Into the light was a regular feature of my afternoon
Finding myself needing to be in Leeds on Saturday with a few hours to play with I decided to grab a shoulder bag for an impromptu urban shoot. My Fuji x100t was in there, I really do take it everywhere, and I popped the Fuji X-T1 in for good measure with a couple of polarisers and an ND graduated filter.
Harsh light, strong contrasts and processing to match
I wandered through the city centre with the x100t in my hand and as always thoroughly enjoyed shooting with this little camera. It’s fixed 23mm f2 lens has a character all of its own and as it equates to a full-frame equivalent of 35mm it is perfect for my style of street photography. I’m fast beginning to realise that if I had to give up all my toys apart from one then I would probably chose to keep this camera. It was a bright, sunny afternoon with barely a cloud in the sky. Very harsh light with very strong contrasts. The camera coped with it all and I found the EVF very handy in judging what degree of exposure compensation to apply.
Heavy shadows called for some heavy duty processing in Snapseed
Because of the light I decided to work with black and white in mind. I would usually set a black and white preset but for reasons that are still unknown to me I chose not to today. The images were processed on my phone whilst I was out and on my return home and also processed a few on the iPad. In both instances however I only used Snapseed for the processing. The other stylistic choice for the first part of my afternoon was to work in the square format. I usually shoot in 3:2 and crop later but today I went for the 1:1 option so the screen was showing me the square crop and the resulting JPEGs were also square. I know the RAW files will be 3:2 which might be useful later but for now I’m working with the original JPEG files.
I did get eye-balled a couple of times but kept smiling and kept moving
Since I closed my Facebook account I have posted a few images to Instagram and have also posted to this blog far more often too. When I sat and processed these images I deliberately chose a “grungier” look and feel to these images largely with Instagram in mind. The strong, contrasting light was also a big factor in this decision.
Leaving the city centre behind I headed to Clarence Dock where I swapped over to the Fuji X-T1 and it was only then that I realised it was sporting the 23mm f2 lens. It was the day of the 23mm lenses obviously. I will share the images from Clarence Dock and the waterfront in my next post.
“The Photography Lesson”
I was asked this week by someone just starting out in the hobby what my top tips were. On the surface it sounds an easy enough question, after all magazines are full of Top Ten, Top Twenty, Top One Hundred even Top Thirty Six tips for excellence in all manner of categories.
So, what did I answer? It was on the surface an easy enough question to ask but in the event an incredibly tough one to answer. A generic ” Top Ten Focusing” tips or “Top ten tips for sharper pictures” in a magazine is a broad catch-all aimed at all readers. But I was being asked a question to specifically help one individual.
My first answer was “have you bought a camera yet?” and my second was “what will you be photographing?” I know, strictly speaking these are questions but I asked them in answer to the original question. The key to a good answer is a good question (think Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker books). The first answer was “Yes”, so I knew it wasn’t worth advising on what camera or type of camera but as with many of us starting out the response to the second question was “Oh, the kids, things I see around me, whatever catches my eye really”.
So, in the end I thought about the things I did starting out in digital that I later wished I hadn’t. It’s not an exhaustive list or even a top ten but for what it’s worth here they are, in no particular order.
- If your camera supports it shoot RAW and JPEG. If you do not feel up to mastering RAW conversion yet awhile store them on an external drive until you are ready. I am constantly improving my processing skills and manufacturers are constantly improving their software; the file you couldn’t do justice to this month might be worth returning to when you or the software improves even if that is a year or two down the line.
- Invest in quality glass. Most current camera bodies, certainly from the main manufacturers, do a good job and in any event are arguably obsolete on release as the next innovation or improvement is already being refined for next years models. By avoiding the cheaper lenses and waiting until good quality lenses are within our financial reach we are making the best of whatever sensor our current camera employs. I have four Nikkor lenses, three f2.8 zooms and an f4 prime 300mm, these have done service for five different Nikon bodies. Which is the point, quality glass is an investment, they also get updated far less frequently. I took my own advise when buying into Nikon (and now also Fuji) but wish I’d been told that when I started putting together a Canon DSLR system – I weep for the wasted money on cheap Canon-fit lenses.
- Learn how to sharpen your images properly – I have just looked back at some digital images from 2008 and cringe with embarrassment at how soft some are through under- or no sharpening and at the artefacts on others from over-sharpening.
- Print your pictures and if they are family snaps put them in an album and caption them with dates and names. You don’t need to print them yourselves even. Keep a “To Be Printed” folder on the desktop of your computer, pop images in and when you’ve enough to make a reasonable order (ie where cost of prints outweighs postage perhaps) then get them printed via one of the numerous online print companies. Chose a reputable company and properly stored prints will outlive you and provide a tangible link to the past for future generations.
- Share your pictures with like-minded people, there are countless ways via social media for example or popular photo-sharing sites like Flickr (my Flickr photostream) and if you print them its even easier to share with friends. However, a small word of caution, enjoy the “wows!” from family and friends, great for the ego and definitely well-meant BUT seek out a fellow enthusiast or two and ask for some honest, constructive critique. It may not be as nice to hear but will ultimately do your photography more good.
- Do NOT take every piece of advice as gospel! Photography is incredibly subjective and some for even say something is not “good” purely because they don’t have any interest in whatever it is you’ve photographed. All advise should be filtered critically by YOU and you should then take out the bits that will improve your photography whilst accepting that in some things we must agree to differ. There are NO rights and wrongs here.
