Feeding your creativity – The Best Photographer you’ve never heard of

Hi gang,

As photographers, we are often bombarded with images, videos and all kinds of mediaforms in this day and age. So much so that one can lose himself. You want to do too much and you end up doing nothing. You see so many images and videos you lose that urge to create. You start thinking that it’s all been done before.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.41.41

Cartier bresson famously said “Il n’y a plus d’idees nouvelles. Que des nouvelles interpretations d’idees existantes”.
Roughly translated it states that there are no new ideas. Only new interpretations. If a photographer that brilliant was faced with the same problem so many years ago, surely we can get over it. It also has a secondary negative effect, collateral damage one might say. It’s an incredibly bad feeling that can really, really put you in a bad space and place. You see so much amazing work that you want to do that it becomes overwhelming and you end up doing nothing. Bodie wrote “Apathy is the glove in which evil slips his hand”. I believe this is quite true. The less you do, the less creative you become. Being creatively active incites creative action of it’s own.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.40.46

When that happens, I like to focus myself on 1 project, 1 type of thing and concentrate on that. When I lose my focus on street photography I read articles or view videos on street photography to rekindle and refocus my interest. Going to museums, galleries, exhibitions is one of the best ways to rekindle and fascination and restart activity for me.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.39.50

On one of these recent inspiration quests I stumbled onto the photography of Pete Souza. To many of you his name will draw a blank. However, in my opinion he is one of the best photographers in his line of work that you’ve never heard of.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.39.43

Pete Souza is the official White House photographer. That means he records every moment of the President and his entourage. Every meeting, Every intimate moment, Every travel is documented through his lens. This man has an amazing life. He has an almost uncapped access to the most inner workings of one of the most mysterious offices in the world. Pete is everywhere. He has a close working relationship with the President, but also with the rest of the staff in the White House. You can’t help but smile when you look at his pictures. I shows the family spirit that resides within 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and it is a testament to the camaraderie people know when they work closely in controlled surroundings.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.39.36

I love reportage photography. Classic photojournalistic reportagework like Cartier-Bresson, Nachtwey, and others shows the sides of life you tend to overlook. The whole point is to focus on and capture details, moments, nuances of a part of life that you either don’t have access to, or overloop unconsciously.

Reportage work is a high-pressure situation. You have to depict what happens in front of your nose and it has to be true. People who aren’t there have to be able picture it for themselves. That is already a difficult job that Souza does effortlessly.
However he adds an aesthetic to it that I have not often seen. He manages to capture these moments and frame them fantastically. Some images he produces are amazing. You have to look for the details, like in the image above the fact that Obama’s hands, and only his hands are lit. Every picture holds some little details that pulls the whole photograph to another level. That to me, is amazing journalism. This is why Pete Souza is one of the greatest photographers living today. To be able to combine such a high-pressure job and still find time for the aesthetic of the thing is amazing. I’ve included some of his best work according to me, but you can find all of his work on the White House flickr account. It goes back to 2009 so there is a lot to go through.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.39.28

PBS shot a documentary about him in 2009 I believe that you can watch for free on their site. It is an amazing documentary, a must-see definitely. It is called : The President’s Photographer : Fifty Years inside the Oval Office and you can watch it here

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.38.58

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.38.28

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.38.19

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.38.09

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.37.46

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.37.39

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.37.27

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.37.16

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.36.52

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.36.23

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.35.04

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.34.38

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.33.46

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.33.28

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.33.18

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.32.52

Advertisements

Ringing in the new year with amazing memories

Hi gang,

Everyone is gearing up for the last party of the year, which often coincides with also being the biggest.
If you are going to organize a new year’s party or go to a party organized by friends, here is one dirty trick that will give you amazing, long-lasting results! I did this a couple of years ago and it was an absolute blast. I’ll be setting this up once more this year.

The idea is that you set up a camera (preferrably an old one, since it is going to be set up close to people that are partying and probably a little drunk. Don’t take crazy risks and set up a D4 with 24-70 or something.) on a tripod with a lens. Then, if you have got some kind of cool background or background paper, tape a big X on the floor so people know where they have to stand. Hang a remote attached to a wire and when people pass by, they’ll be tempted to take advanced selfies of themselves. There really isnt much more to it. The thing however is in the details.

Set your camera up in JPG Normal mode. You want the size that gives you just 1080 pixels or more in vertical. Not much more, remember we are going to edit this into a timelapse video so you do not need high res or RAW files. I use an old, beaten down Nikon d70s for this. The JPGS are perfect for this, and it is easily editable.

Set your camera to M mode, dial in the correct aperture and focal length and then put the lens in manual focus. If the scene is badly lit, add a flash. I put one old studio flash (for recycling times’ sake) on the left of the subject with an umbrella and it is perfect. People will instinctively take a lot of shots of themselves. Don’t be afraid of getting in the thousands of shots. Last newyear that I did this, I ended up with some 1,200 pictures and that was a small, small batch.

If you don’t know what to expect, just check out the video here :

New Years’ Timelapse

Okay, so let’s sum it up quickly

-Find an old camera, something you aren’t afraid of breaking
-Set it up on a sturdy tripod
-Attach a lens (preferably also a cheap one, like a 50mm f/1.8)
-Add a flash if the scene is badly lit (also the best way of freezing action)
-Find the correct exposure with the flash
-Dial in the correct exposure whilst putting the camera in Manual mode
-Dial in the correct focus focal length and put the camera in manual focus (will prevent hunting if it is dark, and if you use something like f/5.6        everything will be in focus)
-Add a sticky note on the camera that says no-one is to touch the settings (important when people are drunk 🙂 )
-Set the camera to JPEG Normal or Basic (anything that gives you at least 1080p in vertical pixels. More is useless)
-Attach a small, cheap, wireless remote that triggers the camera on a wire or string near the X you marked on the ground.
-Pop in a large memory card!
-Pop in a fresh battery pack
-Let the fun begin!

Alright, so that is basically it. Very simple as you can see but the results are hilarious. They tend to become funnier as the evening progresses. Don’t know why 🙂 . BTW, I’m the moron in the red pants in the video 🙂 Dont’t forget to bring spare batteries and memory cards, since one battery will last an average of 1000 shots (more if you disable autofocus, and put it in Manual mode). My top tip is to bring 3 with you. One in the camera and two others in chargers. That way, you’ll always have 2 batteries charging and one ready to shoot. Once it is drained, pop it in the charger, insert the reloaded one and you can keep going like that!

I’ll be back with the part-2 tutorial for this, in which I’ll describe how to create your timelapse video on the computer. I’ll post it during the second week of January, so hold on to your files until then.

Have a fantastic New Year’s Party,

And I’ll see you guys in 2014!

Cheers!

