Back to my Fuji roots: coast and landscape

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.

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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.

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Believe in film: Leica M2 versus Olympus mju. for street.

Recently I have been eying up a very nice looking Leica M2 with an old Elmar collapsable to get back into some analogue street photography. Total cost for this little outfit is a tad under £1000, hence a degree of hesitation on my part, especially as I believed after a while I may need the rangefinder re-calibrated to the lens, likely costing another hundred quid ! Ah.! Then I thought maybe a point and shoot, umm, the Contax G2 looked sweet too, with gorgeous Zeiss lenses but also priced very highly now. Instead I opted for an Olympus mju f3.5,  costing just £3 in a charity shop. It looked clean, led display worked, battery still in place and showing charge. Add a roll of Agfa colour 200 asa 24 exposure film purchased from Poundland for [you guessed] one £1.

The little mju is a joy to use, slips easily into a pocket and is ready to use instantly by pushing the neat clamshell lens cover open. There is a satisfying shutter button which allows focus and exposure setting with a half press so you can re-compose if required.  Focus and metering seems more or less instant and then a little whizz as the film advances automatically to the next frame. The flash is constantly alert waiting for low light and fires automatically.  there is a tiny button to switch it off or to use fill flash and another tiny button for self timer. Aside from this there are absolutely no other controls so any form of creative or manual photography is impossible.

For street photography it is brilliant. Slide it out of a pocket while sliding off the lens cover hold up to eye the sweet little viewfinder, compose,  shoot.. three seconds, I reckon.  I tried firing from the hip which was quite successful too.  I bunged the roll into Boots, and opted for one hour processing. From a roll of 24 I achieved 22 exposures, two were spoiled because I thought the film had re-wound when in fact it hadn’t. My mistake, if I had looked at the lcd counter it would have told me as the motor wound back the frames. A couple of shots were blurred again my fault for trying to shoot without the flash,  in low light so an element of camera shake.  The others were pretty good, perfectly well exposed and reasonably sharp and contrasty.  Total cost including camera, film and printing. £11.50

Well, now for the comparison. Leaving aside the camera purchase could I have used the Leica M2 as easily? For a start it is larger and heavier, no metering and I would have to focus every shot. I am happy with zone focussing so this would not be too much of a problem. Here is a fabulous article about metering for film by Johnny Patience well worth applying. The Olympus reads dx film code and this means there is no way to override the ASA/ISO setting, unless you scrape off the black squares on the film canister, so unfortunately I was unable to over-expose by one stop as Johnny suggests. So with my Leica I could have set my own parameters, including ISO, managed shutter speed and aperture and thus bokah. I could happily have applied the sunny sixteenth rule or used pocket light meter on the iphone, but given that I was walking around in sunlight and shade this would have been a little tedious.  OK,  I agree there is no real comparison and undoubtedly given more control and the lovely Leics lens I would have [possibly] ended up with better images. So I will leave it for you to judge. Here are some of the photos I took scanned in with a £40 all in one printer.

Being a strictly FujiFilm digital shooter I am a big fan of Kevin Mullins official Fuji X photographer.  So I kind of like the saturated colour and contrasty shadows that my Olympus mju achieved.  What is more, if I didn’t like this little monkey so much, I could sell it on ebay as a genuinely film tested camera and give the excess profits back to the charity shop.

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Fuji Jpegs versus Kodak Gold 25 years on.

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25 years ago on Sanibel Island, Florida I took some fashion images. A few days ago I caught up with the lovely model, Barley, and sugested we re-create one of the shots.  So here is is on a dull day with our U.K. yellow sand, shot with Fuji X Pro 1 and XF35 1.4 lens.  Well, I did my best but Kodak Gold sure has a great look ..

 

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Coast versus Mountain: a fujifilm Quest.

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.

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FujiX Pro 1 with XF60mm

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Storm gathering at Instow

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a busy day at westward Ho!

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..

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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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Editing Fuji .jpg files in Lightroom 6

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

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