TALKING IMAGES 33 – HAPPINESS

 

 


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Here’s something I’d like to share with you before I have to rush out to lunch. I saw it on the TV news this morning.

A study was made of a group of people, who were each given a sum of money – not a vast amount of money, say £30 UK – and who were told to spend it in a way that would make them happy.

And when the people were questioned about their happiness levels afterwards, those that professed to be happiest were those who had used the money to buy themselves more free time, eg by hiring people to do jobs/chores for them, and NOT those who had spent the money on acquiring (yet more!) material possessions.

I find this fascinating and also very instructive.  I expect we knew this already, after all didn’t the Beatles sing “money can’t buy me love!”?  And of course those of us who live in “developed” countries often have what are termed “busy modern lifestyles” – which means that although we may be comfortable/well off in terms of money, we suffer from time poverty.  There are usually too many things to do in the day, there is usually not enough time to do them in, and we get stressed trying to balance everything out.

I’m a great searcher for the simple life, and being retired helps this quest no end.  There are those who, when they retire, just keep going because they can’t bear to slow down.  Well, that’s fine, each to their own, we are all most certainly different.  But I value the extra leisure time, I like slowing down and – to be quite honest with you – I don’t pay others to perform chores for me, I can’t afford to, but I have simply become extremely selective about which chores I think actually necessary,  as opposed to those which can wait until tomorrow, the day that never comes.

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TALKING IMAGES 32 – FATMAN PHOTOS, SLOWING DOWN FOR AWHILE

 

 

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I’ve recently posted a series of pictures of my granddaughters – and here are two more – and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to get deeply into some portraiture again and, especially so, black and white portraiture.  This short series of portraits can be found here: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6;  7; 8.

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But I’m now engaged on an intriguing longer term project with these two young girls and, sad to say, it has a deadline.  Which means that, for the next month or two, I have to let other things slip a little.  And so, after six years, FATman Photos is going to slow down a bit, with fewer posts and, equally regrettably, fewer visits to other blogs.

Click onto these images to open larger versions in separate windows, and click again onto these larger versions to further enlarge them.

Technique: both photos here – the younger sister above, the elder below, were taken at high ISOs with my (now ageing) D700 and the wonderful 105mm Nikkor prime.  I processed them minimally in Lightroom, and then converted them to black and white in Silver Efex Pro 2 – the upper shot started at the Center Focus preset, and the lower at the Warm Tone Paper preset; both images were given a light Coffee tone.

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TALKING IMAGES 31 – GET THE GOOGLE NIK COLLECTION – FOR FREE! – WHILE YOU STILL CAN

 

THE GOOGLE NIK COLLECTION

The Google Nik Collection is a suite of seven plug-ins for digital photography that were created by Nik Software and then purchased by Google.  Amateur Photographer magazine  consistently rates this collection as one of the best plug-in suites available, and I very much agree.  The situation now is that not only are Google offering this suite for download entirely free of charge, but they have also made it clear that they are no longer going to develop or update the collection.

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Getting these programs for free has to be good.  But behind this lies uncertainty – since Google are engaging in no further development, are they thinking of ceasing to provide the Nik Collection altogether at some stage?

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So I’m putting out this quick post to urge to urge you to take advantage of this free offer ASAP – you can’t lose >>> if you don’t like it you can always uninstall it again.  But if Google pull the plug on it, well, its gone.

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Here is the link: https://www.google.com/nikcollection/ 

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WHAT ARE THESE PLUG-INS?

Well, they’re becoming a little old now, and better alternatives are available un some cases.  For example, Adobe Lightroom does a far better job of reducing noise in my Fujifilm Raw files than Nik’s Dfine 2.  But the Nik Collection contains two pure gems – Silver Efex Pro 2, and Color Efex Pro 4.

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You’ll find many, many mono images produced with Silver Efex on this blog, and its a package that vast numbers of photographers worldwide, including many professionals, use for their black and white work – quite simply, I wouldn’t be without it.  For me, Silver Efex beats Lightroom hands down for producing black and white images – to me, Silver Efex is simply more user friendly and easier to use than Lightroom’s black and white facilities and it produces better results –  its as simple as that.

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And Color Efex is simply wonderful for colour work – and I find that it has a more creative feel to it – it certainly makes me feel more creative – than Lightroom ever does.

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And both of these programs use Nik’s excellent Control Point technology, which really makes it very easy to make very localised and precise adjustments to images – these Control Points are simply ridiculously easy to use – to me, far easier than Lightroom’s radial filters.

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HOW I USE THE GOOGLE COLLECTION

Its possible to use the Nik Collection as plug-ins in Lightroom, and I’m sure this works very well.  But, simply because I started out doing things this way, I still use the Nik suite as plug-ins in Adobe Photoshop Elements.  I export 16-bit Tiffs from Lightroom, open them in Elements and use Silver or Color Efex – this is probably not the best way to do things, but at least it provides me with a tiff outside of Lightroom that I can mess around with to my heart’s content!

