Full Is Not The Only Time To Shoot The Moon

Shooting the big full moon is a common pastime for some photographers. Easy enough to do. Set you ISO to native (100 or 200 depending), F8 to F11 on aperture and start at 125th second. Helps to have have a relatively long focal length at least 200mm on an APS-C or 300mm on a full frame. Nothing to it. The issue I find (although I do have a lot of full moon pictures) is that the full moon tends to be a little flat. It’s kind of like taking a picture with the flash on the camera. No definition.

Last night just after sunset we has a Waxing Crescent moon that was only 7% illuminated.

Moon Waxing Crescent ISO 800 F6.4 1/125 Second. 335mm.

I did have to adjust up the exposure as there just isn’t as much light reflecting off a moon at 7% compared to a full moon at 100% With the sun glancing off the edge of the moon you can get definition in the craters on the edge. And with less light overall you can also pick up a star or too. BTW what white balance do you use for your moon shots? Daylight of course. The light is coming from the biggest daylight source that we know.

Shot with the Fujifilm X-T2 and the Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Common Sense Approach To Learning Photography

There is a really big bunch of instructions out on the internet about learning photography. From free 2 minute videos to subscription education. In fact there is so much stuff if you watched it all you probably would not have time to actually take any photographs but boy would you know about photography. I catch myself every once a while thinking that with all the video’s I watch that anytime I put camera to eye I ought to come out with perfect images suitable for framing and have admiring throngs patting me on the back for a job well done.

Yeah, it just doesn’t roll like that. So I set about thinking how I could use my own equipment to learn photography. And I think this is one of the great things about digital photography, you can shoot and shoot without burning through expensive film and developing. I came up with several things that I could do to prove what others were trying to teach but in concrete ways.

First step was to allow myself to take images that weren’t just “art projects”, to make images that proved a point and also provided examples of how my equipment (in this case my Fujifilm cameras and Lenses) actually performed. So I have some suggestions for you on how to improve your skills, get a real feel for what your camera can do, and maybe even learn a little something.

To take the pressure off yourself I might suggest that your learning and testing be put in its own Lightroom catalog. Someplace where mistakes and experiments can live without the worry about being good.

So here is some tests that I recently did. First was a series of tests to evaluate how well I was getting the focus on my camera. I took a series of images where I marked down where the focal point of the image was and then verified that it was indeed the focus point. When doing testing you always want to make sure that there is only one thing being varied for each shot. So I locked down the Fujifilm X-T2 with the XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR lens on the a tripod, set the ISO to 200, the aperture to f/8, and let the shutter speed go to 1/5th second1. I used the focus joystick to move around the image to put either Spot’s eyes (well sunglasses) his mouth or my friend the ducks eyes into focus.

This gave me a good feeling that the camera and lens is capable of getting good focus if I let it do it job.

Another thing I decided to do for myself it to look at depth of field as related to aperture. Using the same setup I shot a number of images all with the same focus point on spots sunglasses and varied the F-stop from F/2.8 to F/16. This gives me a concrete example of how much is in focus in an image at different F-stops. Note: this is only for one lens (XF 16-55) set to 55mm but it gives you an idea of a starting point. Depth of field is not just affected by f-stop but is also affected by the width of your lens. You need to experiment more than I did here.

Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 at F2.8
Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 at F4.0
Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 at F5.6
Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 at F8
Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 at F11
Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 at F14
Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 at F16

The third experiment I did was testing how my image was affected by exposure compensation. The following images were taking with the exposure compensation set from minus 2 to + 2 stops. The middle image being the one with no compensation.

These are just a few examples of the kinds of testing you can do to get to know your camera and maybe just maybe learn a few things. There are many more experiments you can do when you take off the pressure to make every image count. I would also like to thank Spot and Duck for hanging with me even when they fell off the stage and on to the floor.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2
Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

1I used natural light for all the images as it was available and did not add to the complexity of the shots by trying to use flash.

On The Level

Digital cameras have all sort of things to assist you in making images. Automagical stuff like focus assistance and white balance determination. Informational stuff like current shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.  The information you can display while you are looking thru the viewfinder or at the LCD screen can be very helpful, and sometimes it can actually distract from your image making.

Most of the Fujifilm X series cameras have all sorts of things you can put on the screen before and after you have taken a shot. One of the things that I came to rely on is the Electronic Level1. It was the first thing I turned on when I got the X-T1 and also the X-T2. The Level as well as a rule of thirds, ninths,twelve grids can be turned on by check boxes on the Display Custom Setting menu on the Tools -> Screen Setting -> Disp. Custom Setting menu.

Screen Setting Display Custom Setting under the Tool menu
Display Custom Setting Check Boxes

When the Electronic Level check box is checked there is a line across the view screen that shows as white when not level and green when level. Get the line level and you image will come out level, not needing any post processing adjustments to the frame.

