LOMO’ Instant

First impressions count and on removing the box from its brown cardboard packaging this afternoon I was taken aback by the presentation of this instant camera from Lomography. Why oh why didn’t I take a picture of it, pristine and glossy in its box? Well, I didn’t, so you may have to Google it 🙂

Purchasing this instant camera was a spontaneous, you could say instant, decision; I’d previously researched the camera and it’s more recent siblings and decided that the unpredictability of the results was too much of a gamble given the cost of film. But then I saw a 24-hour flash sale which gave me not only the camera but also the three lens attachments for less than half the usual price. I clicked “Buy Now”, paid and only then remembered my earlier decision not to buy this brand. Well, too late to have second thoughts – at least that’s what I told myself.

© Dave Whenham

Of all the Lomo’Instant cameras, this one offers the most manual exposure control and as this aspect was important to me it made it the obvious choice compared to the Lomo’Instant Automat which does it all for you.  The Lomography website explains it in detail.

It effectively has one shutter speed (1/125th second – although it has a Bulb mode too), one ISO setting (Fuji Instax Mini film is rated at 800) and five aperture options (f8, f11, f16, f22 and f32). The built in flash can be set to fire, not fire or fire-when-needed. I have a light meter on my iPhone (Lux App) which enables me to check the light levels and set the camera accordingly. As an enthusiast photographer I also have a set of ND filters I can hold in front of the lens if I need finer control.

© Dave Whenham
The first 5 snaps

I only had time for a few quick snaps today but they were enough to settle my concerns about the potential results. It will take some careful thought and application but I’m sure from even this small test that this camera will enable me to produce some interesting and satisfying work. The Instax film itself is very stable and I’m thinking that my understanding of light and the exposure triangle will stand me in good stead when getting the best out of Lomography’s little box of tricks.

Watch for more over the coming months including a more in-depth review of using the camera. Cameras to me are about results and user experience not technical specifications so don’t hold your breath for those though!

Instant Photography

Stuck at home. Stuck shooting the same things for my 365 Project. Stuck, stuck, stuck.

Stuck in a rut!

No citation needed …

Now, in the past, with a decent salary coming in, I would simply buy some new kit. It works every time … or at least I convince myself it does. But, with just my pension now (yup – I’m getting old) the funds for such indulgences are simply not there. So, what about eBay? A secondhand (has to be, they haven’t been made since the 1980s) Polaroid Land Camera 1000 for under £30 was a temptation too far (why do I browse eBay when I’m low on funds?) and two weeks later I have a desk covered in Polaroids and Instax instant prints. Oh, yes, I found a brand-new Fuji Instax SQ6 half-price too 🙂

© Dave Whenham
First play … Fuji Instax Square SQ6

What a blast!

I am still stuck at home and still stuck with the same subjects BUT I am re-energised! Learning a new discipline, working out the quirks of each camera and film combination, re-learning the joys of shooting with a Polaroid Land Camera 1000. Every day is a school day at present. I had forgotten the pure fun that this type of photography provides. The picture literally develops before your eyes. Now I know that digital is the ultimate in instant photography, on my iPhone a big, clear image is ready to view instantly, but I cannot produce a physical print that I can hold and pass around. The grandchildren’s faces as the print whirrs its way out of the camera is a delight to see. Indeed, Harry, who usually hides his head when you point your phone at him, smiles and says “cheese” whenever I pick up an instant camera.

© Dave Whenham

Zac, Harry and I spent an hour shooting with the Instax on its first outing – priceless!

So, I did succumb to GAS and bought some kit. But, film aside, it was in my defence relatively cheap kit and used at that. The cost of film means that I will need to limit my instant shooting BUT that is part of the joy too. Press the shutter of the Instax and my subconscious thinks “80p” whereas pressing the shutter of the Polaroid it registers nearer £2. Cost never enters my head whenever I press the shutter of my Fuji X-H1 – yet the camera and lenses cost a considerable amount of real, hard cash. When I’ve some time I will work out the relative costs per shutter press – but I’m too busy having fun at the moment!

Perfectly Imperfect #1-13

A one-off project for August 2019 – 31 days of instant film images to kick start the ongoing Perfectly Imperfect project and celebrate the instant cameras in my collection. As a taster here are the first 13 images, all taken with an instant camera and scanned using either my iPhone or a flatbed scanner. I shall write more in coming weeks.