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So, if you haven’t got it already – and I know that many of you have – get the Nik Collection while you still can!

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TALKING IMAGES 30 – TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS: SOME BASIC ADVICE

 

A month or so ago, I published this post, in which two very experienced photographers gave their ideas on when it is right to take photos.  One of them suggests waiting for promising photographic situations to appear and then photographs them intensely, which I can certainly understand, and especially so where professional photography is involved.  And the other photographer said that he’s now thinking more about the lighting conditions than the subject – something which I agree with 101%.

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And now, reading photographic magazines as I do, I’ve come upon two more quotes that I think vastly useful – and here they are.  One of the photographers making these quotes talks of simplicity of message – less is more; Minimalism – and so I’ve added some images with this in mind.  Clicking onto the images opens them in separate windows and enlarges them; clicking onto the title below each image takes you to the actual posts.

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Grass and floodwater
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So, the two quotes.

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First, in Amateur Photographer, a magazine that I subscribe to, there is an article on the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year.  And therein, Hein van Tonder, from South Africa, talks about photographing the pouring of caramel – well, what else?!  And in the course of his spiel, he comes out with this:

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Remember, when it comes to all photography, not just food photography, it’s light first and composition second.  It’s only through constantly working at your photography that you get to learn how to read light and how to manipulate it.  And once you have that covered, then go ahead and break the rules.

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The real cruncher for me here is light first and composition second – never were truer words said, at least as far as I see things.  For me, now, its very often a case of looking for light, and then thinking what to do with it.  And secondly, I’m really wary of all “rules”, I’m not sure they are that useful, I’m far more into taking notice of my own gut feelings and just seeing what emerges.
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Mooring
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The second photographer was writing in another British photo mag, Outdoor Photography, that I occasionally read.  This photographer is Tammy Marlar, and she photographs plants and flowers – boy, does she photograph plants and flowers!  Anyway, she lists 10 Steps to Photographic Success.  These points are really aimed at those photographing plants but, again, for me, the first three really stand out, really being applicable right across photography’s genres.  And here they are:

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  1. Less is more – simplicity of message.

  2. Look for the best light.

  3. Background is as important as the subject.

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Less is more has long been a basic creed of mine.  Because simple is beautiful – and its in the famous KISS command, which urges all of us photographers to “Keep it simple, Stupid!”.  The more there is to look at in a photo, the more confused the eyes become.  And picturesque subjects often have loads and loads of detail >>> look to creating images that only contain things relating to the image’s subject, don’t try to cram everything in!

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And then number 2, once again, look for the light.

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And, as always, the background.  Its especially important for Tammy of course as she’s photographing flowers, but it applies right through photography: an overly intrusive background can totally ruin any photo.  Thus, when taking photos, its standard practice to consider what effect the background is going to have on your subject – and before you press the shutter release, its always worthwhile running your eye around your image’s edges, to see if anything unwanted is lurking there – e.g. the classic thing, a telegraph pole sprouting out of your subject’s head!
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Orange, blue and white
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Man in a hotel room
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Flies
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ANNIVERSARY – FATMAN PHOTOS IS SIX

 

 

Maasai

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Another year has passed.  Quite where it has passed I’m not sure.  Retirement and (ever!) increasing age are seeming to make Life roar by at an ever increasing pace – but that’s fine by me!  If that’s how it is, that’s how it is, and I’m certainly not going to waste my time consciously trying to buck the trend!

And so to another year of FATman Photos, six years in all, which I find quite astonishing.  But, I do it and, very much, I enjoy doing it.  On the creative side, I enjoy the photography – and have no doubt that producing this blog acts as a substantial boost to my endeavours.  And I enjoy all of the writing that goes into the posts too.

And, equally so, I very much enjoy the contact with you all – it is so good communicating with like minds all over the planet!  I’m grateful when you Like my images, that’s always encouraging – but most of all its good to receive Comments from you, I very much value hearing your thoughts and views – and please be assured that ALL viewpoints, negative as well as positive, will be entertained.  THANK YOU ALL, VERY MUCH, FOR YOUR INPUT!

(here are portraits, pictures of faces, in black and white; they can be opened in separate windows by clicking into them; and the title links under them will take you to the actual posts)

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Great Grey Owl portrait

Great Grey Owl

These past 12 months have been notable for two photographic initiatives.  First, last May, I followed my heart rather than my wallet and bought a mirrorless camera, the Fujifilm X-T1, and a zoom lens.  I have been, as you may know, an out and out full-frame Nikon user, and so this purchase was quite a step.  And on the back of that, I then needed software to process the X-T1’s Raw files, and so to subscribing to Adobe Lightroom.  Finally, I’ve added another Fuji zoom, and recently their X-T2 camera.  And, in summary, I have to say that all of these (not inexpensive!) moves have worked out very well indeed.  I find the X-T cameras wonderful photographic tools for most situations, and I do think that they have given my photography something of a lift.

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This man is photographing you!

