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

 

 

clouds-at-sunrise
 LEVELS288
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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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face-at-a-window

PEOPLE254

 

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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frosty-road-mono

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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river-reflection-the-waterfront

BRISTOL117

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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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table-and-chair

STILL LIFE 85

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LEVELS287

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sunrise-at-the-railway-station

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

 

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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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ARCHIVE 250 – PABLO PICASSO: LES DEMOISELLES D’AVIGNON

 

 

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UPDATE:  I mentioned Picasso and Les Demoiselles in the post before last and so thought to show this post again too.  In the selfie above I’m not looking totally at ease and, although still The FATman, there is now a lot less of me than is shown here.  But, there are Les Demoiselles (and they are shown in more detail below), and there is the corner of what we rather grandly know as our “Breakfast Room” where FATman Photos is created and posted.   You can’t see much really, which is just as well as the room is a complete mess, but years ago I used to lead bird and wildlife safaris in Kenya, and there up on the wall are pen and ink drawings of a lynx and an owl given to me by a grateful client from Michigan, in 1989.

And as for what follows about Picasso’s painting and Picasso too, my feelings have not changed one bit.

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Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is certainly my most favourite painting, for two quite different reasons. Firstly, of course, I like its appearance, I like it as an image. But my second reason for liking this work is certainly stronger – I love this work because I find it hugely exciting and inspirational.

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Ten or more years ago, when photography was becoming a serious interest, I attended Adult Education classes on Modern Art, which were run by Bristol University. I’d been photographing for years in an instinctive way and so that was not so new, but the “World of Art” was totally new, it gripped me and it has never let me go – and I could see that looking at art would be a help in creating photographs.

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I saw Picasso’s image and was transfixed, and these feelings only increased when our teacher described it as “the first picture painted not to be liked”. Here was an image that was not supposed to provide enjoyable viewing but, rather, to shock and outrage audiences – Picasso was showing the world what he could do, and firmly establishing himself in the most modern reaches of Modern Art. As Wikipedia says, “With the bizarre painting that appalled and electrified the cognoscenti, …… Picasso effectively appropriated the role of avant-garde wild beast—a role that, as far as public opinion was concerned, he was never to relinquish.”.

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Yes, I very much like this as an image, but I like it even more for what it represents, which is pure genius, the creation of a person with vast abilities, the creation of a person not at all afraid to be different from everyone else. This painting and what it represents both excites me, and provides me with vast and ongoing inspiration and courage. The courage and motivation to keep looking through the viewfinder, to keep on making pictures, to always be trying to think of differing approaches to pictures – and the courage to post these pictures out into public view on this blog.

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And this painting is always with me, inspiring me, as I have a large framed edition of it up on the wall beside the desk and computer where FATman Photos first sees the light of day – see the photo above.

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Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; Pablo Picasso; 1907.

So, after all that, what does Les Demoiselles actually show? I am certainly not vastly knowledgeable about this work of art, but here’s how it seems to me. It shows a group of prostitutes in a brothel but, while the title suggests the brothel to be in France, I think I recall reading that it was in fact in Spain. To me, the picture consists of two parts. The five women inhabit one, and crushed up against this image, right in the foreground, there is a little, triangular table with some fruit on it.

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The portion of the image containing the women can itself be divided into at least three parts, on the basis of how the women and their surroundings are depicted. The lady on the left is tinged reddish and seems to be a part of the red left hand edge of the image. Moving right, the next two women are perhaps the most “normally” presented, with more realistic skin tones, “alluring” poses, and mostly set against a pale bluish background. To me, their sadly staring eyes are the image’s strongest point – I can feel those sad gazes boring right through me!

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Lastly, there are the two ladies on the right, who are set against darker blue, and whose faces are thought to be derived from Picasso’s interest in African tribal art. And finally, to complete the weird atmosphere this image conjures, the woman at lower right is seated facing away from us but, despite this, she has turned her head through 180 degrees to stare at us directly over her back, just as owls do – but just as you and I don’t!

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You may not like this picture, for reasons that may include the nature of the subjects that it depicts and the style in which they have been depicted. However it was, in today’s parlance, a real Game Changer. After this, Art would never be the same again – and for that reason I view this image with a mixture of awe, vast excitement and profound respect.

