In between sets with Soul Intention and FujiXE2

So half way through Soul Intention gig last night I asked to take some photos of the band. With two hundred rockers and jivers surrounding us, five Saxophones on stands, drums, trumpets and guitars everywhere, it was too good a chance to miss. When there are flashing red and green overhead lights, reflections off everything, shadows and darkness everywhere else you know any image taking is going to be tough. And the band members, hot and pumping adrenaline, get them to sit still or even sit down is going to be tricky. Armed with the tiny Fuji XE2 fitted with the XF35mm 1.4 lens you kind of hope that you will be able to cut through all the problems and get a half way decent shot. These are jpeg images, taken wide open, with auto ISO and minimum shutter speed 80, processed in Lightroom 6.

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Analogue versus Digital: the believe in film syndrome.

The tail end of the fifties we had the Everly Brothers, Bill Haley, Elvis and Buddy. Then the sixties. The first album I ever bought was the Rolling Stones, then the Animals. I loved jazz, and Ray Charles and Dave Brubeck. I loved Dusty and Dylan, then I loved Joni and James Taylor. I saw Neil Young play Wembley and I saw Jethro Tull, Deep Purple and Yes. Never saw Bowie or Nina Simone much to my chagrin. Yep, I dug Punk and John Peel too, Oh, and Peggy Lee and Soul and Blues.  I photographed a girl sitting in sunlight and later, married her.

Stay with me .. You will soon understand where this is going..

Girl sitting in sunlight

During the early seventies I worked in a very posh hifi shop. Our sole aim was to perfect the sound experience. Customers spent literally thousands of pounds searching for high fidelity, the best deck, the least hum and hiss the best suppression, the biggest woofer, or the lightest stylus. We craved this impossible perfection, dreamed music, had albums lining our walls, dusted them lovingly wiped them clean, double wrapped them when putting them away, played them and cursed the crackle and pop of analogue recordings, compared tape and stereo, dolby and four way sound.

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We loathed cassettes but played them in our cars because although they sounded crap compared to 8 track they were smaller and worked better. Anyway my 8 track caught fire in my Ford Cortina mk 2.

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Through the Seventies we surfed and danced and traveled a little. I forget the Eighties, think music was boring,  anyway,  my family was growing up.

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The nineties brought cd,s blimey, they were neat.  They sounded tinny compared to my old albums and not so warm, but they didn’t scratch much. Anyway what is hifi when you listen to music in the kitchen? Screw it , I embraced digital, chucked out my Yashica slr, downloaded or ripped all my albums to mp3 bunged them on an ipod and never looked back..

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And so with photography. This nostalgia for film is reciprocated in the resurgence of pressed plastic albums. Maybe I am being controversial but can’t we now re-create digitally pretty much every film emulsion ever used.? Every Photographic web site or blog I follow and there are loads of them , is offering realistic film simulations or analogue looking presets.  Some of the images here were taken years ago and some taken yesterday, with one or other of my Fuji X series cameras.  Without cheating and looking at the Exif data,  can you tell?

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All social media offer their own brand of clever filters that add grain and scratches to age the image. One of the reasons I Stick with FujiFilm is because their filmic jpgs look so great. Sure, like so many of you, I developed and printed my own negatives, burned, cropped, cut, pushed and experimented, in fact just like I do now in Lightroom. But when I contemplate this wonderful digital world we live in, I don’t really get that we view the images we say we love made on film with obsolete ( yet still fabulous ) cameras, on a screen! This means the image has been scanned, ok so it might look like an analogue photo. But essentially it has been rendered into binary code, like everything else we see online on our Macs and PCs.

I still love music, I still love my wife.

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I still love photography and still believe in film.  But I do love digital too!