Selfie

And the second initiative has been the taking of early morning buses into Bristol, to photograph morning in the city and, in particular, the morning rush hour.  And this initiative has been significantly helped by the X-Ts’ smaller size and greater portability than the Nikons and, I do think, by people feeling more at ease – less threatened – by being confronted by smaller cameras.  I haven’t really tried to categorise it before, but I suppose this is candid street photography, and certainly a departure for me.  The next thing to think about here, is whether I can summon up the courage to start approaching people in the street, to ask if I can take their picture – most accounts of this hold it to be productive, and far less intimidating than it might initially seem.

HAHAHA!!! >>> and a truly wonderful offshoot of these early morning forays in the city has been the (really quite numerous) visits into various eateries – “to keep my strength up”!  Listen, if you believe that last bit, can I sell you a bridge???  And here I must of course mention Harts Bakery near Temple Meads railway station – the food is extremely tasty, the staff are very pleasant and working their heads off – and I’m simply a total, total fan of the place!

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A young friend

So, to conclude, what has this blog done since 26 April 2011?  Well,  over 2,100 posts, and there have been over 21,200 comments >>> I (virtually always) make it a rule to reply to Comments, even if only to say a simple “Thank you”, so around half of these are my grateful responses.

Thank you again for taking the time to look at my blog.

Adrian

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  Woman from Somalia
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TALKING IMAGES 29 – WHEN TO TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS: TWO IDEAS

 

The way I take photos is slowly changing.  I hope that my methods are improving but, whether or not that’s true, I’m sure they’re subtly evolving.  Here are brief thoughts from two very able photographers about the way they do things.  In both cases, I identified with their thoughts as soon as I read them.  Both quotes are from my wonderful weekly read – Amateur Photographer magazine.

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Photo credit: Richard Peters

Richard Peters is a wonderful photographer of wildlife – and he’s also an out and out Nikon user, but that’s not what swayed me here.  His quote is short and simple:

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As I’ve matured as a photographer, I find myself shooting less but shooting smarter and thinking more about the lighting conditions than the subject.

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Absolutely true.  There is a school of thought that sees photographers making constructive use of whatever conditions they find themselves in and I have subscribed to this idea for a long time.  But, for sometime now, I’m looking for light – and there are times when long walks in the “wrong conditions” yield no images at all.  I’m just walking, getting exercise and (as long as its not raining!) enjoying the moment, and that’s fine – but visually stimulated I am not.  But, in the “right” conditions, WOW! – and I just feel so privileged to be carrying a digital camera that will, should I require it, be able to capture hundreds of images without any thoughts of reloading the capture media.

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Photo credit: Canon Professional Network

And the second quote, in much the same vein, comes from Gali Tibbon (click onto the menu tab on her site’s front page), whose photography explores religious themes:

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When I encounter a good subject or situation, I photograph it intensely.  My philosophy is to get the most that you can out of any situation, as it may never happen again.

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So I suppose that my photography is becoming more considered and sporadic.  I walk (or drive) and look, and look, and look.  And there are still many single shots but, when anything with real promise appears, there are very many shots indeed.

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Showing you images that are the result of intense photography of a single subject might get a bit samey, but here are some that depended on different types of light – in the second image down, I particularly like the light on the birds’ wings.  Clicking onto these images will open them in a separate window and enlarge them, and clicking onto their titles will take you to the original posts.

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SOMETIME EARLIER IN THE WORLD


 SWANS OVER TEALHAM


 GOING TO WORK 6


RAINBOW AT NAKURU


PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG FRIEND


GOING TO WORK 2

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TALKING IMAGES 28 – THE FUJIFILM X-T2: REVIEW, LIKES, DISLIKES

 

 

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 Image credit: Amateur Photographer

X-T1, X-T2

I’ve been using Fuji’s excellent X-T1 compact system camera (CSC) for about 8 months now, and enjoying it very much.  It has I think slightly changed my photography for the better, making it more creative, and those changes have spilled over to my use of my Nikon cameras (D700, D800) too.  But good as the X-T1 is, its certainly lacking in autofocus speed – but then the Nikons are eminently capable in that sphere so that’s fine.

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Fuji have listened to photographers’ views about the X-T1, and incorporated many of their suggestions into the new X-T2.  I have been reading Amateur Photographer’s in-depth reviews of the X-T2, and its pretty clear that autofocus capabilities have been greatly improved.  Whether the X-T2 will equal the Nikons’ excellent autofocus is something else: time will tell – trying it out with birds in flight should give some idea.

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Rather than me going through the the X-T2’s many, many capabilities in detail, here is the link to Amateur Photographer’s main, in-depth review of the camera.  Here, I just want to list a few of this camera’s pro’s and con’s, as I see them.  Cons?  No, the X-T2 is not perfect but then, what camera is?

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Before getting into that, I’d want to say how impressed I am with Fujifilm as a company, and especially with regard to the X-T1 and X-T2.  I read somewhere that they are making cameras with photographers in mind, and that’s very true.  They are taking on board what photographers are saying, and building those suggestions into their products.  To me this is reminiscent of Olympus’s production of the OM series all those years ago, and that is a compliment indeed.