- Finally, join a camera club. If you don’t have the time or inclination to join the local club there are online and even postal clubs that are just a few mouse clicks away. My camera club of choice is both postal and online (vested interest alert I am it’s General Secretary and Editor) and you can find us HERE.
So there you have it. The advice I gave a friend recently over a couple of large american0s (other coffees and hot beverages are available). You may agree with all, some or none of it, but as with all things photographic we all have strong opinions, it is all subjective and we are all right!
Header Image: Canon 5DIII and EF 100-400 1/1000th sec at f5.6 and ISO 400. That lens saw active service with a 40D, 7D, 5DII and finally the 5DIII before my move to Nikon. Buy good quality glass – it will outlive your cameras!
Elite filter system – from SRB Photographic
After yesterdays musings on internal reflections I stumbled across an advert for SRB Photographic’s Elite filter system. What makes this system unique to my eyes is the way it deals with the polariser which instead of being bolted onto the front of the holder, as with the Lee system, is screwed into the holder itself. By doing so it does not allow any light to seep between the adapter ring and the holder. This also keeps the filter slots of the holder empty to use up to two other filters at the same time. It’s a new concept for me, no doubt others have done the same, but it makes absolute sense. SRB also offer a ten-stop ND filter which also screws into the filter holder, meaning there is no need for this long exposure filter to use a gasket.
It takes the standard “P” or 85mm square filters, some of which which I do have lurking in my cupboard unused and almost forgotten and as these are larger than the Lee Seven5 filters I’m hoping to largely eradicate the vignetting problem on the 12mm Samyang too.
Looking at online reviews, such as this one from Amateur Photographer magazine, SRB’s ten stop filters have received a largely positive response. The slightly warmer colour cast does not bother me too much as I personally dislike the strong cool cast from the Lee series and in any event shooting RAW means I can tweak this if needed. I could also take a custom white balance at the time if I intended relying on the jpeg files.
So impressed with the concept and with the service I received I’ve ordered the ND filter today along with adapter rings for a couple of my other lenses and I hope to give it a good try-out over the weekend.
Watch this space!
Fuji XT-1, Samyang 12mm and Lee Big Stopper
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 ghostly swan was expected (at top) but not the advertisement for Samyang (bottom)!
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.
The Ridgeway – Fuji XT-1 with Samyang 85mm and me.
I’ve had a quick look through yesterday’s images and on the whole they are a grey bunch of files. A couple will make half decent black and whites which was the objective, or at least became the objective when I saw the weather/light up on the Downs.
This one stood out though for the subtlety of colour. It was taken moments after yesterdays one band of sunlight had streaked across the grey landscape at the end of the walk. It isn’t going to win any prizes but it’s a pleasant image and this iPad edit (in Snapseed and then a graduated filter for the sky courtesy of Lightroom mobile) manages to retain the subtlety whilst warming and bringing out what little detail there was in the sky.
it is good sometimes to remember that photography is not just about the “wow!” moments or even just the decisive moments. Photography is also about capturing the day to day, ordinary times, recording the smaller and less consequential moments that in reality make up the major portion of most of our lives.
Keeping everything simple (one camera, one lens and me) and capturing simple things is just as fulfilling sometimes as capturing those more exciting but fleeting moments of photographic magic.
North Wessex Downs – Fuji XT-1
So, you may reasonably ask, if it was a grey, grey day why the colourful header shot? Fair comment and I will explain. After we got back to the car, took off our muddy boots and stowed the gear in the boot the sun popped out. I grabbed camera, ran back up the track to get some elevation and fired off one shot. Not my intended composition but so glad I took the one as that was all I got before the cloud closed up and we were back to grey, grey day.
I was up ridiculously early this morning; we are visiting family “down south” and I rarely sleep well on short trips away. Photography isn’t a practical proposition this morning so I’ve settled for the next best option of reading and writing on the subject. Quite naturally I’ve come to ruminating on my foray into the mirrorless world. Although with the Nikon D800E going last week and the Fuji XT-1 arriving around the same time I guess this is more than a foray. It’s started to get very serious.
I still have a full frame DSLR with a small but high quality collection of lenses and speedlights and am well able therefore to cover pretty much any subject that takes my fancy with this kit. So I cannot be said to have made the switch in that regards as I could go back to shooting a full frame DSLR at any time with no immediate cost. For now that suits me and whilst I sense that there will come a day when I do go fully mirrorless that day hasn’t arrived yet and nor is it on the immediate horizon ar as I can predict.
I have large hands and sometimes clumsy fingers which makes the bigger form and buttons of the pro DSLRs easier to handle than the small Fuji but that is something I am getting used to and rarely find it to be a major issue now although I did struggle with it at first. My eyesight is not what it once was (the joys of getting old) and I am finding that muscle memory is becoming more and more important which is why I have been concerned with it in the last few posts.
The main issue for me at present is being able to read settings and make small adjustments. For focusing, live view helps with both sets of gear but for viewing images properly I need to use glasses to inspect the LCD screen. This is another area where the Fuji produced an unexpected surprise as I have found that even without glasses I find it easier to view images using the EVF, something my big Nikon cannot do.
So the mirrorless experiment continues and I am learning something new every day it seems. Sometimes its a new challenge to overcome and sometimes a new revelation but no day is dull that’s for sure.