Concerning batteries …

A day at the seaside this past weekend and as has been my usual practice just recently I took a Fuji system in preference to the Nikons. For a day which combined some photography with a day out with my long-sufferIng wife the smaller kit was the right compromise. It enabled me to wander around the gift shops with it on my back yet didn’t prevent me from getting the images I wanted. In fact during the blue hour the Fuji on a mini tripod sat nicely on the sea wall for some long exposures, not something the much heavier Nikons could have managed on such a tiny support.

© Dave Whenham

The night before we went I put fresh batteries in each of the two camera bodies and gathered the other spares. I know that compared to my Nikon batteries these smaller Fuji batteries have a much shorter life when measured in image count which is why I carry several spares as well as one in each camera. On an impulse I popped one of the spares in the charger and found it had only around a quarter charge. The same applied to all of them which ranged from 25%-50% charged. Now consider that every one of them had been fully charged no more than four weeks ago and most likely only two weeks ago this was a huge surprise. My Nikon batteries generally hold at least 80% of their charge for many months.

Now, no deal breaker and whilst it meant I had to stay up a little longer than planned that evening to charge them all I did leave the house the following morning with a full set of fully charged batteries. But had I not checked then I could well have been compromised when the fresh battery in each camera ran down as they did during the  afternoon. I do a lot of long exposures which also chews through batteries so fully expected to use two batteries in the camera that day.

© Dave Whenham

So, another lesson learnt with the Fujis and whilst it seems banal had I been going further afield for a more intensive days shooting I might have been a very unhappy photographer. In fact, if it had been for the weekend rather than a single day then I would have run out of juice given how low they had run down. I do not carry a charger for a weekends shooting – my D800E ran for almost a week on Skye one year with just one battery change so carrying a charger for a weekends trip is not something I would think to do. At least not until this weekend.

The moral of the story? There’s more to changing system than weight, body specifications and lens sharpness. It is important to consider and investigate the small things as they can have a massive impact. Batteries are not exciting or potential objects of lust but without them your camera is just an expensive paperweight regardless of the brand name on the body.

The Archives

One thing I have had to do recently is back-up some files and move others to a spare drive to free up room on my main drives. It was an opportunity to rediscover some images from past trips and as its happens it provided some inspiration for the upcoming annual week in Skye.

© Dave Whenham

Loch Fada looking towards the Old Man of Storr. Canon 5D MkIII

One batch of files was from my 2014 trip to the Isle of Skye, the last I took with my Canon gear. It was using a friends Nikon D810 and D3S on this trip that led me to make the switch to Nikon after a lifetime’s allegiance to Canon.

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Lake of Mentieth, Scotland – Canon 5D MkII

The first two images remind me not just of the trips but also that I prefer the so-called blue hour be it morning or evening.

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Sligachan, November 2014. Canon 5D MkIII

I keep wanting to crop the Sligachan image square but never quite make it. Looking at it now I could lose a little from the right hand side but the bulk of Marsco on the left is needed to anchor that side of the image and even cropping a little off the right would not give me a square. I guess I shall just have to go back in a week or so and reshoot this!

© Dave Whenham

Loch Fada, November 2014 – Canon 5D MkIII

All this rummaging in the Archive is serving to remind me that it is the photographer who creates the image and not the gear. We can pontificate about DSLR versus mirrorless or pine for the camera we should never have sold to our hearts content but it won’t change that fundamental truth – it’s not about the gear.

© Dave Whenham

1st November 2014, on the road in Scotland. Canon 5D MkIII

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1st November 2014, Glen Etive. Canon 5D MkIII

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Elland by-pass. Canon EOS M3

The M3 was a fabulous little camera which I blogged about on a couple of occasions but in the end it made way for the Fuji X-series. I don’t regret selling it though as I prefer to remember what fun I had with it and the images I made with it.

© Dave Whenham

Scammonden Water – Fuji X-T10

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Three Shires Head – Canon 40D

I could sit here and post dozens more but you get my drift. It’s all about the photographer not the gear!

Back home …

…after over two weeks away from home I’ve now been back long enough to think I’ve never been away.  However, I’ve not been back long enough to have made any impression on the folder of images awaiting processing!  Here’s a selection of images from Swansea, East Lothian and Porlock Weir.  Wales, Scotland and England.