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The X-T1 and X-T2 cameras use APS-C format sensors which are smaller than my full-frame Nikons, and I do miss the larger image sizes sometimes – as for example when cropping severely, and when displaying such crops in Blurb photobooks.  But by and large the APS-C images are working well for me, and the X-T2 is now up to 24Mp – I don’t think I’d want anything bigger than that – although the D800’s 36Mp does of course leave 24Mp standing!  I’m not getting rid of my Nikon gear, at least for the moment: big and bulky it may be, but it really does the business.  But I do think that both Nikon and Canon should keep an eye on what Fujifilm is doing, they have absolutely no reason to be complacent.

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So, a few thoughts on the X-T2.

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 Image credit: Amateur Photographer

 

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THINGS I LIKE ABOUT THE X-T2

  1. Compared to my fill-frame Nikons, the X-T2 and its lenses are smaller, more compact and – I do get the feeling – less intimidating to people they are pointed at.

  2. I love the images that these two camera’s sensors give.  The X-T1’s images are wonderful, and the whole new sensor and processor in the X-T2 do even better.  Amateur Photographer magazine (AP) talks of Fujifilm’s “industry-leading colour modes” and connects these with the fact that, of today’s major camera producers, only Fuji has a background in colour film production – as witness the colour transparency films that I standardised on not that long ago.  AP talks of “stunning image quality” and I go right along with that – including at high ISO sensitivities, which I use quite often.

  3. The autofocus is fast though how good it will be close in to frenetic action, such as birds exploding into flight, I can’t yet tell.

  4. The large electronic viewfinder (EVF) is excellent to use, and the shooting information it displays can be customised.  I have 17 useful items of information – including a horizontal level, and a live histogram – displayed.  And the simple push of a button changes the viewfinder from its standard layout, which has a black border, to a full-screen version – which is very quick and useful.

  5. Depth of focus (DoF) can be previewed on the Nikons via a button that sits very handily on the camera’s front below my right forefinger.  The X-T2 has a function button in this position that can be used for DoF, and this works very well.

  6. There is a center-weighted exposure metering mode which, although I’ve yet to use it, is good to have.  The multi-zone metering is good and accurate too.

  7. I only ever shoot Raw files, and the X-T2 will let me use this format right up to its greatest sensitivity – 51,200 ISO.  The X-T1 only manages 6,400 ISO.

  8. Raw files can now be saved in Lossless Compressed format, as on the Nikons, which saves space on both memory cards and PC’s.  A Sandisk 16Gb card will store 314 uncompressed Raw X-T2 files, but this figure doubles to 628 for Lossless files, with no loss of quality – so using Lossless is a no-brainer.

  9. And there are now slots for two memory cards, so storage is large – which is a reflection of this camera’s very fast motordive speeds, up to 14fps when using the (optional) grip, which I’m not thinking of getting.

  10. The very fiddly lock on the X-T1’s ISO dial is now a toggle so that the dial can (oh … mercifully! …) now be left unlocked – BUT changing ISO could still be streamlined more (see below).

  11. The front dial can be used to adjust exposure compensation and this works extremely well – except that, unlike using the large exposure compensation dial on the camera’s top plate, I can’t see how much compensation is set without either looking at the LCD screen or through the viewfinder.

  12. Since a live histogram (which measures  jpeg data) is visible in the viewfinder, this makes for very efficient use of the “exposing to the right” technique, for maximum tonal values – you can find out more about exposing to the right here.

  13. There is now a My Menu option for your most frequently used menu commands, but it doesn’t encompass as many commands as the Nikons’ versions do.

  14. The same batteries and charger as the X-T1 can be used, a very welcome touch, and something not possible for my two Nikons.

  15. The camera has a very useful joystick, perhaps all of 2mm tall (and seen below the Q button in the image below) that sits under my right thumb when the camera is to my eye, and which marvellously facilitates movements of the active autofocus / spot metering spot – and this joystick has a marvellously simple and effective locking feature too, to prevent accidental movements during shooting.  And the selector buttons around the Menu OK button also have a very easily applied locking feature, for this same purpose.  I have both the joystick and the selector buttons locked, performing the few menu adjustments I do via My Menu.

  16. There are excellent and creative facilities for reviewing images, including giving them different Film Simulations (looks) and crops, and then being able to save the results as jpegs while keeping the original Raw images intact.

Image credit: Amateur Photographer

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LEVELS289

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THINGS I DON’T LIKE ABOUT THE X-T2

  1. In its high performance, Boost mode, the X-T2 uses up batteries quickly.  I keep my X-T1 in high performance mode all the time and battery usage is ok, but this is not so with the X-T2.  Fuji have produced a high capacity “S” battery for the X-T2, but it can also use the ordinary X-T1 batteries which, as I say, is a nice touch.  In an attempt to solve these problems, Fuji has produced a grip containing two further batteries (and this grip brings other advantages too), but I’d rather keep my X-T2 lighter and more compact and so the grip’s not for me.

