Shooting with the ‘F’

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I have had my ‘F’ for 12 months now, I have used it exclusively this year as my main camera for my personal photography, so I thought I would write something of a user experience review, with my take on this little gem.

On my photographic journey, I have come to realise that I prefer to shoot with prime lenses, a lot of my images were shot with either 35mm or 50mm lenses, even before I bought my first X100s a few years back, it is the ‘S’ that originated my dalliance with Fujifilm cameras.

My own story is like so many others, the ‘F’ was bought as a secondary camera, to take out on the days when I did not want to carry a bag with a heavy camera body and lenses, then slowly but surely, it was the ‘F’ that was being taken out exclusively.

This is a camera that you can trust to take some stellar images, the 35mm full frame equivalent focal length is so versatile, it is a camera that is a joy to use in so many ways.

Fujifilm are renowned for their colour science technology, I really like the colour rendering it produces, its out of cameras JPEGS are superb, if you prefer not to shoot RAW and post process, I will often shoot JPEG only and upload to a mobile device and post to social media, not something I thought I would ever do in the past.

As well as its portability, the ‘F’ is silent when shooting, a real asset for street photography, it’s leaf shutter offers nothing more than a whisper, so much smoother than the shutter slap of larger cameras that tell the world you have just taken a photo!

Like its older siblings, the ‘F’ has a built in 3 stop ND filter, ideal for shooting wide open on bright days, I have assigned this to the front custom button of my camera, for ease of use.

One of the the features of the X100 series that has always appealed, are the physical shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on the top plate, this is so much better than diving into menu systems in my opinion.

I am not keen on the integrated shutter speed, ISO dial, it is a little too fiddly for me, but the option to programme ISO control to the front command dial is available, this is what I use.

It is possible also, to assign custom control to the 3 of the four way control dials on the rear of the camera, which brings me to the one thing that I hope Fuji will change in the future.

The top ‘drive’ button is assigned to control the use of film or exposure bracketing and other custom shooting styles, I find this rather too easy to press inadvertently and find I am in panorama or video mode when I want to take a shot, as I use these features so little, if at all, perhaps this could go back to being a dedicated button on the other side of the camera as it used to be?

Of all the cameras I have bought and changed over the last few years, this one will be staying until it ceases to be, until it has shuffled off its mortal shutter, such is the enjoyment I get from using it….

 

Into the mist

Six AM and I have just finished my night shift, my normal routine would be to get home for a welcome cup of tea and a few hours sleep but the city wakes, wrapped in a grey shroud of late October fog, too good an opportunity to miss, for some moody shots before the darkness lifts.

I am barely a few hundred yards from my doorstep when the first potential shot is seen, a central heating outlet throws warm air out into this damp, cold morning, creating its own fog into a side alley ….. click!
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Walking through the city centre, an opportunity perhaps, for the early buses awaiting their cargo of commuters, it seems strange to see the dormant Christmas decorations suspended above, it will be another three weeks before the annual switch on event, and the increasingly early build up to the festive season.

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I move quickly to a place where I had noted the potential for a good ‘mist’ shot in the past, the old iron bridge has some lovely old style street lamps, placed fairly close together, as I reach the spot, my hoped for shot is as there for the taking, as well as a couple of ornamental lamps on the nearby buildings.


I even manage to find a place to rest my camera for a long exposure shot of a passing car, my improvised tripod is a handily placed waste bin with a convenient flat surface, perfect!

At this point, I am not far from the River Exe, so decide to make a beeline there to one of the bridges I have photographed so many times before in low light conditions, I am here so why not?

On my way to the bridge, I am drawn to the way the trees are lit by the street lights, there is a moody feel to this shot, as with the rest of today’s images, they will be black and white.

The darkness is slowly conceding ground to daylight, the eternal tug of war between night and day slowly swings to night time’s advantage, more so this weekend with the changing of the clocks.

My walk along the river bank is broken up by a few sporadic shots of the mist slowly lifting away, it was the last of the night time shots I was out for, so am happy to make my way back home for a shower and a few hours sleep.


The spontaneous nature of today’s shoot, has made it all the more enjoyable, I have always admired the moodiness of these misty autumn mornings, to capture them is always a pleasure.

Dartmoor days

Sunday morning, 7am, I am supping my first cuppa after arriving home from my nightshift, another week complete, the day is mine to  do with as I choose, that choice will be heading out to Dartmoor.

