That Rule Against Bald Skies

Lots of landscape photographers will tell you not to shoot when the sky is bare.  Cloudless skies make for boring images. Moose Peterson calls them bald skies.   And most of the time the rule holds up.  Still that rule like all the others are meant to be broken.  If I followed the rules I probably should have just left my camera at home last Saturday. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky ( Florida in February, 83 degrees and lots of sun ).

Still my eye caught the completely still water of the pond at Epcot. When you see something of interest you shoot now and ask questions later. Later like when you have the image open in Lightroom.

Still Life – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WR

For me this image works because there are no clouds in the sky. Several reasons why. I think the dark blue at the top and bottom of the image holds the eye in the image where you then have time to see all the colorful things going on between the Monorail track and it’s reflection. Also Spaceship Earth, the big dome, might have gotten lost in the clouds had the been there.

Don’t try to stick to much to the rules. Shoot the shots.

Although I like the color image with no clouds, converting it to black and white does not work at all for me. Since the center section has no color the eye doesn’t go there. So the rule works, or it doesn’t.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WR


The recent update of Lightroom CC includes a new development panel called Transform.  Among the options on this new panel is the Guided transform which lets you show Lightroom just how you want to straighten  your image.  It also includes an Auto transform which does a pretty good job on most images.

If a perfect world you might never need to align or crop any of your images. But in the real world there is times when having good tools to adjust your image makes life so much easier.  Take this image that I transformed using the Auto transform. The transformation is pretty spectacular in that not only gave me the image I saw in my head, it did it with out losing any resolution. The image is still a 24mp (6000×4000 pixel) file.

The original image needed some work. This was because it was taken at Epcot on a crowded day and anything close to a straight image would have showed a lot of the crowd. If i could have the place to myself with a tilt-shift lens for my Fujifilm X-T2 I might have been able to get it done in camera. But I am really happy with the way it came out and I have no bad feelings about how the image was made.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WR

Sky Above

Sky Above Fujifilm X-T2 XF 10-24mm F/4 R OIS ISO 1600 F/4 for 20 Seconds at 10mm

The Fujifilm XF Lens Roadmap hasn’t been updated since last year. Now rumors are about that they going to be producing a XF 8-16mm F/2.8 lens sometime this year. It makes sense to me as that completes the Pro series equivalents of constant F/2.8, 12-24mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm lens other manufacturers offer. For night sky photography wide angle fast glass is the way to go. Last night I dashed outside to capture a few images of Orion and the surrounding stars. I used my XF 10-24mm F/4 R OIS lens and I really did wish I had that extra stop of aperture. At F4 i had to keep the shutter open for 20 seconds at ISO 1600. You may not notice it (in fact you may not see many stars in the small image presented but click on the image for a larger image) but there is definite movement at that shutter speed. With a lens the opens to F/2.8 I would have been able to cut the exposure time down to 10 seconds and it probably would have made a difference in the sharpness of the image.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS

It’s nice to live in Florida where even in Winter you can have a clear night with temperatures not too cold. 

Finding Atlantis with the Fujifilm X-T2

I’m not one that is enamored with cameras that can see in the dark. I could care less about cameras with claimed ISO ratings that go up to 200000 megawatts or what ever.. My personal philosophy is always find more light. However, in some cases, I will let myself become a high ISO fan boy. If you ever get near the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center in central Florida, there are a couple of photographic opportunities that you will really appreciate having a bit of extra ISO in your camera.

Atlantis, External Tank and Boosters Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 1/800 second F8 ISO 200 16mm

The first thing you need to see there is the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. You can’t miss it, as it is dominated by the external fuel tank, which you pass on the way into the parking lot. Outside you don’t need to worry about ISO especially on a bright sunny day.

I have to say the people at the KSC Visitor Center have perfected the art of the reveal with the Atlantis exhibit and also with the older Saturn 5 exhibit that is a bus ride away from the center.  I’ve seen Atlantis at least 4 times now and I still get emotional as Atlantis is revealed. In fact I’ve hidden the revealed Atlantis on a separate page so you can experience seeing it for the first time there. If you can’t wait, click here to see Atlantis.

Once inside you have great access to Atlantis and to a full size mockup of the Hubble Telescope.  The great thing about Atlantis is that they have preserved it just as it was when it landed for the last time in 2011, complete with scorch marks.

Atlantis Cockpit With Scorch Marks Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 ISO 640 1/125 second f/2.8 24.7mm

You can bring a tripod into these exhibits but they do ask you not to use flash. Having the capability to shoot at ISO 1600 – 3200 and get clean files makes it more enjoyable than lugging a tripod around. The Fujifilm X-T2 is a perfect camera for hand held shooting in this context. If you are an HDR person by all means bring the tripod and work with longer exposures and lower ISO’s (especially hand with shooting the tiles under the spacecraft.)