© Dave Whenham
#1

(Part II) Another I moved to mirrorless post

In part I of this blog post I identified three key appeals of the Fujifilm system from my perspective:

  • User experience
  • Fuji’s commitment to ongoing improvements
  • Soul

User experience I have already  discussed, so in this second and concluding post I want to concentrate on Fuji’s commitments to ongoing updates and that elusive element – soul.

First though, Fuji scores highly in my book for continually upgrading the capabilities of their cameras by releasing major firmware updates. Many of these updates add new features, not simply bug fixes so it can sometimes feel a little like getting a new(ish) camera.  With their X-series cameras therefore Fuji  keep releasing firmware update to make their more recent cameras better whilst still introducing new camera models with ever better specifications. Now, models don’t stay on this upgrade path forever however, but it is very pleasing to see new functionality trickling back to previous models where processing and physical capacity exists in the older kit.

© Dave Whenham
West End, London. Fuji X100T

Now some will argue that releasing new firmware for the cameras, not just every few years but sometimes within months of the last, is an admission that the camera was not fully finished on launch. The other snipe I have heard is that they use a few new features to hide the fact that the update is simply to fix previous bugs that slipped through the net.  However, they have also introduced firmware updates that have improved the performance of their lenses and enabled them to fully access the newer features in newer camera models.

It’s possibly over-egging the pudding somewhat to say that each time Fuji releases a firmware they essentially give you a new camera, however it certainly does give me a really good feeling about the company. Bug fixing, shrewd marketing or good customer service? You chose which axe you wish to grind and you take your pick!

As always I will leave the technical stuff and a discussion of the cameras’ specifications to others. I’m an enthusiast photographer rather than a working pro and what matters most to me is that very nebulous quality of the user experience – or in the case of these cameras “soul” I like to think.

The words user experience were very easy to type in the first part but were very hard to define in detail and not least  because it will vary considerably from one person to another.  Soul is even harder to define – even with a dictionary to hand!  For me, a camera needs to feel “right” in my hand. I can’t write the exact feeling down but know it when I experience it.  I now have four Fuji camera bodies and each feels a little different, each has its own characteristics and each its own personality almost. Okay, a bit too poetical I suspect! But soul emanates from this user experience.

When out with one of these cameras I feel at ease, confident in the technology and my ability to create images with it.  These cameras just perform really well for me and with them I can produce images that I am happy with and do it without stressing too much over technicalities. They just work. But as the saying goes your mileage may vary so this will not be the same for everyone. I just try to keep an open mind when I use any camera and having used Nikon and Canon extensively as well as various other makes in the last forty-plus years I can confidently say none gave me the same buzz as using these Fujis. That might sound a little fan-boyish but is not intended as such. I genuinely think that there is no such thing as a bad camera these days – just that some cameras fit better with our individual ways of working than others.

So, my five penn’orth to add to an already overcrowded “I moved to mirrorless” oeuvre.

365-2019

This years 365 Challenge is doing well with only one slight wobble so far and as we have just passed the 100th daily image for 2019 it is time to update my thoughts on the project. Now, I’m a bit of a geek and love numbers so let’s start with a look at what cameras I’ve used so far this year.

CameraCount Percent
Fuji X-T32931%
Fuji X100t2526%
Huawei P20 Pro2223%
Fuji X-E11112%
Fuji X-H177%
Mavic Pro (drone)66%
INSTA 360 ONE/ONE X22%

Unsurprisingly my Fuji cameras make up the majority of the 102 daily images year to date, I moved fully to the mirrorless system in March, although the ever-present Huawei smartphone is holding its own too. The Fuji X-H1 has appeared seven times but given that I’ve only owned the camera for ten days this represents a very high proportion of recent daily images.

I maintain a spreadsheet with image details to complement the albums on my Flickr photostream

The least surprising fact from my little spreadsheet (see above) is that almost half (47%) of my daily images would be classified as urban images. The reality of a 365 is that we shoot images where we live our lives and whilst I’d love to fill my days with rural landscapes (14%) or coastal seascapes (2%) the reality is that I spend most of my time in an urban setting. Of the remaining images, a further 37% of them, whilst categorised differently, were also taken in or around my home making them essentially an urban capture too.

