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Getting a cover always feels great. So when the chance came to shoot Everything Shook for The Thin Air came up, I took it. The ladies were a joy to work with and everything was super chill. I took the bus up so travelled fairly light, especially as I was walking for a fair bit to get to them.

TTA Everything shook cover

For the shot, I used a single Cactus Image RF60 with V6II trigger. The flash was set to full power, and zoomed to 105 to give a tight, but powerful beam of light. This was place to camera left. It was on a Manfrotto Nano 5001b, which as at full height to allow the shadows to drop behind the girls onto the corrugated fencing behind them. The angle was such to allow a loupe light on the faces. The great thing about the Cactus RF-60 is that you can control both the zoom and the power from the V6II trigger.

I shot with a Fujifilm X-T10 with the 18-55mm, lens set at 40.7mm. That does mean I could’ve potentially used the 35mm f1.4, but for ease for the whole shoot (there are other images in the magazine), I went with a zoom. The exposure setting chosen were based on a few things. Firstly I wanted to used the ambient light as fill. Secondly, I didn’t want it to be a super flashed looking shots. The base ISO on the X-T10 is ISO200, so I started with that. The Flash Sync Speed was 1/180, so I started with that. The aperture gave a slightly underexposed ambient. Finally I set the flash power-which happened to be full power in this instance. Had I needed more, I could’ve moved the flash in closer.

As the shot was for the cover, and the text is located in the same place with each issue, I knew to leave space at the top for the title. Thanks to Brian and Loreana at The Thin Air for giving me the job! The print version of the magazine will be out soon, and available for free in venues and music stores around Ireland.

I’ve been a Digital SLR user for over 13 years now. Before that I shot film. Loads of Neopan and Velvia, as well as some Reala. I started with a particular camera brand, so when I changed from film to digital, I kept with that brand. Despite having a full complement of cameras and lenses in that system, I also kept a compact camera for travel. I was always looking for a smaller, lighter camera that did what my main body did. I even had cameras like the Fuji F10 and the F5000 as part of my kit at times.

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As time passed I got a pro compact from my main system maker, simply because it had a hotshoe. The hotshoe became a requirement for me in a compact system because I’ve been lighting as long as I’ve had a Digital body. When the mirrorless revolution came along, I watched with interest. In 2012, based on a lot of reading and study, I finally bought a mirrorless body and some lenses. There was a lot of influence from a UK photo educator, based on the fact that I love his work. It wasn’t a Fuji. It had loads more features and lenses than the X-system at the time, so for these reasons, I went for it. It could be completely customised to be like my main system, but still I fought with it. It was hard work and I eventually gave up and sold the whole system, camera, lenses and flash to a mate that makes a tonne of money with it!

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At the time, the X-Pro1 was on offer with 2 lenses, making the body effectively free. I tried one at a trade show and just loved it. It boiled down to Image Quality. The X-Pro1 simply outshone the other system. The files were on par with my main camera. And for me, it’s always been about the image. Features can be added, but the image quality has to be there first and foremost. Using the money from the first mirrorless system, I took the Fuji offer. The kit came with the 18mm f2.0 lens and I chose the 35mm lens as the 2nd lens. I opted not to get the 60mm at the time, though I have added it since. I began shooting a lot of personal work with those 2 lenses. There was so much to love about the X-Pro1. The handling, the feel. It was just right. But I wasn’t convinced yet. First, I didn’t have enough gear to use it as a main system. Secondly, it could also be a little slow to focus, and I did miss shots with it. But when it did focus, the shots were just brilliant. I tried it on some small jobs. It did ok, but I knew I’d probably have worked faster with my DSLR.

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When the X-T1 came along, I was very interested, but still wasn’t ready to make a move. I’d lost money changing systems already, and wasn’t confident enough based on my experience with the X-Pro1. In fact I was close to just selling the bits I had. Could the X-T1 cut it for paid work? I really didn’t know and it was beyond the level of investment I wanted to make to find out. I’ve often said to new photographers to choose wisely. You’re never just buying a camera. You’re buying into a system, so you have to be sure.

