Nov 242014
 

Character Style and Mood in Photography

By Peter Maynard

Adelaide, South Australia

Hello Steve. Allow me to open by saying thank you for running this site. It is one that I visit regularly for inspiration and information. I thought it was time I went about trying to inspire by providing some thoughts on the importance of character, style and mood in photography. It is a wee bit lengthy but I hope it’s worth it, so here goes.

In photography, many of us start our journey by studying and learning from the masters of the art. But my belief is that many of us will eventually develop a desire to create their own personal photographic style, rather than just copying others. This requires experimentation, learning, effort and creativity. In my case, I approach photography as an art form, not just a mechanism for documenting and recording events. This more expressive approach influences my work greatly and my ability to use photography to express myself artistically is the thing that constantly challenges, engages, enthuses and energizes me. Oh, and did I say frustrates?

What really counts for me is the creative process itself and ultimately what is important is whether I like the resulting image. I understand that not everyone approaches photography in this way and that is fine but this is my way so it is all I can tell you about. What this article is about really is the need for photographers to develop character and style in their work and in particular I would like to demonstrate the role that mood can play in image making as a part of this.

Although like many photographers, I started “serious” photography by shooting black and white, my preferred style now most often involves using colour because I find it lends itself better to artistic interpretation for my type of work. This is not invariably the case though – I like to let the image “decide” if it wants to be in colour or in monochrome, if that makes sense. It is a simple fact of life that some images work best in monochrome and some in colour. Part of our job in image making is to work out which is which. So I usually shoot in full colour then convert later if needed. Here is one where monochrome seemed to work better to convey the feeling I thought the image was crying out to convey – solitary, thoughtful, a little gloomy. I can’t say it’s a perfect photo – it has too many blown highlights for that, but it has mood in bucket loads and that is what I wanted.

Image 1

I always feel that photographs are at their most interesting when they require some degree of interpretation by the viewer. And as I have already hinted, as much as anything this is about creating mood in images rather than just capturing a scene accurately. It is about what is suggested in the image more than what is recorded. My personal belief is that this kind of photography is at its best, not necessarily when the images are technically perfect, but rather when they either capture or create a mood that “speaks” to the viewer. of course a viewer may interpret my photographs as having a very different mood or message from the one I intended, because of course the viewer will interpret the image through his or her own eyes and own experiences.

Here is a colour example I happen to like very much. Like many images that I like the best, it is not technically perfect. And like many presented here, it was shot through a window and as a result is distorted and softened by flare and reflections. Technically it may be questionable, but artistically I feel it works. This image reminds me very much of early autochrome colour images which have a lovely softness and pastel quality. And it has a lovely intimate mood which sets me thinking: who are they, why are they here, what are they talking about? That is exactly what mood should be able to achieve – set the viewer thinking.

Image 2

I am happiest with my own photos when they are somewhat ambiguous (one reason I often make liberal use of reflections when I can – think Saul Leiter who had a similar approach for, I imagine, similar reasons). I think of a good image as being one which allows room for viewer interpretation as I mentioned earlier. Here is another example. Again, it’s an image of a group of people in a warm café; sitting, passing the time, drinking coffee and enjoying each other’s company. Once more, critics could be forgiven for saying it’s a bad photo – excessively dark, soft, indistinct and vague. But these are exactly the things I love about it. It has an intimate mood that draws me back to this place and time. Hopefully it does something similar for others who may remember times when they have sat amongst just such an intimate group of friends. Once more this photo is all about its mood.

image 3

Why is it that looking in through a window on a scene so often creates that feeling of intimacy and warmth? I find this again and again – it is like looking in on a secret and private world. Here is a further example, an image that speaks to me once more of comfort, intimacy, congeniality and friendship.

Image 4

Of course the same technique can be applied in other settings. In the following two images, shot through windows in Kowloon, Hong Kong I captured the staff of two of the many small restaurants that line the streets in this part of town, at work in their kitchens. Shadows and light complemented by the blur of steam on what probably has to be admitted were grimy windows transport me back to my time in that place. To me this type of travel photo is more evocative than any number of wide-angle scenes of iconic buildings and skylines, perhaps because the images’ human scale because they capture the feeling of the places depicted. They are photos which make the most of mood and looking at them transports me back to that place and time. This is what mood can do when it works for the viewer.

Image 5

Image 6

But of course, mood does not always rely upon reflections in a window. In the following shot my aim was for the image to be about the triangle made by this mother’s face, her hands and the face of her child to emphasize the relationship between them. So after making the image I applied a vignette to emphasise those elements and not much else – perhaps just enough to give context. I have often felt that in image making a successful image is as much about what you leave out as what you capture. And that is a key creative choice that photographers should keep in mind.

Image 7

The same kind of technique can be successfully applied to other types of photograph to create mood. In this image of a city skyline, the natural shadows have been enhanced to focus the eye where it needs to be – on the juxtaposition between old and new as represented by the buildings in the image.

Image 8

In all of the above images there has been some degree of post processing to draw out final image. Perhaps it is surprising for many people to learn that the processing has involved taking detail out – not maximizing it. As I said at the outset, to me a photograph can often work best when it is a little ambiguous and allows room for personal interpretation by the viewer. This can often only be achieved if the image has lost some detail that might otherwise distract the viewer from the main message or make the main point of interest in the image less obvious. But there are times when little effort is needed to achieve this.

Sometimes, as in this photo all you need to do is to rely on natural light to capture the mood that was present when the image was made. And then maybe tweak it a smidge in post.

Image 9

But I can never quite let go of the idea of using reflections so here is one final photo to illustrate a variation on this theme. In this example it was as simple as photographing the distorted image of a crane against the sky, with both elements reflected in a grimy upper story window of a warehouse. No tricks, little processing, just an image that is both vague and at the same time, somehow evocative. You may have guessed. I love reflections for their ability to create mood.

Image 10

So there you have it, some thoughts on creating mood in photography to illustrate my central message of the importance of photographers creating a personal style for themselves. And of course to illustrate this I have shown you something of my own personal style. Your task is to find a style that works for you – a style which gives you a voice. And what about creating mood? Well, unsurprisingly I find that much of it is about using shadows and light. Speaking personally I just wait till I see an image that looks as if it is interesting then compose and press the shutter. Then when I am processing it and begin to see an image emerging that I like, I may add a bit of shadow here, subtract a bit of light there – or visa versa, till I am happy. No secret, just experience and a certain sensitivity to an image that in some way makes me go “wow, I like that, I think I will stop now!” If there is interest and |Steve agrees I am happy to prepare another article for his site on how to use post processing to enhance mood and style in photographs.
I recently found a photography book containing photos of Australia in the 1950’s and 1960s. A sentence in it caught my attention, part of which referred to “the ability of a lens to give a vision not seen by the eye”. How true that is. If we are doing our job right as photographers we will sometimes manage to capture an image that no eye, including our own has ever seen. We have caught a moment in time and when we first see the photo realise we have really seen it for the first time. I am sure we all have had that experience and am constantly amazed by the ability of photography to do this. But my central idea in this article is that even though a photo can capture something not seen directly by the eye, if done well it can tell an even deeper truth about the image by speaking directly to our emotions. That is the elusive frustrating demon I constantly chase. Maybe we all do.

I hope you have enjoyed this and even more, I hope you have found it useful or at least thought-provoking. More of my photos can be seen on my Flickr page. Nothing fancy, just photos from my everyday life and travels. Some good, perhaps some indifferent, but I hope not many that are bad.