  2. So, to conserve battery life, I keep the X-T2 in Normal performance mode most of the time.  And, since situations where Boost mode is (desperately!) needed may arise very suddenly and without warning, I’ve programmed the function (Fn) button on the top plate directly behind the shutter button to get me into Boost mode with a single press.  This works very well – and the viewfinder tells me which of these two performance modes I’m in.

  3. Also to conserve battery life, I use the camera with the LCD screen switched off (its still possible to review images when the screen is off), and with the viewfinder only switched on when I put my eye to it.

  4. Although changing ISO is easier now that the dial doesn’t have to be unlocked every time – something which is a truly glaring design fault on the X-T1 – its still not as easy as it might be.  Having something that can easily be used (probably with the right hand) when the camera is up to the eye is sorely needed.

  5. The problems with changing ISO in a hurry might be solved by the X-T2’s Auto ISO feature, which automatically adjusts ISO when shutter speed falls to a specified minimum.  This feature looks good, but its not possible to see what speeds the camera is setting so that, in dark conditions, there comes the risk of shutter speeds that are too slow – and so to unwanted blur.  I don’t use it.

  6. Although there are two high ISOs – 25,600 and 51,200 – available, the ISO dial only has a place for one of them – so that the other one must be delved for in the menus.

  7. There is a useful My Menu function as with the Nikons, but I would like to see a much wider range of commands available to put onto it.

  8. The AE-L button can be changed to an AF-ON function with all AF functions taken away from the shutter button – this gives back-button focusing, something I always use on the Nikons – but for me the X-T2’s button is too small and pressing this with my right thumb while my index finger us on the trigger just doesn’t work.

  9. The dials for changing the drive and metering modes are not as easy to turn as they might be, but I can live with this.

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CONCLUSIONS AND … STRATEGY(!!!)

The X-T2 is a very accomplished camera and I feel privileged to own one – its as simple as that.  And it now emerges that, after reviewing the X-T2, some of the staff at Amateur Photographer have bought X-T2’s for themselves – can there be a better recommendation?  I can see that its going to be a very useful photographic tool, and something that I won’t hesitate to take into all sorts of photographic situations and environments.  What else is there to say?  I have traded in some of my Nikon gear to get the X-T2, and I’ll see how things progress from here.  It will be interesting to see how the X-T2 handles birds in flight.  If it really, really does the business over a range of genres, then the rest of the Nikon gear may go too – and by then, if Fuji maintains its current inventiveness and momentum, there may be an X-T3 too – this is, after all, a company that has just, out of the blue, come up with a (relatively!) inexpensive mirrorless medium format camera.  The way this company is going, nothing would surprise me – and Canon and Nikon need to keep their eyes very open indeed.

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So, lastly, strategy >>> I have a strategy???  Well, just two things to say here.  First, I’m thinking about which – if any – of Fujifilm’s excellent (if quite expensive) lens range I might acquire next.  I currently have the really very good 55-200 zoom, which I use a huge amount – probably because it roughly mirrors the focal lengths of the Nikon 70-300 zoom I’m married to – I “see” photographically so often at x6 magnification (= 300mm in full frame format).   And, feeling that I need some wide angle capability too, I’ve chosen the very wide 10-24, which gives 15mm-36mm in full frame terms.  What I’d like, and what Fujifilm currently don’t quite do, is a wide to tele, “go anywhere” lens.  I have such a (full frame) lens from Nikon, the image-stabilised, 24mm-120mm Nikkor, and its the lens (often the only lens) I carry with me when I’m not sure what I’ll be photographing, when I need a “Jack of all trades” optic.  Will Fuji come up with something like that?  At the moment, the telephoto end of the lenses they do is a little short or too long for me.

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And, secondly, I’ve kept my X-T1 and the plan (haha! yes, the plan!) is to carry both camera bodies on some trips.  The X-T1 will be ideal for the wide 10-24: its articulated screen is very handy for getting this very wide angle lens right down low near the ground,  and its slower autofocus will not be a problem at these focal lengths.  And the really very good 55-200 telezoom, my go-to lens, will be on the much faster X-T2 – the two work wonderfully together.

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Earlier posts in the X-T1 can be found here, here, here and here.

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STILL LIFE 85

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STILL LIFE 80

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TALKING IMAGES 27 – HAVE BLURRED SKIES AND WATER BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHIC CLICHE?

 

 

Sometime last year, and I can’t now recall exactly when, this was the question asked by an opinion poll in the magazine Amateur Photographer (AP).  10% or 20% of the respondents to this poll (and I can’t recall the exact figure) thought the answer to be “yes”, and I agreed with them. It took no soul-searching on my part to come up with this answer but, then, I’m the first to acknowledge that my views (on many things, as it happens) may not be mainstream, and so there it was.

