Place: London Dateline: 2010

Yes, a wander back in time today and four images from the archive. All shot in London whilst I was down there working. As I was working all day these are of necessity night-time shots which at the time was a relatively new experience for me.

© Dave Whenham
The Ghostly Legs at St Paul’s
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St Paul’s from the South Bank
© Dave Whenham
St Pauls
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Canary Wharf from across the Thames in Greenwich

ISO 6400 anyone?

© Dave Whenham

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.

© Dave Whenham

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.

© Dave Whenham
Hustle’n’ Bustle – St Pancras

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).

© Dave Whenham

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.

Revisiting … Dean Clough

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?)

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Doorway – Dean Clough

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.

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In … Out

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.

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Variations on a single image

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.

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More flipped reflections
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Who could resist this opportunity? I have given it a grungy black & white treatment that I felt complemented the subject.
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Something pictorial from an urban landscape

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!

All images © Dave Whenham

Shadow Abstracts

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.

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Shadows VII – Self-portrait

Well, everybody does a shadow self-portrait at least semi annually surely?

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Shadows VI – “The”

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.

© Dave Whenham
Upside Down Diptych

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.

© Dave Whenham
Shadows V

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.

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Shadows VIII

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.

All images © Dave Whenham

To label or not to label …

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.

© Dave Whenham
Shadows – Elland.

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.

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Shadows II – Elland

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.

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Shadows III – Elland
© Dave Whenham
Shadows IV – Elland

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!

Not another Fuji journey!

It may just be because of my recent researches but I’ve seen a lot of blog posts along the lines of “My journey with Fuji”, “My switch from [insert brand here] to Fuji” or “Moving to Fuji – my story”.  So the virtual world probably doesn’t need another such post. But then again I figured that as my posts are read by approximately one and a half people each time perhaps it would be OK to slip this one in under the radar.

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The start of my Fuji “journey”. Fuji X100 Winter 2011.

I was as it happens a very early “adopter” buying the Fuji X100 when it first came out and I instantly became enamoured by its retro styling and the way it forced me back into a way of shooting I’d last enjoyed thirty years previously.

Coffee-and-Conversation-by-Dave-Whenham
Coffee and Conversation. Fuji X100.
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Misty Morning. Fuji X100 Winter 2013/14
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Images from a photo essay 2013. Fuji X100
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Curves. Fuji X100 2014

That however was the honeymoon and whilst I continued to use the X100 regularly as shown by the images above it’s shortcomings and quirks finally led to it being left at home more and more until 2015 when, whilst switching my DSLR kit from Canon to Nikon,  I finally decided to part company with the Fuji.

It was a difficult decision, in so many ways it was a joy to handle but it could be a frustration to actually use and despite its image quality (I won a club competition with an X100 image) the fact that it was spending so much time in the drawer meant I wasn’t getting any meaningful benefit from ownership. The major firmware update in late 2013 came too late for me, by that time the X100 and indeed Fuji were rarely in my thoughts and I completely missed the announcements. I did update the firmware before selling the camera but by then the die was cast. I cried quietly inside at how little I got for it but that’s another story.

Looking back this morning I am well pleased with some of the images I made with the X100. On those occasions when I could be bothered to wrestle with it’s idiosyncrasies I was usually happy with the results even if getting there was sometimes somewhat painful. I never used the Fuji JPEGS from the X100 but was always more than happy with the quality of the RAW (RAF) files it produced.  From time to time though after selling the X100 I did regret the decision.

Recently however I’ve been looking again at the Fuji X100, now in its third iteration as the Fuji X100T. I initially started looking at classic film rangefinders with no intention of reentering the premium large sensor, fixed prime lens digital market. However, wherever I looked the Fuji X100T kept cropping up in articles, blog posts and discussion groups. Which naturally meant I followed the threads and dug deeper. And deeper. And yet deeper still.

© Dave Whenham
West End, London. Fuji X100T

So deep in fact that the X100T entered the house and I have very quickly embraced this newest iteration of the X100. The handling is the same but the user experience vastly improved.  Using this style of camera needs a different approach compared to a (D)SLR, more akin to a traditional rangefinder, but as with everything the secret is in getting to know your kit and actually using it regularly. I’ve used the X100T daily since I got it and the mechanical side of things is starting to become intuitive; muscle memory is being formed and changing settings is becoming easier through repetition. I think that is the secret with any camera, practice, practice and yet more practice.  Several of the buttons on the camera can be customised and I’ve been through three separate formations so far, each slightly more helpful to my way of working than before.

© Dave Whenham
Oxford Street, London. Fuji X100T

Getting to know the camera hasn’t been without its frustrations of course but I’m already feeling at home with the X100T and the quality of the images who I get it right make the effort very worthwhile.  Two main things stand out art present. Firstly, the camera tends to under-expose to my taste in most situations, not a major problem as I now keep the EV dial on +1 most of the time but I do need to keep an eye on exposure.  I will experiment further with exposure modes and see if that helps in this regard.

