Out with the X100

Some 8 years after its initial release, I have become a member of the X100 owners club.

My first foray into the X100 series, was a second-hand 100S, the second iteration, improving on many of the issues that plagued the original, I used my 100S until it failed me and was beyond repair physically and financially.

The 100S remains one of the best cameras I have ever used, just because I enjoyed using it, much as I do my 100F
Reading blogs and watching videos, many of the X100 owners have kept with the original X100, nearly all suggesting the ‘feel’ of the 12mp bayer sensor has a certain something, some saying an almost ‘filmic’ quality.

Fuijifilm are known for the way they listen to their customers feedback, the X100 was improved with later firmware, making a camera that was able to focus better and perform slightly faster but for some owners, the love/hate relationship was too much and their X100’s were sold or traded in for other gear.

Knowing all of the above, I have still wanted the try the original X100 for a number of years, yet despite the perceived faults, it still commands good money in second-hand markets, so I was unable to justify the expense.
Finally, last week my patience was rewarded with a purchase from a well known online market place and last weekend, my x100 arrived.

Due to me having to work over the weekend, I was only able to take a handful of shots with the new purchase but yesterday, I was finally able to give it its first real outing in my hands.

With the wealth of technology in todays modern cameras, I welcomed the back to basics functionality of the X100, no exposure preview in the EVF or the LCD, relying on the exposure meter within the display,  I was having to think about each shot, and become more methodical, but ultimately, I enjoyed taking every shot.

Between the showers, I had some lovely sunny spells, there was a gorgeous light throughout the day and as I looked at some of my efforts on my PC monitor, I was blown away with the image quality that 12mp sensor produces.
I can now see why so many persisted with working with their X100, when you get it right, the rewards are stunning.

I may have joined the X100 party eight years late but I am glad I have finally done so

Raw V Jpeg

Somewhere, written down in the commandments of digital photography, there is an edict that states “Thou shalt only shoot RAW”
For as long as I have owned digital cameras, I too have followed this mantra, that RAW is the promised land of photographic perfection…. until a few months ago

I have been using fujifilm cameras on and off, for a number of years, there is something about the colour rendition I like in the way I shoot, Fujifilm are well documented in reviews for having a superb JPEG engine in camera but I persisted in being the RAW purist.

So, you ask, what has changed?

The way an amateur in any walk of life can improve their game, is to learn from the pros, so with the wealth of material that can be found online, I enjoy watching videos of how other photographers shoot and manage their post processing workflow.
It was after watching a YouTube video by Kevin Mullins, a well respected documentary and wedding photographer that sowed the seed of change, he was explaining how, in his journalism days, the workhorse camera was the Canon 1DX, he was telling a fellow journalist how he shot Jpegs with this particular camera.

His fellow journalist reponded in the manner that I used to think myself, until a few months ago, “You use a £5000 camera to shoot Jpeg”?
Kevin Mullin’s response was quite simply “You use a £5000 camera and you do not trust it?”

After feeling suitably inspired, I immediately changed my own camera to shoot Raw & Jpeg together for the first time, also learning how to customize the in camera film simulations to my liking, or at the very least a starting point with the flexibility to experiment.

Once I had returned from this first JPEG / RAW shoot, I imported my images into lightroom and began, through habit, to process the RAW images, only to notice that my RAW edit was very similar to the in camera JPEG.

With Fuji’s legacy of film development, they have brought this knowledge into the digital age, the classic chrome simulation, with its muted colours and contrasty style appeals to the way I see images, also the Across B&W simulation is also one I use a lot on my days out.

From my own perspective, I think perhaps I had become lazy by shooting RAW, if not lazy, complacent, by relying on post processing to correct my mistakes.
Shooting Jpeg has taught me to be more disciplined in getting the image right in camera again, perhaps treating it like my early days using film, where each exposure was precious if you were to get your moneys worth.

For any paid assignments, I will probably still use RAW as a backup, but for my own pleasure, I am enjoying that my workflow on the PC has reduced immensely, I enjoy editing but am taking pleasure from seeing an image and only perhaps cropping slightly and nothing more.

The images below, were all jpegs, on a low light shoot last night in Exeter, probably my most challenging and rewarding shoot since my photographic enlightenment


A different aspect

One of the most enjoyable aspects of photography, is the inspiration we get from others, either through blogs, youtube videos,image sites or magazine articles.
It is through a variety of these mediums that became the theme of today’s outing …..