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TALKING IMAGES 24 – THE FUJIFILM X-T1, AND ADOBE LIGHTROOM: FINAL THOUGHTS #X-T1 #Lightroom

 

 

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I’ve already posted twice (here and here) about this new camera of mine and my first encounter with Lightroom, and certainly don’t want to ramble on much further along these lines.  So here are a few, brief, final thoughts – which must be read in the knowledge that the X-T1 has already been superseded by the apparently improved X-T2.  All images were captured using the X-T1, and processed with Lightroom and/or Capture NX2.
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I’M QUITE EXCITED BY THIS CAMERA! … BUT WON’T BE USING IT FOR RAPIDLY MOVING SUBJECTS

Although its quite unlike me to say this, I am actually quite excited by the X-T1.  Combined with the excellent 55-200 Fujinon zoom the X-T1 feels like a beautifully balanced extension of me.  The 10-24 wide angle zoom is not too bulky or heavy, and the X-T1’s tilting screen allows it to be easily used near ground level, which is very useful.  Carrying these two zooms for long walks is fine – the weight of the camera + 55-200 on my front is largely balanced by the 10-24 + small (non-photographic) rucksack on my back.  Using these two lenses, I have in 35mm terms the equivalent of 15mm-36mm and 85mm-305mm, image stabilised lenses, which covers the great majority of my needs.  The only other addition might be a f1.4 50mm or 60mm equivalent lens, but this is nowhere near vital.  Because the X-T1 body is so light (440g), another option would be to avoid lens changes by having a body for each of my two lenses.

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The X-T1 captures gorgeous images.  It is a wonderful creative tool which gives me up to 6400 ISO in Raw capture, and as long as I’m not photographing anything that is moving about a lot, this is the camera I’d use.  My Nikons really do have the edge when it comes to speed and precision of autofocus, and their optical viewfinders are not at all phased by speed of movement.  I fetched up next to a field of moving sheep on the Somerset Levels recently, and was so glad to have the D800 with me.  There might be a case for taking a Nikon and my cherished 70-300 zoom as well as the Fujifilm gear when I’m out in the car, just in case highly mobile situations arise.  Another (partial) aid here might be to always use the X-T1 in its battery draining High Performance mode, while carrying a spare battery.

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ANOTHER NIKON PHOTOGRAPHER, WHO HAS USED FUJIFILM CAMERAS BUT WHO IS STAYING … WITH HIS NIKONS …

And here’s a link – to another WordPress blog actually – to a photographer who, like me, has used Fujifilm cameras but is NOT losing his Nikons.  OK, this photographer is a professional and so he has far more invested in his gear than I do, but this is an interesting read – find it here.

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USING THE X-T1

The lock on the X-T1’s ISO adjustment dial is badly designed, but I’ve got used to it, its no bother now.  And the exposure compensation dial, which has no lock, works fabulously.

One of the things that I really like about the X-T1 is the ability to see all of the main settings that are set without diving into the menus – shutter speed,  ISO, drive mode, metering mode.  And another thing that I really like is that all of these settings – along with aperture, virtual horizon and (albeit small) live histogram – can be seen in the large and excellent electronic viewfinder.

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Its clear that I’m going to have to think more about using the Focus Mode Selector dial on the front of the camera more than I do with the Nikons, where its always set to C (shutter fires whether image is focused or not).  On the X-T1, S is for stationary subjects, C for those moving, and M for manual of course.  Its no problem to remember this.

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The X-T1 has recently been upgraded to the X-T2 which, amongst other things, has improved autofocus.  I’m not sure I want the extra cost of the new camera (£1300), and where I know that I’m going to be shooting faster moving subjects, the Nikons will handle them.

So, am I a fan of the X-T1?  Yes I definitely am – and every time I pick up the Nikons now I’m struck by just how big and heavy they are!

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ADOBE LIGHTROOM

I’m much more acquainted with Lightroom now and am enjoying using it.  Its obviously a powerful tool for professional photographers and other photographers with large numbers of images, but its overkill for me, and I find myself using only the Library and Develop modules, and not tagging any of my images.  I’m using Lightroom via Adobe’s Creative Cloud, for about £7/month.

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Lightroom is a non-destructive editor, which means that it uses of a Catalogue file to record all of the changes made to my files.  The files themselves remain pristine and untouched.  This system works well, but I’m conscious of the Catalogue file’s increasing size, and the insecurity of having all my work stored in this way in a single file.  Although having said that, Lightroom regularly reminds me to back up the Catalogue file (and I keep in mind that a back up OFF MY COMPUTER must be kept too, in case my PC goes into catastrophic meltdown) – but in any case I mostly work on an image and then save it as a .tiff file, which would be unaffected by any Catalogue file malfunction.

