also shot at f11 which necessitated a shutter speed of 1/17th second!! Hand held!!! So we have camera shake and a degraded image through under-exposing at such a high ISO. As I say, not my finest hour but some good learning points.
And wider apertures are perfectly adequate for this type of candid imagery. Take the image below, ISO 6400 again but with an almost perfect histogram, 1/45th second which is on the border of what I would typically opt for in terms of shutter speed when handholding and an aperture of f4. The image is sharp front to back, from the edge of the table to the wall socket (which I will probably clone out for the finished image).
So, all in all some useful learning points here and I have added to my personal experience of using the camera. My choice of setting a maximum ISO of 6400 is vindicated but with the important caveat that I need to ensure the shot is correctly exposed as pushing exposure in post production exacerbates the noise present in the file.
The next time I get the opportunity for street photography with the Fuji X100T I am going to try using f2.8 as my go-to aperture, leaving the Auto ISO at a maximum of 6400 and keeping an eye on both shutter speed and histogram.
Someone commented on the OCA student group on Flickr some time ago that they often get side-tracked when researching and sometimes it’s a day later that they realise how much of a tangent they took. The same happens to me regularly – but the outcomes are often very welcome!
One such tangent a year or so back ended with me seriously researching the work of Bill Brandt for the first time. I had purchased a copy of “Bill Brandt Photographs: 1928-1983” sometime earlier and for the first time sat down and read that in full. Before I knew it I’d ordered two more books (must cancel my amazon account – too easy to buy books) and spent several hours reading articles from the internet and watching videos on You Tube including the BBC’s Master Photographers programme broadcast in 1983, the year that he died.
I then became interested in the way his work was actually presented particularly in Lilliput magazine and as well as looking at examples on the internet I found myself on eBay where I purchased a few Lilliput collections in book format so I could see them for myself in-situ and in context. Looking at one of these again this morning I was taken by how often images were presented as contrasting or complementary pairs which is something that Brandt himself also did at times.
Many interesting facts were elicited and bit my bit I was able to build up a picture of the man to complement the photographs I was looking at. A small item on the BBC news website for example included a quote from David Hockney: “Brandt’s pictures survive and enter the memory because they were constructed by an artist.” Brandt was not averse to creating the right scene, often getting friends to pose for him and for him the initial exposure was only part of the story. The print itself was extremely important in realising Brandt’s artistic vision and he routinely made physical alterations to prints to achieve the desired effect.
I came away from all this extra-curricular research with a real appreciation for Brandt’s work and also the distinct impression that as Hockney says he was more than a photographer, he was an artist. His photographs seem to me to sit between social documentary and pictorial representations. Images such as The Snicket (yes, I’m back to that photograph) can be read as a comment on the social conditions of 1937 Halifax, an allegory for the uphill struggle of the poor or as a pictorial representation of an otherwise mundane scene.
Why am I posting this so long after the first tangental diversion into Brandt’s world? Well, I’ve gone off-tangent again this morning revisiting Brandt’s work after spotting a chance reference to him on YouTube whilst looking for GoPro reviews!
To be honest I’m quite happy with that. He is a photographer whose work I really enjoy and I never tire of revisiting his work. It doesn’t help with the backlog of images to process on my computer though, which is worse than usual because of my new-found interest in the Fuji-X series! At this rate my backlog of images will still be unprocessed in the year 2525 (to reference Zager and Evans … oh dear! I sense another Google-tangent into 1970’s music coming up!).
A whole eight days without a blog post, no wonder people are singing “it’s all gone quiet over there …”. Or perhaps not, my reader probably assumed, rightly, that I was busy either with a camera or with looking after grandsons.
The Fuji X100T was the perfect choice for a walk along the local canal with twenty month old Ted in his pushchair (see above, all Fuji JPEGs). I remember when Zac was this age trying to push him along the canal with a Canon 5DII and 24-70 f2.8 lens attached in my hand trying to capture images for a college assignment. How I didn’t lose him into the canal is a minor miracle. This time around, with the X100T in hand, I found the whole experience far more manageable and enjoyable. I cannot check to be certain but I’d be pretty confident I took more images this time around and also have far more “keepers”.
I’m using every trip as a learning opportunity and what I learned on Saturday was that I find the Fuji Velvia preset too saturated for people-photography, it certainly did no favours to images of Ted and even seemed to block up the shadows somewhat, something the monochrome preset does not do. Changing presets on-the-fly is a doddle though and I shall remember to do so when out doing a mixture of subjects as I was at the weekend.
It was the X100T that I dropped in my pocket a few days earlier on a shopping trip with my long-suffering wife. I’d parked close to a favourite haunt in Halifax and on getting back to the car noticed that a barrier that usually prevented access to what remains of the Dean Clough railway line had been removed. Not wanting to miss the opportunity but conscious that my time was not totally my own I made a few compositions with the X100T (see above) this time using the monochrome preset. In such situations this camera is really proving its worth and whilst I also have the RAW files for later processing the out-of-camera JPEGs are once again very pleasing to my eye.