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The X-T10 was announced, and the features and pricing made it irresistible. Here was a camera that was 60% of the price of the X-T1, with about 90% of the features. I ordered one that day from my local camera shop. I fell in love with it straight away. While not a compactly sized person, I am short. The camera fitted my hands no problem and with a few changes to the many custom buttons and dials, I was ready to rock. Some personal shoots and a lot of playing with the camera increased my Fuji comfort level. I even learned that some of the features from the X-T10 also applied to the X-Pro1, so it went into my bag as a backup camera.

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My love for the X-series really expanded at that point and so did my lens arsenal. I now use it for over 90% of my work. The quality of the lenses are superb. The 50-140, despite the size is just incredible. I use Lightroom, which is very average with Fuji files, but the sharpness of this lens even wide open can overcome that. Even the kit lens, the 18-55 is magnificent. The shots are just gorgeous. I’ve done band work, TV work and even magazine work with the camera. I’m utterly delighted with it. I know the system will progress further and I look forward to using it exclusively. Recently I’ve shot a lot of commercial work with it. I make a point of showing my work as I go, and it instills confidence in the client that despite the small size of the camera, there’s no question of the quality.

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Despite the gushing, the system isn’t there yet. DSLR cameras use a secondary mirror system to focus, while mirrorless cameras focus directly from the sensor. DSLR flashes use a criss cross red/infra red beam to allow the camera to focus in low light. Fuji flashes, both system and third party don’t have this beam because the sensor can’t focus with it. It really needs more light to focus. So for my nightclub work, I use my DSLR, and pray for the day I can leave behind the weight! The new EF-X500 seems to have a white spot where the focus assist beam usually comes from, so I’m hoping this is a new LED that helps focus while shutting off during the flash phase!

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The other aspect of flash that holds me back is the lack of support for High Speed Sync. I do use and demo this at workshops, using my old system. It means I can use flash in open sun and still use prime lenses wide open. It’s something that’s much needed in the Fuji flash system. Again the EF-X500 promises this with the X-Pro2, but it still hasn’t landed yet.

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While the X-Pro2 looks like an amazing camera (and that 24MP sensor size was a big temptation), the X-T2 was a better choice for me. I’m glad I waited for it. It arrived yesterday, and instead of all the test shots you see on forums, I went straight into a job with it. It performed impeccably. In the meantime, it’s time to replace the 18-55 with a 16-55. I feel the need for one every day now. In what’s perhaps an ironic thought, my most used lenses on the full frame were the 17-40 and the 85mm. These translate to the 10-24 and the 56 in the Fujifilm lens lineup. Guess what? Those are exactly the lenses that I don’t have. If you’re a bit of a generalist, and want to have a good starting setup with Fuji, then grab an X-T10, the 10-24 and either the 60, or the 56. You won’t regret it.

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Since I started writing this post, I’ve also been using the Cactus V6II triggers to get High Speed Sync working on the X-T10. It’s just beautiful to use. Beautifully lit portraits with shallow depth of field outdoors. Just gorgeous. It’s not compatible with the X-T2 as yet, but that will come, I’m sure. Meanwhile the EF-X500 has been held back until Oct.

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With the increase to 24MP outmatching the Canon 5DIII, I’m even more confident with the system being able to give me everything I need for the bulk of my work, both commercial and personal. I’m not shooting billboards as yet. Maybe when that happens it’ll be time for the rumoured Fuji Medium Format system. Who knows, but until then, onwards any upwards with Fuji.

Here’s a few of my music photo highlights from this years Galway International Arts Festival. I’ve also linked to further sets on The Thin Air.

