Weekly challenge: Waiting

I found out today that wordpress offers a weekly photo challenge here. This comes to me today as an idea for working on themes especially in street photography where inspiration comes sporadically.

These three photos come from my archives but I think I’ll try and give these challenges a go and try to publish at least one photo taken in the week.

Light and shadow
Fuji X100T @ 1/4000s + F/4 + ISO 200

This first photo was taken in London in the Canary Wharf area. I liked the contrast between the light of the sun and the shadows of the buildings around. I also liked the smiley bag. I took a first shot, the lady saw me so I went up to her to explain why I took the picture. She didn’t seem offended so I pushed my look and asked her if I could take another. I wasn’t sure the first one was framed properly because I took it so quickly. She accepted and you can see that she is smiling and relaxed.

Sitting around
X100T @ 1/640s + f/2.5 + ISO 200

This was taken in front of our local library. The dark box on the left hand side of the photo is a post box to return your books when the library is closed (which is most of the time in my opinion). I had the camera linked to my phone through the fuji app so this is a sneaky photo taken ninja style. The guy was looking peaceful and I thought the geometric lines would make a nice photo. When using the app, you have to stop to take the photo because there is quite a lag between pressing on the shutter in the app and the picture being taken. It is no good for moving subjects, they are out of the frame before the camera reacts… unless you can anticipate, which I’m trying to learn how to do.

Rest in the shade
Fuji XT-2 + XF90mmF2 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + ISO 200

 

This third and last one is from Lumpini park in Bangkok (the one with the Komodo dragons). It was very hot that day and this lady was sitting in the shade. I love the shape on the table and benches with the lady making an asymmetrical composition.

The “waiting” theme is a great one for anybody starting out in street photography. Walk around any town, city or village and you will see plenty of people just hanging around. I often wonder what kind of life people I see in the streets live and that is what is great about street photography. When you go home and look and the photos you took, you can take the time to choose the best ones and erase the poor ones but when that is done, take the time to think about the people in the shots.

 

 

Powerlifting

In April this year, I was introduced to the sport of powerlifting. My friend Tim (hi Tim!) asked me if I wanted to see some of the powerlifting competition in the local gym. I thought it would be a bit of fun and an opportunity for some photos so we all went, his family and mine. There was no entrance feee and once in the gym it looked like any local competition : rows of chairs with the families and friends of the competition, a snack bar and in front an area where a guy was lifting an impossibly heavy weight! The place smelled of testosterone and sweat…. like most sporting events.

If I count correctly, there a three 25kg weights and one 10kg on each end of the bar, that is 170kg plus the weight of the bar. I couldn’t lift the thing a centimetre…  The part of the competition we saw was the squat. The lifter starts more or less standing up, lifts the bar of the rack, must then squat and stand up again. There are two other movements in a powerlifting competition that I did not witness : the bench and the deadlift. There is a team of three helpers to ensure the safety of the lifter throughout the whole process. At the end of the lift, the judges show a white or a red light to validate or invalidate the lift.

There is a difference between powerlifting and weightlifting as I have recently discovered. The most obvious one is that weightlifting includes the snatch and the clean and jerk, two different ways of lifting. Powerlifting is also done at slow velocity. I looked at some world records (regardless of weight category) and I found a lift of 500kg for the squat. For the clean and jerk in olympic weightlifting, the record seems to be around 250kg. Powerlifting is certainly a different sport!

The sheer physical effort is impressive and shows in the expressions on the faces of the lifters.

As often there is a fashion code amongst the people in and around the sport. Here, the rule seems to be long beards and tattoos.

We may only have spent less than an hour in watching the lifts but I really enjoyed it. There is an atmosphere to the proceedings that is unfamiliar to me and that I tried to capture with these few photos. For the photo geeks, I used my fuji x-pro2 with the 23mm/f1.4 and 56mm/f1.2 lenses. All photos processed in Lightroom using Acros G film simulation and split toning.

I can give a few links to the web pages I read to prepare this post :

I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on this sport and I’m sorry if there are any errors in my comprehension of what I observed. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment in the section below!

 

Fuji vs Leica : a street photographers dream.

This is a short article to address the question of what camera to choose for street photography without taking cost into consideration. I own and have used fuji cameras for street photography (I currently have the x-pro 2) and I recently tried a couple of leica rangefinders : the M240 and the new M10.