Please visit and if you feel so inclined, leave comments. https://www.flickr.com/photos/life_in_shadows/

Or you can visit some I have placed on Pinterest for a more succinct overview of some of my images. http://www.pinterest.com/peterm1001/

Nov 262012
 

Fuji X100 Magic Flares..how to create them. By Simon Peckham

One of the special things about the Fuji X100 that I have learnt and still learning while using the camera is the way the photographer can “play” with the light and the resulting image. I will try to explain how I use the camera to control the light in a little more detail. It’s only possible to be able to control the camera this way using the EVF, it is not possible with the live view or the OVF. Take a look at the lens flare in this image.

You can clearly see the wonderful “star” effect from the suns rays. This is due to the blades at smaller apertures. You can’t see these at wide aperture. Then it’s a question of just trying to get the correct camera angle. Taking care using the EVF set the camera to f11 or f16 it works better at these apertures. It’s ok at f8 but since your pointing the camera directly at the sun it’s better using the smaller. Take care doing this looming directly at the sun is not something any wine should be advising or advocating but to get the shot then we need to take some risk. You also need some subject that can be use as a gobo.

The sun is a giant studio or speed light after all so you need a gobo, this can be a tree, leave,car,building it can be all most anything. Now you need to start to frame the shot by looking at the sun and moving the camera to just get the sun to peep around the gobo, this starts the flare, using the EVF you will be able to “see” the flare now you just need to choose you image. It’s amazing to see the effects that can be created this way, I a, often looking to take shots into the sun, I normally choose to shoot towards the sun at the end of the day it seems a little easier to control. Here is another similar shot.

You can see the above shot has creatures a beautiful flare with a partial halo. I love this type of control that I believe can only be controlled using an EVF. I have not been able to do this on any other camera, I am not sure if it is because it is EVF or the fixed fujinion lens. I am really hoping I will still be able to use this technique with either the Fuji X-pro 1 or the new Fuji X-E1. I would certainly like to hear from any Fuji X-pro1 or Fuji X-e1 owners that can try this method and confirm if is works particularly on other lens’s. it would be a real shame to lose this ability to play with e flaring. Take a look at the next shot.

This halo is really fun to play with. I really cannot explain what this is I don’t really know how it is formed but I do know its a similar technique to get it as the 16 point flares, the halo seems to be best created with the wider apertures but it’s created over all the range if you GE the camera angle right. Again use the EVF to do this and not look directly at the sun using the OVF. The full halo takes a little bit of practice to get the right angle. It’s also very sensitive to getting the right angle, pointing the camera at the sun slowly tilt the camera vertically and you will find you can get the complete halo to appear.

Now it’s just up to you to frame this image compose the shot make the halo appear and click away. I will be playing more with this in the future and hope to be playing with the same either on the new Fuji X-E1 or the Fuji X-Pro1 what ever I end up getting and with what ever range of lens I have I really hope I will still be able to create these type of really cool reflective artifacts and flares. We shall see. Go out and have some fun with this and see if you GE the same or similar results as me.

Simon Peckham – His Blog is HERE

Oct 292012
 

The other way to scan positive slides, or, why I kept my big SLR.

By Stefan Schmidt

Recently I was asked by my father if I was interested in having his slides from when I was young since he never watched them and was thinking about throwing them out. In truth it was his wife who triggered the question since she had found out that he already had dumped two paperbags worth of slides in a container. “Of course!”, I said. And before I knew it I had two big boxes of slides delivered to my basement.

An idea began to form in my mind that I should do a book on my parents as a gift to them and my siblings. Obviously I needed to scan the pictures, but how? As it would happen a friend of mine recently had bought a Canon 9000F flatbed-scanner planning to do much the same thing as me. He graciously let me borrow it to scan the slides.

I installed the software, brought out the oldest magazine with slides and started scanning. The positives were mounted in glass frames and somehow there was a lot of dust between the glass and the film itself. Also there seemed to be small droplets of moisture or rather, fat, on the inside of the glass. I scanned in maximum resolution to TIFF and was really disappointed with the result. Not only did each slide take about nine (!) minutes to scan, the actual focus was off as well. It turned out that the scanner could not focus above the surface of the scanners glass. Meaning that it was the dirty glass in the slides frame that got sharp, making all the dust appear “perfectly”. Also, the picture got very pale colors and a really bad contrast. This simply would not do!

This is an example scanned in 4800 dpi. It’s my father on a vacation 1965 on Sicilian. I was born in 1966…

I was so very disappointed and my plan for a book seemed to vanish into thin air. In disgust I just stopped looking through the slides for several months. Instead I enjoyed taking photos with my spanking new OM-D and had a blast with it. Inspiration crept back again until one weekend when I realised that I had shot all through the summer with only my OM-D. The Canon 5D MkII and it’s lenses had been untouched for nearly four months and I started to debate with myself whether or not to sell it all off. I was so pleased with my Olympus.

Then it hit me! I had a full sensor 21 Mpixel camera and a 100mm macro f2,8 that shot 1:1 magnification, surely I must be able to use that! I realized that some things would be very important to make this work:

1. I needed to make sure that the slide and the camera was placed horizontally and vertically correct and in parallel to each other.

2. I wanted a good source of light.

3. The light needed to be soft, diffused.

I ran down into the basement, took an A4 photo frame and stole the glass from it. (Yes I know, I’m impulsive when inspiration strikes…) I then went into the workshop and quickly nailed together a box from a board of tree. I put the glass from the frame into the box fixating it with wooden pegs and a wooden strip across the glass.

Next I took a piece of spare MDF-board and placed the camera at one end focusing almost as close as possible with my macro 100 mm to be able to measure the distance to where the box should be positioned. I used a square tool to draw 90 degree lines across the MDFboard to be able to fasten the box in parallel to the wooden fixtures I use to place my camera correctly. Behind the box I put a milky white plastic cover from our basement lamps as a diffuser. A Leitz slide projector at the other end of the MDFboard was my light source. I measured how high up on the glass the slide needed to be and put a small wooden strip across the glass to put the slide upon. The slide wanted to topple over and fall off so I added an elastic band across the glass, by the top of the slide, as well.

O’boy, was I exited to see if it worked!

I set the ISO to 320 since I find that this is the best base-iso for the MkII. I set the aperture to F 4,5 in apperture-mode. I set white balance to halogen (warm lamp). I set the self timer to 2 seconds. Finally I set the camera to show each taken picture for 2 seconds after each shot in order to see if I would need to re-shoot it with any exposure compensation. As always I shoot with RAW.

Deciding to shoot the same pictures as before I went for the picture of my dad. I used live view to be able to position the slide correctly and AF-ON to fine tune the focus. Then I shot the first exposure.

I was stunned! Just watching the 2 second preview I could see I was really on to something here, and when I zoomed into the picture it was so sharp that I cold see the actual grain of the film! Amazing! This is the sample from that shoot. Notice the difference in sharpness, contrast and color. Even though the resolution is lower than that of the scanned file above. Another amazing effect is that nearly all of the dust and speckles above are out of focus here and most of it is not even visible.

Frankly, I’m amazed that it turned out so well! When I developed this in capture one pro 6 i did not alter exposure or colors. I did not crop it either because I wanted to show that I get a piece of the frame in the picture when I shoot the slides. This is by design since I saw that there was a difference in thickness and size between old glass frames and Kodachrome paper frames etc.