Slowplacelikehome supporting Dan Deacon-Roisin Dubh, Galway-21/7/16-Sean McCormack
Slowplacelikehome supporting Dan Deacon-Roisin Dubh, Galway-21/7/16-Sean McCormack
Dan Deacon-Roisin Dubh, Galway-21/7/16-Sean McCormack
Dan Deacon-Roisin Dubh, Galway-21/7/16-Sean McCormack

Dan and Slowplacelikehome on The Thin Air

 

The Undertones supporting Elvis Costello and the Imposters-Absolut Big Top, Galway-Sean McCormack
The Undertones supporting Elvis Costello and the Imposters-Absolut Big Top, Galway-Sean McCormack
Elvis Costello and the Imposters-Absolut Big Top, Galway-Sean McCormack
Elvis Costello and the Imposters-Absolut Big Top, Galway-Sean McCormack
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The Orchid Collective supporting Pleasure Beach in the Roisin Dubh
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Pleasure Beach in the Roisin Dubh

Pleasure Beach

Villagers play the Absolut Big Top for the Galway International Arts Festival. Photo by Sean McCormack.
Villagers play the Absolut Big Top for the Galway International Arts Festival. Photo by Sean McCormack.
Mick Flannery supporting Villagers at the Absolut Big Top for the Galway International Arts Festival. Photo by Sean McCormack.
Mick Flannery supporting Villagers at the Absolut Big Top for the Galway International Arts Festival. Photo by Sean McCormack.

Villagers and Mick Flannery on The Thin Air

 

King Kong Company-15/7/16-Roisin Dubh, Galway-Sean McCormack
King Kong Company-15/7/16-Roisin Dubh, Galway-Sean McCormack

King Kong Company on The Thin Air

Suede-Absolut Big Top, Galway International Arts Festival-Sean McCormack
Suede-Absolut Big Top, Galway International Arts Festival-Sean McCormack
The Frank and Walters supporting Suede-Absolut Big Top, Galway International Arts Festival-Sean McCormack
The Frank and Walters supporting Suede-Absolut Big Top, Galway International Arts Festival-Sean McCormack

Suede and The Frank and Walters on The Thin Air.

BellX1-Absolut Big Top, Galway-Sean McCormack
BellX1-Absolut Big Top, Galway-Sean McCormack
The Academic supporting BellX1-Absolut Big Top, Galway-Sean McCormack
The Academic supporting BellX1-Absolut Big Top, Galway-Sean McCormack

 

With the official announcement of the new Fujifilm X-T2, the silence of the lucky testers can now be broken. Alas, I’m not one of the lucky ones. This time there’s a mix of Fuji X-Photographers and non Fuji users having gotten them to test, so being an ambassador doesn’t mean you’ll get one. My buddy Piet Van den Eynde got the X-Pro2 to test, but not the X-T2, for example. As I can’t write about a camera I’ve not used, here’s a roundup of blogs that have a range of things to say about this new camera.

You can now download the official Fujifilm X-T2 Catalogue (PDF link).

And now for the wait.

If you’re shooting landscapes, interiors or even wide environmental portraits on Fujifilm X Series cameras, you’re choices are limited. You’ve the Fujinon 10-24 or the 14mm. If you have the money and want a wide prime, there’s the Touit 12mm f2.8-the jury is out on the value of it. At 1/3 of the price and a full stop faster is the Samyang 12m f2.0. Samyang also goes by the Bower or Rokinon name, but they’re all the same lens. If I was giving advice to someone who want a versatile lens choice at a price, that would be a 17-40 and an 85 on full frame. That’s the 10-24 and 56 (or 60 at a push) on Fuji. I didn’t go that route myself as I started with the 18 and 35 Fujinon lenses. So for my wide I stayed prime and got the cheaper Samyang 12mm. By way of reference, that’s 18mm full frame equivalent field of view.

