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

 

Purchase at Amazon

The Instagram Conundrum

I’m really conflicted by Instagram. Everyone says as a photographer you need to be on Instagram for the exposure and that is probably true. The problem is that Instagram doesn’t make it easy as a photographer to post pictures and once posted Instagram’s interface leaves a lot to be desired. If you are using Instagram as a portfolio you need to have absolute control of the image before it is posted.

First off is getting your images to Instagram. Unless you take your images directly on your phone and do all your post processing there you have to jump thru hoops to get you images published. If I have a choice between processing an image on a profiled 27″ monitor or a smart phone screen I will pick the monitor 100% of the time. My workflow for getting a image on to Instagram is as follows.

  1. Process image in Lightroom and (if necessary) Photoshop on 27″ iMac.
  2. Publish jpeg to a Google Drive Folder then wait for image to sync.
  3. Open Google Drive on  Nexus 7.
  4. Navigate to the same Google Drive Folder.
  5. Click on image to load it to device.
  6. Click on the three dots in upper right of image.
  7. Click on Send Copy To
  8. Choose Instagram.

This will bring up the image in  Instagram. You can then change the crop from square to correct aspect ratio for the image. You can also apply one of the Instagram filters although I can’t see any reason for changing the image that you have already processed. Then add your caption and post.

While this will get your images into Instagram there are a number of things about Instagram’s interface that still bug me. Like the fact there is no way to quickly get back to the top once you’ve scrolled down through the stream of images from the people you follow. On the web based Instagram you normally can click on the header of a page for a refresh but not with Instagram. You can not zoom into an image to get detailed look. On the iPad/Nexus 7 you can only view the images in portrait mode which means an iPad with a keyboard attached makes it very hard to enter text for captions as you have to sort of tilt your head to see what you’ve written or try to type accordion style with one hand on the keyboard. And on the  iPad you can look at the images at 1x, the same size as an iPhone, or at 2x which reduces the quality of the to fill the screen.

Instagram seems to make it much easier to post a badly lit over processed selfie then your good work.

Well I’m glad I got that off my chest. And BTW my here is link to my Instagram account.

For those of you wondering how I publish directly from Lightroom to the Google Drive here is how I’ve got things set up in Lightroom’s Publishing Manager.

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-10-48-pm

 

Analyze This.

Oak GroveTo get better at your photography you need to shot a lot,  process a lot, and analyze your images a lot.  At one time I would have been proud of this wine bottle image. But as I grow and learn I find things that didn’t work out on this image. By analyzing your images you work towards making stronger images. You also learn things about how you see and teach yourself to see better.

So what is wrong with this image?

  • Probably the most glaring thing is the lack of light on the shoulders running up to the neck. This is due to the subject being to big for the light tent I had it in. I used at strip box on each side defused thru the sides of the light tent.  The dark space is caused by the diffusion material not being tall enough. I need to get a larger diffusion panel for each side.
  • The base of the bottle was sitting on the floor of the light tent which blocked the light from hitting the bottom of the bottle. Solution is to raise the bottle above the floor with on a platform slightly smaller than the bottle. This will allow the light to wrap all the way to the bottom of the bottle giving definition to bottom edge.
  • The gold band around the neck of the bottle goes black in the middle. This could be corrected by using a small reflector aimed at the band from the camera position. Probably a small silver reflector would brighten the gold band.
  • This is the wrong bottle to use as there is a seam that is visible along the neck to the shoulder of the bottle. It’s there on the left side if you look close enough. Where it is located makes it hard to erase digitally. If your going to produce the best picture make sure you have more than one example so you can find the best one.

I do get a pat on the back for having a pretty clean subject. I cleaned off all the finger prints before shooting.

Shot with:

Fujifilm X-T2  Buy Here

 

The Need To Shoot

Watch this video by photographer Valerie Jardin this is 4 minutes 37 seconds of images she has shot of people smiling. Ms Jardin has excellent photography skills and is worth a follow, and her work reminds me (a should you to) that you can never make too many images. Get out and shoot.

