The Plight of the Self Employed

I’ve been self employed for the last 23 years. It has advantages, name your own hours, work from home mostly, doing what you love to do. One of the downsides of self employment is getting sick. As a guy who writes programs for a living I usually can muddle thru a cold as for the most part if I keep my nose from running and shorting out my keyboard I can still send out the invoice at the end of the week. When being self employed requires you to go out in the real world, be it writing code, taking pictures, or other such fun stuff, feeling less than prefect is not well, fun.

While I have been rather heathy, this is my first cold in probably 5 years, it does make some parts of the job at hand harder to do. So my advise is if you can, take a down day (yeah probably not if you have a team of twenty descending on a photoshoot). Time spent recovering early in the sickness may keep you from having a longer illness.

You can still be semi-productive if you have stayed at home to recover. Things I like to do between hacking fits:

  • Process  images I have not had time to get to.
  • Clean up social media. Websites don’t fix themselves.
  • Clean up email (unless that is what made you sick in the first place).
  • Be feverishly creative. Make a virtual copy an image and see how far I can take it. Push that vibrance slider really far remove all clarity, twist it poke it, reverse it. Remember the have an excuse (I was out of my head).
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by the down time.
  • Research a new project or product that you have wanted to try. (Today I spent a couple of hours reading about a programming environment I might need to know for a new client. Geeky I know)).

Note: If it’s Mission Critical put it aside. It will take longer to fix if it more borked.

Bridge (St Augustine) Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR ISO 200 f/11 10 seconds at 55mm

And just relax, take a nap, get better, and work at keeping yourself healthy.

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”.

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

Common Sense Take on Digital Versus Film

They say when sensor size reached 16mp that digital cameras out resolved 35mm film. You can now make images with more informational density than you ever could with film. I’m now shooting with a 24mp cropped sensor Fujifilm X-T2 which has great resolution when paired with the right lenses. I’m pretty happy with that.

Tree Of Life (with kangaroos) Fujifilm X-T2 XF 50-150

I’m not sure I understand why some people insist on shooting film. Some say this is because they feel that shooting film is a more real experience. I’m not one of those people. I did do film back when film was all there was. Other than the moment you take the film out of the final rinse and see that there are actual images negatives, the whole process takes a lot of time with, in my case, not that much success. I have to admit that working out of a bathroom was not the most complete setup for developing film.

On the film side they say that having the limit of 36 images in a roll makes each image more precious and forces you to take your time getting the intended shot. That there is something about the silver grain that makes film images special. I have seen some wonderfully processed analog film images. I’ve also seen a lot of digital images that have been wonderfully processed. And that most of the wonderful analog images I’ve seen have only been viewed digitally.

I guess the real difference is that some people like to explore the craftsmanship of mixing chemicals and keeping to time and temperature regimes. That may be the difference between analog and digital processing.  A different set of craftsman skills needed. Because when it comes down to it making the image is the artistic part of the process, developing it is the craft part of it.

Shooting film is, as it has been since the first long ago exposure, determine the exposure, click the shutter,  capture the image. Which is just like the digital process, exposure then click.

The post processing part is what is different. While analog printing is still being done, a lot of  processed film negatives are being digitized, imported into Lightroom or Photoshop and then turned to positives for output to the web or a digital printer.

So the real difference between the two is just the chemical processing of film. Everything else pretty much comes out even.

As to the forced slowing down of the process when shooting film, you can do the same thing with digital. You can force yourself into slowing down your digital shooting. Give yourself a limit of the number of frames you can shoot in an hour. Say it takes an hour to shoot 36 exposures on film, which, by the way, works out to one image about every two minutes. Give yourself the same challenge with your digital camera. Expose no more than 36 frames on your digital camera in one hours. Process and work to getting the good shots in the 36 frames.

Still at some point the digital image will succeed where the film image might not. Here is a 100% detail of the Tree Of Life image. The detail retained by an camera sensor and lens from 75 yards is truly amazing.

Tree of Life (with kangaroos) 100% detail

I think I’ll stick to the digital images and spend the saved development time to expand my skills as a photographic artist.