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Don’t let the price fool you. This isn’t a cheap imitator hoping to wile away your cash and leave you disappointed. Think great value rather than cheap. As with most Samyang lenses, this is a manual only lens. That’s less of a problem than you think, because for most of the things you’d use this for, manual is fine. Set at f16, focus before the infinity more (using Hyperfocal Distancing) and it’ll all be in focus. For Astro stuff, where you really would make use of the f2.0 aperture, it needs some testing to get it just right, but when it’s set, it stays there. The focus ring is quite stiff, which is exactly how you want a manual lens. Mark the lens across the ring and distance scale, that way you can get it bang on the next time with no fuss. Be warned that the distance scale isn’t accurate, so do test with it before committing to shoot. The ring is also a back focusing ring, so the front element stays fixed. If you use screw on filters, or filters holders, you’ll be thankful for this! Personally I’m using the new Hitech-Formatt 85mm system with new holder design, using a 67mm ring. The new design is far better than the old one by miles and miles-but I digress.

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Being a manual lens, you get a manual aperture ring. This goes from f2.0 to f22 with a defined click at half stop intervals. It’s reasonably tight, so not prone to moving. At f22 you are hitting the limits of the APS sensor and getting diffraction, but again on APS f11-f16 with hyperfocal distancing should be in focus from front to back, without diffraction. If you don’t know what diffraction is, it’s blurring due to light bending through the aperture hole and not quite getting into the sensor photosites straight on. Smaller sensors with narrow apertures are susceptible to it. Generally I avoid f22 where I can. On the other end, it’s pretty sharp at f2.0. Often you have to open up for better sharpness, but this lens is quite good for it.

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I have 2 copies of this lens. The first was second hand and has a scratch which the buyer failed to mention on the lens. It’s generally not an issue, and only shows as flare when facing the light source. Of course, I shot a lot of interiors, so after a while, it did become a problem for me. I was happy enough with the lens performance, so I bought a new copy. It’s equally as good as the first, if not better (excluding the scratch, of course). The fact that I was willing to do this should show I’m a firm believer in the lens.

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So far the pros are great value, great range of aperture, solid focus ring, internal focus, sharp at f2, still sharp at f16. There are some cons. There are six aperture blades so bokeh is hexagonal. It does flare a little, giving lovely hexagons on your image (I’m being facetious, it’s not lovely). This is part of what drives the price down of course and it’s a fair trade off. Just keep the lens clean and it’s not as bad. It not so much direct sunlight as windows blowing out in an interior that make it obvious.

One bonus that’s happened since my purchase, is that Lightroom now has Lens Profiles for all named versions of this lens, so the distortions can be fixed automatically.

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Verdict? If you want to go wide on a budget with Fuji, and don’t mind going manual, well, then this is a no brainer. If you need a zoom, then there’s only the 10-24 right now.. and it’s f4, so you’re losing 2 whole stops of light on this one. Amazon Amazon UK B&H Photo Video (Affiliate links)

Note, the silver version can be cheaper.

Rumours abound that the much delayed successor to the ancient EF-42, the EF-X500, has been delayed again until September. Originally due an end of May launch, it’s being pushed back further and further. The imminent July 7th announcement will supposedly have both a price and a Sept release date. Just another week in the Fuji Flash Saga. (Fujirumors have more pics and a potential price of over €500 for the EF-X500).

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Don’t get me wrong. It’s really great that it’s finally coming. I did get to see a mockup version at The Photography Show, but it’s both really late in terms of what’s out there, and in terms of the continuously delayed launch. What do I mean? Well, flash has been the weak point of the system all along, and the original specs for this flash show that it will have remote commander functions-but in optical form. Anyone using remote flash knows that even the super cheap systems out there now use radio triggers, which don’t require line of sight, and will still work outdoors in bright sunlight. Personally I’m hoping the addition of radio is part of the delay, but I’m not optimistic.

The X-T10 already has a commander mode option in the camera, so hopefully, this will work with the new flash. And hopefully it will be either able to use HSS (high speed sync), or get a firmware update for it. Now, the Nissan i40, a 3rd party flash for Fuji, does HSS in full manual power, through a secret handshake on turn on, so it is possible to get it that way, but on a low powered flash. So the sooner it arrives in official Fuji form, the better!

