I don’t take the Samyang fisheye out that often, it’s definitely an occasional treat, but it found it way into my bag the other afternoon when I went for a quick walk through the woods. Walking back to the car I thought I’d give it a quick whirl and was very glad I did!
On Saturday after a grey, grey adventure on the Ridgeway I decided on an impulse to visit an old childhood haunt of mine, know known as the Coate Water Country Park I believe. I wasn’t expecting to be able to make much photographically in the wall-to-wall greyness but it would be a useful scouting exercise for a future visit down south.
Of course, I took a few shots and the one above came out quite well in the end. This however is a large crop from the original frame. Two reasons, one that I was aware of at the time and one that became apparent when processing the image.
I knew that with the 12mm Samyang fitted I would need to use either a screw-in ND or my full-size 100mm Lee filters to avoid vignetting. However, all I had with me was the Lee Seven5 filters so I composed knowing I would need to lose the left and right hand edges of the frame. Barely an issue on this occasion as I envisaged a square crop so all was fine.
Until I got home and tried to add contrast to the image …
The white lettering around the inside of the front of the lens reflected beautifully in the dark blue water. It is not visible in the RAW file as-exposed but once I started to tweak the image then Hey Presto!
Now there are several possible explanations including light leaking in, a poor quality filter picking up the reflection of the lettering and even the fact that the Samyang proudly proclaims itself in bold white lettering! It was a Lee filter, fitted at the rear of the filter holder with the gasket properly in position so the first two are less plausible I suspect which leaves the bold lettering as suspect numero uno. However, I remember setting the lens at f16 for these images so I wonder if it is also possible that the lens was focused on the back of the filter with such a massive depth of field?
Whatever the cause I shall be getting the black marker out tomorrow at the very least.
OK, firstly, I have to say that I’m not a fan of the sobriquet “‘tog” to describe a photographer but you have to admit it does scan better than “photographing”. Behind this rather cheesy headline lies a serious thought though; I’ve lost the urge to get out at every opportunity with my camera. In fact since I returned from Skye in early November 2016 I’ve only taken half a dozen images and these only two days ago.
My photographic mojo has been well and truly missing for the best part of four months and it is only now, as I make the first tentative foray back into things that I can admit to myself the scale of this loss of photographic impetus. You see it wasn’t just the cameras themselves that I put down. I stopped reading about photography; I forsook my habitual hour on YouTube every evening. I still have many hundreds of untouched RAW image files on my hard drive from the week in Skye. Mister Adobe was taking my money every month and the computer was keeping the software up to date but I wasn’t at the party.
I’m sure that I’m not unique however. Enthusiast magazines will occasionally run an article on the topic and will even offer the “Ten Best Ways to Regain your Mojo” or similar. It has to be a generalisation of course as all of us are different and we respond to different stimuli. The only reason that I haven’t panicked at this situation however is because it has happened to me several times over the years and my mojo has always come back.
In the past my wallet has often come to the rescue. With a new toy to play with I was only too keen to get out and about and thus my photographic mojo was miraculously restored. My wife wondered if the lack of the creative urge was less about loss of mojo and more about justifying that new purchase. I couldn’t possibly comment. What I can say however is the loss of the creative urge is real, happens to most of us at some point of time and most importantly can be overcome.
This year however there would be no magic bullet from my ancient wallet as I have given up spending on equipment for 2017. It makes giving up chocolate at Lent look like a walk in the park let me tell you. What possessed me to announce this photographic moratorium at Christmas when we were discussing resolutions for 2017 I do not know. Perhaps it was partly because I had no interest in photography at the time. But I said it and try to be a man of my word. I’ve managed it so far (only another ten months to go).
There is little point me rehashing the “Ten Best Ways …” so I will cut to the chase and describe what led to those first tentative pictures last weekend. I decided to move all my kit from one room to another. Banal? Perhaps, but in doing so I rediscovered the pleasure of simply handling the cameras which in turn led to me slipping the Fuji X100T back into its habitual place in my coat pocket, a place from which it had been noticeably missing for around four months. I didn’t take any photographs but at least the possibility now existed.