Film Photography isn’t for hipsters, it’s for the masters

Meet Andy. Andy is a 40 something-account manager with a passion for photography (or so he thinks).  He has bought shitloads of gear. He has the newest Canon or Nikon camera that came out and set him back some 3 to 5 grands. He has the newest flash, two of them actually. He’s already eyewatering the soon to be released next top-of-the-line Canon that improves dynamic range by 0,13 stops and ISO performance by 0,6 stops! Imagine that! He has to convince and bribe himself everytime he swipes his Amex card at his camera store that he really needs this to advance in his photography. He’s not sure why he’s feeling less and less happy though everytime he goes out shooting, and comes back with the same results. My dog shots should be amazingly crips, but they’re not really better than they were when I shot it with my last body.

What’s Andy’s problem? He’s fallen badly ill with a bad case of GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome. And he’s not alone.

The internet is an amazing place. Sadly it’s not all rainbows and unicorn-memes. This is a rough transcript (couldn’t exactly remember the exact units the person used) of a comment I found on an internet photography forum discussion about one of Pirelli’s BTS videos of their calendar shoot.

“Come on, how could you even show up with a camera like that to a cover shoot? That camera has a 4.53p/cm pixel density! At least use one that hasn’t got more than a 1.53p/cm density! And that lens, it’s MTF curves clearly show that it’s highest resolution isn’t at f/4 but at f/7.1. Noob!”

This sparked something in me. At first I was flabbergasted. Then I thought it was anger, fury, now I realize it’s the definite trace of despair. We have truly lost ourselves.

I know this sounds quite tragic or ominous, but let me explain further.

Continue reading

Picture-perfect Paris – A weekend shooting in the streets – Fuji x100 Firmware 2

Hi gang,

Just made it back from a quick 3-day weekend in Paris. We were out celebrating my grandma’s 80th birthday with the family.
Paris is always a lovely city to come home to. The lights, the pitoresque streets, the Seine, the cathedrals, the bistros, the boulevards, everything really. You’ll just have to live with the traffic I guess. There is a reason world-famous photographers like Cartier-Bresson, Brassai lived here and contemporary photographers like Jay Maisel and Bill Cunningham keep returning here over and over again.

Looking at the Louvre

Looking at the Louvre

Evidently, cleared two days for some much needed street photography. Paris, like any major city in the world lends itself perfectly to street photography. I’m a big advocate of shooting the city or place you live in, because every aspect can be interesting. However, in order for your streetphotography to be interesting, your subject matter needs to be interesting. Subject matter, evidently, are the people or things you photograph. If you live in a place that has very few, to no people, you’re going to have a bad time for street photography. That being said, photographers like William Eggleston have had incredible careers photographing the mundane everyday life. But this post is about street photography.

Paul's backdoor?

Paul’s backdoor?

The thing with Paris, like New York, Shangai, or any other major city in the world is that no matter where you go, there is always something happening. Every corner, subway outlet, street there is someone or something interesting. Like they say, if you line up 10 bottles on the wall instead of 1, there’s ten times the chance to hit something.

HERE

HERE, Paris, November 2013

As I said, there’s always something happening. When I’m in Paris I love to walk everywhere. Best thing to do is to take a map or open up Google Maps and locate ten hotspots in the city. Draw out a route you can follow. Why work like this? Worst case scenario, you’ll see the top spots of the town. Best possible scenario? You get some truly wonderful shots. Not of those hotspots, but of the people near them. Remember, human interaction will always best a standard picture of the Eiffel tower, no matter how pretty it looks. Remember, it is the people in your pictures making them.

Color Curiosity

Color Curiosity

We had lunch at the world-famous Café de la Paix, near the Opéra Garnier in Paris. This grand café as they call them is wonderful. The inside decoration takes you back to the roaring twenties. You can just too easily imagine yourself sitting there sipping some Veuve-Clicquot next to Scott F. Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. Think a lot of golden arches, deep green velvet chairs, red benches and waiters in tuxedo’s. The works. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, take some time to sip an espresso (and not an eXpresso like you’ll see in a lote of Parisian cafés)
There is just something soothing in sitting there, sipping a delicious espresso, observing people and contemplating life. Sometimes, its the small things that count.

DSCF0064

A “café de la Paix” espresso

Red Chair, Café de la Paix

Another thing that’s lovely to do is strolling along the Seine river on the Bords de Seine. They close them down to traffic during the day so that people can stroll along there.

DSCF0071

One thing I looked forward to is testing the newly released firmware 2.0 for the Fuji X100 I blogged about in my previous post. After a large weekend of testing I can happily say that the upgrades are really worth it. The AF performance is crazy fast for the X100. It bothered me from time to time but I learned to live around it. Now, it’s just amazingly fast. The people that still complain are to me people that would never have gotten into photography in the first place if they had started 10 or 30 years ago. There was no AF 30 years ago. The first AF on the D100 was miles slower than the X100 is now so there is just no complaining to be done on this part.

White in Black

A nice addtion was the improved close-up distance without entering macro-mode. I don’t use it often, but when I need to use it, I realize it too late and have to remove my eye , enter the menu and so on. The thing is, they improved the distance by some 30% and that’s like enough most of the time. To me, that’s fantastic. The close-up shot of the espresso cup was made in this mode.

The Morning Shift

Sadly, as it often tends to be in November the skies were laden with rain and bad weather. It rained every.single.day. However, like the legendary Bill Cunningham says :”Rain changes the game completely. People who usually try to look their best walking about the streets are now to distracted by trying to escape the rain.” It creates reflections. Moody situations. Shadows.

DSCF0078

DSCF0092

So that sums it up about. Amazing weekend, some good shots, saw Paris again which is always good. New firmware 2.0 of the X100 has been thoroughly tested and heartily approved.

Take care, and don’t forget to just walk out of the door. It’s half the work for street photography. The other half is taking your camera with you and observing life.

Cheers,

M

The new Macbook Pro Retina – One photographer’s laptop to rule them all?

Hi gang,

Quick not-so-photography-related blogpost about the new Macbook Pro Retina.

Amazing screen. Amazing thinness. Amazing battery.

Amazing screen. Amazing thinness. Amazing battery.

I recently bought my first Macbook Pro. I had hesitated for a long time before, but didn’t think the price was worth the product. For the same amount of money, you could buy a much better windows laptop right? Not quite.

What finally caught my eye as a photographer was the release of the first Retina Macbook Pro. The price was outrageous and it was a first-generation product which meant bugs and sorts that would be ironed out in the second-generation of the product.

And in october 2013 Apple released this second-generation of Macbook Pro Retina. This time around, they dropped the price, and introduced it to the 13″ versions. I have a giant main editing tower with dual-displays so I was looking for a portable solution. Didn’t need the 15″ version but most of what I say here is applicable to it to.

The main goal was to use it for tethering in-studio and for editing on the go. Not so much retouching as this is never really practical on a laptop when you have to drag you tablet and whatnot, so I settled on editing.

What you’ll read here are my very own, personal findings after toying and working about with this laptop for the first few weeks.

13 & 15 inch. Incredibly thin. Photo by Apple

13 & 15 inch. Incredibly thin. Photo by Apple

1.Design

Although I’ve unpacked new laptops before, none comes close to the minimalistic purity of Apple. The box is tiny and basic. Lift the cover and there’s your Macbook. No foam inserts, no cardboard cutouts, just clean. A thin piece of protective plastic. Lift it up and you’ll find the charger and a small booklet. Unlike all other laptops, you don’t get manuals in Philippino, Cyrillic, Portuguese and about another dozen or so languages youll never read. I’m not a tree hugger, but I always found that to be such a waste of paper.

