A few Snow Buntings have made the onerous journey from the Arctic to Crow Point, North Devon. Today there was a harsh frost, temperature minus four, so they may have wondered why bother? Nevertheless a brilliant clear, bright morning, with wraiths of mist gently rising off the River Taw and Torridge estuary and frost lying white, coating the dunes with tiny ice crystals. Then typical of this Biosphere in a few moments, a sharp, freezing wind kicked up and the landscape changed from blue to grey as a heavy mist rolled in from the sea. The surf, at low tide, some half a mile away.. invisible, yet still heard, loud, Atlantic waves, at least ten degrees warmer than the air, the cause of this pea souper. Out of the gloom, random and abstract, a runner, miles from any where..
Then we saw the Snow Buntings, squat, fat little creatures, hunched against the cold, feeding on frozen seed heads in the short Burrows grass. Flitting suddenly to another station, a flash of white and they are gone.
Overlooking the wild Atlantic coast it is never easy to forget the savage beauty of the ocean or the calm sunset of a still day.
For a while I have been focussing on other photography projects but this evening I slung the lovely old Fuji Xpro 1 over my shoulder with XF18mm attached and set off along the sand. Dusk comes slowly here in North Devon. The light hangs in the air, there is a glow, cast from the sand and the sea, reflections of gold and blue. Today not a cloud in the sky, a faint mist already drifting across the sand-hills, everything calm. Around me feeding on the shoreline, Oystercatchers and Egrets, Sandpipers and Sanderlings. The haunting cry of the Curlew echoes across the River Taw. Sometimes it is awe inspiring, sometimes you have to look out and look up, how can this magic be here for me, yet others, far away suffer oppression and tyranny? So for today I whisper a quiet thank you.
Here in North Devon, U.K. the days are drawing in, full moon and high tides are upon us. So here are a few shots taken this week before the sun retires for a while….
A couple of days ago I undertook a new shoot for Clive Bowen, one of the U.K’s most respected Potters. Clive’s wonderful ceramics are made from local North Devon red clay, thrown, decorated and wood-fired in a huge traditional bottle kiln. The resulting pots exemplify the materials they are made from, with deep earthy green, gold and black tones and floating etherial trails of slip. Studio pottery was essentially born from utilitarian table ware. Objects to contain food or liquid, to store or eat food from. So here are some of the images which are intended to celebrate both the ceramics and the food.
Fuji X Pro 1 with XF 35mm 1.4
Raspberries, Devon clotted cream with pie, on slipware dish
Fuji XE2 with XF 60mm
Lunch in the studio [Fuji X 100 series]
For we coastal dwellers mountains are austere, cold and forbidding places that block out light and have no familiar rythm. I live overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Here, our life is bounded by horizon, tides, and sunsets. We see giant storms come through and watch wonderful and wierd cloud formations. We get lonely and lost away from the sea.
But I know for others it is different. You see mountains in their cool isolation as wondrous and mystical, you play on them, climb them, and ski their icy sides.
As photographers we choose to take images of what we love best. Recently travelling over the Alps we stopped and gazed in awe at lofty crags. But for me I was not content until I saw, at last, a glimpse of the sparkling Mediterranean. So there it is. You Fuji lovers take the best images with the best cameras. Let us have more Mountains and more Ocean.
FujiX Pro 1 with XF60mm
Storm gathering at Instow
a busy day at westward Ho!
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!
Here is a brief post describing some ideas for editing Fuji files in Lightroom. I have included Nik pack plugins too. Sometimes a little colour works well for street photography as demonstrated by this lovely lady. Here she was decked out in matching red sandals and spotty bag, pulling along her little dog while pushing a giant pram. Shot with Fuji X100 with the brilliant 23mm lens, stopped down.
So first we have the out of camera Jpg file imported into Lightroom with no adjustments. Looks fine to me but lacks a little impact and contrast which reflects the gloomy light in which it was taken.
Next I opened Analogue Effects pro plugin, adjusted detail, contrast and saturation sliders in camera 3, included a little grain, turned off scratches etc then added a little spot adjustment in her face area. The resulting image was saved back into Lightroom. For me this image seems to be a reasonable representation of a 1970’s Kodak analogue snap.
Despite my belief that colour works best for this image, in the interests of black and white fanatics I next edited the original jpg file in Silver Effects Pro. I used high contrast smooth camera setting, added detail and a little brightness using sliders, increased white and improved tonality using curves. Then again I used the spot adjustment to add detail to her face and scarf. The vignette was already quite sufficient in this setting.
Nevertheless being a Lightroom aficionado I usually prefer to edit my own images rather than relying on others interpretation of the scene I shot. So my normal workflow is to reduce exposure slightly, add a little contrast and adjust white and black sliders, then highlights and shadows. For this image I decreased clarity, added a touch vibrance and a little saturation. Then added two gradient layers in top left and right adding some exposure and a tad saturation. Next I used the adjustment brush to add some exposure to her face, some clarity and improved skin tone a little. Finally I added some grain and a little vignette. The final image looks pretty strong and I like how the red tones in her bag attract attention. Comments welcome!