Thus it was that three days later, on a Sunday, when I wandered down to the local supermarket, the Fuji was still sat, untouched, in my jacket pocket. Presenting myself at the supermarket at 9:28am I was annoyed to find it closed – Sunday trading laws! What to do? In the end my feet propelled me down to the River Calder and on to the newly rebuilt Elland Bridge. It was then that it happened, my hand unconsciously but tentatively dipped into my pocket and drew out the Fuji. A few moments longer and I had broken my duck – with a rather banal picture of a bare tree reflected in a meager puddle. Over the next half an hour I took a few more and found I was actively seeking compositions and not placidly reacting to my surroundings. It was 10:20 when I got back to the supermarket but I was happy. My mojo, whilst not restored, was returning!
I even took the “arty” picture at the top of the page from my home-office window when I got home after first checking the bus timetable (prior planning and execution!).
So there you have it. The next time that your photographic mojo disappears don’t reach for the credit card or any other of the “Top Ten” solutions but simply don your apron and start moving the furniture about and transporting your gear from one room to another!
Six-fifteen am is not an unfamiliar time for me, although I’m usually sat on the settee with a cup of tea and the iPad and not tiptoeing down a hotel corridor with tripod in one hand and camera bag in the other. But that is exactly where I was this morning.
We are staying in Swansea for a few days and our hotel is on the waterfront. I had already taken a couple of pleasing images the night before but retail therapy was planned for the new day and therefore serious photography would be confined to before breakfast and/or after dinner. It was chilly to say the least at that time of the morning but as I stepped out into the morning darkness I noticed the sky to my left just starting to infuse with some lovely warm colours. Was my early start to be rewarded? It certainly looked as if it might.
We are away for a couple of weeks, visiting family mainly, and as part of my ongoing exploration of the Fuji system I have travelled very light. The Fuji X-T10 is joined on this trip by the newly acquired Fuji X-Pro1, the 35mm f1.4 and the manual Samyang 12mm lens. I have packed the two “kit lenses” along with the 8mm Samyang fisheye but these stayed in the hotel room this morning.
This is the first time I’ve used the MeFOTO RoadTrip tripod when the sun hasn’t been shining and I have to say that whilst it’s an excellent piece of kit my ungloved fingers struggled slightly with the twist locks in the morning cold. Not a major issue but I will need to ensure I have gloves with me I think when I use it tomorrow morning. The tripod is smaller than my usual Manfrotto but considerably lighter. Fully extended it provides a very comfortable working height and in particular it was high enough to enable the camera to clear the railing around the tidal lagoon.
The images here are all JPEGs with final tweaks done on an iPad using the Snapseed app. Both cameras handled well and I’m looking forward to getting the RAW files home in a couple of weeks.
The colours of the sunrise were largely confined to a strip along the horizon but were very intense, enhanced by the Velvia setting on the X-T10 which I had forgotten to reset to Classic Chrome when I put the camera away the previous day. The onboard RAW processing of the X-T10 however means that I can produce alternative JPEGs on the fly which is a very useful feature.
Post-sunrise however the light show was curtailed, the blank, featureless sky lacked the drama pre-sunrise and I therefore explored the area further. Walking back to the hotel I remembered the Little Stopper in its tin nestled in the bottom of the bag. I can never resist black and white for long and after thirty minutes of working with the pre-sunrise colour I slipped easily into mono-mode. The light turned out to be very nice for black and white work and I returned to the hotel with very cold hands but a huge smile on my face.
So, I am very happy with the image quality from this mornings exercise. The JPEGs looked fabulous and I have the pleasure of playing with the RAW files to come. I mainly used the X-T10 and on the whole it handled very well. Focusing with a manual lens in low light was a challenge but the focus definitely helped. I set the JPEG mode to B&W(yellow) which seems to provide better clarity and of course by shooting RAW+JPEG means I still have the colour information, which was vital for such a fiery sunrise.
All in all a positive experience, the first time I’ve shot with the Fuji’s in the dark and cold of an Autumn morning. I’m not quite ready to give up the big Nikons but I used my full-sized graduated filters with the Little Stopper very happily and as with the big DSLRs practice and familiarity will make things easier.