2. The Laptop

When I first lifted it up I had to check the box to make sure it was a Macbook Pro and not a Macbook Air. It is incredibly thin. The power vs package ratio is AMAZING.
I ordered a custom configuration to suit my photo-processing needs. I loaded it up with 16Gb of RAM, 256GB SSD and a 2.6Ghz processor. One of the biggest complaints I had about the device was when I was ordering. NOTHING is upgradeable after your purchase. The RAM and battery are soldered to the motherboard. The device you order is the one youll be stuck with. At first this was almost a deal-breaker to me. Apple’s RAM and SSD are outrageously priced and I loathed the fact I couldn’t upgrade later. That means you have to heavily invest now. However, I bit the bullet and ordered.

I only understood why they did this when I picked it up.Looking back retrospectively now I understand why they are doing this. Every single internal device and piece of hardware is engineered to the millimeter to fit into this machine. That’s how they get it so compact. That’s how they manage to pack so much punch into this package. If you have to design a laptop so that every component can be upgraded afterwards, you will never be able to make such a small package.

The aluminum unibody is also wonderful. One of the things I always loathed about working on laptops for an extended time is the fact that the device gets warm after a time. This aluminum stays cool most of the time.

Not too many ports. Photo by Apple

One definite negative thing is the few ports the device has. I understand the need of portability but this is really on the bad side. 2 USB3 ports, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports and thats it for storage. Ill have to learn to live with it I guess. I did like the SDHC card reader incorporated. Smart move since CF cards are slowly dying out.

3. The Screen

THE thing that persuaded me to upgrade was the screen. Retina displays with 2560×1600 resolutions are fan-freaking-tastic for photo editing. The Macbook delivers on this perspective. Colors are lovely and crisp-sharp. Incredible. Editing in Lightroom is an experience like no others on this machine. There’s really nothing more to say about it. It’s amazing. They got rid of the ghosting issues the first-generation Macbook Retina’s suffered from. Amazing.

If you are buying this laptop for word processing or such, don’t spend the dough, it’s useless. But image retouching has never been this enjoyable.

The Retina advantage is quite clear

The Retina advantage is quite clear

The Retina Advantage.

The Retina Advantage.

4. Battery life

Another important aspect that guided my choice of laptop was battery life. I wanted a laptop that could go for hours. Be it in-studio or on location, its always handy and my experience with windows laptops was never phenomenal.
Once again, Apple blows it out of the water here. Apple says the battery life will last for 9 hours, but with the screen dimmed a bit (but not much) it lasted for a little less than 11hours whilst tethering with my camera during a timelapse sequence. A little less than 11 friggin’ hours. Amazing.
Once again, looking at how the Macbook is engineered, its only because it is non-user replaceable that they manage to obtain this. They cram bits and pieces of battery everywhere.

5. Mavericks OS X

The biggest change was definitely going to be the adaptation to Mac OS X.
I managed it quite well, there aren’t that many differences, and both systems work well.
I’m not going to go into a whole Windows versus OSX flamewar here, but after using it for a couple of weeks I like it. I also like Windows 8. Microsoft amped up their game and it was responsive, fast, and useful. to me both OS’es are about on the same level. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but there is no clear winner.

The only thing I noticed is that lightroom seems a little for responsive on OS X, but that’s no scientific test. My observations.

However, as a product, the Macbook IS superior to almost all the Windows laptops I’ve worked with.
Yes, they are more expensive. Yes, they are less and less upgradeable. Yes, you can get a better setup for the same amount of money probably.
But then there are the advantages of Apple.
OS X only has to take a finite number of hardware pieces into account. There are only 3 processors, RAM types, graphics cards and such that are used in their hardware. This allows them to optimize their operating system for that hardware in ways Microsoft can’t even dream. They are doing a great job, but its a race they cant win. They have to be compatible with millions and millions of software bundles, hardware pieces and configurations. It is impossible for them to optimize it they way Apple does.

Then there is the device itself. The construction, battery and such. These work wonderfully well for this laptop.

All in all, is this the best laptop? Nope. Not at all. If you only need a laptop for word processing or such, you’ll be much better of with a 500$ windows laptop.
Is this the best laptop for photographers? I do believe so. The screen, OS integration, battery life and such are perfect for us. It is more expensive, but the quality is unparallelled.

Heartly recommended.

The Fellowship of Fuji – Lord of the Cameras

In February 2011, Fujifilm released the long-anticipated Fuji X100. It was the first step in Fuji’s future towards reconquering marketshare with their fans.
They quickly developed a close-knitted fellowship that loved their X100’s. When I first got it as part of a sponsoring/testing opportunity from Fuji, it was a quirky camera to say the least. Weird AF that was ungodly slow and -even worse – not always accurate, slow workflow, excruciatingly slow writing speeds, the list was quite long. However, over the weeks and months that followed the camera’s release, firmware upgrades slowly but surely improved the camera substantially. I’ve loved mine since day 1 because I very quickly accepted it’s faults and just worked around them. As I’ve often said before, I believe you should know your gear intuitively inside-out, so you know the faults and can work around them. This surely beats buying a new camera every so and so.

However, time went by and 2 years later, in February of 2013 Fuji released the follow-up model to the X100, the X100S. It was esthetically the same camera. It had the lovely time-aged metal body – the Leica-look as some call it – but the internals had changed. Fuji actually listened to their customers and upgraded the AF system, added buttons where they were needed and worked on almost all of the reported problems. It’s actually quite refreshing to see a company of that size listen to it’s users. Fuji calls it the ‘Kaizen’ philosophy, meaning that things get better along the way. Their way of saying that unlike Nikon and Canon, they’ll continue to work on your (older) camera.

X100 users witnessed the release of the new camera as a thing to upgrade to. Surely the improved AF system, speedier overall responsiveness of the camera and new X-Trans sensor would be interesting right? But what about the users that had to learned to work around the quirks? I personally didn’t feel the need to upgrade, and thus spend more money on what  was essentially the same camera for about 70%.

Traditional camera manufacterers like Nikon and Canon would have pushed you to buy that new camera. How? Very easily : discontinue support for older models, stop publishing RAW treatment instructions for software developers and so on… It has to be noted that Nikon or Canon also almost never provide firmware updates for their cameras. The only time they do this, is when they are required to because there’s a problem with the camera. In the 4 years I’ve had my D300S there has been 1 firmware update, that helped a problem almost no-one had. They didn’t add anything to the camera as such. Providing firmware updates, and thus expanding the lifespan of a camera isn’t in Nikon or Canon’s business strategy because it would lower their income-revenue from the sales of new cameras that don’t really offer anything worthy of an upgrade other than a higher series number.