Many would say the comparison is unfair or that these two cameras and completely different beasts in philosophy and in use. I now disagree with this since the salesman at the leica store in Paris gave me the same arguments to buy the leica as those I gave to myself to get the x-pro2. I’ll be going through these arguments.

Argument number 1: The Leica M10 is compact.

Yes, it is a feat of engineering to get some much into such a little package. Here is a view from the site camerasize.com . I have on the left the fujifilm x-pro2 with the 23mm f/2 lens attached. I bought this lens because of its comact size compared to the 23mm f/1.4. The package weighs 675g. On the right is the leica M10 with the summilux 35mm f/1.4 On this view it looks about the same size but in reality the leica looks smaller. It weighs more though at 980g. Compact but heavy! The is quite a lot of brass in the leica body whereas the fuji has an magnesium shell. The construction of the fuji is very good but the leica is like a brick.

compare_xpro2_m10

If you sacrifice the f/1.4 aperture to go for the summicron 35mm f/2, the size difference is greater still.

compare2_xpro2-m10

In conclusion for this part, for the same focal length and same maximum aperture, the leica is more compact. The explanation is twofold. First of all the leica lenses are manual focus so there are no motors or focusing mecanisms in leica lenses. This makes them thinner. Secondly, the sensor in the leica is deeply recessed into the body whereas it is closer to the lens in the fuji. This makes the lens designs shorter for the leicas. I’ll get into comparing the sensors later. Bear with me!

Argument number 2: You can change/check the settings without switching on the camera.

Here is the second reason I like fuji cameras. The lenses have aperture rings, there is a shutter speed dial and an iso dial. (This is new on the leica m10 compared to the previous digital models.) The fuji has a small advantage here with the exposure compensation dial being on top a verifiable. The leica has a wheel for the exposure compensation on the top right hand side of the back of the body, easily accessible with the thumb.

Argument number 3: The image quality is sensationnal.

Well I tested both cameras and I have to agree. The fuji images a great, I love the colours and the x-trans sensor gives very acceptable photos up to 12800 iso. The pictures that come out of the leica are better. Many would argue that the lenses are very special that there is some leica magic. I do not dispute this although I find it difficult to test. The fact of the matter is that leica puts a larger sensor in a smaller camera and with a lens that has a larger aperture, the difference can become huge. Just think of it : f/2 on the crop sensor x-pro2 gives more or less the same depth of field as f/3 on a full frame (that is just over 1 stop). With a summilux f/1.4 lens, that is another stop. Where it is difficult to get a good background blur on the fuji 23mm for a subject at 5-10 metres away, the leica can manage. Lets look!

Fujiflm x-pro 2 with 23mm f/2 at f/2 at 1/950s at ISO 200.

fuji-x-pro2-2017-02-24-13h06min46s

Leica M10 with summilux 35mm f/1.4 at f/1.4 and 1/500s. ISO 100

leica-m10-2017-01-21-18h37min21s-2

Notice the better subject separation in the second photo, what they call the 3D pop?

Question number 1 : What about focusing?

I have used a manual rangefinder camera twice in my life for a total of 30 minutes. I find it great fun but difficult to nail exact focus. The two previous photos were taken out of a shop window with people walking across the frame.

With the fuji, I frame first, place a focus square where I want the passer-by to be and then wait and shoot. The advantage is that the fuji x-pro2 focusing very fast and accurately. The difficulty is choosing the focus point correctly. Although the little joystick is fast and easy to use to move the focus point, in the heat of the action it is not fast enough. Here is a 100% crop:

fuji-crop100

With the leica, I focused on a spot of the pavement at a distance I estimated a person would walk through. Then I composed the photo and waited. The difficulty is choosing the right distance to focus. The advantage is that you can take to person wherever you like in the frame, the focus is already correct. Here is a 100% crop.

leica-crop100

The focus is not bad but not spot on. The photo was taken at 1/500s, plenty fast enough to freeze rhe action.

The question is : does precise focus matter? The more I take photos, the more I feel that focus and noise are not important. The main factors that make a photo are the composition and the subject. Depth of field comes into the composition, colours do too. How many photos from the masters of photography like Henri Cartier Bresson do not have the exacting focus digital cameras give us now? What do we get out of pixel peeping? I think that good focus is important, exact focus is not. But I’m not a professional photographer and I don’t do fashion.

Question number 2 : What else ?