Below is a picture from my first tests in daylight when I fixed my Lightbox in relation to the camera on the MDF-board. It was easier to do the measurements i daylight. Also I wanted to know if daylight provided even better color. It did not. When test shooting I had to cut out some black plastic and nail it to the box to block light from the sides to illuminate the slides from the wrong direction. Obviously I have no use for it in my basement but the picture gives a fair view of how my setup looks.

I would like to point out that shooting slides this way works best in a dark room. If there is surrounding light, scratches in the film or dust will be more visible. Also dust can be both white and dark if the slide is photographed in full daylight making a bit more tricky to clone away.

Here are som pictured from Venezuela that I “camerascanned” for a friend of mine ( he with the scanner by the way). I thank him for letting me mail them to you. Below are three pictures from Fuji Velvia 50. The pictures are very clean and sharp! They were taken 1997 during a two month trek and only a minimum of work was required on the raw-files (cropping obviously but also bringing back some details in the shadows because slides can have very hard contrast and dark shadows). My friend lugged his Nikon F3 with a winder and four lenses up and down the trails during those two months, along with 30 rolls of film, that is some seriously heavy gear.

 

By now I have shot over 20 magazines with slides and it takes me about 30 minutes to “scan” two magazines with 36 slides each. Compare that to around nine minutes for each if I should use the canon scanner. I hope that this is something that you, or some of the readers of your brilliant blog will have use for. It sure has inspired me! Now I don’t feel like selling my 5D MkII just yet. It has also inspired me to dig out my old Contax 167 and shoot some film knowing I that have a way to bring pictures with the character of the film into my computer.

Slides are easy to start photographing this way. Color negatives and black and white negatives works extremely well too but that is an article in itself. Especially when it comes to “processing” the negatives to get a picture on-screen that looks good. As always, thank you Steve, for running such an inspiring site. You make people want to contribute and share their experiences and that is a great thing in itself!

With my best regards

Stefan Schmidt

Oct 262012
 

Hello from Greenland! I want to give a little introduction to strobe photography using battery power pack strobes. I made this article in a brand specific example using the Profoto 7B 1200w power pack because I find it to be the easiest way to introduce strobe photography. Battery power packs of other brands are very similar in usage.

I am not an expert or even experienced strobe photographer but I want to give my contribution this wonderful website that have given me so many great articles ever since I started to follow Steve Huff right after the M9 was announced. I always want photography to be challenging and strobe photography seemed like the next exciting photographic venture into the unknown.

I’ve never previously been interested in strobe photography or portraiture for that matter. I’ve always done everything I could to avoid top mounted camera flashes, I hate the look, and to some extent I still do. I have always chosen depth of field with fast lenses to make the images “pop” or in other words using fast lenses to make the images appear 3D in a 2D medium. The same effect can be achieved using light instead of depth of field. I eventually became more interested in strobe photography after seeing a lot of great professional photographers work and I also enjoyed a lot of the images posted in flicker group “strobist”.

I found it quite difficult to find a starting point, all I knew was I wanted something powerful and battery powered strobe to take outdoors. I quickly came down to two battery power packs brands that I found interesting(out of a lot of great brands). Poul C. Buff “Zeus” series a great value for the money or the expensive and renowned brand Profoto and their “7B 1200w” battery power pack. I called my danish dealer that had the profoto 7B on sale and decided to jump at the offer, sell my beloved Leica Noctilux 0.95, and lay down a total of 9.000 USD for a hole package to get started in strobe photograph which included:

Profoto 7B 1200w battery power pack

By the master control knob (14) you control the total power/level of light out of the two lamp sockets(12,13). This power pack allows asymmetrical and symmetrical power distribution out of the two flash head (12). This basically means there is a button to either halving the power of the second lamp (asymmetrical) or identical power(symmetrical). This can come in handy if you have your main light on your subject and use the second lamp to creatively enhance the subject, for example from the back or above the subject. I done most of my portraits with a single light and use the sun as my “second light”. To give you an idea of power of this battery pack, a top mounted camera flash with AA batteries output about 60-90w (anybody correct me if Im wrong) compared to this battery pack that outputs 1200w which means it out powers the sun for a tiny brief moment. I would love to read peoples opinion and remarks about other brands in the comments field below.

- Two pro B flash heads (includes 4 meter cable each to connect to the powerpack)

- Two stands, Manfrotto flash head stand model 1004BAC

- One additional 5m flash head cable

- Pocket wizard

Receiver and transceiver for wirelessly triggering the power pack from the camera (connects to 7 on the power pack)

- A Light meter

The light meter is where all the key information is. I use my light meter connected to the power pack with a cable to trigger the flash and adjust the power to my ideal setting. You can buy light meters with build in wireless triggering that is compatible with pocket wizard and get rid of the cable.

- Light modifier

Now I needed a light modifier to soften the harsh light from the bare bulbs. I choose one 2×3(60x90cm) softbox that mounts on the flash head to start off with. All Profoto’s light modifiers claps easily directly on the flash head.

Keeping things simple

Its easy to overcomplicate things and make a advanced setup. You can indeed make a spectacular looking portraits using multiple lights sources but I prefer to use one light and the sun. For me that is complicated enough. Using strobes in the outdoors two factors needs to be acceptable: low wind and no rain.

Setting up

The Camera

Even though I love Leica M I find a DSLR with a zoom lens to fit my needs best for strobe photography. An important aspect of shooting in sun with strobes is “x sync” which is a given cameras ability to synchronize with a strobe. The faster the shutter speed a camera can synchronize the better. I use Canon 5D mark III that has a highest synchronization of 1/200th of a second. If I use a higher shutter speed with a strobe, a big black ugly line starts to appear on the button of the image and heres why. A strobe fires at around 1/3000th of a second and in that super short moment the WHOLE censor in the camera needs to be totally open. The shutter mechanism of the Canon 5D mark III stops to expose the whole censor beyond 1/200th of a second hence the black line visible in image.

I do most of my strobe photography in midday bright sunny conditions. I know It doesn’t seem necessary with strobes but I enjoy the look. After I have found a person willing to be photographed and a location, I set up the gear. I then meter the sun. A sunny bright summer midday in Greenland I often measure to ISO 100, 1/200th, F/11. I want my strobe light to offer one F stop faster light:

Typical Day light ISO 100, Shutter 1/200th of a second and F/11

Strobe Light I dial in to ISO 100, shutter 1/200th of a second and F/16. One stop faster. This darkens everything accept the subject and gives a dramatic image and deep blue sky. I don’t always choose this approach as it depends on the location, weather and the subject I photograph. I like to set up the softbox close to the subject, preferable within 1 meter when I do head shots. I don´t like to put up “rules” about how the light should be but many put out up the main light in a 20 degree angle and 1-2 feet higher than the subjects head. This way I like how the light “travels” across the face when I put up the light in a angled position, highlighting one side of the face and shadowing the other side. That way you get a sense of depth and “see” the subjects unique conjures instead of a “mug shot” kind of portrait where the main light points directly at the face. You can control the light fall off with F stops. The higher the F stop, the higher the light fall off and that way you control how dramatic you want the difference between light and shadow but keep defraction in mind when using small apertures. Remember to keep metering the strobe light. When I measure I put the light meter directly under the chin. If the person moves a little make sure your exposure is correct by remeasuring and adjust your light accordingly.

So what is challenging about strobe photography?