DSCF5015

The Chess Players, Antwerp, 2013, X100

Enter mid-October 2013. In a move that defies eveything we had grown accustomed to in the camera industry, Fuji released a major firmware upgrade for existing X100 customers. That’s right, 2 years after the initial release of the X100, and AFTER they launched the follow-up model, the X100S, they still released an incredible upgrade for their ‘old’ users.
Firmware 2.0 dealt with some complaints and ideas users had had, but it amazingly added a whole bunch of functions :

-X100 users had always complained about the manual focus on the camera. It was slow, there was no focus peaking, in short : it was unuseable. When the X100S was released, all these problems had been dealt with , Focus Peaking was added, the slow ring movement had been addressed, manual focus was now useable. X100 users realized that they would be stuck with the bad manual focussing abilities and that they were just going to have to upgrade to the X100S. Then, fuji did something unparralleled. They added all of the X100S’ features to the X100. We now had focus peaking, highlight warning, the slow ring movement issue had been addressed, in short : manual focus was useable, just like on the X100S and for free!

-Another big complaint users had was that the close-focus abilities of the X100 were not great. Firmware 2.0 repaired this, and increased close focus distance by 30%. They didn’t have to do this, yet they did.

-The startup time of the X100 was a bit slow, so they upgraded it. Amazing.

-They also addressed a number of smaller issues, i’ll spare you the (boring) details about that.

DSCF5020

The Artist, Antwerp, 2013, X100

Why is this amazing? Because in the era of continued product launches and planned obsolescence, in the era where manufacterers only want to make profit and usually don’t care about their old userbase, Fuji continued to pay engineers to work on a product that would not generate any future earnings for them. They actually spent money to satisfy clients that wouldn’t increase their revenue.
A normal manufacturer would’ve probably just released the X100S and encourage their X100 owners to make the switch, and thereby increase their sales.

Let’s be very clear : Fuji was not obligated to do this. The X100 wasn’t perfect, but buyers knew the problems it had. The camera worked perfectly fine, albeit with some quirks, but it worked. Fuji was just so set on satisfying their user base that they didn’t stop developping a product that had already been replaced with its follow-up, but also was 2 years old.

“Oh, but you are just a Fuji fanboy, Nikon and Canon do this also”. Let’s be clear ; I am not a Fuji fanboy, if anything I considered myself for quite some time a Nikon fanboy but their recent business strategies and camera releases are making less and less sense to me, and they are become a bit to greedy in my honest opinion. I understand the economics of running a profitable company and the need for increased revenue to satisfy investors, but when you operate in an industry that has customers that are very attached to your products, you always have to treat them with respect. And that is something Nikon and Canon are losing quickly.

The D600 ordeal proves this very clearly. For those who aren’t familiar with this, I’ll explain very briefly : Nikon released the D600 in september 2012. Very quickly new users began noticing an increased amount of ‘sensor dust’ : little particles that latch themselves onto the sensor. While this isn’t uncommon, the D600 suffered significantly more from this than other camera, indicating a clear design fault. Industry-professional tests revealed that there were actually tiny particles of oil from the shutter mechanism and mirror latching themselves onto the sensor. A clear construction error. Nikon however, instead of offering free repair services for the users, quickly discontinued the D600 and introduced the D610. Evidently, the problem had been fixed, but this wasn’t advertized as such. They added some bogus, less than marginal upgrades in order to convince D600 users to switch.

DSCF3028

Follow the Water, Antwerp, 2013, X100

Here’s where they lost me, and here is why I respect Fuji even more. Fuji’s camera wasn’t broken. Yet, they continued to work on it, in order to improve it substantially. Nikon’s product was broken, and they didn’t even try to fix it. In an attempt at getting more money from their users, they just released a new camera.  Firmware 2.0 put the X100 right next to the X100S. There are still some differences, like the sensor, but all the quirks and faults that could have pushed X100 users to upgrade were dealt with, and I (and many others) don’t see the point in upgrading anymore. Fuji won’t receive any more income from me (at least for this product) yet still they paid engineers to work on my product, and that is am-a-zing.

Why have I written a lengthy blog post about this? Because this spectacular move from Fuji might be the first one that shakes up the industry.
Nikon, Canon and other brands are releasing new products every bloody month or so. Their product catalog is filled with cameras that are basically the same, and sometimes it looks like they just release updated models with less that marginal upgrades just to keep busy. In doing so, they lose my respect, and I think I’m not alone.
Fuji, even though they are releasing far fewer models, they have managed to conjure up a fellowship of loyal customers for their products. I’m really impressed by Fuji’s products, and the love they pour into them.
When I first received the X100 I though it was going to be a fun little camera, but nothing more, but is has rekindled my love for e.g. street photography, and since then I take this little camera everywhere I go. It has changed my perspective on photography, and my perception of Fuji.

DSCF3033

Urban Hiding, Antwerp, 2013, X100

But it has also changed my spending habits, and that’s good for Fuji and bad for Nikon. Whenever I buy a Nikon product, I’m terrified because I fear that they’ll release some altered version of it very shortly after. Usually, I’m right. My concern isn’t that it will be a slightly better version of my product because I’m a big believer that vision is more important than gear, but that Nikon will drop support for my product. So I wait, and I read, and I compare. And that’s bad for Nikon. I might stumble on an alternative. On a better product. I lost confidence in them so I see what others are offering.
With Fuji, I know that whatever product I buy is going to be supported for a long time. Sometimes, the lifespan of my device might even double. When I want to buy something Fuji I don’t hesitate. I go in, I buy, they make a well-earned profit. They have earned my loyalty, and they’ll make a bigger profit in that, that in the extra revenue from 1 item I have to buy from them because I need to upgrade.

In the end, I think Fuji and other companies that have the same business model based on customer loyalty and mutual respect will win. As we’ve learned, a fellowship is stronger than separated individuals. Fuji is planting seeds and cutting trees responsibly, whilst Nikon and Canon are deforesting the Amazon forest only to be stuck one day with a huge stockpile of trees and no takers.

Street Photography is the hardest branch of photography / Cartier-Bresson still teaches us every day

They often say the juice has to be worth the squeeze right? We’ll it’s something I have found is quite true, but not applicable to street photography. If you’re going to live by that adage you will not succeed in your voyage into street photography.

I’ll start by discussing my first steps into street photography and where I am at on my path now. This will be a rather lengthy post, so if you’re in a hurry, mark it for ‘read later’.

My modest start in street photography started like many others during one of my travels I believe. I remember being fascinated by the differences in everyday street life around the world. Once you start witnessing specific scenes in foreign countries you really notice that you don’t have quite the same things at home. Is this bad? Not at all, because it’s this innate diversity that makes street photography interesting.