Whilst I am unlikely to abandon RAW shooting any time soon I have to say that I am really enjoying the convenience of having good quality JPEGs available for posting to social media or blogging. I would estimate that around 80% of my recent Facebook posts have been processed in-camera using one of the Fuji presets. A further 10-15% have had some minor tweaks via Snapseed either on my phone or if at home my iPad. I had initially considered the onboard wi-fi a bit of a gimmick but have to say that I’ve used it a lot, even uploading to Facebook sat on a hillside with my phone. The Fuji App for iPad/iPhone is very simplistic and a little clumsy to connect but it gets the job done and one virtue of its simplicity is that it is also simple to use.
When I do use the RAW files though I’m finding them full of detail even in high contrasts scenes such as the one above which was taken without the help of a graduated ND filter to retain detail in the sky. I basically “shot-to-the-right” to brighten the shadows as much as possible in the circumstances but without burning out the highlights. Large on my screen the result is very pleasing.
So, the ongoing review of the X100T shows that it continues to grow on me. Annoyances such as the cameras tendency to turn itself on when putting it into my pocket are becoming slightly less irritating as I adapt my behaviour to compensate for them. My liking for the JPEGs continues and I am becoming a fan of the simple yet effective wi-fi capability and the way the mobile App allows me to quickly upload images to my Facebook account.
Well, this weekend has been characterised by thinking, reading and exchanging views with fellow photographers on the subject of how far am I presently prepared to go in my move towards Fuji. The launch of the X-T2 this weekend makes the Fuji bodies even more competitive to my mind and no doubt triggered the thought process that has occupied lots of the past two days for me.
One of the biggest plus points of the Fuji system for me is the size and weight. My “first to hand” camera this morning was the Nikon D750 with the Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 attached. I wanted a camera to quickly snap some candids of the kids (grandchildren) in the garden prior to breakfast. The set up did a fabulous job, see above, but I really noticed how heavy it all was compared to the Fuji X-T10 I was using yesterday and indeed used this afternoon. Speed of operation is a complex mix of ergonomics, personal preferences and the amount of experience the user has with handling the gear. I can work very quickly with the Nikons and indeed can do so much more quickly than I can with the Fuji at present although I’m catching up fast.
As I’ve probably mentioned before I’ve been blown away by the image quality and the handling of the X100T and the X-T10. As net result of this weekend’s brain strain is that I’ve decided to rationalise my Nikon kit and leave myself with just the bodies, the “Holy Trinity” of lenses, my macro lens and the 300mm that I reviewed here not so long ago. The reality is that apart from one occasion, sorry, two counting this morning, when I grabbed the 70-200 and D750 (my “nearest camera” philosophy) I’ve only used the Fujis during the last couple of months. I’ve even invested in the Seven5 system to complement the full size Lee system.
This hasn’t always been a case of first-to-hand as I’ve been out several times specifically to take landscapes and chosen the Fuji X-T10 in preference to the Nikon D800E which is my usual landscape camera especially when teamed with the Nikkor 14-24 f2.8. The simple truth is that the two Samyang lenses (8mm fisheye and 12mm f2.8) are excellent on the X-T10 as is the 35mm f1.4, so my everyday shooting is very nicely covered especially when you add the excellent 18-55 “kit” lens.
And the JPEGs are awesome!
Until the Fuji system catches up in terms of a decent macro lens and something to rival the Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 (above) in terms of image quality then the Nikon kit will continue to have a place in my kit bag.
In fact, when Fuji catches up (and I do thinks it’s when not if) then I will have a tough decision I think. In many ways it’s going to be an easier decision than switching from Canon to Nikon as I’ve not yet built up an emotional attachment to the NIkons.
Sometimes I think we take photography, and by extension ourselves, far too seriously. This was unplanned yet really captures the moment to my mind. Captured with the Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 35mm f1.4. Or to put it another way, the first camera I laid my hands on at the time.
But unplanned doesn’t mean unthoughtful. It was a spur of the moment opportunity but its successful execution relied upon experience and understanding to not only grab the moment but to do so in a way that shows the subject to good advantage. This is perhaps the difference between a casual snap and a more polished image? A rhetorical question but feel free to leave a comment below!
The technical details: f1.4 | 1/12th second | ISO 200 | available light | no tripod.
Seeing the opportunity I quickly set an off-centre focus point (I use a single point most of the time), flicked the aperture ring to f1.4 and moved the camera into position. I rested the camera on a handy stack of papers (what a good job I don’t tidy my workspace very often) and viewed the LCD screen obliquely – I was surprised at how much visibility I had when you consider I was at around 80° to the screen. I could just see the focus point and was able to line it up with the nearest eye and take three frames before Ted moved. All of which took far less time than its taken me to type this or indeed you to read this.