Keeping It Clean

When you are practicing your skills by doing a product shot setup it pays to use a lens as subject matter. This give you a shiny/matte surface to light and shoot as well as a really good look at how clean your glass is.

This is a shot of my Fujinon XF 100-400mm 1:4.5-5.6 R LM WR OIS lens. What you think is lint and dust free isn’t really when you get in close. You will need a lint free cloth to clean your lens.  I don’t suggest a paper towel as that may end up putting more dust on the lens than you started with. Cleaning your subject saved lots of time in post production.

So get in close and really look at how clean your lenses are. You may be surprised.

XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Product shot with my new 8″x 36″ strip box on Strobelite ISO 200 F11 1/200 second.

Patina

I like it when a camera starts to get the patina of use. The little wear marks near the flash shoe. A bit of loose material by the back buttons. It means that the camera is being used. The more you use the camera the better the images become.

Patina

I’ve had the Fujifilm X-T1 now for over 2 years. Shot a lot of images in that time. Some of which were good, most of which were part of the journey of discovering my eye. I shoot with a lot more confidence now. I have several really good lens and the X-T1 provides some stellar capturing. I am starting to be able to capture what I see. And my camera shows it’s been used. If you look closely at the 4 way pad at the bottom right of the image you might see where I got a little bit of crazy glue in the workings when I tried to paste down the bit of leatherette near there. I was able to scrape out the excess and get the button back to working.

So if you camera seems a little too pristine, if your confidence level seems to be lacking, spend a little more time pulling the camera out of the bag and give it a little wear and tear.

Oh yeah and another good tip is to get some good closeup shots of your cameras and lenses.  You be amazed at how much dust and junk you find that you really couldn’t see unless you get real close.  A good cleaning every once in a while doesn’t hurt.

Dreams versus Real Images

I just spent the last hour (maybe more) looking at cameras. I started at eBay looking at cameras similar to my newly acquired old Yashica A twin lens reflex camera.

Yashica
Yashica-A Film Camera Produced from 1959-1969

I always wanted one of these cameras even if I’ve left the film world behind. It does look good on the bookshelf.  I purchased a roll of 120 film and prepaid developing envelope for $20 which is almost as much as I spent on the camera. This is why I do digital while the cameras cost much more the image making costs next to nothing.

Anyway, I started looking at the Yashica’s on eBay and found myself soon searching for the more expensive Rolliflex Twin Lens cameras that the Yashica was modeled after.

The Yashica and the Rolliflex are 120 roll film so they have a bigger negative.  With the bigger negative you get more resolution. With more resolution you get better images.  You know the drill.   I was soon searching for Hasselblad cameras which were better still. I then switch to the medium format digital Hasselblad’s and soon was looking at a new Hasselblad kit with a 100mp back and a price tag very near the price of my new car.

I was after that all inclusive better resolution which would make my images oh so much better. Better camera, better pictures yada yada. I was on the slippery slope.

I finally shut down the browser and came back to reality where I re-affirmed for myself that I do have plenty of camera now and I have nowhere exceeded it’s possibility for taking good images.

If I work at it I can get the light right, get the exposure right, processed correctly, and produce an image the will stand up to scrutiny.  Case in point this image of my Tesla Watch (i can tell you were to get one if you really need one).

The Tesla
Tesla Watch Fujifilm X-T1 XF 50-140mm F2.8

This image meets all my expectations for a well processed image.  So while it may be good to once in a while dream about using a monster camera with a monster price tag, it pays to  work at using the camera you have and getting it right, right now.

Common Sense Photography

You can become immobilized by the shear mass of advise in print and on line about how to be a better photographer and how to take better pictures. As in most things lot of the noise falls to the wayside with just a little common sense. Here we are going to explore how to use common sense to make you happy with your art as you explore the world of photography.

 

I hope the journey is a pleasant one.