I see strobe photography as one part technical, one part creative and one part coincidental. When I set up the light I always have a vision about the image and how the subject is lit. After I have taken the images I had preplanned I try unexpected/unusual angles to shot or sometimes the subject somehow seems better lit another way than I had planned. The point is I always keep a open mind to creative impulse as I shoot. Sometime it leads to mistakes which is also welcome because I learn from mistakes. Even though I have limited experience I hope I have given the reader some sort of insight and I hope more experienced strobe shooters can ad or correct some of the info I have given in the comment field below. I also welcome other online resources about strobe photography in the comment field.

Regards

Per Nicolaisen

Husky. Canon 5D Mark II. canon 16-35mm II. 
One softbox on the right. Strobe 1,5 stops faster than sun light(if I remember correctly). It was a little difficult to measure the light “under the chin” as it wanted to bite my hand but I managed :-) 

-

My dad. Canon 5D Mark II. canon 16-35mm II
Softbox on the upper left, very near the face. Strobe light one stop faster than sun light.

-

Soccer kids. Canon 5D mark III. Canon 16-35mm II
I loaded my SUV with strobe and photo gear and decided to drive around my home town, Tasiiaq, to see if I could find any people willing to be photographed with strobes, when I saw these youngsters playing soccer. Two lights with standard zooms on the upper right.

-

Mr. Karl Pivat. Canon 5D mark III. Canon 16-35mm II
Softbox to the upper left, quite close to Mr. Pivat.

-

Susanne & Hendriks wedding day. Canon 5D mark III. Canon 16-35mm II
Softbox to the upper right. 

-

My Son and daughter. Malik & Niviaq among “river beauty” flowers <3
Canon 5D mark III. Canon 24-105MM
Softbox to the upper right.

-

Paakkannaq. 
Canon 5D mark III. Canon 24-105MM
softbox to the upper right and one light with standard zoom behind the ship to the right pointing towards the hull of the ship to the left… Light one stop faster than sun light. 

Apr 182012
 

SHOW UP AS YOURSELF

By Wendy Laurel

“Show up as yourself” is what I tell my clients when they ask me what to wear for a shoot.* The days of families wearing all white shirts paired with jeans smiling nicely for the camera are over. Or at least they should be.

Times have changed. People want to be seen for themselves. Modern Family aired an episode last year where Claire (the Mom) hired a professional photographer for an extended family portrait. She dressed everyone in white shirts (of course), but the “family picture” that Claire eventually chose was one where the kids were fighting, people were laughing, and life was documented much as it is lived. That is the family portrait I love to shoot and my clients love to buy.

Letting the kids dress themselves is the surest way to getting a fantastic childrenʼs portrait. That obsession with the Superman shirt will be gone before the parents know it. And who says that stripes and polka dots donʼt go together? It is the essence of their personalities that are important. Not their hair perfectly combed and dressed up looking like a child out of a catalog – a child the parents donʼt recognize. When it is all said and done, people want photographs of their children and family that bring them right back to that time.

Similarly, the focus should be on the people. People are the best detail in any shoot. The focus on details and props in people photography has spun out of control. Baby photography blogs are showcasing the best baby rooms and the cutest first birthday party decorations instead of the baby. Wedding blogs are guilty as well. I recently saw a wedding shoot where the photographer and/or the couple managed to work in almost every cliché prop there can be: balloons, scrabble board, chalk board, antique cameras, vintage soda bottles, analog records and a record player, just to name a few. The couple and/or photographer were so busy finding the hottest and newest props that they forgot about the couple. Who are they? Those details and the images told nothing about the couple, except that maybe they read wedding blogs. And it is a shame. Photographs of peopleʼs family and children or of their wedding day should show them as you really are. The love, the connection, the relationships, and the moments. That is what is important and what will be valued when they look back.

I love details as much as the next photographer. It is always fun to shoot people in cute clothes and with colorful props. I just love the people more. I think the focus should be the people and details that add to or help tell the peopleʼs story. If the girl loves her tutu and always wants to wear it? Well, thatʼs a relevant detail. If the couple plays Twister all the time together, then yes, it’s a relevant detail. The question is does the detail have emotional meaning for the client? Is it something that will trigger memories for them down the road? If itʼs yes, then yes itʼs important to shoot. In any case, the people are always more important. When is the last time you saw a photograph of table decorations up on the wall?

When my mom was first diagnosed with cancer, I hired a family photographer to come take photographs of her, her home, and my family. There were a ton of detail shots –shots of her straw beach bag hanging on the doorknob, shots of her holding some of her own pastel oil paintings, shots of her collection of miniature tea cups. But they were important details. Details that meant the world to her and tell her story. Details which combined with the wonderful family shots of us together gave us a full story. Details which showed my Mom and who she was. Those are the details that matter. Not details for the sake of details.

The trend is changing. People are showing up as themselves. The main focus is the people, the relationships, and the moments. As Babble.com recently said in talking about the top twenty baby photography blogs, “The emphasis on the people, unburdened by details or props, gives [Let the Kids] a touch of humanity that is infectious.”**

Showing up as yourself just means be YOU. If the family you are shooting doesnʼt walk around town in matching white shirts with collars, donʼt suggest to them to show up at your photography session in those outfits. Document their best selves if you like, but themselves. And the same applies to the photographer, show up as yourself, be real and be creative.

Written and submitted by Wendy Laurel  (http://www.wendylaurel.com)

Wendy Laurel is a wedding and family photographer in Maui. She runs the Let the Kids people photography blog along with Tory OʼLeary, a newborn and family photographer in Southern California. Let the Kids.com is a blog that features people photography of any kind (family, kids, couples, even weddings and fashion) as long as it is exceptional photography. Let the Kids is always looking for very creative and unique images where the photographerʼs voice can be heard and the subjectʼs personalities shine. You can find Let the Kids at http://www.letthekids.com. We also have a Facebook page where we run contests and talk about photography. Submissions are encouraged. Just email a link to your photographs online or images sized at 600 pixels width to [email protected].

* I have to admit I hijacked that saying from Jonathan Canlas, the premier wedding and family photographer.

** Babble.com (http://www.babble.com/baby/baby-care/best-photo-blog-mom-baby/? page=6)


Oct 252011
 

My tips on the Fuji X100 by Kaushal Parikh

 

I know in my last post on Steve’s site many people were quite pleased that I did not make any mention of gear used.   I don’t think that gear alone can create good photographs but I do believe that a good photographer can be inspired to take better photographs with the right gear.  I recently acquired a Fuji x100 that I have come to love and thought I would just share a few thoughts and tips about this camera.

These are just personal adaptations I have made with the x100 to help my style of shooting in the streets of Mumbai.

I shoot my x100 in manual focus mode between f4 and f8.  I set my focus to about 7 feet, which gives me an acceptable range, and I have barely ever missed a shot, as shutter delay is non-existent.  If my subject is out of this range a quick press of the af lock button resets the focus.  On using the af lock button to focus, I always glance down at the distance indicator in the viewfinder to ensure that the set focus distance seems about right. After the firmware upgrades I even use the focus ring for slight adjustments in manual focus mode.

I rarely check my images on the LCD so the image review is set to off in camera. However, I set the playback view mode to viewfinder so that when I do press the play button the image appears in the viewfinder itself.  This way I don’t have to remove the camera from my eye and can see the review image clearly even in bright sunlight.