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As for remote TTL via Radio, I’ve already looked at the RobotSHOOT triggers. They’re well up to that task, and as bonus, let Nikon users keep their flashes for Fuji TTL use. The SB910 is a far better flash than the EF-42, and by using a camera bracket, you could easily run TTL with a more powerful flash off a Fuji camera.

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In reality, the long wait for a Fuji flash isn’t from a lack of trying on Fuji’s part. The current flagship flash is the EF-42. This is a rebranded Sunpak flash, made for the S series DSLR’s that Fuji once made. It also shows that Fuji depend on 3rd party manufacturers for flashes. They had Metz on board, but when Metz went under, it made for a major setback. Still, news from around the world is not bad for Fuji users with regards using flash.

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Cactus Image have announced the V6II triggers which provide HSS to Fuji through a range of other flashes, so the external competition is already on. Piet from More Than Words, a fellow Fuji X Photographer, has a review set and it raving about them, and at how great the HSS is.

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There’s the other issue with Fuji flash, that I mention, but seems to be less public. On camera flash is used to light up dark and low light environments. In my case in nightclubs. On DSLRS, the flashes send out a red criss cross kind of pattern. The camera detects these via the secondary mirror system used to focus. The contrast allows the camera to focus, then the shot can fire. Mirrorless cameras focus directly from the sensor, and don’t respond to the standard focus assist beam. They need light to focus. This means a compatible flash needs a light beam, like an LED video light to focus. Product shots of the EF-X500 seems to show a white rectangle, which I really hope is a LED. Why? Because I’m tired of having to use the 5D3 for this one regular job, where I’d rather be using the Fuji.

It’s taken a long time to get to this point, so I really hope that this July 7th rumour pans out and that the EF-X500 will in fact put the flash weakness with the Fujifilm X-Series to bed.

The Fujifilm X-T10 was announced on the 18th June 2015. I rang Galway Camera Shop, got a price, had a think, then rang back and ordered one. That sounds a bit like a fanboy response, but it wasn’t. In fact, inside my head, I was done with Fuji at that point. The X-Pro1, much as I loved the image quality, was slow to focus.. and just slow in general. I had 2 lenses at the time too, an 18mm f2.0 and a 35mm f1.4. I shoot landscapes, interiors and portraits (of many kinds). The 18 mm wasn’t wide enough and 35 mm wasn’t long enough.

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When the X-T1 was announced, it solved many of my issues, but based on my lack of faith and the expense, I just couldn’t take the risk. When the X-T10 came out with a great feature set and a better price, I decided to give Fuji one last chance. Boy, am I glad. I was far more pleased than I ever expected to be. The X-T10 made me fall in love with photography all over again.

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The camera is really customisable, with plenty of features that made it an indispensable tool. Important things like being easily able to set up a button to turn the viewfinder Exposure preview off for my studio work- meaning it shows the scene in front of you, but not how it’s exposed. I could also turn the exposure preview back on to see how the photo are would look exactly when using natural light. I now find it hard to go back to digital SLRs, I have gotten so used to the electronic viewfinder on the X-T10. Why? Because with exposure preview on, what you see in the viewfinder is exactly what the photo looks like. And because I’ve the preview time set to 0.5 sec, I’m straight on to composing the next shot as my photo flashes by. (I’d even go shorter if it were possible).

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For easy access I’ve set a single press of the shutter speed dial to change it to the control to ISO. The camera focuses directly from the sensor, so the focus point can be anywhere on the image. I’m not restricted to the centre of the image like most digital SLR’s. By adding more glass to the system I’ve gained a lot of options. I now run from 12mm to 140mm, which is 18mm to 210mm in full frame terms. I have that Samyang 12mm, the Fuji 18mm, 35mm, 60mm, 18-55mm, and 50-140mm. This covers what I need for work. Had the camera not worked out, I’d have sold the what I had and continued with Canon full time. But fortunately, the X-T10 just clicked with me.