A few months ago, I finally became an owner of an IPhone, no, not the latest all singing, all dancing tenth generation, but a refurbished 5s, which for my needs, is more than ample.
I had no real intention of using the phone for photography, after all, I have a camera (or 2) don’t I ?

That was until, watching an online video, I was introduced to the hipstamatic app, which in brief, simulates various film effects and lenses.
So I dabbled with a few combinations and began to like the various effects it could produce.

As with many of these apps, it has spawned a number of websites, fan pages, social media groups and such like, where I have learned more about its capabilities.

The app restrics the user to the instagram style square format image, something I had started to employ in some of my outings earlier this year.
Square format appears to have the same popularity of marmite, either you like it or you don’t.
I like approaching the different aspect of filling a square, rather than a rectangle, it helps to perceive composition in a new way.

So after a proposed photo shoot was cancelled today, I decided to make use of the unexpected spare time to take some snaps of what may be considered the every day, the mundane.
It is possible to shoot images within the hipstamatic app but on this occasion, I used the square format of the phone’s default camera, so I could edit while enjoying a cuppa or 2 in a local cafe.

Slowly but surely, I am finding a few combinations I really like, as shown in the above images.
They may not be worthy of entry to the Magnum photo archive, but it was an enjoyable way to further my creativity

Back to basics

As a consumer in the tech market, we have so many choices at our disposal when it comes to buying electronics and such, TV’s with ever sharper screens and thinner profiles, audio that can be streamed throughout the house and closer to home for me, cameras with ever increasing megapixels, 4k video and a plethora of functions that often lay dormant in a sea of sub menus.

Interestingly enough, for all our advanced tech, retro technology has seen a resurgence, in terms of music, vinyl records have become trendy again, and film photography is very popular amongst students and keen amateurs once more.

For a few years now, I have had a wish, that camera manufacturers would produce a camera for people like me, that do not wish to record video.
Yes, Leica cameras are for people like me, but the asking price is just not within my budget….

Then, a couple of days ago, I was asked by a friend, if I would build him his new gaming PC, for a modest fee and a box of camera gear that he thought may be of interest.
No, there was no Leica amongst this box of goodies, a few vintage lenses, that I can happily put onto one of my mirrorless cameras.. and this 5d

The original Canon 5D, now known as the 5d ‘classic’, a camera now in its teens, so to speak but still highly regarded as one of the best DSLR’s ever made.

It has a 12mp sensor, no touch screen, no video capabilty and a maximum ISO of 3200
and 9 focus points but for me, it is perfect!

Paired with a 50mm lens, in 2018 this camera is still very capable and a pleasure to use

The above images are taken with the 5D, I can clearly see why so many photographers still rate this camera even now

Shooting at 35mm

In my most recent blog post, I wrote about my desire to travel light and my subsequent purchase of the Fuji X100f.
With its fixed lens of 23mm or 35mm Full frame equivalent, it is a camera that encourages creativity, in that I now have to zoom with my feet!

Up until this week, my work rota meant that I had managed just a couple hours worth of local street photography, but over the last couple of days, I have had a chance to use the camera and customise the settings to how I like to shoot, a kind of breaking in, if you like.

When I was packing my camera bag, the decision on which lenses to take was suddenly gone, it was a case of spare batteries, lens cloth, and a filter set, in my smallest camera bag.
It was done, no extra camera body, no extra lenses, just the one camera, one lens.

My travelling light decision had been in the back of my mind for some time, then one evening I started reading online articles on how other photographers had made a similar change, or simply decided to shoot one focal length for a given time.
I liked the observation that many made, in that, they began to see the compsosition of a shot before the camera was at their eye, or that you begin to know the chosen lens inside out.

My own observations so far, are that with the one lens, I am looking for different angles of a shot, often finding something nearby, I would have missed, had I had a zoom lens, so my initial worries of missing shots have been dispelled.
I felt more creative today, than I have done for a long time, finding the smaller details of subjects or just another way of expressing myself through the camera, a certain liberation from having too much choice perhaps.

The real test is going to be in the next week, where I am away for a few days and I have already decided to take just the one camera.

Above, and below  a few images from Shaldon in Devon, reflecting the lovely September sunshine.