I do not use the camera in full silent mode.  I set all the camera sounds off except for the shutter which I keep at its lowest volume which is barely audible to anyone but me, so I know exactly when the camera has fired and also gives me a better sense with regard to the timing of the shot.

I use the camera in manual metering mode only and have found it gives the best exposure (in most situations) when underexposed by half a stop.  With regard to ISO I confidently shoot from ISO 400 up to ISO 1600 (even go higher sometimes)

I like shooting in black and white so I set the camera to RAW+normal jpeg and set the film mode to b&w.  This way the image when reviewed in playback mode is b&w allowing me to see what the monotone image actually looks like while at the same time the RAW image is available giving me the option of colour as well at the time of processing.

Overall I am really enjoying the camera and if nothing else it inspires me to go out and shoot.  It is light, unobtrusive and produces good quality images.  Below are some of the images I have made with the x100.

You can see more of my work at  www.kaushalp.com or on my street photography blog at http://kaushalpar.wordpress.com

Aug 012011
 
How to Save a “Throwaway Shot”
 
By Ashwin Rao
 
Hello, my fellow Huffites, it’s Ashwin again, coming fresh off the excitement-packed Seattle 2011 Photo Workshop. Steve, Roger Paperno, Charles Peterson, Tim Isaac & his wife Lily, and myself entertained and photographed with over 20 very talented photographers from both near and wide. It was a great experience, filled with good times, new friends, and lessons learned.
Speaking of lessins, I have slowly been learning a few lessons myself, along the way to trying to get the most out of my photos. One challenge that I have given myself is to periodically revisit old photo shoots, ones that I may not have though successful, and try to coax more out of the images….maybe by revisiting old images, I could find new inspiration and rediscover a diamond in the rough. I hope to tell you my story of just such a “diamond-in-the-rough” photograph in the coming words and images.
In the summer of 2010, I visited nearby Mount Rainier with out-of town friends. The day, while nice enough, wasn’t spectacular. In fact, typical of “moody” Northwest weather, the forecast that day ended up presenting “mostly cloudy”, with a few sunbreaks. While this made for a nice stroll around the Paradise Visitor’s area around Mount Rainier, it seemed to make for poor photo-making circumstances. Yet, I prevailed and took a a few photos with my Leica M9 and APO-Summicron 90 mm f/2 Asph lens as I wandered around a few trails with friends.  I brought the lens in hopes of compressing landscapes and relating the scale of the surroundings to the giant mountain off in the distance. For the most part, my photographic muse was uninspired. Rainier was shrouded by or covered completely by clouds for large chunks of the hike, but in moments, during those rare sunbreaks, the giant mountain would peak out and tempt us. So away, I snapped, hoping for the best.
On returning home,  I quickly downloaded the images, and here’s a sample of what I got….an image that I’d consider thoroughly uninspiring….
As you can see, the image was fraught by poor composition, dust on the sensor, and a lack of clear cohesive direction. Being an eternal optimist, I did my best to tweak the image. I did a bit of liberal cropping to re-center the image and get ride of some dust, and thought I had done a reasonable job of capturing a somewhat bland summer mountain moment. I have plenty of these in my home photo collection, half-finished images that simply don’t seem worth much more effort:
To me, the image continued to seem underexposed in the foreground, and generally dull. I tried to tweak things a bit more by increasing the “green” luminance channel in Adobe Lightroom to bring out the trees (as well as some more dust on my sensor, which came about as a result of my processing)…What I got reminded me of some of the garish HDR images that I stumble across, but at least I gave it a reasonable effort and improved the overall exposure.
I moved on and looked at other shots, but ultimately put the photos away for nearly a year. For some reason, maybe due to the crummy weather that occupied Seattle through much of the spring, I decided to go back to those images from a year ago, and give the image another try….
This time, The approach that I took was to say, for a change, let me try to bring out my “inner Ansel Adams”….Every once in a while I find it fun to mock up images in the style of a famous photographer, and in this case, I decided (with the best humor possible) to put on the hat of the famous Ansel Adams, known across the photographic world for his wondrous black and while work.
To all of you who believe that a photograph should be taken and left as is, please read up on Ansel’s techniques. Adams used extensive photo processing to achieve the look that he desired. He did a ton of dodging and burning, to bring out the intended highlights and sink the intended shadows to create some of history’s most compelling images. Today, in the world of digital imagery and wizardry, processing becomes much easier, and I was able to simply refer back to my Lightroom library and do a quick Black and White conversion. Stepping back to the last edited image in my series, here’s what happened, after a bit of dust removal and contrast adjustment:
To me, suddenly the image in front of me, left for dead a year ago, came to life. I suddenly saw Mt. Rainier as a looming giant in the mist, with the foreground telling its own story….so I I decided to tweak further, pushing the highlights and shadows a bit more to see what would happen….
What I found was that the mountain was becoming even more mysterious…What had originally been intended as a snapshot of Rainier, dashed by the poor weather, was becoming a moody shot, and a “keeper” to my eyes….
So after a bunch more tweaking, that involved adjusting shadows, doing a bit of selective dodging and burning, and performing a series of little tweaks that involved emphasizing the cloud and fog that I saw in this modified image, all in Lightroom, here’s the final result:
So what do you think? I personally feel that I saved an image….a throwaway image at that….Sure, I manipulated the image extensively. Some might argue that what I performed took the image from the realm of photography to something more like graphic art. To me, the image is still a photograph, albeit one that’s extensively interpreted for effect. But again, I feel that this last image is a “keeper”….
I’d be curious what the traditionalists and digital manipulators among you think. After all, this series of images provides a flow from “Before” to “After”, and you can see how what the end-result of the image represents is a far distance from the reality of the day.
Yet, this is now how I “see” Mt. Rainier, as a mysterious giant, hiding in the Northwest’s dense fog, occasionally peaking out, tempting us. Tempting us in its beautiy, challenging us towards becoming better photographers, and to me, better photographic editors….
Until next time, your thoughts and comments are warmly invited….

Jun 092011
 

Why shooting with just a 35mm lens WILL improve your photography.

By Steve Huff

I originally wrote this article to end my Fuji X100 camera review but decided to expand on it and publish it on its own. When the X100 and even the Leica X1 were announced and released, many people were complaining that it did not have a Zoom lens, or have the capability of adding another lens. I heard things like “Who wants a fixed 35mm lens” and “These cameras are useless with just a 35″.

To me, this kind of thinking is borderline nonsense as the 35mm focal length is one of the most useful, if not THE most useful focal lengths you can use! I truly believe that if you shoot with just a 35mm focal length for at least 6 months your photography will improve and so will your knowledge of composition, reading light, and even your “vision” will improve. By that I mean, the way you see things in relation to photography.

Yes, It’s true. You can not add a zoom lens to cameras like the X100 or Leica X1 nor do they have a built in zoom lens. When you invest in these types of cameras, you are investing in a 35mm camera. Just like the old days with the classic fixed lens film cameras. But I see this as a good thing and is why I also adore the Leica X1 and X100 and even a Leica M9 with a simple 35mm lens attached.

For me, it’s all about simplicity and knowing what to expect from the camera. After a couple of weeks shooting with just your camera and one 35mm lens you will start to be able to visualize in your head what your image will look like, way before you even shoot it. When I go out and spot a scene I want to photograph, I instantly envision in my head what the image will look like. I can visualize what it would look like at f/2 or f/8, I  can see how I want it framed and what my final image will look like, even with processing! I see all of this before I take the shot. I can do this because I have been shooting with prime lenses only for so many years, and the 35 has been one of the main focal lengths I use along with my 50mm.