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I don’t believe the system is complete yet but there is bright news on the horizon. One thing I missed from Canon is high speed sync(HSS). Fuji do not have it implemented in their flash system, though the new flash the EF-X500, will have HSS and an optical trigger system. Chinese manufacturer Cactus have announced version two of their V6 trigger which is multisystem compatible and will work with Fuji (including HSS). That solves my main concern with the system and flash. The remaining concern is flash in low light. Digital SLRs can use a red focus assist being to create contrast, allowing the lens to focus. Because mirrorless cameras focus from the sensor they really need light to focus. Hopefully this can be resolved so I can use Fuji for nightclub work and sell my Canon gear.

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I’d like to talk about my progression with the camera. Initially I only used the Fuji for personal work, but as time passed I started using it more and more for commercial work. There were a lot of benefits to the system. The Wi-Fi connectivity was helpful for remote photography allowing me to shoot rooms while not present for my interiors work. I could set up the shot, turn on the Wi-Fi, then leave the room. From on my phone or tablet (iOS or Android) I could see the shot and remotely change the settings on the camera. It also enabled me to put the camera up on a tall pole making use of height for elevation photography. I also love the tilt screen for interiors. I tend to shoot slight about mid room height, so being able to angle the screen is perfect.

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For my people work I found the electronic viewfinder helped me nail more images. Because what you see is what you get you know before you shoot exactly what the shot is going to look like. For travel and speaking, the X-T10 with four prime lenses weighs less that my Canon Digital SLR. I’ve been able to fit the camera, the four prime lenses (12,18,35 & 60), a flash (Neewer TT850), triggers, spare batteries, memory cards and charger in a camera bag smaller than the Ryanair second carry on bag. Meaning my normal check-in bag is for my clothes again! Now if only there was room for a 7″ tablet in the small bag.

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I am a member of the IPPA the Irish Professional Photographers Association. At one of the Association meetings I met Irish Fuji X photographer, Tom Doherty. Tom explained a little bit about the process of becoming Fuji X photographer so I made contact with Fuji Ireland. From that initial contact I was eventually made a Fuji X photographer myself. I was absolutely delighted when this happened. It’s amazing that a camera, especially one of the cheaper cameras, could have made such an impact on my photography and I’m delighted to be included with this group of ambassadors for Fujifilm.

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Over the past few months I’ve been working with GalwayNOW doing some of their editorials and business sections. It’s been a joy to do this work, and the X-T10 has met no resistance with clients. Using either an Eye-Fi Card, or the Remote app, I show work as we go. Tether is definitely beneficial, so I really hope that we can get wifi tether added to the current wifi options.

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I’m still speaking and teaching a lot. I did classes for The Societies Convention in January, and got to hang with Nathan Wake from Fuji UK-total gent. I’ve also taught at a residential week in Buxton in the UK, again using the Fuji. The most recent event was for the IPPA, where I did a half day class in flash, showing the X-T10 in operation. I did pull out the Canon for about 20 minutes to show HSS.

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I see myself getting more lenses, the new flash, and the rumoured X-T2. Quite a turnaround from where I was just over a year ago! So after a year, is there anything I’d change? Well, I’m delighted with it, but yes there are things. One of them is huge. I’d lose the Drive dial. It’s worse than useless. It forever getting changed when I don’t want it too. Fortunately I know quickly now, but it had me confused. The times I need to change it are few and far between, and I’d rather have an ISO dial than a Drive dial. One thing I need for interiors is more accurate electronic levels. The current one has too wide a range to be useful and I use a hotshot bubble level instead. I also need an up down level so walls are straight. Canon do have one, and it’s great. Faster preview time too, like 0.3 or 0.2 sec. Um.. I’m sure there’s more, but honestly, the features are so good in general. Here’s to the next year with Fuji.

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The May/June issue of Photoshop User (with Lightroom) Magazine is out now. In my monthly Column, Maximum Workflow, I do a walkthrough of Nik’s Analog EFEX Pro app. It’s part of the Google Nik Collection, which was recently made free of charge by Google. Analog EFEX is a great program with loads of retro looks available.