In the beginning I was lugging along my Nikon dslr, along with at least two lenses. I didn’t go out shooting very often because bringing all that gear was annoying and I couldn’t do it always, but I loved every single time I did.
I also remember vividly that that was the moment I began researching the subject. I bought books, watched documentaries, read stories. All the greats passed by : Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, McCurry, Erwitt, Frank, Meyerowitz, Maisel, too many to enumerate. I was fascinated. How had they managed at capturing such amazing street shots? I remember the first time I saw Cartier-Bresson’s photograph of the man sitting on the street with his dog and I was stunned. Everything was right. The geometry (notice how all the important lines in this photograph are long vertical ones? That’s no coincidence) is the pure joy of it Cartier Bresson has often said. And then there was the subject matter. That man and his dog, the photograph had not could have been timed better. Had he really stumbled upon this? I didn’t believe it for quite some time, arrogantly thinking that he had to have asked the man to stay like that.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man in the street with his dog, New York, 1932

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man in the street with his dog, New York, 1932

It wasn’t until about a year later and several documentaries that I realized that this had been a coincidence, and that this is one of the reasons HCB is the greatest street photographer of the 20th century. I learned so much thanks to him that I don’t know where to start. I’ll address some of the most often-heard criticisms about street photography to start.

1. Street Photography is pure luck, there is no effort behind it.

Half of this sentence is correct. Street photography, in its purest form is 90% luck. 90% ? Why not a 100% ? Well because you have to make yourself receptive to luck. If you never leave your apartment, or house, you can have HCB’s own personal Leica, your photos will suck anyway. They’ll be the dullest pictures on earth.
Cartier-Bresson never hid behind the fact that street photography is luck. When asked about his famous shot of the man jumping over the puddle behind the Gare St. Lazare in Paris he said that the picture was literally pure luck. He hadn’t seen the scene, he had stuck his camera in a hole in a fence and snapped a few shots without being able to look through at the scene. He quickly adds ‘But everything is pure luck in photography”. He is completely right, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t putting in effort. If he had been in his apartment he would have never gotten that shot.

HCB, Behind The Gare St Lazare, 1932.

HCB, Behind The Gare St Lazare, 1932.

This is also one of the reasons street photography is the hardest form of photography. The incertitude of result. When you are doing a studio shoot where all of the elements (subjects, lighting, gear, etc) are in your control, the prospected output is almost always certain to a degree. You are the master of the scene, if something doesn’t work out you have nobody to blame but yourself majorly. This is not true in street photography. Each time you step out of your door with your camera, you are NEVER sure to come home with a worthy shot. That uncertainty is the single, hardest part about photography. Dedicating your time to something with no certainty of outcome. Would you get up early each day, dress, go to work without being sure if you were going to get paid? I don’t think so. Yet, this is what each street photographer faces each time they step out.

Take the following into account : Cartier-Bresson shot for about 40-50 years. His oeuvre is incredibly large, however he is perhaps known for a grand, absolute maximum of 100 images. 100 images is still an enormous amount, his most famous photographs must hover around maybe 20 images. 20 images. Yet he was a professional photographer for about 40 years. Can you imagine how he must have felt?

I often encounter people when talking about photography who ‘love’ street photography. However, they criticize it with the argument, it’s pure luck. Then I ask them how often they go out and shoot street photography. Then the large sighs come. ‘Pfff, I don’t know. Once a month, once every 3 months?” And when I see their images it doesn’t surprise me. The best pictures always come from the people who go out shooting often. Then you’ll hear them say “Yeah, but nothing ever exciting happens when I go out. If only I lived in Cartier-Bresson’s time, I would go out shooting everyday and I’d have fantastic images.”
The arrogance in these excuses really annoy me each time I hear them. It’s basically saying that HCB was a lazy, lucky photographer. He most certainly was lucky, but he also most certainly wasn’t lazy.

See, in order to be lucky, you have to put your mind and body to it. HCB travelled the world. He rarely spent a long time on the same spot. He would pack up his bags and go LOOK for interesting images. He didn’t merely await their arrival. You have to chase them.

Going back to our guesstimate that 20 of his images are world-widely known, and that 50 of his images are very famous. They have been shot during a 40 year-ish careerspan. That’s around 1-2 images PER YEAR.  That’s right. For every year or so he worked, he has one famous image to show. Could you live with those numbers? Are you willing to pay the price? Does this mean however that he only shot 1 or 2 pictures a year? Evidently the answer is no. He shot thousands and thousands of pictures. Can you image how many times he got out, shot pictures in the street and had nothing interesting to show for it? Also keep in mind that this is in the analog film time. Shooting, even useless shots cost you money. In the digital age, you can shoot 1,000 pictures for 0 $. Are you willing to do what it takes?

As I stated before, street photography is 90% luck and 10% effort. It would be foolish to think that famous street photographers never stood still. It’s impossible to always the shot after your first snap. Sometimes you have to try again. One thing I learned as a street photographer is that things, events happen in patterns and repeat themselves. If you see a scene, and a person walks in a certain way, with a certain gesture it’ll either happen again pretty soon, or it won’t ever. Most of the time however, events repeat themselves. That’s why you have to always be on the lookout. “Ce qui est important, c’est de voir” HCB said.
In an era sadly fading away, photographers had things called contact sheets. For those unfamiliar with analog photography, contact sheets where sheets of film on which small ‘thumbnails’ of your pictures where printed. Since no-one printed every picture of their filmroll due to the cost of that, they printed one contact sheet which showed them a reduced version version of all the pictures on your filmroll. This was a source of incredible information, since it showed you the different versions of a shot. You could see what the differences where, and guess as to why a photographer chose a specific shot and not another.

The MAGNUM photo agency released the contact sheets for a specific roll of film by HCB upon his death in 2004. That contact sheet was invaluably rich in information about his workflow. It provided us a certain insight into the masters mind. It also showed us something incredibly interesting. HCB’s famous shot of the cyclist passing rapidly through a street is incredible. The geometry in the photograph is amazing. All the lines work. Everyone thought his was a pure chance, a piece of luck. Once again, it was but only to a certain degree. The contact sheet showed us that HCB had tried some 10 times to obtain that shot. With other cyclists, passers-by, pedestrians and such. He then chose the best one out of all those other ones and it became this incredibly famous image. He rest of them never saw the light of day.

HCB, Paris. Luck isn’t always the key

Steve McCurry who is one of the most world renowned National Geographic photographers estimates he has approx. 800.000 negatives in his archives from his days as a film shooter. 800.000. How many pictures of him are world known do you think? If you are back in the 20-50 range you are spot on. His most famous image is the Afghan Girl but he’s made so many more amazing pictures. Are you willing to go to squeeze hard enough for the juice?

Steve McCurry, Afghan Girl, Afghanistan, 1984.

Steve McCurry, Afghan Girl, Afghanistan, 1984.

Returning on the subject of interesting images and people complaining nothing exciting happens where they live. You are wrong. If you’re not seeing anything interesting you are not looking hard enough. You have to see the interesting in the mundane. When you look at the work of great photographers like HCB you’ll notice that his most interesting images happen everywhere. It’s not because something is shot in India that it’s more interesting than a shot in Paris. That being said, part of HCB’s success is that he was EVERYWHERE.

As I stated before, he travelled extensively, and therefore managed to have pictures of all around the world. Once again, are you willing to squeeze hard enough for the juice?
Travelling, putting yourself in situations you are not familiar with increases you chance of getting ‘lucky’. It’s not a certainty in any way, but it won’t hurt. Travelling is also great when you’ve extensively shot your surroundings and are becoming ‘bored’ with it. Nothing like a change of scenery to reinspire you.