I was sat at my desk so a few moments later I’d converted the file to mono and posted it to my Facebook account.
The lens incidentally is a new acquisition, purchased used from MPB and typically for them it’s in great condition. Based on this first experience with the lens I’m going to enjoy playing with it a lot. Who knows I may even post a review at some point.
The Dean Clough mill complex in Halifax is a favourite haunt of mine photographically and has been for a long while now. My wife works in one of the former mills and when she works late I pick her up in the car, usually arriving far too early and having to wait for her to finish. Last night I took the Fuji X100T with a vague idea of wandering around whilst I waited to see what caught my eye (sound familiar?)
The X100T was the perfect choice as it is small, light and as I’m quickly realising ideally suited for such meanderings. Indeed, it has quickly become my street-camera of choice and the perfect go-anywhere companion.
Fear not, this is not a blog full of windows! The diptych above features adjacent windows in another converted mill and was shot as a single frame. However the gap between them was about eight feet and capturing them in that single photograph left a huge gap between the two that I felt added nothing to the narrative. If anything the contrast between the two was lessened by the “blank” space. So after processing them as a single picture I simply cropped out the space between leaving a narrow white border to provide a clue as to what I had done.
One of the joys of digital photography is the ability to produce variations on a theme from a single file. In the set above the original is bottom left, a straight forward shot of the mill reflected in a large puddle. Being me I of course produced a mono variation, bottom right. But, inspired no doubt by yesterdays cafe shadows (see previous post), I then flipped the original to produce the main image above.
I appreciate that none of these would win a camera club competition but that is not the point of the series, indeed of the ongoing project that is my documentation of Dean Clough. I do make photographs specifically for my club competitions and monthly folios but they are separate from my ongoing and rather more personal projects such as Dean Clough. I enjoy wandering around the complex and photographing whatever catches my eye. If others like the results that is a very pleasing bonus but it’s not the purpose of the exercise.
I must be getting to the point where I have enough images from Dean Clough for a book!
Following on from this morning’s wander here are a few from my breakfast stop. Unfortunately when I emerged from the cafe the sun had disappeared behind a thick band of cloud and indeed did not reappear for around an hour by which time I was at home sat in the garden working my way through my third mug of tea of the morning.
Well, everybody does a shadow self-portrait at least semi annually surely?
After ordering I took a seat (why do we say “took a seat” when we simply sit down? I’ve never taken anything from a cafe let alone a seat). As I put my fleece on the back of an adjacent chair I noticed the shadow on the seat from the lettering on the cafes glass window. The image above is the result. Struggling to make sense of it based on my description? Try standing on your head! Amazing what happens when you simply invert an image.
In photography, diptychs and triptychs present two or three images which can be from the same session or polar opposites to show opposition or contrasting ideas.
Hopefully the diptych above will get your head back together.
Just as I was about to leave I noticed the shadows in front of my table. Shoving the chair back a dozen inches with my foot moved it into the shadow created by the word “cappuccino” on the glass front of the cafe.
All images taken with the Fuji X100T – I am really enjoying this little camera and have made more images in the last month than in the first three months of 2016 combined.
From time to time I get asked what “kind” of photographer am I. It’s not an easy question to answer quickly or without sounding pretentious. I usually mumble something about having a go at anything and might even add that I particularly enjoy landscape photography. If I’m feeling garrulous I might add that I enjoy photographing people but I’m rarely that forthcoming.
Inside, what I want to say is that I relate strongly to the approach of a Flâneur. A what? Comparing myself to a 19th century French literary type would indeed sound very pretentious but it is the nearest I have come to in recent years in describing my approach to photography. But it fits surprisingly well, especially when I think about how I prefer to approach photographing in towns and cities; the man of leisure, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.
I am a wanderer with a camera.
I do sometimes venture out with an objective in mind but that is the exception and normally connected with trying out a new bit of kit or trying out a technique I’ve been reading about. Occasionally it will be to capture something specific; just this morning I went out with the Fuji X100T to capture shadows, the results of which are showcased on this post. But on the whole my modus operandi is to grab a camera and wander. It suits my temperament, fits around the needs of a family outing to some degree and I like the serendipity of it all.
One of the many drawbacks of a very literal mind such as mine is the need for definition, the need to label everything in order to aid understanding. Whilst I’ve only realised it in the last few years I suspect that I’ve always been like it but working creatively rather than in a purely analytical or logical manner has really highlighted this tendency for me. I naturally gravitate towards anything that looks as if it will help me label or define concepts and am prone to wasting too much time on such considerations.
Hopefully this post has got it out of my system for a while though!