Camera packed and batteries charged, I decide against carrying a tripod, I want to travel as light as possible, a day for exploring without the need for too much gear.

Today’s venue is a favourite, with a variety of things to see, but it is the solitude of the place that appeals, it could be high summer and it may be possible to meet just a handful of other walkers here…. perfect.

There is a distinct coolness to the wind today, it is the first time I have dug my fleece out for a walk since early spring, even my wellies will be worn today, the recent rains will have made areas of today’s venue quite boggy in places, these places have some rather nice abandoned buildings which will look good in the sunshine that has just made an appearance.

The first thing that hits you with Dartmoor is just the absolute peace and quiet, no roar of traffic, just the gentle thud of  Wellington boots against the path,the sound of the wind and the rush of the nearby River Swincombe, the perfect antidote for the hustle and bustle of every day.

As with all my Dartmoor days, I will be searching for its treasures, not just the beauty of the vast open space but the gnarled spindly tree surviving against the harsh winds that try to break its will to survive, hidden fungi growing on a fallen tree and the textures of weathered wood and rusty fences.

 

One camera one lens, the last quarter

My one camera, one lens project is now approaching its final quarter, when it began in January, I had doubts that I would still be on course by autumn but I am as keen as ever to complete the full year.

During the last nine months, I have learned to be more creative with a single camera set up, rather than relying on a bag of kit that may or may not be used, by travelling light, I am happy to shoot for longer, a win, win scenario.

This project has also made me more open minded in my photography too, before this year, I would only ever shoot RAW images, (it’s the law isn’t it?) but I will happily shoot both Raw and Jpeg, or even just Jpeg’s on occasions!

For my occasional paid shoots, I will always shoot RAW, just for peace of mind but for my photo walks, I do not always want to spend too long at the PC editing, especially since the Fuji Jpeg engine is so good.

Yesterday was one such day, where I wanted to get out for a few hours before the next rainy spell arrived later in the day, so a trip to the seaside town of Teignmouth was decided upon, a spot of lunch and a few photos.

Earlier in the week, I had taken some photos using the square format aspect ratio and since I had enjoyed doing so, set the camera to do so again today.
It is not everyone’s cup of tea but I actually enjoy composing shots in the square format, I quite like the polaroid camera feel of the square format, it also makes you think a different way in terms of shot composition.

Just for the record, I set the camera to shoot Raw and Jpeg, but all the shots above were the Jpeg’s with very minor, if any post processing.

Teignmouth is one of my favourite local beaches to go for a brisk Sunday stroll, with plenty of photo opportunities.
A big thank you to the two very generous people who allowed me to take their photos while sat on the sea wall, I told them about my ‘shooting square’ theme and they were very happy to oblige.

I am looking forward to the next 3 months, watching the seasons change, while reluctantly accepting the shorter hours of daylight.

My journey into street photography

Up until about three years ago, I would never have considered doing street photography, my innate dislike of large crowds in confined spaces was one of the contributing factors, any weekend errands I needed to do, were done at around opening time, to facilitate a quick escape back home.

My first fujifilm 100 series changed that, a used X100s was coming with me wherever I went, the  dynamic had changed, I was about to embrace a whole new genre.

I’m not saying that I embraced street photography overnight but I was beginning to see the possibilities open up for the days I could not get to the moor or coast.

It was a steep learning curve, I was very conscious of the fact that I was dipping my toes into unknown territory, my style at first was very much point and hope, I had not yet realised the importance of the exposure triangle but we all need to start somewhere.

It began to click on one particularly wet day, I thought it may be good to try and get some water reflections on the pavements, I was stood under a shop awning waiting for a shot of a person in a brightly coloured raincoat, or somebody carrying an unusual umbrella, I was learning to bide my time.

How times have changed, these days, I think nothing of asking people for a photo, if I find them interesting, involving the potential subject makes for a much more natural shot but I do get a buzz from the candid shots that hopefully  tell a story.

 

Most of my street photography is done in my home town of Exeter, in a matter of a few minutes, I can be in town and back home again after just a couple hours but I like to venture further whenever I can.

I had such an opportunity just this week, a trip to the bustling market town of Totnes, well known for its ‘alternative’ lifestyle, it is a great place to capture the essence of street photography.
My time here would be brief, so instead of my usual walk by the riverside, I headed straight for the town centre, where with a combination of the summer visitors and the local market, I was bound to get something.