Electronic Level (Green)

And the other day I turned it off. The reason I no longer use it is that it becomes distracting when shooting. If, like I was, you are looking at the line to make sure its green you are no longer looking at the image. Getting the line to go greens may mean that the image that the camera is capturing is not the image you saw in you minds eye. Subtle shifts may introduce distractions along the edges or as I tended to do, move the fram up or down missing important details. As a photographer you are responsible for the entire image not just that it is straight. So I’m getting used to taking the energy I was using making sure the camera is straight to making sure the image I capture is the image I wanted.

I am finding that I am not usually off by more than a degree or two.   Of course there are some situation where you don’t even want a level image. Then the level just gets in your way.

Eat – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 ISO 200 f/2.8 1/2200 second at 54.1mm

One of my personal projects is shooting clouds. If I don’t have any references in my image to the ground, buildings, trees or the what not, I really don’t care what is level.

Conjunction – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 ISO 200 F11 1/1500 second at 48.5mm

I would also suggest ignoring the grid layouts as you should concentrate on the image and not necessarily if it matched the rule of thirds or any other distracting rules. Actually I would suggest you work at getting images that look balanced to you without any aids then use post production to see how close you are to the “RULES”.

If you are doing landscapes (or any other image type for that matter) on a tripod by all means turn on the electronic level and get your self all set up to make the best picture you
can. You can alway turn off the display if it starts to bother you.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2
Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

1Other manufactures have different names for the level. Nikon calls it the “Virtual Horizon”.

When Things Go Wrong

Learned a valuable lesson yesterday.  I was shooting interiors the other day, experimenting with a single flash along with a slow shutter speed to pick up some ambient light. When I was done with the experiments I was able to put away all the gear I had out to take the shots.

Christmas Table

Because I was primarily using flash, I was in manual mode ISO 400 F10 1/60second. While I put away all the lighting gear I did not reset the camera to the standard aperture settings. So when I came across this unusual recreational vehicle in a parking lot I was so excited to capture images that I didn’t check my camera settings and ended up with way over exposed images. I have only the photographer to blame. I may have to fire him.

Vixen 21TD

By the way this is a 1986 (I think) Vixen 21TD camper. It is complete with bathroom, kitchen, and a BMW turbo diesel motor. It was from a small Michigan company that only lasted 3 years. Interesting vehicle, so blown out that the only way I could even try to save it was to turn it to black and white.

Still kicking myself over this one. Moral of story, reset your camera to your standard setting after every time you use something different in the settings. Don’t wait. Or alway shoot in manual mode so you know you need to set the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed with each image shot.

So if anyone has a Vixen they would like photographed please contact me. I can do the job right (I hope).

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2
Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

1st rule of photography

The first rule to apply when shooting urban images is from the great Jay Maisel . Jay aways says don’t include signs in your images if you don’t want people to read them. The eye naturally goes to the words in an image and may detract from the image’s story. Which is not to say that you should never shoot an image with a sign in it.

Eat Here Fujifilm X-T2 XF50-140mm ISO 200 F2.8 1/850 second at 74.4mm

Just make sure that the sign is the story you are telling.

Shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and Fujinon XF50-140mm F2.i R LM OIS WR at Amazon

Images and Rules

Light and Shadow
Light And Shadow

This is an image I shot on my recent vacation. In this shot I was able to visualize the outcome before I even framed it up in the camera.  I knew what I wanted to capture and was able to get the result I was looking for.  The Mrs and I were sampling a bit of Merlot in the Italy Pavillon at Epcot in Walt Disney World.

I saw the shadow on the wall which show the lighter areas of the sun passing through the glass of the lamp. I liked the tonality. I shot a couple of shots and this was the one that best matched what I was seeing.

Emotionally I think the image has impact.  The balance was good and the colors match what I saw as I was sitting there.

Afterwards I was thinking about photographic rules and which one I had followed and the ones I broke.  I shot this about 1pm on a crystal clear day.  It wasn’t about waiting for better light as the light I has was perfect to creating the shadow of the lamp.  I think I may have got the rule of thirds about right as the lamp itself was in the upper right third while the shadow was in the lower left.

If all you can say about an image you took is that “I Nailed the rule of thirds” that rule probably doesn’t matter.  What really matters that the image tells the story.  In this case it did for me.

Shot with Fujifilm X-T2 Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

ISO 200 F11 1/600sec 42.7mm

The Panorama That Wouldn’t

Overview

On a bit of a holiday (with a great view) I tried a panorama out the window. For some reason Lightroom could not produce a result with the four images that I shot. I think it might have something to do with the monorail moving in the middle two shots. I was able to get Photoshop to stitch the images together when passed from Lightroom using “Merge to Panorama In Photoshop”. Which hints that there is a fundamental difference in the engines for building panoramas in the two programs.

You always need to experiment and push the boundaries otherwise you don’t learn stuff.

Shot with Fujifilm X-T2 Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

ISO 200 F8 1/300

The Myth of Megapixels

This is an image I took with my 24mp camera. It’s an OK 6000×4000 pixel image. A bit out of balance and busy.  But if you look at the right most flower there are some colors and textures that caught my eye. So I cropped the image to about 2500 x 2500.

20160918-_dsf0140

I like the way this image came out.