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Photo credit: Pixabay

QUOTE FROM JEREMY WALKER

However, in the 18 Feb 2017 issue of AP, the respected landscape photographer Jeremy Walker, talking about taking parties of clients on photographic explorations of the wilds of Iceland, wrote the following:

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Basically there are shots to be had, but there’s a danger of getting overloaded with blurry long exposures.  It seems to be what people want to go and do.

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ARTICLE BY DOUG CHINNERY

And now has come this.  Other than AP, which I subscribe to and regularly devour, I don’t usually read photographic magazines.  I’ve tried some of them, but in reality they’re really not up there with AP‘s quality, and they simply don’t shake my tree.  However, recently, I have bought a couple of issues of Outdoor Photography magazine and, despite it going on a bit to much about landscapes – well, outdoors, it would, wouldn’t it? – there have been some real nuggets in it.  And, coming from the same stable as the B+W Photography magazine I have praised extensively on this blog, it is very well produced and has some wonderful photography.

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Anyway, going through the issue 215 of Outdoor Photography, I came upon a long article by the photographer Doug Chinnery, entitled Understanding Exposure.  Well, I had a fairly good idea what this might be about and, the first pages were just as expected – working with a tripod in Manual exposure mode, using Neutral Density Graduated filters, paying strict attention to the histogram, etc etc.  OK, no question at all, this is one way of doing things – and one on my most deeply felt convictions about photography is that there are no rights and no wrongs.  There are simply the ways in which  I – or you – do things.  We are all different, each one of us.  And whether we do things one way or another, and whether we use this bit of kit or that bit of kit, or this post-capture process or that post-capture process – Canon, Nikon, Holga, film, digital, wet plate, pinhole, you name it – we are all photographers, and that’s all there is to it.  And the only real question is whether the resulting images look good – first to ourselves and, someway second, to others too.  That’s all there is – and never let anyone tell you to the contrary.

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Enough preaching!  Anyway, I read on through Doug Chinnery’s article, and came to a piece on the limitations of light meters, and the exhortation always to use Matrix or Evaluative metering – and then, under the heading ANOTHER PATH, I was hit by a bombshell!  Never one to do things by halves, I’m quoting here the first three paragraphs, verbatim (and I’m putting the whole of it in red font, as I think it such an important piece of thinking – especially the first paragraph) :

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While making beautiful, technically crafted photographs is absolutely fine, some find that they can convey little in the way of soul, story or emotion.  The images will tend to have full detail in the shadows, and the highlights will be bright but not ‘blown’.  They can be seen as simply beautiful images of locations, enhanced by fine compositions and good light.

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For many of us, though, our creativity begins to search for ways to inject to inject something more into our images.  Using our understanding of exposure and being willing to stray from convention will allow us to explore this need.

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Once we realise that no one is hanging histograms on gallery walls, we can free ourselves from some of the constraints some would place upon us as to what a “correct” exposure is.  I would suggest that a correct exposure is simply one that realises our personal creative vision for an image.  It bears no relation to what a light meter or histogram is telling us.  Convention tells us shadows have to show detail, and highlights must not be blown, in the same way we are told images must be sharp or comply with certain compositional rules.  Once we accept that this is not necessarily the case, the creative fun can begin.

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And he goes on to say that this thinking has had profound results.  For a start, his tripod is now largely a thing of the past in his landscape photography – which must mean, not so many blurred shots of clouds of water, although the article does include an absolutely beautiful, 2.5 second, handheld image of rolling hills.  Gone too is the need for front to back sharpness.  And he is now using aperture priority exposure automation with – wait for it! – a mirrorless camera system!!!  Wow, I can’t believe I’m reading this stuff!  I don’t know what to say – well, that’s not true, I do know what to say – WAY TO GO, MAN, WAY TO GO!!!!!

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And while revelling in all this euphoria around making creative exposures, an important point to make >>> using a camera with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) (or using any camera’s LCD screen, comes to that) lets us see the results of such creativity at once, rather than having the guess the effects of such changes when using an optical viewfinder.  I’ve found the large, bright EVFs on the Fujifilm X-T1 and X-T2 cameras superb.

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CONCLUSIONS

Well, as always, my first conclusion is that photography has no rights or wrongs, and that no one has the right to tell photographers how to take pictures.  For me that’s a very fundamental given, and I am certainly not going to tell anyone that they shouldn’t blur their images’ skies and waters.  If that’s your thing, do it.

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I have presented another photographer’s picture at the top of this post.  There’s no question but that its very beautiful.  Its gorgeous, calm, a work of art.  But I have totally lost count of the number of photographs of jetties going out into waters that have the consistency of (in this case, bluish) milk that I’ve seen over the years, and I have only to go to poster shops to see still more.

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In a way, I see parallels here with my full frame fisheye lens.  By which I mean that fisheyes can produce excellent images, but there is not the slightest doubt – in my mind at least –  that they are not something to be used frequently because, unless used with a vast creativity that I’m not sure I possess, their effects can quickly become formulaic and, in short, a cliché. 