© Dave Whenham

The Mumbles – Fuji X100T

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Yellowcraig – Fuji X-T10

I came home feeling it had been a reasonable trip but having started to work through some of the images over the last few days there’s a lot of “keepers” coming up so I have probably had a more productive time than I thought.

The X-T10 was the most used camera in October, I used it for almost 70% of the images currently on my computer awaiting processing whilst the Fuji X100T accounted for around 25% of my output.  The balance was the Fuji X-Pro1 and the Nikon D800E (the Nikon didn’t go on holiday with us though).

© Dave Whenham

Swansea Bay – Fuji X-T10

© Dave Whenham

Porlock Weir – Fuji X-Pro1

 

 

An Autumn Conundrum

I took a walk earlier this week along the local canal, my favourite haunt as those of you who’ve read more than one post of mine will know.

But when it came to grab a camera, remember I use the first that comes to hand, I had a conundrum. The nearest was the Nikon D800E but I have really been enjoying the Fuji X100T recently and would have chosen to take that. In the end I compromised by removing the 70-200 f2.8 from the Nikon and replacing it with a 35mm DX lens. It puts the full-frame Nikon into crop-mode but reduces the weight considerably.

© Dave Whenham

Railway Bridge and ferns – Nikon D800E

Now, you are probably thinking that what comes next is that epiphany when I finally renounce my big DSLR in favour of the flavour-of-the-month Fuji. Well, sorry to disappoint but no. I still love using the Nikon despite its relative weight simply because it handles so well.  The 35mm DX lens didn’t perform as well as I’d have liked, the 36mp sensor is very unforgiving, and if I’m honest it was a compromise I am unlikely to make again.

Back at home I found that the in-camera JPEGs did not have the same instant appeal as the Fuji’s but as ever the RAW files provided everything that I could possibly want. I suspect that if I took the time to tweak the in-camera JPEG settings I could get a much better final image but to be honest I don’t use the D800E for instant results so it’s unlikely  that I will do so.

© Dave Whenham

Zac – Nikon D800Eand 35mm DX lens wide open

So rather than reaching that “ditch-the-DSLR” moment I am even more convinced after this outing that there is room in my photography for both systems so for the moment I am going to forget about comparing and contrasting the two systems with a view to picking one and just enjoy using both and getting even better acquainted with the Fuji X-series.

Incidentally I took the Fuji X-100T with me on the same work the following day -a few sample images in the next post.

Normal service will be resumed …

… when we work out was normal is. Well who can resist adapting a Douglas Adams one-liner in the morning?

Blogging has been a bit erratic recently due to an unusually heavy load of domestic commitments followed by a two week holiday but normality, whatever that is, is slowly returning. I’m sat in a backstreet cafe in Halifax with a small black coffee awaiting my scrambled eggs and pondering on matters photographic. This should be the “blue hour” but is rather a dismal “grey-several-hours” so a spot of breakfast is called for.

©Dave Whenham

Fuji X-T10 Classic Chrome preset

The main thought occupying my mind is Fuji vs Nikon. And not the brand wars crap indulged in by so-called enthusiasts that I hate with a passion; both systems are brilliant and to my mind each has a separate place in my kit bag. Or at least that’s what I’m starting to think. I used Canon for over thirty years before deciding to have a change and switched to Nikon for no other reason than I wanted to experience more than just one system in my lifetime.  I think both systems are fabulous and for the large part equal to each other. I miss my Canon 24mm tilt and shift lens and the 5x macro lens but am having great fun getting acquainted with a new system and the 14-24 f2.8 lens is a photographer’s delight. The [insertbrandhere]-haters should try using a different system for a year or more, it should make them ashamed of such pettiness.

But, not for the first time, I digress.

When we packed for this two week holiday, visiting friends and family in Wales, England and Scotland, I decided to pack light photographically. The Fujis were the logical choice and I managed to pack all three bodies, all five lenses and my filters in a small photographic backpack that long ago got banished to the cupboard for being too small for my DSLR kit. Most days I just took a small shoulder bag out with me containing two bodies, two lenses and my filters and on several occasions just the X100T in my coat pocket. For those days when a tripod was called for I either took a small table-top Manfrotto tripod or a travel tripod made by MeFoto.