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There is far more complexity here than is found in Nikon’s (now long discontinued) Capture NX2 software, but of course that only works in its entirety for Nikon Raw files, although it will also edit jpegs and tiffs. Nikon’s Control Points, which facilitate very targeted editing of images with great ease, (and which are also available in Nik software – see below) are just so effective and easy  to use as not to be true.

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I’m also left with the impression that the myriad sliders in Lightroom’s Develop module are an open invitation to over-editing – over egging, if you like – of images.  Most often, restraint is the name of the game (except in black and white!).

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LIGHTROOM FOR BLACK AND WHITE?  >>>>>DEFINITELY NOT!!!

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Lightroom can of course produce black and white images, and complex processing of these can be achieved.  But I have not the slightest doubt that Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2 leaves Lightroom standing in this respect.  There’s simply no contest.  If you’re into black and white, then get SEP2 – and maybe you’d better hurry while Google (who now own it) are giving it away for free – they may discontinue it soon!  I read Amateur Photographer magazine every week, and keep finding highly competent, published photographers who rely on SEP2 for their black and white output.  I’ve also encountered many photographers via this blog who do the same – the numbers of people relying on SEP2 must be vast!

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LIGHTROOM: AN INCREDIBLY USEFUL BOOK

I’m an ex-academic and researcher, and whenever I’m faced with something at all complex, one of my first responses is to see if I can find a book on it, to better get to grips with it.  With Lightroom, I at first relied on Essential Guide to Adobe Lightroom, a slim booklet published gratis sometime back by Amateur Photographer magazine, and this did serve to help me a little bit along the road – but only a little bit.

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So instead, and again in response to a info in Amateur Photographer, I’ve ended up with The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 Book by Lightroom guru Martin Evening, a 722 page tome that is absolutely brilliant – and which I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone wanting a comprehensive reference about what Lightroom can do and how to use Lightroom to do it.  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.  Absolutely wonderful and enthralling, and it has already more than made up for the pennies I’ve laid out on it..

I hope these thoughts are of some use.  Any queries – please do ask!

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TALKING IMAGES 23 – FUJIFILM X-T1 FIELD TEST

 

Calling this a field test is a little presumptuous, but I did take the X-T1 down to the Somerset Levels for a little “serious photography”, and here are some additional thoughts this outing produced.

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Ruby Red Devons, Peacock Farm, Westhay Moor; 3 June 2016.  X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon at 305mm (equivalent); 3200 ISO; Lightroom.

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POSITIVES

Due to not carrying a Nikon and one or two NOT! diminutive Nikkor lenses, my rucksack was pleasantly lighter – there’s no getting away from this aspect of the X-T1.

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Looking at the natural word through the excellent viewfinder was certainly a Technicolor experience – wow, what was I on???! – but the resulting images look fine, so its just a question of realising that, unlike an optical viewfinder, an electronic viewfinder may not always give a totally authentic view of the world.  But, as already stated, the viewfinder is big and bright, and contains lots of useful shooting info – I’m a big fan! – and not least of the very easy to use Virtual Horizon, which really helps if landscape horizons are meant to be horizontal.

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And talking of the viewfinder, well I’ve only ever used optical viewfinders before >>> you pick the camera up, look through the viewfinder and there is, well, your view.  But in order to see through this modern marvel (those words are sincerely meant, btw), you have to switch on the camera first – so I’m forever seeing something with my eyes but then only seeing night through the viewfinder.  Its probably an age thing.

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And I very much like the central, DSLR-style location of this viewfinder – and would certainly not like the siting of the X-Pro2’s viewfinder, which is on the camera’s top left corner.

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And to save on battery juice, and because I’ve never made much use of the Nikons’ rear LCD screens anyway, I mostly have the X-T1’s back screen switched off, and its viewfinder set to spring into life (via a clever sensor) as my eye looks through it (assuming I remember to switch the camera on, that is …).

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I’ve made use of the facility to linking spot metering to the active autofocus point, as the Nikons do – this can be very useful in certain situations eg birds in flight, people backlit, etc, where you want detail rather than just a silhouette.  And while mentioning this, I can also mention that, ever anxious to improve their product, Fujifilm have made so many firmware updates to the X-T1 since it came onto the market that they’ve included a second paper manual “in the box” with the camera, to cover these improvements – of which this spot metering link is one.

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Maize (corn) sprouting in black peat soil, with flowering hawthorn bushes behind, Westhay Moor; 3 June 2016. X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon at 305mm (equivalent); 2500 ISO; Lightroom.

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X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon zoom (“Made in Germany” refers to the filter!).