I started photography printing and developing my own black and white photos. I still have the gear in storage, but I don’t do much of it any more-to my shame. A few years ago I saw Ian Ruthers ‘Silver and Light’ film and was hooked on the idea of doing collodion based photography. I read extensively, watched tonnes of videos and even got as far as pricing chemicals and other paraphernalia (expensive) for this antique photographic craft. I checked online for classes and saw I’d just missed one. There was no further date available, so I contacted the tutor. She would give 1:1 or 1:2 classes, so I tried to get someone else on board to no avail. I let the opportunity slip and just lived with the regret.

Since then I’ve seen videos where Ian was shooting just using a Holga and I still hoped to do it….one day. Something happened in March, that prompted me to go and look for courses on Wet Plate Collodion. The Gallery of Photography in Dublin had one on the 8th May, so I emailed in assuming the class would be booked up already again. It wasn’t. There were 2 spaces left, so I booked straight away.

So yesterday, after a short nights sleep, I got the Gobus to Dublin. There were 6 attending the class, along with 2 assistants. There was a great regional representation, with Galway, Cork, Limerick, Mayo, Westmeath and of course, Dublin. The tutor was Monika Fabijanczyk, and it became really obvious throughout the class just how knowledgeable she was in the field of wet plate photography with Ambrotypes being her preferred method.

The class began with notes handed out to the students, but unlike other classes, we didn’t spend the start of the class reading through the notes. These were more like homework. Instead, this was a fully practical class. Hands on from the start. I volunteered to have my portrait taken for the initial demo. There’s two parts to the class really. Firstly most of us were using Large Format cameras for the first time. There are similarities to using older Medium Format cameras, like need to cock the shutter etc. The image is also upside down and reversed left to right-which is what the image will look like. The 2nd is the creation and processing of the wet plates.

The studio and class (The Lightroom as it’s called) is on the 3rd floor. The Darkroom is in the basement. There were more people than could fit in the lift, so there was a lot of stairs use, so maybe there was a 3rd part to the class: exercise! We went down to the basement and Monika showed us how to pour collodion onto clean glass plates. Gloves, aprons and goggles are used for this as collodion is dangerous, and when the silver nitrate is added will stain skin (it’s actually burning the skin). There’s a technique to the pour, and you do see it in the Silver and Light videos, but seeing it in person being described is definitely more valueable. Not to mention that a tonne of head knowledge only amount to a gram of experience. When the collodion dried enough to be tacky, it was smoothly placed in a silver bath for about 3 minutes with a little occasional agitation. Next Monika cleaned the back and then places it into a converted sheet film holder and added the dark slide. The plate looked milky at this point, and was placed face down in the holder. Up at that camera, the opposite side is opened for the exposure. With the plate ready, we went back up to the studio.

I sat and Monika prepped and took the shot. As the effect ISO of wet plate collodion is ISO 1 or 2, it means a lot of light and long exposures. First Monika checked focus on the ground glass, with the shutter held open. Once focused, she closed and cocked the shutter for firing. The holder was put in behind the ground glass and the dark slide removed. With the camera set to T, she fired the shutter with a remote cable. After a 10 count, she fired the release again to close the shutter. The dark slide was put back in and we all went down to the darkroom again. The plate was taken out and developer pored onto it. After about 10-15 secs, when the detail began to appear, the plate was put into a batch to stop the developer. Once the developer was washed off, it went into the fixer try. This is where the magic happened. Even though you can see the image after the developer, it goes through a milky looking phase in the fixer, but then appears properly. It’s really exciting to see-even more than with paper processing. Once ready, the plate in put in a running water tray to clean off. I’ll say this again: there’s nothing that matched being there in person watching this.