I’ll give you a few tips, pointers if you like to help you on your street photographic journey.

1. Don’t expect anything. 
Once more, if you are an impatient person, you won’t succeed. What’s that saying? If you don’t have any expectations you can’t be dissapointed.”This is why it’s the hardest branche of photography.Cartier-Bresson said ‘Il ne faut pas vouloir il faut esperer.’ This is not a guaranteed risk/payoff. My biggest problem with street photography is that I can’t be out there every single day and I know we I’m missing some amazing shots. Life doesn’t stop when you walk into your house. It keeps going and that’s what’s so amazing about it. You can hop in and out like a bus. This brings us to another point. As i said before, how many times do you think HCB went out in his 40 year career to capture those 100 iconic images?

2. Always be ready to shoot. 
Chase Jarvis said the best camera is the one that’s (always) with you. While he’s partly right, don’t read any excuse to be lazy into those lines. While an iPhone is great, it’s not the best camera. Printing out large prints based on the sensor won’t prove very good. Instead, always carry a small camera like a Canon GX. I myself always carry my Fuji X100 with me. It’s the most amazing small camera I’ve owned. It’s small, versatile, and the sensor image quality is amazing. It’s like having a miniature dslr in your pocket.

3. Don’t worry about the lenses , one is fine. 

The Fuji X100 has a fixed focal length of 35mm (equiv.). Has it stopped me from taking it out and getting amazing images? Evidently not. Don’t see it as a problem, see it as an opportunity. Train your eye. Work around the focal length. Fresh shooters tend to forget your feet are the greatest zoom you’ll ever have. Don’t hesitate and get in close. Capa said that if your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough. The man is right. And he was a war photographer. If you can’t afford a small camera, don’t let that put you back either. Just grab your smallest lens (like a 50 or 35) snap it on you dslr and throw it in your everyday bag. Get you kit so small as possible.

4. Even when you’re not shooting, train your eye. 

Fortunately eyes are not like cameras. Their dynamic range is amazing, they don’t need fresh batteries or cleaning. Even when you don’t have a camera, when you walk around look for interesting images. Frame them with your eye. You’ve got to make yourself receptive towards images. Wait for that mother and child. Doens’t matter you don’t have your camera, if a moment like that happens again you’ll be able to recognize it, instantly know how to frame it and shoot it perfectly.
Ernst Haas was a world famous photographer who also held workshop classes. One day he had two women in one of his classes and both were vivid Leica afficionados. Haas himself had worked for years and years with the legendary cameras and got quite fed up with the two of them bickering about which one was the best. He burst out saying : “Leica schmeica! It doesn’t matter which camera you use, the important thing is to see’

5. Get inspired. Find a theme. 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with images you want to duplicate. Don’t think your streets are less interesting then HCB or McCurry’s streets? No, their pictures reflected their era. Do the same for yours. You won’t likely find a lot of women dressed in corsets or high hats in the streets, but that’s okay, you don’t need that. Just reflect your city or life through your lens. Clothes are objective, your vision is subjective. Put your mark on your photographs. What can also help is to find a theme. Zack Arias focused on people who were so obsessed with their phones and handheld devices they forgot the world around them that hadn’t stopped. The series is great and really shows something. It’s inspired. Do the same for yourself : find something that fascinated you and make a series of it. Be selective on the editing, and show your best images.

Conclusion

As a general conclusion, I’d say that if your images are to dull do something about it. Get of your ass, don’t be lazy, and most of all don’t be arrogant. You can’t expect something amazing to happen everytime you walk out of the door. Be patient. Be Impatient. Be ready. Always have a camera at your side.

Cheers,

MM

Clicking with Cyrielle- The Importance of Perseverance

Hi gang,

Had a lovely shoot with the amazing Cyrielle a while ago. We had a shoot a little less than a year ago and the resulting images where great, so Cyrielle contacted me again and we started exchanging some ideas, mood boards and such as to what we wanted to obtain.

Cyrielle is a stylist and a model, and as the concept of the shoot was fairly basic there was no need for an external stylist. The concept of the shoot was a very cute, sexy, lingerie-ish shoot. As I said, we already had worked together so we both knew each others style, tempo and abilities. We tried working around our schedules, which wasn’t easy and due to a couple of reschedulings we found ourselves the day before without a make up artist. I usually work with the usual make up artists but none of them were available at that moment. When the time came to do it or cancel the shoot, we decided to just go ahead with it and gun it.

Great images can result from a shoot where it’s only you and the model. It doesn’t always have to be a big team with a lot of pressure. Most of this shoot was spent talking and devising poses, outfits, image styles and what not. The great thing about having no expectations is that you can’t be dissapointed right?

So we gunned it, she did her own basic make up. We wanted to keep it light, since that was the theme of the shoot so the make up wasn’t that extensive. Some foundation, basic concealer and a little bit of mascara.

We started shooting and quickly realized that this would be turning out great. A good team of make up artists, stylists, assistants is a big plus to your shoot, but that doesn’t mean you can only do these shoots if you’ve got everyone on board. Sometimes you can just go with the flow, and it can result in great pictures.

1

This one was shot with a single trusty beautydish overhead to the left.

2

3

Here we combined day and artificial light. Cyrielle was standing in front of a huge window with a white curtain. Spot measuring allowed to flood her with soft midday light, as a beautydish in front provided the fill.

4

Here, the only lightsource was an octabank low to the left.

Most of the images where shot on either the Nikon 85mm or the Nikon 80-200 f/2.8. I shot this shoot the day I got the Fuji X100 on which I just did a blogpost. Absolutely wanted to try it out and here’s what I found. Unsurprisingly, it’s not a studio portrait camera. The X100 has a fixed focal length of 35mm which is too wide for portraits. If you are too close to your subject, the face will be all distorted. However, Fuji’s color rendition of skin and colors is legend. So is the rendition of those things on the X100 so the images are of great quality. It does have a future for environmental portraiture, where you need to take some distance from your subject to incorporate the scenery or the environment. The 35mm allows you to do just that, and the image quality of X100 is perfect for that.

All in all, when in doubt, always shoot. Doesn’t matter if one of team didn’t show up. Sure it can be a pain in the ass, but work around it. If you’re a pro, it’ll happen more than once and you can’t just drop everything and tell everyone to go home. You persevere. You push on. And if you’re lucky, something good will come out.

More to come,

Cheers,

MM

Fuji changes the game : The X100, X-Pro 1 & X100S

24? 35? 50? 18-200? 55-200? 105? 70-200? 180? X – Infinity? No more of that. For the last 10 years, ever since the dawn of (digital) photography, manufacturers and consumers have strived to sell/buy more gear, sometimes almost identical except for a couple of minor improvements.
“Hmm, I have a 55-200 but they just came out with the 55-200 VR and for a mere 250$ I can have that! My pictures are BOUND to be astronomically better right? Right? It’s newer so it MUST be better right? I don’t really need it but that’s OK, because my pictures will be better right?”