Flowers

I never saw this as something I would print big. So this image is basically just for output to jpeg for the web. The export from Lightroom is 1600 x 1600 pixels. It really doesn’t lose anything as we went dow from a 24 megabyte file to a 1.2 megabyte file.  We really don’t need really big megabyte files as we end up throwing away a lot of the resolution was we reduce the output to a manageable file.

Granted I should have seen the potential of the single flower and cropped in camera.  All in all we seem to throw away a lot of power of the high gain image makers.  So the Myth of the Megapixel is just that, a Myth. Or we can get more into making prints where we can used all those megapixels.

Shot with Fujifilm X-T2 Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

ISO 200 F11 1/250

 

 

 

Get Inspired Get Focused

There is so much good to viewing other people work but there is caveats in that statement as you need some sort of filter as to what is good work to view. I’ve found one of the best places to see work that has merit is the Photo+ blog PDN Photo of the Day. I’ve just gone through a number of the past photographers of the day and got inspired.

When I look at others work I see the things that I need to focus on in my own imagery.  Take for instance Nancy Baron’s Palm Springs>The Good Life Goes On. I notice her use of color and there is nothing in the images that she doesn’t want to be there. There is a wonderful sense of stillness to her image.  It’s not that I want to get on the next bus for Palm Springs so I can duplicate those images. It’s the inspiration to focus on making images that have meaning and story.  Time to get to work.

Common Sense Review of the X-T2

I ordered my Fujifilm X-T2 the day it was announced last July and was shipped one of the first units on September 8th (thanks B&H Photovideo). I thought I would write up a fancy review for my new gear but I realized that I couldn’t be objective in that I’m not a reviewer, I’m an owner. I’m on my third Fujifilm camera in the last 2 years.

Fujifilm X-T2
FujiFilm X-T2

So as an X-T1 user and lover was the update to the X-T2 worth it? Of course it was although I do have some thoughts on if you should upgrade too that i’m keeping to the end just to keep you in suspenders.

So in the meantime here are my thoughts on the upgrade to the X-T2.

Sensor – I am happy to report that the larger sensor does not lose any of the qualities that the previous 16mp sensors possessed. As expected the detail is better because there are ½ again as many pixels. Because the new sensor has the same footprint (APS-C) as the previous ones a little care must used in hand holding the cameras just like other higher megapixel cameras which will pick up every little vibration. It’s just the nature of the beast. The X-Trans III process is also very good. Having the additional film profiles for ACROS really completes the X-Trans . The X-T1 Monochrome profiles were OK but pretty generic. Those profiles are still present along with the new ACROS profiles. I’m not much of black and white shooter but the ACROS film simulations are so pretty.

ISO – For the most part I’m using Auto ISO when shooting. I have my max ISO set at 3200 with a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 second. I’m not a big proponent of usIng high ISO’s on any camera. Other than photojournalism or bad selfies at a dimly lit party I think there are few real excuses for using really high ISO. That being said i’ve had a pretty good experience shooting the Disney Christmas parade handheld at ISO 6400 although the best picture I got shows that I could have lowered the ISO as the shutter speed ended up at 1/300 of a second. Any noise presented can be cleaned up easily by your standard off the shelf software.

Hook
Hook – ISO 6400 F2.8 1/300

Joystick – The joystick is the thing that you didn’t know you needed until you get one. Like a lot of photographers I would keep the focus at the center of the image. I would then set focus and move the camera for the composition. The problem with this focus strategy there is a chance (in my case, a good chance) that moving the camera even a little bit changes where the focus lies. On the X-T1 I did move the function button to display the focus grid to the bottom d-pad button so that it was easier to move the focus point. Still it was awkward. Now with the Joystick if find moving the focus point much easier and I am more likely to move the focus point rather than the camera. That being said I am a left eye shooter and occasionally my nose does get in the way of the joystick.

Dials and Buttons – I guess I just got used to how the dials on top of the camera worked on the X-T1 and I occasionally get things backwards when adjusting the ISO and Shutter speed buttons. I’ve started to come around but once in awhile I push the buttons when I don’t need to and it causes a bit of a stumble when changing stuff. Moving the video function to the drive dial was a master stroke. I never did have issues with the buttons on the pad and I’m not having any issues on the X-T2.  I have one problem in that I can not figure out how to do back button focus on the X-T2. I may have to get out the manual.

Movies – I have not done any movies on either the X-T1 or X-T2 so I can’t really compare the movie making abilities of either camera.

Upgrade– As to if you should/need to upgrade to the X-T2 if you have the X-T1 the answer is yes but with an if. If you already have the premium lenses, the XF 16-55 and or the XF 50-140 and maybe the XF 56mm and the XF 90mm then by all means do the upgrade. You images will only get better. If you can only afford to upgrade lens or camera get the better glass first. The image quality of Fujifilm red badged lenses is so good that you can work magic with the 16mp of the X-T1. If you are doing movies or have the good lenses already then the next logical step is the X-T2.

Fujinon XF 50-140 F2.i R LM OIS WR

 

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