©Dave Whenham

Fuji X100T B&W[r] preset

The bottom line I think from two weeks travelling is that at no point did I feel I’d compromised on kit or that I had missed a shot. Arguably in fact there were shots I did get that I would never have attempted with a big DSLR, such as the portrait of the young couple taking a selfie in Bourton-on the-Water. I challenged myself over the two weeks to work differently, to use less kit and to think differently. That day in Bourton-on the-Water was one such example. I took the X100T and a spare battery. Nothing else. Just me, the camera and a location. It’s a tourist hotspot even in October and I practised my street skills. The X100T is superb for this, something I had already found out in London but reaffirmed last week in a different location. I still shoot RAW+JPEG but the RAWs are just for insurance really as the out of camera JPEGs continue to astound me. The fact that the RAW file can also be processed in-camera using the same JPEG presets is a fabulous bonus and I was able to shoot in B&W[R] knowing that I could produce a colour JPEG to post to Facebook if the mood took.

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Fuji X-T10 Standard preset

The bulk of the landscape work was done with the X-T10, the 18-55 “kit” lens and the aforementioned MeFoto tripod. In keeping with the travelling light ethos I took a Lee Seven filter holder with a two-stop hard graduated filter and a Little Stopper with me most days although on the days when I packed the Samyang 12mm lens I also took a full-sized Lee filter holder and three 100mm filters as I’ve found that the smaller filter kit vignettes even given the 67mm filter thread of that lens. I initially thought that restricting myself to just one body and at most two lenses would inhibit my shooting but in actual fact it made me work harder and I’ve come away with some images I might otherwise have missed.

© Dave Whenham

Fuji X100T – Sweep Panorama (ND grad added in post-production)

One function on both the X100T and X-T10 that I’d overlooked was the sweep panorama. I found it unexpectedly useful and with a little practice could even anticipate the composition and predict the final image. It only produces JPEGs and I’ve not yet looked at them on the computer but those on my iPad look just fine. My guess is that they will be good for blogging or posting to Facebook but may not stand up to scrutiny when printing or displaying at larger sizes but I’ve not tested that theory as yet.

The third camera I took was an X-Pro1 that I picked up shortly before leaving for the princely sum of £150. It has been a revelation, images shot with the 35mm f1.4 were so sharp I almost cut myself on them [OTT Alert!].

Prior to using the X-Pro1 I was lusting after the newly released, SLR-styled X-T2, but no more. The X-Pro1 feels so much more natural in my hand than any other camera I’ve ever used (I know, that’s a very bold statement). During our holiday I met up with a friend who had the X-T2 with him. With the battery grip attached and the 10-24 lens it is an impressive piece of kit with the dials laid out perfectly at first glance. But in terms of size and weight the body plus grip is not materially different to my Nikon D750 and certainly compared to the X-Pro1 it’s a relative brick. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great camera and at first look it seems to me that it would be a great DSLR replacement for someone wanting to downsize slightly and there’s no doubting the image quality from the images that I was shown that day. I just felt with the two cameras in my hands that for me the form factor of the X-Pro1 suited my style of shooting better. I now need to get my hands on an X-Pro2 although I suspect that when I do my X-T2 lust will be replaced by X-Pro2 lust!

© Dave Whenham

X-Pro1 – standard jpeg

I might write about Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) another day!

So, a very enjoyable two weeks despite all the driving. I managed to spend some quality time with my Fuji kit and am pleased to say that it never once disappointed and often surpassed my expectations. Using the X-T10 handheld in a storm photographing waves crashing over the sea wall was exhilarating and whilst I was careful to keep it as sheltered as possible it handled the conditions well. In fact it’s diminutive size meant that I was able to cover most of the camera and lens with my two hands whilst shooting, a benefit I’d not anticipated. I always carry a tea towel in my shoulder bag and dried the camera and lens immediately after I’d finished shooting.

I’m away to Skye in a few weeks and will be taking the full framed Nikons along with the stunningly sharp trio of f2.8 lenses I saved so hard for (the so-called Holy Trinity of 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200). My fellow traveller that week is also a Nikon shooter and we often share gear plus I enjoy using them and whilst I still have the strength to carry a larger load I will do so. I sense that the weather will call for heavier tripods too so we definitely won’t be travelling light! Following the success of this trip though I shall find a place for at least one of the Fuji cameras and may even take a small kit with me to see how it feels working alongside the bigger cameras.

Watch this space as they say!

Swansea Bay

We are still travelling but have moved now from Swansea to Porlock. However, I managed an hour on the beach at Swansea Bay before breakfast this morning.

Processed with Snapseed.

Minimalist Bay

Fuji X-T10 with 18-55 “kit” lens tripod mounted