The leica doesn’t do video, I don’t either. The lens frames in the viewfinder go from 28mm to 135mm. I like the 24mm lens for landscapes and I use the 50-140 f/2.8 zoom occasionally (for concerts and portraits for example).  The x-pro2 has extensive menus enabling Multi / Spot / Average / Center Weighted exposure control. It has an hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, it has manual shutter up to 1/8000s and electronic shutter up to 1/32 000s which is great in bright light. It has dual SD slots, a very wide selection of focal lengths for the lenses you can mount with zoom lenses that leica does not provide. It is a complete package that works extremely well and provides the controls for a very varied number of situations. In street photography, I use a simple setup and few of these bells&whistles but I like keeping my options open.

The leica, although not a one-trick pony (you can mount a wide angle lens and use liveview), is an exercise in restrictions. But restrictions can be liberating can’t they? Is less more?

I tried out a summicron 50mm f/2 recently too and I’ll post a comparison with the fuji 35mm f/1.4. The results should be about the same shouldn’t they?

 

 

Photoessay : The art of Tango

I had the opportunity to see a demonstration of Argentinian tango recently. The event took place in a dimly lit concert hall. There was a band on the stage and the chairs had been removed to make room for a space to dance. The musicians were lit with spotlights but the poor dancers had to make do with overhead neon lighting.

Tango 2
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/125s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

I took some photos of the band (click here), then some photos of the dancers. I sat cross-legged on the floor and did my best to capture the essence of the dance. This kind of tango is not acrobatic and not a show, it is about the relation and emotion between the dancers.

Tango

I used my fuji x-t1 and the 50-140 f/2.8 zoom lens. Focusing was always going to be difficult in this light with the dancers moving at quite a speed around the room. There were some instances where the couple was moving slowly and this is when I tried to grab some shots. I took the photos in bursts and cut down my collection of over 200 pictures to a select few.

fuji-x-t1-2016-02-27-23h25min15s-edit

I edited in black and white in Lightroom because I love black and white photos and I think in this case it helps bring out the essence of the dancers.

Tango 3
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

The camera reacted very well, focus was fast and precise. Very few photos were out of focus or blurry. I culled my collection to keep the few I preferred. The 50-140 lens is excellent with lovely rendering and a very good sharpness.

fuji-x-t1-2016-02-27-23h20min07s-3
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/125s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

As you can see, the photos are all taken at 6400 iso, the maximum the fuji x-t1 can take in raw. The x-t2 and x-pro2 can go up to 12800 iso with a usable quality. There was no way to slow the shutter speed below 1/125s because of the movement of the dancers. Sensor stabilisation is useless in this kind of photoshoot too, so the high iso capability of the camera is a great thing to have.

fuji-x-t1-2016-02-27-23h31min16s
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

This XF50-140 f/2.8 is a keeper, it is versatile, fast, precise and built like a tank.

Tango
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400
fuji-x-t1-2016-02-27-23h31min25s-edit
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In search of Fuji colours.

If you have taken any notice of the hype around fuji cameras recently, you will have heard about photographers raving about “fuji colours”. Most of my work is in black & white, I rarely keep a photograph in colour. My viewfinder is in black and white as I use a film simulation in the camera while shooting in raw. I have been using the acros green simulation recently with my x-pro 2 and I find it great to see the exposure and the light in the frame. I have browsed many a time through wonderful landscape pictures on 500px wondering what kind of photoshop magic the photographer is doing to get such lovely colours… my own landscapes always looked a bit on the drab side, maybe it happens to you too.

All this until this summer when I experienced a truly magnificent sunset. I was camping with my family and one evening I saw a bit of light in the sky. I took my tripod, my camera and a couple of lenses and headed out to a bridge across the river Dordogne, about half a mile from the campsite. When I arrived, the sky was on fire! I have rarely witnessed such a beautiful sky. I set the tripod down and took a few shots, bracketing to make sure I got the right exposure. When I got home the files (that are often a bit disappointing) were full of beautiful oranges and pinks.

Fuji X-T1 + 23mm f/1.4 @ 1/4s + f/8 + iso 200
Fuji X-T1 + 23mm f/1.4 @ 1/4s + f/8 + iso 200

As far as processing goes, I use lightroom to check the highlights and blacks, then pop into Color Efex Pro 4 where I use colour contrast and dynamic contrast. I then dodge and burn a little and voilà. Less than 5 minutes on each photo.