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Basically, I’m hoping for more originality and diversity of approach.

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What do you think?

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TALKING IMAGES 26 – ADOBE LIGHTROOM: HINTS

 

 

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Rush hour, Victoria Street

I’m sure that many of you have been using Adobe Lightroom (LR) for longer than I have, and know far more about it than I do.  However here are some simple points that may be new (and, hopefully, useful) for some, especially those just starting out with the package.  Some of these points have been prompted by an excellent book on LR, which I certainly recommend to those of you wanting to go into things in more depth – this book is full of useful, practical, well-explained detail –  The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 Book by Lightroom guru Martin Evening  The details are: ISBN-13 978-0-133-92919-5; softback; US $59.99 – in real money I paid about £25 for it from Amazon. 

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But I’m careful not to treat this wonderful book as 100% gospel, I’ve noticed other writers (slightly) contradicting it – see the sections on black and white photography, and on noise, below, with info from Amateur Photographer magazine.

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As it is, I only ever feel the need to use two of LR’s modules – Library and Develop.  I hope these points are of some use.

 

Earlier posts  mentioning LR can be found through here.

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EXPANDING THE WIDTH OF THE SLIDERS IN THE DEVELOP MODULE

The various adjustment sliders in LR’s Develop module are laid out in a vertical panel on the right of the Develop screen, to the right of the image being worked on.  This is the panel with the Histogram at the top.  When I first opened this module, the width of this panel of sliders was adequate.

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But the wonderful book referred to above has a useful hint – if you position your mouse’s cursor over the left margin of this panel, i.e. where it comes up against the image widow, your cursor changes to a two-headed arrow which, by holding down your left mouse button, you can drag to the left – and as you do so the width of the slider panel increases.  You can’t increase the width of this panel indefinitely, but you can increase it quite a bit – and the thing is that this panel’s increase in width makes all the sliders just that little bit easier and more accurate to use – you’re able to make finer, more precise adjustments with the now longer sliders.  This technique also works in the Library module.

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RETURNING THE SLIDERS TO THEIR INITIAL VALUES

When you open an image in the Develop module for the first time, i.e. before you have in any way used the module to alter the image, many of the sliders are at their central i.e. zero positions.  But some of the sliders are at non-zero positions – for example the Temp and Tint sliders at the top of the panel, and the Sharpening and Noise sliders further down.

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You then move some of the sliders to adjust the image to your liking.  But, sometimes, your adjustment may not be to your satisfaction, such that you want to return the slider to its initial position.  This is easy if fiddly to do for those sliders initially set at zero – but for the sliders not initially set to zero, you have to remember their initial values, which is awkward.

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For both types of slider, i.e. those initially set at zero and those not, simply double-clicking on the sliders’ names, e.g. Temp and Tint, and (Sharpening’s) Amount, Radius and Detail, return’s them to their initial positions whether they were initially set to zero or not – which is a great time saver, i.e. rather than clicking Reset and starting processing the image all over again.

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Woman on steps, smoking

AVOIDING LR’s INITIAL SPLASH IMAGE

By default, LR displays a splash image when it is opened.  Well, I suppose this appears good and professional, but it doesn’t actually do anything else, so I’ve chosen to bypass it – click onto the Edit command in the toolbar at the top of LR’s screen, and choose Preferences.  Select the General tab (which will probably already be selected), and in the Settings, which are immediately below Language, take the tick out of the check box for “Show splash screen during startup”.  Click OK at the bottom of the screen.  The splash screen can be reinstated at any time.

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AN EASIER WAY OF REVIEWING IMAGES

I find looking through the grids of images in LR’s Library module visually confusing.  And then when I do manage to find an image that I think may show promise, double clicking on it to fill the screen using LR’s FIT option makes it too large – an image’s size dictates the distance from which it should be viewed, if an overall view and understanding of the image is the aim.

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So my solution is to set LR’s Library module to display smaller versions of single images (I use the 1:8 viewing ratio), and then I go through these single images one at a time using the keyboard’s left and right arrow keys.  Reviewing images one at a time allows me to fully concentrate on each one >>> which is also the reason why most of my blog posts contain only a single image.

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And seeing each image at smaller size on the screen, rather than having it filling the screen, allows me to appreciate the whole image without having to move my eyes around it – I find that this gives me a much better idea of its overall appearance and composition.

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taking-flight

Taking flight

LR AND BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY

On occasion, I do use LR to create black and white photographs, but I use the Black & White option in the Basic panel of LR’s Develop module far more often to gain a quick impression of how the image looks in mono, as a guide to whether it might be worth looking at it further in that format.

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Most often, when making mono images, I process them to greater or lesser extents in LR, and then export them as 16-bit TIFFs for further processing in Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2.  I really do recommend this software for creation of black and white images, and the more so if you are looking for creative effects – letting your creative hair down! – rather than straight black and white representations of colour scenes.  Similarly, for creative colour, Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4.