© Dave Whenham
Kings Cross, London. Fuji X100T

The X100T is great for candid photography and the image quality at ISO 6400, when exposed correctly, is superb. No complaints from me. The image above was shot at 1/60th second at f4 and ISO 6400 from a distance of five feet or so with the camera sat on my leg.

Which leads me to my other frustration, which I would stress is down to my handling and NOT the camera, and that is the number of blurred shots I acquired when street shooting due to the shutter speed being too slow. My bad as they say but I have been setting far too small an aperture for street candids I think. As a landscape photographer I am used to defaulting to f11 as my go-to aperture.  When shooting portraits I often use f2.8 or even wider on occasions. Out on the streets of London last week I set the X100T to f8 or f11, auto ISO (with a maximum of 6400) in aperture priority and manual focusing. Looking at the images this morning far too many are blurry and when I dig deeper I’m seeing shutter speeds of 1/15th second or less. When moving on the street I suspect that even 1/30th or 1/60th of a second might be too slow. This is NOT a fault of the camera but it is something to be aware of and for me it is a case of getting used to a smaller, busier viewfinder and keeping my eye on the shutter speed.

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“Now it’s your turn”. Fuji X100T

Looking back through the images, an aperture of f4 would be ideal with the 23mm lens of the X100T when shooting candids or street photography. This was indoors and 1/100th sec at f4 ISO 1600 with camera to my eye.

Last weeks experiences on the streets of London have taught me a lot about this style of shooting and also given me the confidence that insofar as I am concerned the X100T is going to be the perfect tool for the job.

But of course, I didn’t stop at the X100T as you will know if you’ve read any of my recent posts. A flurry of activity online, selling my Nikon 16-35 lens and the entire EOS M3 kit amongst other items, has provided the budget for a new Fuji X-T10 and four lenses (8mm fisheye, 12mm, 18-55mm and 55-200mm).

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An iconic skyline. Fuji X-T10 with 55-200mm lens

One thing I have been very conscious of more recently is the weight of my Nikon kit. It is less of an issue when out in the fells for the day with one of my photographic partners but for a day out with the family it is frankly a liability.  However, spending five days away, as we did last week, I prefer to have some options other than just a DSLR and 24-70 zoom. But it is not practical, my full Nikon kit is bigger than the suitcase we use for a start!  So, whilst researching the Fuji X-series I realised I could put together an excellent system which would mean I could cut down on bulk and weight without compromising on versatility.

Spoiler alert: I bought the X-T10 as my lightweight alternative to the Nikons and at this stage it is not my intention to ditch the DSLRs so don’t expect a “Road to Damascus” moment later in this post because there hasn’t been one … yet.

 

The images above were all taken with the Fuji X-T10 on a day spent in Kew Gardens, London. I used three lenses during the day, the Samyang 8mm fisheye, the Fujinon 18-55 “kit lens” and the Fujinon 55-200mm. As you will have worked out I had a full-frame equivalent of 27mm through to 300mm at my disposal (if you exclude the slightly more esoteric fisheye) which compares more than favourably to the 24-70 I would have restricted myself to if I’d brought the Nikon DSLR on this trip.  Weight-wise I didn’t get the scales out but my shoulders reported no more strain from the Fuji and three lenses than it would have from one lens plus DSLR Nikon set-up.

© Dave Whenham
The Art of Conversation. Fuji X-T10

It is too early to make any detailed conclusions about the X-T10 although I have already fallen for the quality of JPEGs from both Fujis. I used the X-T10 mainly on a walk along the South Bank one afternoon and for a full day in Kew Gardens. It was in my bag at all times though and so did get a brief outing in the West End as the image above shows.

First impressions are very positive though both in terms of handling and in terms of image quality. I was very happy with the Canon EOS M3 I was using recently but have to say that the Fuji experience has been far superior so far. That is not to say the M3 is poor, far from it I still rate it highly, but the Fuji’s have so far provided an even better user experience so I am more than happy with my recent purchases.

Whether or not it becomes a DSLR-killer remains to be seen. I am not even going to entertain the idea of ditching my Nikons until I have used the Fujis for a good six months, which takes us into 2017.  I feel confident enough with the X-T10 though to have invested in a Lee Seven5 starter kit and will be testing the system out on my next couple of landscape shoots. If all goes well I will take both systems to Skye in November and use the Fuji for those days when the walking is mostly steeply upwards. But that is jumping head.

At present my introduction to the Fuji X-series has been a very positive one. From having mixed feelings about the X100 in 2011 I find myself in 2016 with an X-T10 and X100T feeling very positive about the system and looking forward to exploring the Fuji X-world further over the coming months.