Of course I volunteered for the test portrait.. #wetplate

A photo posted by Sean McCormack (@seanmcfoto) on

After this we took a 40 minute lunch break-no eating near the chemicals allowed! After lunch we all got our first go. Straight up- Monika made it look easy. But it’s not quite as easy as that really. You need to gauge the pour and then get the spare collodion back in the jar. I didn’t quite pour enough the first time, with Monika telling me to keeping pouring. Prepping in the bath was easy and then a quick clean of the back and into the holder. Back up to the studio to shoot my first portrait. I had Jason, one of the other class members sit for me. Then it was back down to the darkroom to develop. I really made a mess of the developer pour, with not enough spread around the plate. Pouring more only meant that I didn’t get an even pour of the developer on the plate. So after fixing and cleaning, it was noticeably streaked. However, I love it. I preferred the distressed look on these images, so messing it up was achieving rather than outright failing. That’s not to say I don’t want to do it right.

Wet plate collodion portrait

My second go had a far better collodion pour. I was really proud of it right until the moment where I dropped it, emulsion side down, onto the paper towelling. Doh! Monika said to try it anyway, and like I’ve said, I like the distressed look anyway. So back up to the studio where I shot Niamh, one of the assistants. I was still getting used to the camera-it was my 2nd only ever large format shot after all, so I unfortunately missed focus on this. Ground glass takes some getting used to, so I’m not surprised that people use loupes with them. I did a better job with the developer on this one. Very distressed from the fall, and some fogging, but I love it.

Wet plate collodion portrait

For my third shot, I changed from a black glass plate to clear glass. I gave the plate a good brushing and did a great pour. I was really happy with it. I shot another student, Toma, an artist from west Cork. She was super nice and I loved seeing this appear in the developer. Then, disaster struck. The collodion started to lift from the plate in the wash. We gently finished the wash and put it in fixer. The whole emulsion started to peel off. To save ot. Monika put it in a separate tray, and dried with a hard dryer later on. She felt the glass may not have been cleaned enough prior to the class, and that was why it lifted. The save was only partial and she recommended I scan it sooner rather than later. The drying processing didn’t quite removed the bubbles, but I’m still pleased with it. I scanned against black card, so it’s not as rich as the others. The blue white bits are excess collodion that the fixer didn’t have time to wash away.

Wet plate collodion portrait

My final shot was also on clear glass, this time of Justin. In terms of the process I felt far more comfortable with this one. Everything went smoothly. Pour, batch, focus, developer, fixer. No peeling either!

Wet plate collodion portrait

As the class was going on, we were moving plates out of the running water bath into trays, to avoid them scratching each other in the bath. The other assistant dried the plates with a hair dryer, and then Monika should how to varnish them with traditional varnish. Next she showed how to use Renaissance wax for a more modern and faster finish.

The #wetplate tally at the end of the class. Nothing was perfect but OMG was it so much fun. I'll scan mine during the week and put them on the site. Now to sort out doing it myself.

A photo posted by Sean McCormack (@seanmcfoto) on

So how did I feel about all this? Well I was elated actually. It was far more fun that I could have imagined. There really is nothing to beat hands on experience, and that’s where I need to go next with it. I may try the Holga route initially, but a large format camera is a must for the really. I highly recommend this course. Even if you never want to do it yourself after, the experience is great. It also gives you an understanding of what photography was like in the early days of the craft. Monika is an excellent tutor, and her skill and knowledge was evident throughout the class, with her help when things were going wrong for me, or for the other class members.

I’m already searching for gear for this, and planning how to make it happen! I love the practical side of this craft so this is a great way to get back to it. Changing to Fuji and using retro looking cameras is great, but this? This is real retro!

Shooting fashion photography in Galway, it’s always a delight to get published in the magazine of choice for the sophisticated ladies of the city: Galway Now.

This editorial was shot in the g hotel with Samantha from Roza Model agency with clothes from incredible designer Natalie B. Coleman. I’ve loved her work for ages, so this was a joy to shoot.

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Details
Photography: Sean McCormack
Art Direction: Gabriela Patterson
Model: Samantha @ Roza
Makeup: Colette Manning @ Lash & Brow Studio
Hair: Ronan Patterson @ The Face
Video: David Cooley
BTS Photos: Piotr Lyszkiewicz

BTS Video