Dec 7, 2016

Setting Up for Black and White

I've pretty much made up my mind that this coming year I will spend a lot more time with b&w and try and work different topics then landscapes.   Doesn't mean I'm going to stop doing them just that I'm going to spend more time outside my comfort zone to try and increase my skills.

In the old film days I really couldn't afford to play with different films to get the different results although I did mess around a bit in the dark room.  But I was limited to a 400 ISO film that school supplied and out I went shooting.

Now I get to setup a digital camera and become familiar with all the different modes of black and white and then combine it with silver efex pro.   Holy crap, who knew there was so many different ways of doing 2 colours haha.

I'm not a fan of washed out grays but I do like good medium images with a great range of grays and I like solid blacks and solid whites.   Way outside of my world of colour.   The past couple of nights I've been reading up on Fuji settings for black and white and reading what some of my favourite modern photographers have to say.   I have set both my fuji x100s and x-t1 to the same settings as they have a very similar/identical sensor.   +2 highlights, +2 shadows, +1 sharpness with wide open aperture where I can and keep the speeds around 1/60 or 1/125, black and white with green filter and ISO under 6400.   Here are some early results playing around the house.   Conditions were very dark, I really need to start using some lamps;



So this was the first night - my buddy Jackson.   My first thoughts were not enough white put in, next time I'll add some highlights in LR.  Yes his eyes look funny, he has none - lol.   He's completely blind.   


This is my other dog Wookie.  She's pretty tiny and very shy of the camera.   Getting near her can be difficult and she has permanent staining around her eyes that does not work well with black and white.


The staining on this one is really unappealing in my eyes.


This was my favourite of the bunch.   I used a lamp off to the side and the ISO was lower giving a very sharp and crisp image.


This one wasn't bad either although I masked her and made it dark around her.   The biggest problem I have found with pets is getting the detail of the fine fur in contrast to the noise from low light conditions.   If you put any noise reduction on it kills the fur details completely, so either you live with the noise or you get soft images.

The guys who I am following are saying up to 6400 ISO, I has mine at max of 3200 and I was not pleased with those results.   I think on static items or outdoors the 6400 will be fine but when it comes to detail such as hair and fur that number will probably need to come down to about 1600 to be acceptable for me.

I gotta say, I like the result, although a bit more light will be wanted in the future.   Still need to start finding the best settings for a range of grays but these work nicely for pure black and pure white.


Dec 4, 2016

Remember to look twice

It's so easy to just go through your pictures, pick out the best, post them and promptly never go back.  It's always a great idea to go back through your photos several times on different days with a different eye.   My talk of black and white had me going back with mono in mind, pulled a couple of more gems from my recent trip to the UK.

I had never used my X100S in low light before this trip and the first few days I was struggling a bit with what ISO to use so the grain, which I like if done properly, is not consistent enough across the images, it blooms too much in certain areas but I still like the photos :-)


The Green Dragon is an amazing 17th century pub located near Cheltenham.  If your in the area you will not find a better meal or nuance then this fabulous place.   http://www.green-dragon-inn.co.uk/gallery.php


I have been to this location 3 times over the years but I have yet to stay there in the daylight.   One of my future trips I will get there during the day and I might even stay there.


Definitely not a lie.   When you walk in your immediately struck by the welcome atmosphere and the smell of wood smoke from the open fireplaces and the coziness of the low ceilings.



The train station at Cheltenham Spa.


A street scene one evening in Cheltenham


Dec 3, 2016

Time for Changes?

I can tell it must be getting close to winter,  suddenly I find myself with time on my hands and it seems I get myself into trouble when that happens :-) cause I start thinking too much.

My first thought is what to do about my camera equipment.   I love my Fuji's but I'm questioning if I need to keep my X-T1 and it's lenses.   Recently I went to the UK and only took my X100S and did great with it - and I did the same a few years back in Bermuda.   I walked for hours with it in the little Peak Design Field Pouch Bag with the slide sling and never felt it on my shoulder.  Pulled out the X100S when a picture grabbed my attention.  If I wanted to zoom, I walked closer and when I wanted wider I would walk backwards or use Pano mode.   When I use a fixed lens I find myself working on composition and bending and stretching to get that interesting angle instead of zooming in and out.   Thanks to the EVF I never need to "check the screen" to see if I got the shot.  I put the camera up, take the picture and keep walking.  


The other advantage, it is rare that people flinch out of a photo when I put the X100S up to take a picture.  They see a point and shoot and never bat an eyelash where if your carrying anything that looks like an SLR or a zoom, panic!


That said, I love the feel of the X-T1 in my hands when compared to the X100s.   I prefer the SLR feel to the rangefinder.  My switching to Fuji was because of hauling my big Nikon gear around Bermuda and being covered in sweat .  The Fuji gear is so much lighter and smaller.   But now I find myself thinking that maybe I should go even smaller and just focus on the X100 series.

Some of this stems from my researching the Fuji 50-400mm lens.   Next June I'm going back to Bermuda to see the America's Cup.  (a sailboat race for those who don't know) and during this past trip to Bermuda I had the opportunity to take a few pictures of the boats and quickly realized that I would need a bigger lens to really capture these boats when they are racing.  