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Now something else that works (for me at least) >>> really, really well.  Fujifilm lenses are not cheap and they can be weighty, but they are of good quality.  The only one that I’ve bought so far is shown above – the 55-200mm, which in 35mm format equates to 84-305mm >>> that is, very similar to the 70-300 Nikon lens that I’m married to.

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The big, greyish ring on this lens, marked 200-55, is the zoom ring, and when this ring rests on the open palm of my left hand, the balance of this camera+lens combination is and exact and superb, I couldn’t ask for anything better balanced – and this is a most important thing if I’m going to be holding this combination and using it to get shake-free images over extended periods of time.

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And there are two other benefits here.  First, since my palm is under the zoom ring, my fingers can immediately grasp it – and the total zoom range can be achieved in a single, ninety degree twist – very immediate and easy!  The zoom ring is usefully stiff to rotate – which is good, as the zoom does not slip easily.

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And second, the far thinner and more coarsely knurled ring just below the 200-55 numbers is used to alter the lens aperture in Aperture Priority mode, which is the mode that I almost invariably use – I decide the aperture and thus the approximate depth of focus in the image, and the camera automatically gives me the exact shutter speed for that aperture.  Having that ring in that position makes for immediate and very easy access – and the aperture set via this ring is of course visible in the viewfinder – perfect!

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However, bear in mind that I’m only talking about one lens here, others may differ.  And I think that the system’s prime lenses have an aperture ring on the front of the lens, as many lenses had “in days gone by”(!), so that will be something else again.

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As with the Nikons, the X-T1 has AE-L and AF-L buttons on the back of the body (see picture below), just where the right thumb falls when the camera is in use.  And as with the Nikons, I’ve set AE-L up to lock the exposure and AF-L to lock the focus – in each case until these buttons are pressed a second time.  I have always found these buttons extremely quick and useful to use on the Nikons – and I think all cameras should have them.

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Lastly, this is a really beautifully made camera.  In an age of mass-produced plastics and cheapness, this is a really beautiful and functional physical object.  The overall impression that I’m getting here really does remind me of the classic Olympus OM-1 all those years ago  – and that is praise indeed!

 

NEGATIVES

The only way to change the ISO is via the knob on the top left of the camera’s top plate, as shown above.  This is a fiddly operation and, to make matters worse, this knob has a central locking button, to prevent ISO being changed inadvertently – and this makes matters worse still!  And, to make matters even worse, the camera’s drive selector (single shot, high speed motordrive, etc) is underneath the ISO button and, several times, when wrestling with the ISO button, I’ve changed the drive selector by mistake.  Bad design, quite unlike the rest of the camera.

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(Over to the right, the shutter speed button has a similar central lock button, but I find this easier to use >>> although its rarely used, because I leave the shutter speed button set on “A” for Aperture Priority.  Further right again is the exposure compensation dial – in the position its in on many cameras.  It has no central lock and it works wonderfully – including being used while my eye is to the viewfinder.)

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The Focus Mode selector, with its F, C and M options, is just visible on the far left of the picture, low down on the front of the camera body.  It works differently from Nikon’s version.  M is for manual in both systems, but the Nikons won’t fire if S is set and the image is out of focus >>> and since having any camera deciding for itself if it’ll fire or not is simply not something I’m going to sign up to, the Nikons are always on C – which fires the shutter under any conditions whatsoever!  Fujifilm tells me to use “their” S for stationary subjects and “their” C for those that are in motion >>> and S on the X-T1 fires whether the image is in focus or not.

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I’m sure that the tilting screen on the back of the camera must be a useful thing, but so far I just can’t make it sing for me – time will tell.  I’m thinking of getting a wide angle zoom, 15mm-36mm equivalent, and the tilting screen may have more use with this, eg for low down / ground level shots.

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POST-CAPTURE PROCESSING

The X-T1 has its own in-camera processing effects filters but I never use them, preferring to do all my processing post-capture in separate software.  Basically, as with the Nikons, I use the RAW files as digital negatives, that is as starting points for my images,  rather than as end points.  Lightroom can save the X-T1’s RAW files as 16-bit TIFFs which, if I want to, I can further process in Nikon’s Capture NX2 and/or Nik’s Silver Efex Pro2 and Color Efex Pro4.

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Lightroom is a very powerful processing tool, but I’m not a total convert.  In particular, I get the feeling that Lightroom, with its wealth of sliders, is an easy path to overdoing things.  I would never think of having it apply bulk settings to a collection of photos, because to me each image is an individual entity, needing individual thought and processing.  And I’m not totally comfortable with Lightroom’s ever enlarging and critically important Catalogue file.  Capture NX2, now certainly obsolete, does the job of preserving temporary changes to image files with far less fuss.