The X100 captures colors and details perfectly, even in challenging light situations

It all got a little too hectic. You know it all gets a little bit too hectic when specific diseases are being invented for photography-related symptoms : GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome. The pathology was that irreversible, endless need to buy new gear in the vain hope that it would dramatically improve your photography. That monkey in your brain telling you ‘buy this, buy that’ Who cares you don’t need it. It’s better, better I tell ya!” The cure? Simplification. The pharmaceutical company? Fuji.

Then Fuji came along. Before that there were the micro 4/3rd cameras. The idea was good, the execution not so much. Picture quality or image quality is decided by a number of factors, but one of the biggest factors is the sensor size. The idea of a mirrorless, interchangeable lens system in a small body was good, but the fact that they still used those tiny sensors really ruined the image quality.

Fuji noticed this, and intelligently avoided this trap when they were designing the X100, X-Pro 1 and X100S. The X100 features a APS-C sized sensor (that’s right, the same sensor size as in the professional Nikon D300S and such) and the X-Pro1 and X100S also have an APS-C sized sensor, though another one than the X100. That’s right, you read that right. You have (potential) DSLR quality in a tiny body. Why is this important? For street photography it is crucial, but not only that.

The sensor has no problems with straight and intersecting lines

The sensor has no problems with straight and intersecting lines

For decades Leica had been the unquestioned champion of photojournalism and street photography. Their classic, timeless designs and image quality were legend. Every self-respecting photographer had a Leica M-body and a 35mm f/2 lens. It allowed you to capture life without intruding.

Then the (d)Slr made it appearance. Through-The-Lens viewing was interesting, as it avoided the problems created by parallax, and it was literally ‘what you see is what you get’, which made photography easier. Lenses and accessories started sprouting like mushrooms. Minds became clouded. Which lens to take? Ah, the 35mm f/2 is sharp as a tack, but what if my subject is too far?  I don’t want to walk all that way! Are ya crazy? I’ll take the 55-200. Or no, wait, the 50mm. that’s also sharp. Hmm same conundrum.

Details are crisp across the image, even at f/4

Details are crisp across the image, even at f/4

And so people often went out shooting with 3 lenses, a battery grip, a huge bag, without ever being sure of getting a single decent shot.

Cartier-Bresson said it best :

Il faut etre receptif. Quand on veut, on n’obtient rien, il ne faut pas vouloir

You must be receptive.  When you want, you’ll obtain nothing. You just have to record life as it unfolds before you. And that’s something you can’t do when your mind is filled with noise. Which lens to use? Which aperture? Flash or not? Djeez this bag is getting heavy, maybe i should go home, i’ll try tomorrow.

Your mind is cluttered with noise, and as Zack Arias tells it, it should be filled with signal. Back to basics. Back to essentials. You, your eyes & mind and a device to record what you see. Doesn’t matter which device, as long as it serves its purpose. A camera with 3 lenses in a bag but none on the body won’t record it as well as one camera with a fixed lens. All the great photographers knew and know this. Ernst Haas famously said this. He once had two ladies in one of his workshops. Both ladies were arguing over which of their Leica was the better one. Haas, a longtime user of Leica, burst out saying these famous words : “Leica, schmeica. The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But you have to see” 

And that’s what signal is all about. Seeing.

DSCF2031

A large sensor means good ISO performance. The X100 performs amazingly.

Fuji got this. So they introduced the X100 & X100S. Tiny, beautiful body, fixed 35mm f/2 lens. It was made to be shot on the streets. It’s tiny, discreet and silent. You can’t fumble around and you aren’t distracted by different lenses, and whatnot. You focus on shooting. This thing is deadly silent. I’ve stood a meter away from people and shot them without them even noticing. And even if they notice, they mostly don’t care. Why? Because it’s not as menacing as a dSlr. You don’t have a big camera and lens staring down your face as a subject. That intimidates people, it does. I’ve noticed it during my street shooting. You literally see them thinking “What the hell is that guy doing? Why does he need my picture? He’s got professional equipment, he must work for some P.I company, or worse – the government.” It puts up a barrier between you and your subjects. Subjects are always best for photographs when they are at ease. Same thing for street photography. It really does make a difference.

First, the basics and the looks : It looks incredible. Fuji definitely borrowed a page from Leica’s M-cameras for the design, but who cares. Every dslr looks alike due to design requirements. Glad to finally see a more affordable camera with a nice design. It’s retro, it’s all metal/aluminum so you know it’s solid. The optional leather housing for the camera (LX-100 I believe) is gorgeous and really complements the camera. That brown leather just increases the camera’s beauty. It’s outrageously priced (150€ I believe) but you’ll find lower quality knockoffs on the internet if you’re into that. The stitching, material and overall quality of the Fuji case is pristine however. If you can spare the bucks, buy it. The top buttons, knobs and aperture ring are also made of this same metal. The clicks occur smoothly when you switch them, it’s a delight. The back however, isn’t as great. The buttons are relatively small. I have narrow fingers so it’s not really a problem for me, but I can easily imagine someone with fatter fingers having problems pressing the OK button.

DSCF2060

No mirror means no vibration. This was handheld at 1/17th of a second and it’s tack sharp. 1/17th!

This also leads us to one of the major drawbacks of this camera (because like every other camera in the world, it’s not a perfect camera. That doesn’t exist) : the menu is not well engineered. It’s illogical, you’ve only got 2 tabs and 4-6 pages of menu in each tab so changing a setting is highly frustrating. They partially fixed that with the X100S that has the convenient ‘Q’ button where the X100 has a ‘RAW’ button. This allows quick access to all major menu functions in the X100S. We can only hope that Fuji will put that function on the RAW button with a next firmware update (update : they did).

Next: autofocus. The first firmware that shipped with the X100 was a disaster. Autofocus was the most frustrating thing in the world. Today we’re at Firmware 1.30 and things have greatly improved (update : FW 2.0 and it’s amazing). Unlike other brands, Fuji keeps updating this thing, which is amazing. They don’t sell you something and then never improve it. Now, this is a rangefinder-like camera, so you’ve got multiple options for autofocus.
You’ve got the amazing Hybrid Optical Viewfinder. This thing is the bomb. When I look through the viewfinder of my dslr I can’t help but cringe. So basic. So old. The hybrid viewfinder is amazing. It combines an optical viewfinder with real-time superimposed information like an electronic level. After you snap a pic, you immediately get a preview in the viewfinder. No more looking back and forth with your back LCD. I swear, this is the feature that has made me hate my dslr most. They improved the screen of the viewfinder in de X100S I’ve heard. Some still say it’s slow, I haven’t seen this as a problem. Evidently it’s not as fast as a dslr, but that’s normal. For the street shooting I do, it’s fast enough. Who knows, Fuji will improve it even further in firmware 1.40. Time will tell.