Fuji X-T1 + 10-24 f/4  @ 1/35s + f/8 + iso 200
Fuji X-T1 + 10-24 f/4 @ 1/35s + f/8 + iso 200

The beautiful sunset light didn’t last long, you can see the contrasts changing in the shots. This second shot was taken 5 minutes after the first. I had time for one last photo.

Fuji X-T1 + 10-24 f/4 @ 1/8s + f/8 + iso 200
Fuji X-T1 + 10-24 f/4 @ 1/8s + f/8 + iso 200

I blended 2 exposures in Lightroom, effectively making an HDR photo here because the bridge was getting too dark but the sky was still quite bright.

The conclusion of this article is simple : landscape photography is really hard! It is all about location, timing and luck. I really like the output the camera gives me and I can also now say that fuji colours are great, but I was lucky enought to be in the right place at the right time on the right day. I admire photographers who can turn out photo after photo of lovely landscapes, they are working hard!

 

Photo critique : Cityscapes of London

The cover photo of this photoessay may be misleading : it is the only colour photo, and it is the only one I like as it is. The aim of this post is to show some of the potential of the Fuji X100T in architectural photography and cityscapes also prepare for my next trip by showing some of my photos and discussing their positive aspects and shortcomings. I hope to make better photos next time and I need to get my ideas sorted.

The trip I took to London was a school trip last March (Yes, I am a teacher). In my bag, I took the Fuji X100T with the two convertion lenses : the TCL-X100 turning the fixed focal equivalent 35mm lens into a 50mm and the WLC-X100, changing the equivalent 35mm lens into a 28mm. The actual focal lengths are 19mm,23mm and 33mm. I also had a little tripod : the manfrotto MTPIXI-B, a table-top tripod with an itegrated ballhead weighing only 190g. Being in a large school group with over 100 students, I had no say on the itinerary and all the shooting I did had to be quick. Well, most of it anyway…

The only photo I had time to take was while a collegue was giving a lecture and we were on the embankment opposite the Westminster. I rested the tripod on the stone wall and added a Lee Seven5 filter holder and a big Stopper (10 stops). This enabled me to get a 10 second exposure. I had time for 3 takes and this is the best one.

London
Fuji X100T & Lee Seven5 Big Stopper @ f/8 + 10s + iso 200

I don’t know if you can see but the image is very slightly blurry. There was a small breeze during the shot and I think that the square filter in front of the lens caught the wind. The little tripod is not stable enough also because it is very light and the camera is also light. One up to great big DSLRs and huge tripods! I need to do this shot again, I like the framing with the bridge, there is a small crop to get a panorama. Ideally, I’d also like a longer exposure time to blur the clouds a little more (but not too much to take the texture away). I’m thinking of carrying a bean bag to use instead of a tripod but the filter system might get in the way…

fuji-x100t-2016-03-30-16h40min22s-hdr
Fuji X100T + WCL-X100 @ f/8 + 1/3000s + ISO 200

This photo is taken using the wide conversion lens. The picture quality is not visibly degraded when you add this extension to the existing lens, at least I can’t see any. Without the wide angle conversion lens on, I would have never got the dolphin statue and Tower Bridge in the frame. The sky was clear and the sun was straight in front of me so it was not an ideal time to take the picture (it was taken at 4.40pm). I think it would be better to get the sun lower in the frame and get a nice silhouette or go in the morning and have the sun light up the bridge.
When I return, I’ll also try moving to the left and placing the statue of the girl and dolphin between the towers of the bridge. With a shallow depth of field or some nice light on the statue, I may be able de detatch the foreground from the background and get a nice shot.

Canary wharf III
Fuji X100T + TCL-X100 @ 1/22000s + f/2 + iso 200

I took this shot with the TCL-X100 which gives me an effective focal length of 50mm. I found the 35mm focal length too wide for the framing I wanted. I like the clouds and the reflections it gives on the building but I don’t know why I left the lens open at f/2. Surely a photo at f/8 would have given a sharper result with more in focus… although it looks pretty sharp to me!

Canary wharf II
Fuji X100T @1/3000s + f/8 + ISO 200

Here is a similar one at f/8 with the stardand 35mm lens of the X100T. It is underexposed by at least 3 stops to capture the shadows and tones on the building. The sky is quite dark but I find that the overall result is pleasing.

fuji-x100t-2016-03-30-13h23min00s
Fuji X100T @ 1/1500s + f/4 + iso 200

I can’t quite decide whether this is a good photo or not. I stayed a while at this spot in Canary Wharf taking photos when there were people in the glass passageway, trying to get them “just right”. I straightened up the verticals in post production. As it way a bright sunny day, I underexposed a little again to capture the details in the highlights.

fuji-x100t-2016-03-30-17h47min06s
Fuji X100T with WCL-X100 @ 1/25s + f/8 + ISO 200

This is the reflection of the Lloyds building in a curved skyscraper in the area near the Tower of London. I found it difficult to get a good composition but I think this one works.