 

SOME CONCLUSIONS

In my notes, I have written “I’m getting a feeling about the X-T1” and, more than once now, I’ve compared it to the classic Olympus OM-1 film SLR.  I’ll be surprised if these favourable impressions change much, I can see that this camera is going to be a very handy and versatile creative tool.

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However, that said, the X-T1 is not (yet???) the camera I would use for all occasions – and especially for those where things might get a little difficult photographically.  Two examples come to mind.  If I were going to photograph our friends’ two young daughters – who seem to spend a lot of time standing on their heads, running across ceilings and generally visually bewildering this old man – I’d use the Nikon D700 and the very fast and nippy autofocus of the 105mm Nikkor lens.  And were I going again to shoot captive birds of prey in a collection, it would again be the D700 with the love of my life, the 70-300 Nikkor zoom.

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But, for less challenging situations, I’m sure the X-T1 is going to do very well indeed.  And there is always the point of course, that these initial opinions of mine may be to some extent a product of my inexperience with the X-T1 – time will tell.  But the X-T2 will appear soon, and my bet is that, amongst other improvements, it will feature snappier autofocusing.

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TALKING IMAGES 22 – THE FUJIFILM X-T1: FIRST IMPRESSIONS ( #X-T2 )

 

 

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Sunlight on oak leaves, in our back garden; X-T1 with Fujinon 55-200 at 300mm (equivalent); 800 ISO; Lightroom.

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Having had the X-T1 camera for a short while now, but NOT having yet taken it out for some “serious” photography, here are some first impressions.

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POSITIVES

The X-T1 is certainly smaller and lighter than my full frame Nikons and, while this is not too much of an issue at the moment, it may become one as I get (ever!) older.  And if I ever need lighter gear to go somewhere, this is what I’ll take. 

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If I need something even lighter and more compact, its the Canon G11 PowerShot.  But I’m not sure that I’d like the X-T1 to be any smaller than it is – someone said that the smaller X-T10 is too small, at least for anyone with big hands (which I don’t have), and I go along with that.

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The X-T1 has a wonderfully large and bright electronic viewfinder (EVF), which I think is best used at Full size rather than Normal.  This viewfinder has (customisable) shooting info all around it, and a live view histogram, and a very simple but effective virtual horizon too – all of which make the camera a joy to use.  But, unlike an optical viewfinder, this EVF will of course use up battery power, and I’ve yet to see how the battery lasts on a long trip.

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NEGATIVES

The auto focus is not bad, but it not up there with the Nikons – but then maybe I would have been surprised if it was.  Most of my pictures don’t need blisteringly fast auto focus, but for those that do, like the one below (Somerset Levels 268) in which the car was haring away from me at great speed, my confidence in the X-T1 would not be rock solid.  However, that said, I’d put money on an X-T2 appearing soon, and I bet that it will have considerably improved auto focus – and this week’s Amateur Photographer  (4 June 2016) thinks that what the X-T1 needs is the much improved AF speed of its recently updated stable mate, the X-Pro2 >>> and I bet that’s what’s coming!

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The X-T1 does have a handgrip on the front and a thumb rest on the back but, while being better than nothing, they’re not quite big enough for even my medium-sized hands.  But, as an example of the thought and foresight that Fujifilm are putting into their cameras, they have also provided an extra handgrip, and a vertical battery grip too (for shooting in portrait format), both of which can be purchased separately.  But I tried out the handgrip and found it unsuitable for my hands – my index finger just wouldn’t rest comfortably on the shutter release.  And adding the vertical battery grip just adds more bulk and weight to what is supposed to be a lighter camera, so I’m not going down that road either.

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I much prefer the Nikons’ deeper, chunkier grips – OK, these are bigger and heavier cameras and lenses, but those no-nonsense grips make holding them securely, even with only one hand, much easier.

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LAST THINGS, INCL SOFTWARE

The X-T1 gets to me more and more, the more I learn about it and play with it.  And its going with me down to the Somerset Levels early tomorrow morning – so we shall see!

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Oh yes, and to handle the X-T1’s RAW files I’ve signed up to Lightroom, via Adobe’s Creative Cloud.  Reading about Lightroom for sometime, I received the impression that its vast and complex, but now I can see that it doesn’t have to be that way at all, so that’s fine.  In particular, I’ll probably keep my Lightroom Catalogue file quite small in size – I’m glad to see that material can be removed from this file, as well as added.

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My Nikon RAW files may continue being processed in Capture NX2.  And I hope that the software I treasure most – Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 and Color Efex Pro 4 – will go on forever!

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