Image Quality : This is where the X100 really shines. The image quality is superb. The colors are rendered beautifully and accurately. Fuji used to make film, so they know what they’re doing. It just works. That translates into gorgeous in-camera JPEG’s. I still shoot RAW because in the end I want maximum control over my image, but I was blown away by the JPEG’s this camera produces. They are by far the best I’ve seen lately coming out of any camera. Even the D800.

DSCF2044

Noise-wise the X100 and X100S are no slouches. I usually set it to auto-ISO with a max of 800/1600 and minimum shutter speed of 1/60th. The fact that this is a mirrorless camera means I can get super sharp snaps at 1/60th. At 800 ISO the noise is irrelevant. at 1600 you’ll see it, and at 3200 it’ll be annoying but usuable. I’d rather have a grainy picture than a blurry one. As living legend Jay Maisel says on using low ISO’s : Your pixels will be fine, but your picture won’t! Make your choices, place your bets.

The only thing that annoys me profoundly and that hasn’t gotten better with the firmware updates is the battery life. It is horrible. You’ll get 300 shots tops out of the camera. The battery meter is equally horrible. A battery icon with 3 little stripes. When the 3 are lit, battery is anywhere between 100% and 50% of battery power. That is a HUGE difference. 2 bars lit, and you’re below 50%, 1 bar lit and you’re f$cked. Come on, don’t tell me you can’t make it any more accurate. Maybe not to the 1% accurate like Nikon, but at least put 5 bars or something. In any way, don’t use 1 bar to represent 50%, that’s just bonkers.
The upside to this is that Fuji uses the NP-95 battery that is NOT exclusive to this camera. It’s been out there for quite a while, so substitutes are cheap and plenty. For a day’s shooting (leaving the camera on) I recommend packing 2-3 batteries. They’re tiny, so no biggy.

DSCF2027

Geometry is everything

All in all this is a fan-tastic camera.
Is it perfect? No. Neither is the Nikon D3, D800, D4, Dwhatever. The perfect camera is a myth, like the coveted life-elixir. It can’t be built. Not now, not never because in the end it’s subjective to every shooter’s wishes and demands.
Is it for everybody? No, this camera takes getting used to. The viewfinders are quite different from what everyone’s accustomed to. Parallax will be new to a lot of users, and you have to learn how to ‘see’ the way the camera does. Once you learn how to see like the camera however, the images you’ll get will blow you away. This tiny package really, really delivers.

DSCF2085

Is it the perfect camera for street photography? Given the current state of things and available cameras I’d say it’s the closest camera to get there. It does away with the noise, and gives you signal. It’s tiny so you can take it anywhere. The best camera is the one that’s with you. It’s the one that enables you to record life as it unfolds before you. It enables you  to be discreet, to not intimidate people. It doesn’t set you back 10,000$ like a Leica.

Happy shooting

The Power of Profoto

Hi gang,

Here I am with a quick tip, not all of you might know about. There is an incredible wealth of knowledge to be learnt from
promotional videos. It might seem stupid, but it’s quite true.

Modern day companies that produce equipment for people who are very tech-savy know they have to jump on the social media/online video bandwagon. In our category of photographeres there are a lot of companies that have made that jump, and some even in a brilliant fashion.

I’m quite the YouTube addict, and I’m subscribed to at least 30 channels. The vast majority of those channels are channels created by aforementioned companies. They upload behind-the-scenes of shoots done using their equipment, hints and tips, complete user manuals for new software (ahum, PhaseOne!) and so on.

Dissecting those videos can be hugely informative. I’ll giva an example.

Profoto’s latest commercial for their new line of Rfi softboxes contains 3 frames that illustrate perfectly the effect of putting 3 softboxes very close to the model’s face in order to create a wrap-around effect. It’s only a second in the commercial, but there is a huge wealth of knowledge and data to be gained after analyzing said second.

These are all screenshots from the 1080p video. (Yes, they even upload it in HD)

One softbox, left eye

One softbox, left eye

With this frame, ProFoto illustrates the effect of a single softbox on the left side of the model. Look for the catchlights in the eyes, they’ll (usually) tell you 95% of what you need to know lighting-wise.

Second softbox added to the right

Second softbox added to the right

Here’s how it looks when you add a second softbox to the right at the same power output.

profoto3And finally, here’s what happens when you add a third softbox down and below the model.

I don’t know how you guys feel about this, but this is incredible informative to me. You get to see the direct results of adding a modifier, and remember all of this is free information. You can immediately see the huge difference the use of modifiers does.

The Profoto RFI commercial contains a few other light setups and is definitely worth checking out.

My hat goes off for the fine folks at Profoto and the other companies who spend money and time making these instructional videos.

Another champion of the social media/YouTube scene is PhaseOne. They have continued their effort to provide free, instructional videos about their products. These video’s, and there are really a ton of them go far beyond the simple sales pitch. I mean, If you’re looking at a 10 minute video on how to adjust your panel alignment, you’ve already bought their product. Most companies would stop caring about you as a consumer right at that moment. Not PhaseOne. They regularly upload new videos showcasing new features their updated software provides.

To me, a company who provides that amount of ‘after-purchase’ support is a company dedicated to it’s purpose. They are a passionate team, and they are worth my money. I much prefer investing in a product that has a strong user base behind it, and a strong team of professionals who make the software but is a little bit more expensive, than to go for the software that’s a little bit cheaper, but hasn’t any type of support.

Adobe falls in the same category as PhaseOne regarding this, Julieanne Kost and her team upload videos on a regular basis filled with instructional goodness. The times we live in are truely amazing. It might sound cheesy, especially coming from someone my age, but it’s quite true. You would’ve needed to go to a couple of classes to learn all this stuff about e.g. CaptureOne Pro 7 or Lightroom. Now, you can learn all of this, in the comfort of your own home, and at your own pace. Amazing times indeed.

Below is a list of YouTube channels I highly recommend. They’re a mixture of behind-the-scenes videos, instructional videos and all kinds of other stuff as well. I’m also going to start a new rubrique on the blog where i occassionally disect a whole BTS video and point out the stuff you can learn from it!

http://www.youtube.com/user/AdobeLightroom

http://www.youtube.com/user/PhaseOneDK

http://www.youtube.com/user/broncolorworld

http://www.youtube.com/user/HasselbladAS

http://www.youtube.com/user/ProfotoGlobal

http://www.youtube.com/user/sekonicvids

http://www.youtube.com/user/profotovids

To me, personally, PhaseOne, Adobe and Profoto’s channels take the cake. They are definitely worth checking out.

Another channel I’m religiously subscribed to is DigitalRev. If you haven’t heard of them, or Kai Wong, you’ve been living under a photographic rock. This quirkly team uploads almost every other day a review of some kind of gear. Do note, I take the word ‘review’ in a very liberal sense. It’s not really an in-depth review, it’s more of a ‘other side’ review. Absurd comparisons, long and endless words are often used to describe an object in a sarcastic manner. It’s hilarious. These guys are being called the TopGear (British TG evidently, American TG is just shameful) of Photography.

And of course, don’t forget to follow my YouTube channel. We’re going to start uploading some serious BTS content after the holiday season.

http://www.youtube.com/user/morganmoller

Cheers!

M