Some Images using only the 35mm focal length.

The house below was shot with a Leica M9 and 35 Summarit, which is a GREAT lens for this type of photo. It’s funny because the Summarit has better Bokeh than the 35 Summicron ASPH, and is about half the price and a smaller lens! True!

If you click on the house image below, you can see the quality of the lens better as the detail is also there.

The image below of the old (and what I thought was an abandoned) motorhome is one of my favorites of recent times. I remember driving down a rural road and I spotted this “scene” from the corner of my eye. I immediately turned around and pulled up to this dirty, worn down, flat tired motor home. Right when I stepped out of my car I knew exactly what angle I wanted because of the tarp that was flowing towards my lens. I knew this would look amazing in black and white and when I processed the image, it was exactly what I had hoped for.

It was shot with the Leica M9 and 35 Summicron ASPH lens.

For at least a year I traveled around with my M9 and 35mm taking photos of old buildings and abandoned places. It was almost an obsession of mine, finding these long forgotten houses, shops, cars..and even gas stations. For this project, the 35mm focal length was my most valued and used lens. A 28 was always a bit too wide, and the 50 was a bit too long.

This old service station was captured deep in the mountains of Kentucky, once again with the Leica 35 Summarit. For full detail and color, click on the image.

So OK, so far all I have shown you is old buildings and a motorhome, which are all perfect subjects for a 35. What about people? Sometimes with a 35mm, if you get too close to someone they can appear distorted, but not always. I find the 35mm focal length great for portraits IF you want to include the surroundings as well, and IMO, this makes for a much nicer “portrait”. A few years ago I started finding the typical 85mm portrait “heads” somewhat boring. I like to see more of what is going on in the surroundings…the persons “environment”, which is why you have probably heard the term “Environmental Portrait” before.

In my opinion, the 35mm focal length can produce more interesting portraits than a 50, 75 or 90 IMO. Why? Because you see the environment along with the person. You see what is going on in the scene which I find much more interesting than just a plain head shot most of the time.

Below is a fire breather who was walking the streets of Vegas and anytime someone gave him a dollar or two he would breath fire on the street, stopping traffic an all. With the M9 and 35 Summilux ASPH II, this shot was easy, and i love it!

-

The next shot of my son Brandon was taken over a year ago with the M9 and 35 Summarit. We were sitting down to eat and I wanted to get a picture of him browsing the menu but instead he looked up at me with the “are you taking a picture AGAIN!” look. Added a Sepia tone in Color Efex which looks better when you click on the image. This shot, when viewed at the larger size, reminds me of how great this little Summarit is. A little bit classic, a little bit modern, and the lowest price Leica 35.

-

Even the little Olympus E-PL1 with the 17mm pancake attached is just about equal to a 35mm foal length (34) and here is another portrait I shot with that exact combo! I really like this one as you see the environment in which the Auctioneer works. This was at an auction on a hot sweaty summer day and he was standing in the back of his truck from where he auctioned off a house and belongings. It was in Illinois and probably close to 100 degrees on that day. IT WAS HOT and HUMID.

When I shot the last Seal tour I also experimented with the 35 and really loved what I managed to capture with it. Shooting concerts with a 35mm lens sounds odd doesn’t it? Seems like it would be much too short, but with a performer such as Seal, using a 35mm is ESSENTIAL as there is so much audience participation going on. Once again, getting the subject and his surroundings is key to a really great photo. This one is with the M9 and 35 Summicron ASPH.

-

Using the Leica X1 which has just about a 35mm equivalent lens…

Here is one more “Environmental Portrait” I shot a year ago with the M9 and 35 Summilux ASPH II. You can see that this guy is a street performer. It tells more of a story than just a headshot would.

So as you can see, the 35mm focal length is very useful and versatile. In fact, after always going back and forth over which focal length I prefer between a 35 and 50, I always go back to the 35. It just seems natural.

After shooting a camera and one lens like a 35mm for at least 6 months you will know what angle to get, where to stand and you will get out of the “Zoom Lens” mindset, which IMO, makes you lazy. There, I said it and I mean it! Zoom lenses make you lazy. Sure it is nice to have that huge and pricey 70-200 because when you are roaming around the Zoo that is what everyone else has with them, and I used to be guilty of the same thing many years ago. Once I started shooting with a 35 and 50 my whole outlook changed and I realized that 95% of my shots taken with a zoom lens…sucked!

These days when I look back at my “zoom” shots they look flat and lifeless and it LOOKS like I zoomed in on my subject. But sometimes there will be a subject that is farther away and without a Zoom you can’t get close. Maybe you can not walk up to your subject to get closer. When this happens, I change my whole approach to the shot. Instead of worrying about the subject I look around and see what I can capture within the shot WITH the subject, and this usually makes it much more interesting.

Now of course, sports shooters and wildlife guys need powerful zooms (or primes) but for most of us, including the hobbyists, it could be a great experience to just shoot with one lens and one lens only for a while, and believe me, it will improve your photography.

I could get by day to day with either a 35 or a 50. My favorite lens in the world is actually a 50, but not for its focal length. The Leica Noctilux for its gorgeous rendering. Right behind that the new 35 Summilux ASPH. I have shot with a 35 for months on end, and did the same with a 50. Did my photography suffer because of it? NO, in fact, it had the opposite effect. It IMPROVED it.

My wrap up…

Shooting ONLY a 35mm lens for say, 3-6 months, will open up your mind to other possibilities. You will not just aim, zoom and shoot but you will look around, think and ask yourself how you can get the best shot with what you have. Shooting at 35mm seems natural. You can get great environmental portraits and even normal portraits if you step back a bit. 35mm is great for landscape and urban shots. It kind of sucks you in to the image at times and is not too wide like a 24 or 28 might be, nor is it too constricted like a 50 can be in some situations.

In many ways, in my opinion, the 35mm focal length is the perfect focal length for shooting life as it happens. The things around you, the people around you, and the daily grind in general. If you have the chance, put a 35mm (equivalent) on whatever camera you own and shoot it for a few weeks. ONLY using that lens. My guess is that by the end of the few weeks you will have some amazing keepers, and you will also have learned a bit more about composition. You will also have a liberated feeling as the stress of “what lens should I use” will be gone. Just you and your 35…pretty cool.

 

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT”S EASY TO HELP OUT!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page!

Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Be sure and visit the all new forums on the site HERE! THANK YOU ALL!

May 112011
 

OK guys, here you go! Decided that since the Fuji X100 has been so popular, and because I get so many e-mails on it asking me about the “quirks” that I would write up a list of the top 7 complaints on the camera (from users and reviews, not necessarily ME), and what I do to get around them (well, they are not really issues for me in the first place as you will soon see).

So in this brief article I will list out the quirks and imperfections of the X100, and then tell you how I overcome and work with each issue. This is spurred from seeing a reviewer today who said to forget about buying the Fuji, mainly because of the menu button. Odd. This camera has so much going for it with so much potential that anyone who skips out on it due to the small (or is it?) menu button will be missing out on a fantastic photographic tool that not only looks cool, but takes some amazing quality images.