I went back to one of my regular haunts on the River Calder this afternoon. I’d planned to shoot some video on the canal for the “My Patch” project but harsh light scuppered those plans. Fortunately I knew the little beach alongside the river would be in shade at this time of day.
It was an opportunity to experiment. I used the Nikon D750 to reshoot a couple of sequences for My Patch. I am thinking of re-editing the River Calder section in the light of ongoing learning. I’ve already mentioned that I will probably reshoot all of the voice over files too for the same reason.
My main objective was to try out a few ideas which involved dunking the GoPro Session and then the Nikon AW110 (above) in the river. I should have taken a towel and some water to rinse my hands off after dipping them in the river – noted for next time.
I had also packed my Fuji X-T10 and Samyang 12mm lens so took the opportunity to try out the video function on the camera avoiding the schoolboy error from earlier in the day when I’d shot three video segments with the camera in black & white mode! I also managed to capture a couple of long-exposure compositions that I’ve had in mind for a while now (see above).
I ended my visit sat on some tree roots recording a “reflective” piece on the Fuji (forgetting I’d put the camera back in black & white mode for the long exposures) and also pacing along the rivers edge speaking into a Lavalier microphone attached to the Zoom H2n which was in my pocket all afternoon.
I also hooked the Rode mic up to the newly-acquired Tascam recorder to capture some ambient audio to play under the video sequence. I’m looking forward to checking the audio quality at some point this week.
All in all I covered a lot of ground this afternoon and hopefully when I’ve had time to reflect properly I will also have learnt a lot!
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.
I’m still getting used to the Fuji X-T10 and when the opportunity arose yesterday for a few hours on Marsden Moors I grabbed the camera, the Samyang 12mm and my Lee filters and headed for the moors. Let me firstly say that it was freezing and windy up there. It was warm and still when I set off and therefore I was in shorts and a fleece but fortunately my old coat was lurking in the boot of the car as when I stepped out on Buckstones Edge (also known locally as Nont Sarah’s) it was anything but warm and still.
To my mind it takes a brave soul to leap off Buckstones Edge to go paragliding but when I arrived there were four such hardy individuals in the air. With a 12mm lens I was never going to capture action images but they do add a sense of scale (above).
I had previously experimented with using the Lee Seven5 filter system on the Samyang 12mm lens but found that the full-sized 100mm Lee filters were less problematic particularly when stacking filters. Even so, when using the polariser (above) there was slight vignetting in the corners. Not a huge deal as it could be handled in post-production but nevertheless worth remembering. Another way around the problem is to frame the scene a little larger than you need in order to crop out the corners I guess.
So despite the user being rather cold the Lee 100mm system acquitted itself well up on Buckstones Edge and the smaller size of the X-T10 and Samyang, compared to a Nikon D800E and 14-24 f2.8, was not a problem in any significant way. I did need to get my reading glasses out at times to check the screen information but I do that with my Nikons too.
I tried some long exposures with both Little and Big Stoppers but the sky was coming out mainly white with few streaks of colour so gave that up for another day and headed down to Scammonden Water to try my luck there.
The vegetation around the beck, indeed around the whole of the area was particularly lush and verdant and so I did something I’ve never done before and switched the shooting mode to Velvia. I am a big fan of Velvia transparencies but have never been convinced by Velvia simulation modes on cameras or indeed plug-ins for post production. However, in the spirit of getting to know the X-T10 I turned it on safe in the knowledge that I was shooting RAW+JPEG so had a safety net.
As I think the image above shows, the “Velvia” JPEG, this is straight out of the camera, did a pretty good job overall. Velvia was noted for highly saturated, vivid colours and the X-T10 simulation delivers just that.
I work mainly in black & white but have to say that the richness of these JPEGs means that I have lost my aversion to Velvia simulations. I was already a fan of the “Classic Chrome” simulation on the X-T10 but in the right situation I think that the Velvia option is worth using too.
So, my “journey” with the Fuji’s continues to be very positive and I am starting to really appreciate how this system can complement and work alongside my larger Nikon DSLR-based system.