Travelling light V2

In the years that I have been interested in photography, it is fair to say that I have not fallen into any one camp in terms of brand.
I have used Canon and Nikon, both of which have helped me to acqiuire the knowledge I have today, I have also used Sony, Panasonic,Fuji, and Olympus, from which I have had some wonderful images.

It is fair to say that I have experienced my share of G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome), but I have an inquistive mind and enjoy experimenting with techniques and different gear, again, this has been an investment in my own self learning.
Part of the acquisition syndrome is seeing images from other photographers with a different camera brand, thinking that if I had the same gear, I could aspire to the same quality of image.

While being inspired by others is a good thing, it is easy to forget that perhaps that very photographer has been using that camera setup for years and that he or she  knows their lenses and camera gear inside out!

In terms of my own development over the years, I know that I prefer to shoot with prime lenses, with 35mm and 50mm being my two favourites.
I appreciate the convenience that a zoom lens offers, but I believe that I am a more creative photographer when I am challenging my own creative boundaries.

This brings me to my first ever Fuji Camera I used, the X-Pro1 with a 35mm 1.4 lens (52mm equiv).
Those that know their cameras, will remember the early xpro series and even the early x100 series of cameras being inherently slow with autofocus, but this was forgiven by the way that Fuji cameras render colours,along with that amazing image quality.

I used manual focus only with my own xpro1, this alone, helped to hone my composition, as I learned to work at the cameras pace, not my own previously frenetic speed.
300+ photos per shoot dropped to pretty much half that number, but I ended up keeping 95%  more of the images I took.

Enough of the back story, fast forward to last weekend, where once again I was deciding which lenses to pack for my Sunday trip, thinking how much easier it would be, to take just one camera in the bag.

For most of Sunday, I used just one camera body, despite packing 2, enjoying the creativity of the single focal length I was using.

It was using the one body, that made me realise just how many lenses I had collected and could not use them all, so decided to back to a camera I had liked in the past ….
I had bought the X100s a few years previously from Ebay and had loved the quality from this 35mm equivalent lens.

This morning was the first day off I have had since my new purchase, so with just the single camera packed into the smallest of my camera bags, I was off in search of some images with the latest addition.

The mix of sunny spells and showers offered some great contrast and shadows, but the highlight of the day, was the feeling of freedom from deciding which lens to use, which camera body,  as I had just the single option.

Above are a selection of todays shots, I have already resolved to take just this one camera with me on my next holiday in October

Black and white

Throughout my own photographic journey, I have always been inspired by black and white photos, from the early pioneers, to the masters of photojournalism and street photography.

It is not hard to be inspired by the work of Henri Cartier Bresson, Gary Winogrand, Vivian Maier and Jill Freedman to name just a few.

There is something about working in monochrome that seems to capture the essence of a moment in time, and while it is clear that one has to master the tools we use, being in the right place at the right time is an art in itsself.

I experimented with black and white film, in the very first few steps of my own photographic journey, but in all honestly lacked the knowledge in utilising it to its full potential.

It was once I had bought my first ‘proper’ DSLR that I began to take an interest in the masters of film, honing my photographic education from books or information gleaned from the internet.

There is something I still love about leafing through pages of photos from around the world, of so many different subjects, borrowing ideas or becoming inspired by so many talented photographers of a bygone era,

My own photographic philosophy is to attempt to capture the everyday, but to add my own touch if possible.

Any photographer will tell you that they look for textures, shapes or contrasts, all these become so much more relevant with black and white images.

The image of the cranes in the above sequence of images is such an example, through early morning cloud, there was something about the contrasts I liked and while the image looked good in colour, the monochrome was just so much better, especially with a slight vignette to focus on the centre.

The underside of the road bridge just had to be taken with a conversion to black and white in mind, the textures, light and shadow are all the things I love about photography.

Had anybody told me that I would take great enjoyment from street photography, I would have never believed them, I never felt confident about portrait or street photography, but as I have become more assured as both a person and a photographer, I have found that talking to a possible subject breaks the barriers, often the conversation turns to the cameras I use.

In Exeter, we have a plethora of very talented buskers, today, finally I had my camera with me to take the following shots

Today was just one of those days when I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and while I will always hope to be as good as those that have inspired me, I always come away from a photo walk with a sense of enjoyment and achievement.