Am I saying that the Fuji is for everyone? NO way! Many will want to skip it just due to the fact that it is not really their style of camera. It doesn’t have blazing fast DSLR AF, it doesn’t “Zoom” and no, it does not have the ability to change lenses. These are the reasons I LOVE IT, but some of you will hate it for these same reasons. Anyway, enjoy this rundown of the X100 Quirks :)

Ok…first things first – The small menu button

USER Complaint #1: The Menu Button is TOO small. I agree with what everyone here has said about the menu button, it sure does appear to be too small. It seems when you press the menu button that you are also pressing the jog wheel as well. The menu button itself is not  raised out enough from the jog wheel so it just feels like you are pushing the whole wheel in with the menu button. This is what most of the reviewers are saying about the button.

In USE/Solution: The Menu Button Is Not Really An Issue. In actual USE of the Fuji X100, when the camera is on and you are taking photos, the menu button works just fine! Try it! Turn it on, press the menu button and you will see the menu screen pop on. I looked at the menu buttons, side by side next to the X100 from the Olympus XZ-1, the Panasonic GH2 and also the GF2 and guess what? The X100 menu button is LARGER than the GH2 and XZ-1 and just about the same size as the one on the GF2. Again, it’s not that the button is too small, it is that it does not stick out enough from the wheel so it “feels” small. In real use, the button works perfectly fine. For me it does anyway. Never caused an issue which is why it wasn’t brought up in my review. It worked and continues to work. For me anyway. SO once again, the button and the jog wheel work fine and dandy for me and my hands.

How about the slow start up time?

USER Complaint #2: Startup time is insanely slow. When I received my X100 and powered it on I was freaking out a bit I think it took like 10 seconds to start up! I immediately regretted the purchase. There were times when I though the camera had froze up when I started it but in reality, it was just taking forever to start. It was unacceptable.

The SOLUTION: Startup time can be almost instant! I decided to buy a super fast SD card for the X100, hell, I bought two, one for my M9 and one for the X100. I bought these Sandisk Extreme Pro cards, the 16GB version. THEY ALSO COME IN 32GB.  Sandisk says that they are waterproof, shockproof, and X-Ray proof. They also write data at up to 45MBPS so they are pretty speedy. Once put in the camera I was still seeing slow startup times, UNTIL I formatted the card in the camera. I then turned ON “Quick Start Mode’ in the settings menu. Now it takes less than 1 second to turn on. Its actually just about instant. So if you have an X100 and are suffering from slow start up times, buy one and format it in the camera. Not only will your start up times be quick, your write times will improve as well.

You may have to format each time though, which is odd and quirky.

OK…what else? Hmmmm. Inaccurate Auto Focus.

USER Complaint #3: The AF is not accurate most of the time. This CAN be correct, if you are using the Optical View Finder. After using both the EVF and OVF I would not go back to the OVF full time as it is just not accurate with the AF of  the camera in MANY situation. If you are shooting anything up close, forget it. Your shot will be out of focus when using the OVF. I am talking 1-3 feet distances, and in many cases, the AF confirm will pop up and the camera will focus way behind the subject (when using OVF and shooting CLOSE). The OVF is nice and bright and I have used it for landscape shots and it did great, but anything at close distance, forget it! It took me a few days to figure this one out.

The SOLUTION: Use the EVF for close subjects. I use the EVF 90% of the time, and believe it or not, it uses LESS battery than the OVF. The EVF is plenty good, so I would recommend using it unless you are taking shots of something at a distance, which is where the OVF will be OK. Just remember that when using the OVF, you must frame within the frame lines, and they are not 100% accurate! BTW, my camera is NOT defective. Had TWO of them here, both USA production cameras – both gave me the same results.

Macro? What macro?

USER Complaint #4. Macro - I have seen at least one review complain that there is no macro on the X100. Well, no, you are not going to get the macro performance of a specialized Macro DSLR Lens but you can get much closer to your subject than you may think. There IS a macro mode accessible with a left click of the jog wheel.

The SOLUTION: Use the EVF, in MF mode and use  the AFL button to focus. I found that when using manual focus mode, combined with the EVF you can get pretty close to your subjects. Closer than using the OVF (forget about close ups with the OVF, remember) and you do not even need to switch on the macro mode to do so. It’s really easy to do and you can get semi close. Still, this is no real “Macro”, just a way to get closer than you normally can.

Low Light AF. Daytime AF. No good?

USER Complaint #5 – Low light Auto Focus Performance is not so hot and day time AF is slow. The low light comment is somewhat true, but in my experience, the light has to be pretty damn low for this to happen. I was sitting on my couch the other night, in the dark, with the only light source coming from my TV. I had the GF2, GH2, and the X100 on the table. I picked up each one and tried to AF on my foot. None could do it. I turned on a small 40 watt lamp and ALL could do it. I found that the low light AF, in reality, is no worse than the GF2, GH2, or Leica X1. Plus, I was not even using the AF assist light as I have my X100 in silent mode. Turn this off and you will have access to the AF assist light. As for daytime AF, its pretty speedy. DO NOT compare it to a DSLR and you will be just fine. Compare it to cameras like the Oly E-P2, Leica X1, GF1, etc. I have no complaints about daytime AF. This is not a sports camera, an action camera or a let’s chase my kids around camera. For those activities, buy a DSLR.

The SOLUITION for low light AF: Turn of Silent mode and use the AF assist light if you are shooting in near blackness. AF is plenty fast in good light.

-

Limited Shutter Speeds when wide open?

USER Complaint #6 – The X100 shutter speed is limited to 1/1000s when shooting at F2. This is 100% true! When shooting at f2, your max shutter speed is 1/1000s. What does this mean? It means if you want to shoot in full sun at f/2 to get the soft bokeh and creamy look, you can’t! (But you still can) – The Ricoh GXR had this same limitation at f/2 and it is due  to the lenses using Leaf Shutters, which is why they are so silent. Luckily, Fuji added a feature to the X100 that allows you to shoot in full sun, at 1/1000s.

The SOLUTION – Turn on the built in ND filter. Then you can shoot all day long in full bright mid day sun at f/2 is you so desire. Indoors, 1/1000s is plenty fast if you want to shoot wide open. Me, I set my Fn button that sits on top of the camera to control the ND filter on/off toggle. This way, when I am out in the blazing sun, I just switch on the ND filter and I can shoot at any aperture I want to!

Manual Focus SUCKS with the X100

USER Complaint #7 – The Fuji X100’s Manual Focus is unusable. All I can say about this is YES IT IS. I hate it, but luckily, this could be fixed via a firmware update. Will they fix it? Only time will tell but I am fine using a camera like this in AF mode. It is NOT a rangefinder camera and if I want to shoot manual, I will shoot with my M. But yes, the MF implementation is horrible with the X100 but there is a solution if you still want to shoot in this way.

The Solution: Use the AFL button when you can not seem to dial in the focus manually. When in MF mode, you can turn the lens barrel to focus but it will take about 20 turns of the ring to get you there sometimes. Painfully slow, and it is even hard to see when your subject is in focus. BUT if you must shoot this way, and if you are having problems finding focus, a quick press of the AFL button will whip it right into focus. Easy!

So there you go. The 7 main complaints that reviewers and shooters have worried about…explained. Will Fuji release a firmware update to fix the manual focus/ I have no idea but my gut tells me that they are working on one right now to fix a few things like speed, manual focus, etc. I did not mention the video and the fact that you can not change the aperture or use manual focus while recording but you can set the aperture before you press record and manual focus beforehand as well to avoid the camera hunting for focus when your subject moves. That can also be changed with a FW update. If any of the quirks above bother you, then you should probably skip the camera. If you can live with them, like the thousands of others who are already shooting this camera, then go for it! The image quality is fantastic and the Fuji colors really can’t be found anywhere else. Amazon is the only one I know who is taking pre-orders and shipping every few days. You can pre-order HERE.