Lloyds of London.
Fuji X100T + WCL-X100 @ 1/110s + f/8 + ISO 200

This is a more dramatic shot of the Lloyds building using the wide angle conversion lens. This little lightweight lens is a brilliand addition to the X100T and without it I wouldn’t have got the last two shots. The streets in this area are quite narrow and it isn’t possible to change your point of view very easily. It is deliberately underexposed again to keep detail in the highlights. There are some other buildings in the corners that could be removed in photoshop but I quite like their presence here. They help close the corners and help to focus on the main subject.

Any comments and questions on these photos are welcome as this post is an auto-critique. I’ll post some more photos in the spring after my next visit and we’ll see if they are any better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip : Masking in Silver Efex Pro 2

I have been using the Nik Sofware plugins for a number of years, I paid for them long before the company was bought by Google and long before they became free. If you still don’t know about this great set of plugins for lightroom and photoshop, go and download them here : https://www.google.com/nikcollection/

The two plugins I use the most are Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2. The unique “u-point” system is fabulous for applying changes to a selected part of your photo. By adding a Control Point anywhere in the picture, a mask is automatically made based on colour and brightness of the point you clicked on. The edge detection is good but very often in Colour Efex Pro 4, I find myself adding negative control points around my subject to better define the mask. However, in Silver Efex Pro 2 there are no + and – control points.

In Color Efex Pro 4:  cep_control

In Silver Efex Pro 2 : sep2_control

I discovered a workaround recently that I would like to share with you. I’ll use it in a real world example : transforming the damselfly above in a high-key black and white photo.

Silver Efex Pro has two high key. I chose the High Key 2 preset and pushed the brightness and dynamic brightness a little.

damsel_middle

The background is nice but the damselfly is too bright. I need to select the insect without selecting any background or stalk. By placing a couple of control points on the insect I get this:

damsel_sep2_1

To see the mask, scroll down the tools on the right hand side until you see the list of control points, then click on the “Show/hide selection for all Control Points”

view_mask

Move around the Control Points until everything you need to select is white. Don’t bother if the rest of the picture lights up, we’ll sort that out after. When done, group all the Control Points into a single Point by clicking on the “Group button”

group_contol_points

Once that is done, with the mask showing, the magic starts ! Every new point you add will substract from the mask. So add a load of points all around your subject until it is well defined, don’t hesitate to add as many as necessary. We won’t do anything with these points, they are just there to help define the mask.  You should end up with something like this:

damsel_sep2_2

To finish my picture, I clicked again on “Show/hide selection for all Control Points” then I selected the grouped Control Point and reduced the brightness, ajusted the Structure,  Amplify Whites and Amplify Blacks sliders et voilà !!

fuji-x-t1-2016-07-18-07h51min25s-edit-edit

Leave your comments and questions below!

Upgrade from X100T to X-Pro 2 : is it for the image quality ?

For those who are not fuji fans, the x-trans II and III are the sensors in the fuji interchangeable lens series.They are both aps-c size sensors mesuring 23.6 x 15.6 mm (compared to what is called full frame that measure 36×24 cm).  The first 16 megapixel x-trans sensor came out in 2012 on the x-pro 1 camera and was also used in the x-e1 and x-m1. In january 2013, the x100s, successor of the orginial x100, was introduced, sporting the new x-Trans II sensor. In October 2013, the x-e2 was introduced using the same sensor, then the x-t1 (2014), x100T (2014)  and x-t10 (2015)..

As of January 2016, the X-Trans III (24 megapixel) is the new shiny sensor in the Fuji world. This sensor is also used in the new X-T2 (September 2016).

I have recently upgraded from the X100T (the one with the hybrid viewfinder) to a X-Pro 2 (and the new hybrid viewfinder). The main reason I upgraded is the newly announced 23mm f/2 lens. It is calling to me already! I can now have a x100T-like camera with weather sealing and the abilty to carry an extra lens if I feel the need. And sometimes I feel like using the 35mm feld of view for my street photography, sometimes the 50mm.