Engines Space Shuttle Atlantis – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm F2.8 ISO 3200 1/30 second f/2.8 16mm

The lighting inside is all over the place and it probably best to just accept the color casts and go with the flow. This is also a good environment to convert to black and white.

Atlantis Tail Surfaces – Fujifilm X-T2 Xf 16-55mm f/2.8 ISO 2000 1/125 second f/2.8 24mm

The ACROS film simulation was applied here where the tungsten and bright blue lighting were hard to control. You have all the time you want to discover the spacecraft and you can walk underneath the shuttle to get a good close look at the tiles. There are a number of other things to see within the exhibit. It is a great learning experience for the kids too.

When you’ve finished viewing Atlantis, get over to the buses and head out to the Saturn 5 exhibit. The bus ride takes up to 40 minutes . Our ride included a view of the Vehicle Assembly Building (huge, huge, huge) and a drive past Launch Pad 39B where the Shuttles were launched. This might not be the same route you have as the occasionally they do launch rockets from these active launch pads. While the ride is bumpy you can get a shots of the launch pads. You just have to compensate for the green tints in the bus windows.

Saturn 5 Motors – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.9 ISO 1600 1/125 second f2.8 16mm

While the shuttle seems big up close the Saturn 5 rocket that launched astronauts to the moon (and back) just goes on and on. I think most people could stand inside of one of the first stage rocket motors of the Saturn 5.

Saturn 5 Third Stage Rocket – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 ISO 3200 1/90 seconds f2/8

The building that houses the Saturn 5 exhibit does have a row of windows on the south side of the building which adds daylight or sunset light to the mix of multiple light sources.  Once again go with the flow.  The above images was a bit hard in that if you corrected for the white ball on the upper left of the image, the yellow outer band turns green. Just let things play out, it’s all about the images you can make.

Saturn 5 Motor – Xf 16-55mm f/2.8 ISO 2500 1/125 second f/2.8 47.2mm

Here again playing with the Fujifilm ACROS film simulations in post production.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex is a wonder full place to visit and one that you can get some stunning images with the Fujifilm X-T2.

For the most part I shot the images with Auto ISO and shutter speeds, I default mine to a minimum of 1/125 of a second and a maximum ISO of 3200.  Worked here with all but one image where I had to let the shutter speed go to 1/30 of a second and held the camera very very steady.

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

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”.

3 Uses for Lightroom’s New Reference Photo Feature

This past week Adobe released Lightroom CC 2015.8. The new release has some fixes, new camera profiles, and a new feature that allows you to compare the image currently being processed in the Develop Module against a reference image. The reference image can be another image including another copy of the same image. The reference images is not modified by any changes to the active image. I’ve come up with three reasons (there are more) to use this reference feature.

  1. Compare image as processed with all the tweaks you need against the straight out of camera image or unprocessed raw image.
  2. Compare image as finished processing in Lightroom with an image that has been further processed in Photoshop or through a plug in.
  3. Compare image in color versus black and white.

Here are three images to further explain what I would use each reference photo for and other details.

Compare straight out of camera image.

Fujifilm X-T2 XF 50-140mm F2.8 ISO 200 F4.5 1/440 second 50mm

The active image is a raw file that has my normal camera profile, sharping, and vibrance adjustments. I then made a virtual copy of the image and clicked on the reset button to put the virtual copy to the default processing done when Lightroom imports my Fujifilm X-T2 raw file. This zeros all the sliders and sets the camera profile to Adobe Standard. I would use this one to verify how the eye moves thru the processed file that might not be evident in the unprocessed file. Does your Lightroom processing do enough to invite your viewer in?. You could also use this feature if you are shooting in Raw+JPG mode and see how close you can come to the image processed in camera to jpeg.

Compare image with Lightroom processing with image processed in Photoshop.

Fujifilm X-T2 XF 50-140mm F2.8 ISO 200 F2.8 1/300 second 50mm

I usually use Photoshop to apply any plugins to my images. I open the image in Photoshop as a Smart Object then apply any plugins. This work flow means I can go back and tweak the image any number of times as the Photoshopped image is added to the catalog as a psd or tif. In any case you can reference your Lightroom processed images against all the changes in Photoshop. Depending on the image I can sometimes overcook the plugins in Photoshop. Having the Lightroom processed image give me a chance to go back into the Photoshop image and fix any issues I had with the processing. Once again does the processed image succeed at moving the eye around the image as you intended?

Compare image in color versus black and white.

Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm F2.8 ISO 200 F8 1/640 second 31.1mm

Sometimes you need to look at both color and black and white to determine which is better for the story you are telling. Create a virtual copy of the processed color image then convert to black and white within Lightroom or a plugin. In this chase I applied the Fujifilm ACROS+R camera profile to the virtual copy. Of course because you made a virtual copy you can have the best of both worlds. In this image I like the black and white because it removes the distraction of the red shirted guy in the left of the image and the people a little further up the river also on the left.


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


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