Mar 142010
 

Tips for taking more creative photos, even when you think there are no photos to take!

Ahhh, Sunday Sunday…It’s another gloomy, rainy, chilly day here at the Huff house and I have to say it’s really bumming me out. The sun was shining a few days ago and it instantly made me  feel better. I woke up yesterday morning and instantly knew it was a crappy day when the house was dark and chilly. That got me to thinking a bit. Could I get any interesting photos around my house? Sure, I could take a drive and shoot in the rain but I figured I would get some silly shots around the house and show how easy it is to capture cool images no matter where you are.

I’ll also go over some tips for those new to photography that may or may not help you in your photographic journey as well as include some older images to help explain my points :)

As a matter of fact, I get quite a few e-mails from newbies to photography and while I am not a teacher, I can give some tips that may change the way you go about getting those snapshots and photos. Today I will talk a bit about how to take pictures of almost anything but make them look cool. Yep, you can take an image of an everyday subject and get pretty unique results by playing with the light, color, depth of field and angle. Again, this is for the newbies who read this blog. I know you guys are always asking for tips, so here are a seven easy ones that you can mess around with, even on a rainy day in your own house!

#1 – Try a different angle…

I remember when I started getting into photography as a kid. I would center everything in the frame and get directly in front of it. I had no idea I could improve my shot by moving to the side, getting closer, moving my subject to better light. It was all so “Point & Shoot”. One thing that can really make an improvement in a photo is shooting from a unique angle. When you approach your subject, no matter what it may be, walk around it and study it for a moment. Picture in your head what the image would look like form every angle. Side to side, up and down. This is something you can experiment with around the house just by finding something to shoot and then trying to shoot it from different angles.

I did just that this morning. I attached the old 1940’s Leica 50 Summitar to my M9 and wandered around the house. The first thing I saw was our cat sitting on the window. I set the lens to F2 and the ISO to Auto and took my 1st shot of the day, but I already knew that this was the angle I wanted.

Notice I did not go for the typical straight on angle. Instead of sitting in front of the window and snapping down on the cat I moved to the side to where her head would be sort of “peeking out” from the curtain. I knew the depth of field was somewhat shallow so I envisioned the curtain in the foreground and background a but blurred. When I saw the image on the LCD it came out exactly like I saw it in my head!

I then sat down at my mac and opened up the JPEG from my SD card. I applied a Cross Process filter in Color Efex Pro and resized to fit here. I like the way this came out (and have to say that the 50 summitar is such an incredible lens on the M9) Gentle, creamy, and classic.

Here is another angle which is OK but it is not as powerful as the first IMO. You can see how changing your angles can improve (or not improve) a photo. I left my cat alone and wandered outside to see if I could grab a shot of her from outside.

#2 – Composition…think differently

By the time I was able to get outside she was gone! I soon realized she switched windows and now I had this big bush blocking my view. PERFECT! Yes, this was a good thing as it would help me make a more interesting photo. Again, instead of getting close to the window and taking the picture of the cat, I framed in to where the cats head would be visible amongst the chaos of the bushes. See her head? She spotted me of course :)

In this shot you have a totally different view of the cat looking out of the window. It’s not perfect but it makes for an interesting composition.

#3 – Look for those moments..

It’s always good to have a camera with you, especially if you are getting into photography, learning photography, or even just a photo nut like me. You never know when a “moment” will happen. I am not talking about a “decisive moment” that may disappear within seconds but rather a moment that is just “there” and I am sure you have seen these kinds of moments, and usually when you DO NOT have a camera with you.

As I walked around the  house, inside and out I noticed my son who was eagerly awaiting for UPS to arrive with a package he was expecting. He looked worried and asked if UPS ever lost one of my packages. I told him it would arrive by 3 O’oclock and he looked over my way and I snapped. I noticed three things when I looked at this image on my Imac screen. #1 Wow, he is getting older. #2 Wow, I am getting older..and #3 I’m glad I took this shot. It was not posed like the similar one of my wife in my Leica 24 Elmarit review (see it here) but a legitimate moment of him worrying and waiting. This one was shot with the Pentax K7 and kit zoom.

The next image was not from yesterday or from around my house but it is an interesting image. While out shooting at the old burned house the other day there was this cat that wandered out from the door. It appeared she had made the burnt shell her home and she came out to greet us. I lifted the camera, which was an M9 and 35 Summilux ASPH, and shot! I squatted down for this one to get closer to the cats level and notice how I framed the shot. I wanted to focus on the cat, but also show the surroundings of where she came from. I did not want to just stand up, center the cat and shoot. I wanted to include the area in front, behind and to the side of her. As she walked up to us crying I felt bad but I already took in my share of cats last year (two of them is enough for me). This was a moment that I am glad to have captured.

and of course, for those decisive moments always having a camera with you really helps :) The image below was caught with a Nikon D2h quite a few years ago.

This one was fired off on my M9 with the gorgeous 0.95 Noctilux attached:

#4 – Depth of Field to Isolate Your Subject

As I was wandering around my house I saw this bush that had one or two red berries in it. My goal was to get the red berry in focus and sharp while the rest of the bushed would be a wild blur. This image would never work if it were shot at F8 as everything would be in focus and the berry would not stick out. No, this is not an award winning photo but it does show how you can use shallow depth of field to isolate and bring out the main subject, and that is why I took this shot. In this case it was the berry. I shot this at F2, which is wide open on the 50 Summitar and the Leica M9.

Another example. I focused on the chain at F2 to make it stand out from the background, which is rendered as a smooth blur due to the F2 aperture.

At 1.4, even with a 35mm lens the amount of background blur you can achieve is pretty amazing! The image below was shot with the 35 Summilux ASPH on a Leica M9.

#5 – Don’t be afraid of blur or noise

I sometimes set my M9 to ISO 2500 and shoot in B&W JPEG (for fun shots, not serious) just to see what kind of results I can get. High ISO can yield nice results sometimes and a perfect photo is not always the most desirable photo. Even when the image is slightly out of focus, if a moment was caught then it really doesn’t matter. Now I am not talking about pro shoots or jobs, but personal shots like the ones below…

#6 – Get in close….

You can get some dramatic shots by getting in close to your subject. I am not talking macro, but getting in close (not always easy on a Leica M). The image below of the mating butterflies was shot with a Leica D-Lux 4 which is awesome in many ways due to its versatility.

The second shot was actually taken a few years ago in my house with an Olympus E-3 and 50 macro.

#7 – Experiment with Everything!

Finally, when shooting experiment with anything and everything! You may end up with images that you really enjoy!

Do not be afraid to think outside of the box! This is not your typical bird shot…

or dog shot…

Be brave…While this guy does not look too thrilled that I am taking his picture, he smiled and waved his hand after I took it…

Sometimes finding a cool subject is as easy as looking down at someones feet :)

So there you have it! Seven quick tips to help motivate you and boost your creativity! If you are just getting into photography then the best advice is to take your camera everywhere and shoot, shoot, shoot! Also, have fun with it. I know I do :)

HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitteror facebook! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!  Thanks so much for visiting my site!

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
21