The body of the x-pro 2 is heavier however.  (440g for the x100T lens and all vs 495g body only). We are talking full magnesium alloy for the x-pro 2 body and and mixture of aluminium and magnesium alloy. Don’t get me wrong, the x100T is solid, but the x-pro2 feels good!

So now on to image quality : from 16mp to 24mp. With all the hype around the x-pro2 and x-t2, I’m entitled to thinking I’m going to get a whole new level of picture quality, so I took a few pictures with my x-pro 2 and with my x-t1 (because I sold the x100T but they use the same sensor). The lens I used was my beautiful 35mm f/1.4 and the 23mm f/1.4.

1) Details

sensor_size_1

I took a photo of the same closed down pub in our town, one with the x-pro 2 and one with the x-t1. I then did a 100% zoom on each picture.

sensor_size2

The difference in detail is obvious. The photo on the x-pro 2 is 6000 x 4000 pixels. On the x-t1 it is 4896 x 3264. This is very good news for printing very large formats and for those who like to crop their images while editing. You can take off 1/3 of the picture and get the 16mp of the x-trans II sensor. I like macro photography too, and in that field framing is not always very easy to get right.

2) Dynamic range.

I overexposed by 3 stops the following photo.

highlights

In Lightroom, I then reduced the exposure by 2 stops and used the Hightlights slider at 0 to recover what I could. Here are the results:

highlights_2

Yep! Not much differnce there! The skies are white and the cobble stones too. What is gone is gone forever… so don’t overexpose your highlights. I’ve found that I can recover about 1 stop and thats it.

I also did a shadow recovery test but the x-t1 photos came out with a lot of flare…So here is a before and after shot on the x-pro 2 shooting into the sun.

fuji-x-pro2-2016-09-07-16h04min21s-edit

I added 1.7 stops of exposure, set the shadows to 100 and the highlights to 0. No hdr needed here! The x-trans sensors have excellent dynamic range, the shadow recovery is extraordinary.

The next photo is taken in the doorway of a local museum.

shadows_1

With the same settings, the x-pro 2 shows more detail in the shadows which gives a natural look to the photo while retaining detail. When I pushed the shadows up and highlights down, here is what I got.

shadows_2

The same picture on both cameras!  I can’t see much difference here. I’d say the dynamic range is the same in real world use.

3) Noise

I went into our Cathedral and shot a statue at ISO 6400.

fuji-x-t1-2016-09-07-15h28min24s

This is a slightly cropped version with the x-t1 (16 mp x-trans II) sensor. I find it very usable indeed. Notice the blow out highlights wooden base (on the right). At ISO 200, I think I could have pulled those back but here at ISO 6400 they are gone.

Here are a couple of crops at 100%. I had to downsample the 24mp x-pto2 photo to show the same amount of detail.

noise_6400

I can’t see much difference… and when I try the x-pro 2 at ISO 12800 (the x-trans II sensor can go up to 6400 max in raw)

noise_12800

The noise is noticeable worse here but the detail is still there mostly and with a bit of processing I think I could get a decent quality picture out of this.

Conclusion

A quick look at the different aspects reveal little difference between both sensors in dynamic range and in noise levels. The huge difference is the pixel count. There is a 50% increase between the 16mp x-trans II sensor and the 24mp x-trans III sensor. It is no small feat to keep the same image quality while reducing pixel pitch. I imagine the new X Processor Pro is working hard in the background !

My conclusion is simple : if the only reason to upgrade to a camera with the new sensor is the image quality then cost seems unreasonable. I have got large prints (70cm x 50cm) with the x-t1 (and also with a micro four thirds olympus e-m5) and cannot see any failure in the image quality.
The major upgrade from the x100T to the x-pro 2 (apart from being able to change the lens) is the autofocus, the new hybrid viewfinder, the dual sd slots, the new layout of buttons (I can do everything with one hand), the new menus, the mult-meter exposure setting, the joystick to choose autofocus points, the number of configurable buttons, the new acros film simulation, the new mechanical shutter that goes to 1/8000s … the list goes on and on. The x-pro 2 is part of a new generation of cameras.

 

How this photo was made : The Z

I was honoured an surprised when I learned that this photo has earned me the title of “photographer of the month” on the photofocus mirrorless show podcast (link here) Actually, I have already been photographer of the day on the website twice but I always have learned this indirectly as no-one from photofocus sent me a warning and I don’t look at their website every day! (link here).