I am fully conversant with the benefits of using filters, particularly neutral density graduated filters, standard and extreme neutral density filters and polarisers, having used them extensively over the years for landscape photography. However, I watched a short video recently from Lee extolling the benefits of using filters in an urban setting that got me thinking. Given how much I like the JPEG files that come from my two Fuji cameras wouldn’t it be useful to utilise the power of filters to reduce the need to compensate for over-exposed skies; making the out-of-camera JPEGs truly one-stop solutions.
Fuji X-T10 and Samyang 12mm lens
As a result of this train of thought I recently bought into the Lee Seven5 filter system specifically designed for compact camera systems such as the Fuji-X range. My initial impressions are very positive but it has to be said that in some instances, such as when using the 12mm Samyang lens with three filters stacked together (above), it is better to use the full-sized Lee system. However, for less extreme lenses and for portability the Seven5 system is proving hard to beat.
I recently spent part of the day at Scammonden Water (post to follow) putting the Fuji X-T10 and Samyang 12mm lens through their paces using the full-sized Lee filters with neutral density graduated filters and both the Big Stopper and its sibling the Little Stopper. The Seven5 system is so light and small however I popped that in the bag to use with the Fuji 18-55 that I also planned to use on the X-T10 that day.
First, a simple comparison shot taken using the Fuji X100T both without and then with the Lee Seven5 0.9 hard neutral density filter. It says everything that needs to be said about the benefits of using graduated neutral density filters for landscape work.
In this example I think a third of a stop additional exposure might have been appropriate but I still refer the overall look of the second image. Whilst mentioning the X100T I should point out that I use a third-party hand grip which makes the camera a lot steadier in my experience. However, because of the very flat profile of the built-in 23mm lens I found that with the filter holder attached I could no longer grip the camera properly and indeed removed the grip for these shots. Not a deal breaker but something to be aware of when using the filter system on the X100T.
The image above was taken with the Fuji X-T10 and 18-55 lens at 18mm. This was handheld and utilises two Lee Seven5 filters. Across the top is the three-stop neutral density filter to hold back the bright sky. I also reversed a very subtle warm-up graduated filter in the holder just to give the foreground a little bit more warmth. Looking at both the with and without versions in Lightroom I was pleased with the choice; the effect is only subtle but has been effective.
At present I have just three of the Seven5 filters – the three-stop hard graduated filter, the 81b graduated warm-up filter and a Little Stopper. With a full set of the 100mm Lee filters I wasn’t keen on spending too much on the more compact system until I’d had a chance to test it properly. The image above utilises the graduated neutral density filter with the addition of the Little stopper which enable an exposure time of 2 seconds. The X-T10 was able to judge the exposure time through the filter although I did check that it agreed with my calculation before pressing the shutter. The effect of the Little Stopper is subtle and with hindsight I should have popped the full sized set on and used the Big Stopper but the purpose of the exercise was to test the Seven5 system.
All of the images here are out-of-camera JPEGs, it would miss the point of this test to have processed the RAW files and added additional tweaks. Whilst the Little Stopper image was shot from a tripod the image above was hand held. If the system is to work for me in an urban setting then nine times out of ten it will need to be used hand held rather than on a tripod. I found positioning the filters very easy using the Fuji X-T10’s EVF and looking at the files back at home was pleased to see that everything lined up exactly as I saw it in the viewfinder.
The image above was taken “on the run” as I moved to get under shelter from the pending rain. It was a useful test however as it reassured me that positioning the filter through the EVF was very quick to achieve. Likewise, the image below uses both the neutral density graduated filter and a reversed warm-up graduated filter and was taken whilst walking back to the car. In terms of being quick to set up whilst hand holding I am very pleased with how the Lee Seven5 works.
So, the acid test. Will I be investing further in the Lee Seven5 system?
Whilst they are less useful for the Samyang 12mm lens they are perfect for the X100T (without hand grip!) and for using on the fly with the Fuji X-T10 and 18-55 lens. For urban or street photography these are likely to be my go-to options as the extremely wide-angle and the manual control of the 12mm lens are less useful in these situations. I found the small size of the system a positive advantage – the 100mm system which I’d been using takes up a third of the small camera bag I use for the Fuji system! In practical terms the EVF of both cameras is perfectly good enough to enable accurate positioning of the filters which is particularly import given their small size. Looking back at the files in Lightroom there are no examples of poorly aligned filters both amongst the handheld and tripod-mounted images.
My only gripe with the system is the cost but Lee are able to charge what they do because the system is so good and therefore photographers are willing to pay the premium.
My Lee Seven5 wish list comprises a Big Stopper, a two-stop soft graduated filter and the phenomenally expensive polariser. Thinking about how I use the larger Lee system on my Nikon DSLRs this would give me the most-used combinations certainly for landscape photography. I often stack a three-stop hard with a two-stop soft graduated neutral density filter, use the polariser a lot and the Big Stopper more than I should I suspect.
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