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In a recent issue of AP (18 Feb 2017), David Tipling, a very well known wildlife photographer, reveals that he uses Silver Efex for his black and white conversions too.  Here is what he says:

Once a candidate for black & white treatment has been identified, there are myriad ways to make the conversion.  My mantra has always been to keep it simple.  Where once I fiddled with multi-step conversions in Photoshop, I now use Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.  A free download from the Nik collection, this software is a plug-in to Photoshop and offers the ability to finely an image to give the exact look you desire.  A big attraction is the preset examples provided for each image you open, from very modern to vintage looking results.  They give a fast way of assessing whether the image is worth processing.

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David is talking about Photoshop here, and I think the same factors apply to generating black and white images in Lightroom too.  I use Silver Efex as a plug-in to Photoshop Elements but, other than that, don’t use Elements at all.  I could use Silver Efex as a Lightroom plug-in.

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And – boy, oh boy!!! – do I agree with David’s advice to keep things simple!!!

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USING LR TO REDUCE IMAGE NOISE

I’ve been doing quite a bit of high ISO photography recently – before sunrise in both the city and countryside.  And so, good as the Nikons and the newer Fujifilm cameras are at controlling noise at high sensitivities, my images still have it to high degrees.  A recent issue of Amateur Photographer magazine (AP) (4 Feb 2017) thought a combination of LR’s noise reduction tools and shooting in Raw as the best solution for most photographers – although DxO OpticsPro11 Elite was considered the top noise control software overall, if you don’t mind the extra time and expense involved.

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Another issue of AP (7 Jan 2017) described a simple way of using LR’s noise reduction tools, which I find effective.  Once in LR’s Develop module, change the view of your image to 1:1, rather than FIT, so that all image noise is clearly visible.  Then find the noise reduction tools in the panel on the right of LD’s Develop screen.

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You will find the Noise Reduction Color slider set to a default of 25.  Drag it left to zero, and then move it right until the colour noise – visible as coloured speckles in the image – disappears.  This disappearance of the speckling ought to occur somewhere in the 10 to 20 range on the slider, but sometimes may require higher degrees of noise reduction.

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You will find the Luminance slider set to a default of zero.  Drag it to the right, and a value of 20 to 40 ought to reduce luminance noise substantially – beware higher values, which can affect overall image appearance.  Increasing the Detail slider can restore some detail, and use of the Contrast slider can restore contrast in areas of continuous tone.

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Finally, ALWAYS sharpen your images AFTER noise reduction has been applied!

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going-to-work-9-mono

Going to work 9

 

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TALKING IMAGES 25 – AN IMAGE THAT BLOWS ME AWAY

 

 

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A key objective of FATman Photos, during its nearly six years of life, has been diversity of content.  By which I mean that I have always tried to present images with varying subject matter, genre and technique, as well as text to match in varying themes and styles – truth to tell, I enjoy the writing almost as much as I enjoy creating the images.  So, in further pursuit of these aims …

Sometime back, I used to subscribe to Black+White Photography magazine.  I have a great affinity for black and white images (and especially those that stray away from straight representations of reality minus its colours), and I found B+W to be somewhere between a photographic magazine and a publication on the arts, a combination that I liked very much.

At home here now, I’m clearing out some back issues of B+W, going through them to see if there are any pages worth keeping, and I came upon – and was instantly once again electrified by – this cover image.  It is by the haute couture fashion photographer Cathleen Naundorf, and B+W gives the title as: No title – Dior, Atelier d’Artiste – Cautaincourt, Paris, 2007.

The situation is very simple – ever since I first laid eyes on this picture it has both entranced and electrified me.  What do I like about it? Well, the black and white presentation for a start, and the very simple lighting, which is coming in from the left.

Then the dress is of course ornate, with high relief embroidery, embossing – what do I know about descriptions of female attire???  And then there are those big, big, rectangular lapels, which introduce a dischordant element of angularity.

And then we start to get to the real nitty gritty.  First, that wonderful, big and simply circular hat, and the fact that it is covering her eyes, and so imbuing the image with a very important degree of anonymity – so that this is not a portrait of an individual, but rather a piece of art, a composition, an ideal perhaps.  And while talking about the hat and the semi-obscured face,  what we are allowed to see of this face is powerfully lit on the left – right up there with the brightest tones in the picture – while the other side of the face is in deep shadow.  To me, this is almost not a face, but almost a rounded connection hanging down below that striking hat, which serves to connect that hat with the rest of her body.

And lastly the real cruncher, the pose.  Had her arms been down at her sides, this would have been a far less dynamic image, a far more serious image – one perhaps redolent of sorrow or even penance.  But the attitude of her arms and hands (those splayed fingers!) introduces a dynamic that for me changes everything, that makes me just love and wonder at this image in a way that I do with very, very few other images, including my own.  Those arms introduce a sense of style and also of great panache – here are flamboyance, self-assurance and also great vivacity. The woman may be anonymous, but she is leaving us in no doubt as to the intensity of the style and feminity that she embodies and so forcefully conveys.
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