Tree bark - macro

One thing I have got into the habit of doing most days is my “insurance” shot. An image taken early on in the day, usually in or around the house, which I have in reserve just in case I am unable to get out with the camera later in the day for a more considered daily image. I rarely use them but it is reassuring to know they are there. This close-up of bark was a recent insurance shot which wasn’t used as I was able to spend time photographing one of my grandsons that day.

I wrote recently about the case of the disappearing mojo and in that piece I reflected on how the 365 Challenge can help keep the motivation alive. Undoubtedly, the challenge itself provides a strong creative energy and the further into it I get the more determined I am to maintain the daily image capture. Image 102 was posted yesterday but that was actually my 530th consecutive daily image since embarking on the challenge in October 2017. The completer-finisher in me helps keep the sequence going. There have been days though when I’ve not felt like bothering but they are getting fewer as the 365 becomes just a part of my normal daily routine. I get up each day and each day perform the routine hygiene tasks (washing, dressing, eating etc) without really considering them a chore and my 365 image has similarly become almost part of this hygiene routine.

365-2019-102: Another grubby grandson pic! Samyang 100mm macro at f4, the IBIS in the X-H1 allowing my shaky hands to get away with 1/40th second. This is the image that supplanted the bark shot above.

There is no doubt therefore in my mind that the 365 Challenge has helped to keep me creatively motivated, especially now that we’ve got past the initial months where it was a new routine and it is now firmly embedded in my daily routines; it has become a way of life, or at least a part of my everyday life.

365-2019-101: I deliberately tilted the camera to catch the lens flare, I’ve shot this scene many times before and wanted something a little different today.

I also believe that the challenge of trying to find a new image, and bear in mind half of all my 365 images are taken within a mile of my house, has sharpened my eye and I see compositions and creative opportunities more readily as a result. Image 101 (above) is a case in point and is less than a mile from my back door. I’ve shot this scene many times but wanted to do so again because I liked the glow along the left hand side of the frame – but how to make it a little different? Lens flare was what popped into my head and with the rising sun sitting naked in the sky I only had to tilt the camera slightly to cause the extremely bright source to flare and create some colourful streaks. Flare is something I usually avoid even shading the lens with my hand at times but on this occasion it seemed to fit the image nicely. In fact I liked it so much I made it my daily offering eschewing the other more traditional images I captured on that walk.

So, there we have it. The 365 is an ongoing project and one that I intend to keep going for as long as I am able or for as long as I have the inclination. Each month I set up a folder on Flickr for that months offerings and the March 2019 folder can be found HERE.

Panoramic woodland

Panoramas are often seen as a landscape photographers tool but they have many other uses and I like to use them in all sorts of settings, not least in woodland. Two or three vertical images stitched together can make for a very detailed 1×1 image for example and whilst the resultant image does not look like a panorama as we know it the methodology is exactly the same.

The image here though takes a more traditional approach and stitches multiple images to create a super wide panorama without the need to crop out a large chunk of the image top and bottom which would have been the case if we’d used a super wide lens to capture everything in one frame. Indeed, this particular image is a 180° panorama and even a fisheye would have been hard pressed in this instance!

For less ambitious stitched panoramas I will typically shoot 4 or 5 frames, overlapping each by around a third and using the camera handheld. Practice has helped me in this as the camera needs to pivot around the same point (on all axes) to avoid large alignment shifts which result in having to crop deeper into the stitched image. Given that I was looking at a 180° panorama for this image I shot my frames with the camera firmly mounted on a carefully levelled tripod. The initial image (below) was created using the merge function in Photoshop and is shown exactly as produced. Note the blank areas where no data was captured and how small they are; this means that the tripod was allmost levelled perfectly but not quite!

The panorama is made up of 13 individual files as can be seen here and Photoshop has applied masks to each so that the final image is comprised of a little of each individual frame. You can see the progression of the lens as it was moved between each shot.

Once I was happy that it was properly aligned I simply flattened the file to create just one layer with the raw panorama ready for processing in the ordinary way. As I set white balance, aperture, ISO, focus and shutter speed manually I tend to stitch the files first and post process afterwards.

Levelling the tripod is important as it means that you maximise the usable area of each frame. Overlapping each sequential image by between 35% and 50% gives the software the maximum material to work with and creates a better stitch. I always shoot an extra frame either side of my intended area – if my intended scene extends from B to E for example I’d shoot frames from A to F inclusive to ensure that my intended outer edges of the image are fully covered.