That 400mm here in Canada is around $2300 + tax.   Holy shit that is a lot of money.   I got thinking about it and is it worth spending that kind of money for a single 2 week trip?  My mind tries to justify it "well you want to move into street work, just image the candid shots you can get from far away with a 400mm lens."   No no no, that is the wrong thinking for street work.   Small and close should be used for street, don't be a stalker be bold and get close.  I know by Fuji standards that 400mm is much smaller then a Nikon/Canon 400mm but do I really want a big heavy lens?   And the same goes for the 50-140mm, oh my I would love to have that lens.  Again, around 2k as a final price - ouch.   If I were to focus on the X100 with no zooms, my trip to America's Cup will have no racing photos, instead I would focus on the docked boats and the people - is that really a bad thing when everyone else will be focused on the boats and racing?  Stepping out of the normal...hmmm....is that really a bad thing.  This should probably be my new thinking.

Fuji rumours has the new X100F being announced in Jan 2017.  I'm sure the price range will be getting close to that 2k level but that is a full camera with an outstanding fixed lens vice the same money for a single lens that will only be used for the odd thing.   I suspect that the upgrade from my older S model will be worth the upgrade.  The X100T wasn't quite enough to upgrade but this will be 2 generations of upgrades.   Get an X100F and use the X100S as a backup?

Second thought, time to focus completely primarily on Black and White?  I have always had a love of black and white but have only dabbled in it since digital.   I have always gravitate to the big landscapes with big vivid colours.  Fuji colours just make this so easy to move towards.  My comfort zone that I am known for.


But what do I find myself looking at online?   Yup, black and white.  Street work, real life, gritty stuff.  Rarely do you see a good landscape guy who does black and white (they exist and they do great work but it's rare when compared to colour).  And no, I'm not a fan of Ansel Adams.   I love the work done by guys like  Donald McCullin and other artists who don't worry about what gear they are carrying.  Many carry small fixed lens rangefinders.  The images are raw and capture the feeling.  They don't worry about pixels, noise or sharpness.

Which leads to the third thought, how do I stop gravitating to landscape work?   I go to Bermuda at least once a year, I dare any one to try and ignore the amazing scenery and colour down there.  How do I stop doing that?   But looking at this years picture, any that were landscapes I can go back and find the exact same shot at least 3 times in my library.   I'm just repeating myself over and over.  Yes the newer versions are usually visually nicer (in colour, contrast, pixels, etc) due to technology and my own increased editing ability.  But nothing new or original.  I took this shot in Bath, on the fly and it's one of my favorites of the trip.  I want more of this in my library.


This was a nice little catch in London.


From a few years ago in Bermuda.



To recap;

Thought 1.  Should I sell my X-T1 and lenses (or keep them status quo and on the shelf) and become a fulltime X100 man?

Thought 2.  Time to really focus on black and white?  Switch the camera to black and white but save the raw's for those few pictures that look better in colour (and yes, those will exist).

Thought 3.  Get out of the landscape comfort zone and get onto the streets of Ottawa and do street work which I love to look at so much.

Right now my thoughts for 2017 is to switch my X100S to black+white and raw.  Either sell the X-T1 or put it in a drawer for when it's really needed.  Bundle up for winter and get out on the streets of Ottawa and start shooting.  After 10 years of colour digital landscapes it's time to go back to my passions of black and white and learn to shoot what I love to see and stop going deep into my comfort zone of landscapes.   Wish me luck :-)


Nov 30, 2016

London

Ok, I've reached the end of my journey. The last day was hanging out in London. Started the morning with a walk down to Westminster and clipper up to Greenwich followed by a run to Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. I ended up being out for 14 hours and walked over 22km's. Wore my shoes right out!  My Fuji X100S took around 900 shots this trip and have nothing but praise for the work this little camera does.

Crossing the Thames early in the morning.



Although it was one of the first days of the trip that had sunshine I couldn't help but capture this backlight in mono.


Anyone need a lock?


The "eye"

Looking for different angles.


London Bridge from the clipper

Finally arrived in Greenwich, this is the painted chapel on the grounds of the old Naval Academy.

Painted chapel on the left and the painted hall on the right.  Unfortunately the hall was closed and I couldn't get inside.

Looking across the Thames, you can see the O2 in the center.


Inside the painted chapel.  They freaked out over my camera, yet they want my money?!?.  Apparently their issue was due to someone singing up at the front....   Snuck a few shots anyhow - bite me.

Can you see how I'm impacting that singer up at the front?  lol  Kept trying to get a picture without this goof looking at me but he was relentless haha



A display of the Baltic Glass Exchange in the Maritime Museum.  (Check it on Wikipedia, pretty cool story)


The rain came down on me while walking up to the Royal Observatory but the upside was catching this lovely rainbow over Greenwich.

And another one over the Royal Observatory

Standing on the Meridian Line.   Those are the shoes that are now wore out, no padding left at all after this trip.

Heading back to London.  Shard on the left, London Bridge in the center.

Trafalgar Square at dusk.

The national arts center in Trafalgar Square.

The craziness of the round-about in Trafalgar


Finally made it to Piccadilly Circus!

Not hard to find the underground



One of the more famous tourist stores around.

Even crazier traffic

Very cool Xmas decorations

The colours keep changing.   Way cool

Do you get a prize for finding a blue bus??

More xmas greatness.