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

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

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

Manufactured Landscapes

There is more than one type of landscape photographer. Natural landscapes to me are when you have a scene where nature itself has built the stage and it is up to you to find the right view to present the emotion of the landscape. Another type is Urban landscape where there the scene is built for you with function as a more prominent part. Sometimes the urban setting is gritty and worn. Architectural landscapes work with the architects forms to present buildings as art.

Then there is Manufactured landscapes which I find fascinating. In a manufactured landscape the object is to replicate a natural, urban, or architectural landscape. The resulting objects purpose is to evoke the emotions of places and things is a way that is familiar.

I like taking images of these manufactured landscapes because someone has gone to a lot of trouble to take you visually to somewhere else. Be it urban or pastoral the object is to let you feel like you are in a place. Disney’s Imagineers are masters at this.

Jungle (Imagined) Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm ISO 200 F8 1/160second 37.6mm

The above image is just a look from one bridge that you can walk on to another that is just for show. But I love this image. The color, the forms and the patina of this location is just stunning. A manufactured landscape in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Entrance Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm ISO 200 F2.8 1/110 second at 35.3mm

This manufactured urban landscape is another example of the detail needed to pull off being some where you really are not. I haven’t a clue with the sign about the door says but looking at it I feel transported to a feudal Japan. Hint this in the Japan World Showcase at Epcot.

Manufactured Landscapes even work as a still life. While it is nice to be able to go to where the landscapes are sometimes you have to look at what is presented to you.

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

Using the Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

They say the best camera is the one that you have with you but I say it is having the best lens for the job is what really makes all the difference. Around my house we get some rather exotic looking birds from time to time. These Wood Storks were sitting in my back yard a couple of days ago. The didn’t seem to mind me taking photos of them, at least for a few minutes.

Two Storks X-T2 ISO200 F5.0 1/450 second zoomed to 243.3mm

When the birds do come by its nice to know you have a lens that can capture them in full glory. I think Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens is a great addition to the Fujifilm line of outstanding lenses. I purchased mine with the Fujinon XF1.4X TC WR 1.4 factor teleconverter.

Stork Standing X-T2 ISO 200 F5.6 1/170 second 400mm

Strangely, shortly after purchasing the lens and teleconverter  we suffered through a very hot dry summer that kept the birds away, but that is another story. Anyway the XF 100-400mm is one of Fujifilm’s red badged premium lens. It has a rather high price tag unless you compare it with some of the other lens manufacturers. Right now (before Christmas 2016) it is on sale for $1699 most places.

The lens is big and heavy compared to other Fujifilm lenses but not overwhelming. In my hand I can carry my X-T1/X-T2 with the lens attached with in one hand while I’m walking around. It balances well with three fingers on the grip. The range of the camera on the APS-C is from 150mm to 600mm which gives you plenty of reach. With the 1.4 teleconverter is reaches out to 800mm. I do most of my shooting (granted with good light) hand held with the 5 Stop OIS image stabilization system. When you are all the way out to 800mm you do sometimes need a bit more of a foundation like a tripod. At 400mm the max aperture is F5.6 and at 800 the max aperture is F8 but that should not be an issue, just find enough light.

Speaking of the tripod. The lens does have a collar mount so that the lens itself can be mounted on a tripod. The foot of the collar is not very big and may cause some issues with mounting it.  I have not had an issue with that but some have complained.  It is much smaller than the foot on the Fujinon XF50-140mm F2.i R LM OIS WR lens.  When mounted on the lens foot there is a lock off so you can turn the camera between landscape and portrait mode which I think all lens should have (but not realistically).

The lens focus is quick especially with the X-T2 and using the continuous zone focusing can produce some very sharp images. There is a lot of detail and the contrast and color is quite good. This is an all round good lens. I don’t have any images of birds in flight as my skills in panning need a refresher course or maybe just a complete do over. Nothing to do with the lens.

Snowy Egret X-T1 ISO 200 F5.6 1/1600 second 400mm.
X-T1 ISO 200 F5.6 1/1600th of a second zoomed to 400mm
Stepping Out X-T1 ISO 200 F5.6 1/950 second 400mm

Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR at Amazon
Fujinon XF1.4X TC WR at Amazon
Fujinon XF50-140mm F2.i R LM OIS WR at Amazon