My first point of call would be ‘Narnia’, a store selling retro merchandise that has a bright yellow facade and a feast of treasures on display, a chance for some window shoppers here.
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The local  market was also in full swing, a myriad of colours, and an array of smells wafting on the breeze from the food vendors.

Totnes is one of those towns with hidden alleys and side roads, slowly but surely, I am finding new ones, in the pursuit of new subject matter.

 

 

In just over an hour, I got some shots I was very happy with, for me, ‘street’ is not necessarily about photographing people, it is about trying to tell a story of the places I visit, attempting to convey the atmosphere I felt as I walk with camera always at the ready.

The early bird

A 4am alarm call and just for a few seconds, a reluctance to get out of bed but after a few days of rain and wind, the forecast today is good for the chance of a sun rise.

Walking to the train station after a hurried first cuppa of the day, it is noticeable that darkness is slowly extending its territory once more, a sure sign that autumn is not that far away.

My arrival time at Teignmouth is just over 10 minutes before the sunrise, so without delay, set up the tripod and camera, ready for sun’s appearance over the horizon.
With a part of the sky already showing some warm fiery hues, there is still a thick layer of cloud that may yet spoil the show but with a strong wind, there will also be the chance of some long exposure cloud movement.

The sun makes the briefest of appearances before being masked by more cloud but the subtle light gives the pier a lovely ambient glow, while I take the first shots of the morning.

I have always found this time of the day something special, the feeling of having a place pretty much to yourself, feeling privileged to watch the day awaken is worth the early start.

Before I know it, 2 hours have been spent watching the changing light and taking a selection of photos, my next mission is to find a place for breakfast and a more leisurely cuppa than the morning’s first one, before embarking on a walk along the sea wall to Dawlish.

I find a cafe that has opened early and order the house special full English, the manager explains there may be a wait as she has still yet to fully set up, but with a mug of tea already served, I am happy to sit and watch the town awaken, I am in no hurry.
I sit happily browsing through the images I have taken so far.

It has been a while since I last walked the stretch between Teignmouth and Dawlish, the sea wall takes me as far as a railway tunnel, where it takes me under the railway and onto a steep path leading out of Teignmouth.

The majority of my chosen route has taken me along the main road, so not many photos taken here, but the view looking down into Dawlish on a path leading into the town is stunning, as it is bathed in a little morning sunshine.

Sitting on the sea wall near to Dawlish station, I check the train times, the earliest one is just 10 minutes away, so decide to take this one back home, saving Dawlish for another day.

The two tor tour

During the course of the working week, I like to spend spend a little time making tentative arrangements for a camera walk for the following weekend but this week the pages on the notepad were still empty by the time Friday evening came.

Saturday morning dawned bright, with blue skies and a gentle breeze, it felt like a Dartmoor day, with the promise of sunshine for most of the day, the holiday crowds would be more likely to head for the beaches.

After a pit stop at a favourite cafe for a cooked breakfast and an intake of caffeine, Dartmoor is indeed the destination, initially to the Merrievale area, to seek out one of the many stone crosses on the moor but as we head to the car park, the well of ideas, so drought ridden during the week, is now a mains burst as 3 or four possible walks come to mind.

From the car park, the route is uphill all the way, over a stile and up the hill leading to Little Mis Tor, it is the various rock formations on the way up that are of interest in photographic terms. Large and small rock formations jutting out at various angles, giving some superb foreground interest in the view surrounding area.

Little Mis Tor can be seen in the photo above (just) the apparently small mound at the centre of the image, Great Mis Tor, the larger of the two is to the left.

Making steady progress to the tors, the views are just breathtaking, there are several very convenient rocks to sit on, to admire the scenery.

Dartmoor has this way of rewarding the walker for their efforts, today, mine was the majestic sight of the Dartmoor ponies congregating for their equine meeting at Little Mis Tor.

Finding a place to sit and admire the view, I take a well earned drink, while the horses get used to my presence, seemingly unperturbed, they carry on grazing as though I am not there, time for a few shots.

The tor on its own is photogenic enough but to have the native ponies to seemingly pose for me is priceless, as is one the foals, curious enough to come and make his acquaintance before having a sniff round my camera bag.

Twenty minutes and a heap of horse related photos later, I meander to great Mis Tor, where the summit has already be claimed by a couple of hikers, with pleasantries exchanged, we go our separate ways.


The descent back to the car park is much easier, a well used track leads to the main road but the views are simply not as good as those of the earlier climb, regardless of this, I think I have a new second favourite place on Dartmoor.