Natural light portraiture with the Fuji XF60mm

The Fujinon XF60mm was one of the first three lenses made by Fujifilm for X_Series cameras.  Always regarded as super sharp however it was initially criticised for slow autofocus and excessive focus hunting.  Lens and camera firmware updates have now transformed this little beauty into a superb portrait lens. Having a little more reach than it’s big 56mm brother at 2.4 wide open it is admittedly not the fastest in the Fuji stable.  No image stabilisation either, so beware those with shaky hands.  For these trade offs, in return you get very nice colour rendition, [and now] smooth and pretty fast focussing, a classic focal length for portraits and the ability to get as close as you want to your subject.  Oh, and here in the U.K. it still can be found at about half the price of the Xf 56mm orXF 90mm.

Shooting natural light with a slowish lens can be a challenge especially in low light or murky conditions.  For the two shots I use as examples I had aperture set to wide open at f2.4, auto iso with minimum shutter speed set to 80, auto dynamic range, +2 sharp,  noise reduction set to minimum and Classic Chrome film simulation.  I set my young[ish]subjects opposite a single window as light source,  partially controlling the light with a blind, the background was red. I wanted to capture catch light in the eyes and asked them to look directly into the lens. I used area metering but underexposed by two stops using the exposure compensation dial. The first image was taken at 200 ISO at 80th sec. and the second at ISO 500 and 80th sec. Both processed as jpgs. in Lightroom 6.  I am grateful to my glamorous assistants for allowing me to show them, without brushing out their beauty spots!

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Shooting a wedding with Fuji XF60mm

Anyone who believes wedding photographers have it easy better think again.  Last weekend as a wedding guest I took my Fuji XE2 along, with XF 60mm attached and for lower light,  the XF35mm 1.4 in my pocket. The official wedding photographer had two huge camera bags with bodies and lenses bulging out. He arrived early to shoot guests as they came into the wonderful arena at 1.0pm and left at 4.0am the next morning having shot around 3000 frames. Our conversation went like this. ” Oh, for Goodness sake, what’s happened to the light, O bloody hell, I will have to change this lens, Oh Blimey, which is the brides Dad? where have they  all gone now, Ahhh. ? ” and so on. It was a wonderful overcast start to the day, saturated light but plenty of it.  No shadows all straightforward metering. Then the harsh sun broke though, reflections off the lake where the ceremony was being held, white bridesmaid dresses,  Ah, I could see him sweating.  He is kneeling down on the wet boardwalk as the bride arrives. Sun goes in, his shutter is chattering.  I guess he knows only his first shot will be in focus and properly exposed. Later we discuss how he can martial 150 guests for a group shot and where he can stand to capture the shot. Next, one huge marquee .. how do you get a decent white balance in there when the sun is in and out like a yoyo?  Two hours of food and speeches. He never stops !  By now kids are all over the place, the adults are several fizz, pimms and  vin rouge the worse for wear.  The place is chaos. We have quick word about Fuji cameras and tracking moving subjects. Light has gone and so has everyone else,  down to the dance tent with two fire pits burning, strobe lights flashing spots gleaming.  And so it continues while our photographer, who by now, has thrown in his lot with the rest of us flashes off random shots while dancing to Sex Machine.

In contrast I took 140 frames all jpgs, every one was beautifully exposed even with the varying light conditions. The XF60mm lens performed flawlessly, never hunted for focus and all the shots were amazingly clean and sharp. Later on I switched to the XF35mm, let the camera do it’s own thing and again all my images were bang on. Here are a few of my favourite shots processed in Lightroom 6 .

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When the mood is right, take the shot

On a recent trip to Avignon, my lovely French friends sneaked into the courtyard one evening,  to snatch a forbidden smoke. There was barely any light, just the glow from a few lanterns. Their smoke drifted lazily upward as they chatted.  I had no camera with me at the time but my friend Mark was busy with his Fuji X100T recording events inside. I asked him for a loan, two shots I said, that’s all I promise. I posed them as best I could,  asked them to stay as still as possible and fired away, hand held, one tenth of a second at f2.0.  Sometimes you have to capture the moment. Here are the two shots.

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