I have decided to show you how I made this picture which is not that original really considering I saw a similar one on 500px a  long while back and it has stuck in my head.  I only knew it had been made in the area of La Défense in Paris. So, when I was  preparing for a couple of days in Paris last June, I decided I would like to re-create the shot. In my bag I packed my fuji x-t1 with the 10-24mm f/4 wide-angle zoom, the lee seven5 filter holder with a 72mm adapter ring and the three neutral density filters I own : a 3 stop , the small stopper 6 stops) and the big stopper (10 stops).

I arrived early afternoon in La Défense, which is spread out (160 hectares) and boasts about 70 stkyscapers set out in 4 main quarters with the famous arch at one end. Needless to say, I had no idea where the building I was looking for was located so I spent most of the afternoon walking around with my head to the sky! At last I found the place, there is a small road between the buildings and there is only one place to set things up : in the middle of the road. Luckily, there are very few cars around, just taxis and delivery vans I think and not that many around after 6pm.

I usually travel light, without a full sized tripod and as I wanted to point the camera straight up at the sky, I brought the second best thing : some rice in a freezee bag.

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This bag goes into a black felt fuji lens bag to make a soft rest for the screen and back of the camera. The bag goes on the floor and the camera on top, filters attached.

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In this case a tilting screen is useless and framing randomly is out of the question, especially for a long exposure as the one I wanted to make. Then the remote camera app comes into play and with a live view (through the nd filters), framing becomes easy!

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Once the camera is in place, all that is needed is to ger the exposure setting right on the camera… and to do that I need to look through the viewfinder! Ok, pick up the camera, take off the filters, set the aperture to f/8 and iso to 200. Read the shutter speed and work out (with an app) the slow shutter speed with a big stopper (Here the shutter speed is 30 seconds). Then put the filter back on, put the camera down and re-position the camera. Insert a remote trigger in the side of the camera (I have a cheap one from e-bay) and take the shot. The camera has a timer on the screen in bulb mode but here I can’t see the screen so a timer on the phone is useful.

Here is the raw file with basic ajustments done in Lightroom.

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As you can see, there is no cropping from the raw to the final jpg, the iphone camera app does a very good job. To get the final black and white I go through photoshop.
I go through Nik Software (Google) Silver Efex Pro 2 twice : once for the sky and once for the buildings. The mask to blend both parts of the picture is easy to make with the polygon tool because the lines are so straight.

the Z (1)

The rest is down to dodging and burning. I have two methods here : the first uses a 50% gray layer with a soft light blending mode. I then use a soft brush at 3% flow in black or white to darken of lighten parts of the picture. For the part of the buildings that reflect the passageway I sent the whole picture through the Nik (Google) software Color Efex Pro 4. I mainly use Detail and Pro Contrast to get the result I want, then back in photoshop, I use a mask to apply the effect to the parts of the picture I want.

And voilà !

Please follow me on Flickr or 500px  !

 

Concert photography with the Fuji 50-140 f/2.8

There was a big tango event in our town last February with dancing classes and a saturday night ball with a live band. I took my fuji x-t1 along with the 50-140 f/2.8 to try and capture the musicians.

The settings were easy to find. Auto ISO up to ISO 6400 and the lens wide open. The minimum shutter speed was set at 1/125s and focusing on single spot. No focus tracking needed, the musicians were pretty stable.

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The focusing on the x-t1 is plenty fast enough for these low light conditions and very accurate too. In this kind of environment, it is important however to keep an eye on the exposure and the lighting can change very fast. This is where the exposure compensation dial gets a good deal of use!

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Post-processing is done in lightroom with minimal noise reduction. Colours are enhanced with color efex pro 4, passing through photoshop for some additional dodging and burning.

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I found the camera set-up reliable so I tried to concentrate on capturing the expressions of the musicians. Obviously, there is a difficulty in photographing musicians with a silent medium so it is imporant to try to convey the different characters of the musicians using the available light and by being patient.

 

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Luckily I could get as close as I liked to the stage. The guitarist was quite a way back, very still and impassive but the bandoneon player is a real showman! There was also a pianist but the only angle I had was side-on.

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I only wish I had brought a wide-angle lens with me! Getting close and shooting upwards can give new perspectives and compositions. I did have the 35mm f/1.4 in the bottom of my bag though. I should have brought my x100t too!

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