I’m just back from The Photography Show in the NEC in Birmingham, UK. I pulled an allnighter after working on Sunday to get over to Dublin for a 6:40am flight. It wouldn’t be the first time and it won’t be the last. I was going over looking at new product and did some video as well for a vlog, which I’ll be editing shortly.
First stop in the door was…The Fujifilm stand. Yes, I was there to check out their new Medium Format GFX50S Camera. It was beautiful. In fact, I probably should’ve spent a lot more time on the stand. I had a good chat with Marc Horner and with Kevin Mullins before wandering around.
The show was pretty vast-so much so that I didn’t get to everything I wanted to see. I missed Ryan on the Palette Gear Stand. I did get to finally meet my publishers, Scott Cowlin and Ted Wiatt from Rocky Nook. Absolute gents the pair of them. My book sold out on their stand and on the CBL Distribution stand as well. Yay!
I made some purchases at the show. A Rode SC4 so I can use my Sennheiser MKE400 mic with the Osmo Mobile setup for vlogging was a necessary purchase-great show price, so had to happen. I got a Lensbaby trio-which is a great fun lens on my X-T2 and a cool strap from 1901fotographi. I grabbed a mini tripod on the Dorr stand for travel. There are a few more bits that I’ve ordered since that I saw including a turntable.
Highlights of the show? Chatting with great people. Joe McNally and Annie Cahill for one. Glyn Dewis, Brian Worley, Gavin Hoey, Dave Clayton (numerous times), Christina Lauder, Wayne Johns, Jake Hicks. Hugs with Damian McGillicuddy..And of course all my photo mates, Mac, Barrie, Julian, Liz, Vicki, Finn, Seamus, Brian Hopper.. I’m sure I’ll have to add to this list. Oh.. Ryo Love was there as well with Dan.. Great to see her. She’s probably the best model I’ve ever worked with.. and I was rather ill that day. I had lunch with the Photographer Academy crew with Mark, Jay and Sam. We were joined by the fabulous as always Michelle Spazk. Google her work if you like motorbikes!
Saw some great talks. Sean Conboys architectural talk on the Hasselblad stand was really inspirational. I missed his SWPP talk last year and heard it was great, so it was a joy to see that. I got to see Hannah Couzens rocked out with HSS on the Profoto stand. Han you’re a total speaking pro as well as a photo pro.
Of course I saw Joe McNally aka the Boss a few times. Annie got me to shoot a few shots at the Lastolite stand. Interesting using a Nikon! One meeting that nearly didn’t happen was catching Ben Brain, the editor of Digital Camera World, at the end of the show. I’ve been writing for them for ages, and haven’t seen him since I started!
I saw some new gear that really impressed me (beside the GFX50S), including the Matterport camera that does 360 work with floorpans and 3d layouts. Really cool stuff. The Laowa 15mm Shift Macro as well-which I’m buying. The Mavic Pro that I want so badly. I did look at a bunch of wall art material for clients as well. News on that as I do more session based work.
I stayed in the Hampton by Hilton in the north of the city, about a mile’s walk from New Street Station. I’ve never, in all my years going to the NEC, seen the city centre before. It was gorgeous. Loads of interesting architecture.. and no tripod for it, so loads of handheld details shots were done instead.
I really should do the whole weekend and get to more talks.. and maybe do some talks there as well. Perhaps next year Dave Clayton!
Glor Tire Season 13 Contestants and Presenters. L-R Claire Dillon, Caitriona Ní Cheannabhain, Lauren McCrory, Alanna Maher, Pat Creaven, Presenter Pádraic Ó Neachtain, Pandy Walshe, Presenter Aoife Ni Thuairisig, Sean Brennan, Sabrina Fallon and Dermot Lyons. Photo by Sean McCormack
It’s that time of year again. Another season of Glor Tire starts tonight on TG4 at 9:30 tonight. It’s a day and and hour earlier than the 10:30pm Wed slot, it’s had for years, but the schedulers wanted a change. If you’re not familiar with Glor Tire, it translates as Country Voice, and is a country music talent show that’s done through spoken Irish, and is one of the top shows on TG4, the national Irish language channel. Nine contestants battle it out with three judges giving comments. The TV audience votes for their favourites. There’s an introduction episode showing all the contestants. Then for 9 weeks, there’s there’s a well known band from the Irish country scene playing with one of the contestants. Next there’s a recap episode reminding you of all the contestants. After that are the live knockout episodes. The three contestants with lowest votes are put before the judges, and they decide which singer to save. The other two go out of the competition. For the final, there’s only three contestants remaining.
Here’s some photos from the show going out tonight. You can register your support by voting for your favourite as soon as the show ends.
Technical info: I shot these shows with the Fujifilm X-T2 with 50-140mm and the X-T10 with 18-55mm lens. I used a double strap system to have both cameras with me at all times for quick swapping. I also shot a series of portraits of each contestant, the two presenters and the three judges, but I’ll show that in a separate post.
Of late there’s been a lot of talk about experience vs material goods. Those in favour of the latter argue that things last, while experiences are quickly forgotten. In some ways photography helps retain those experiences and keep them fresh. Some people also argue that often the photograph can become the memory, but I feel that the photograph can help refresh the memory.
One thing that I had the opportunity to do this year highlights experiences over things. Each year, in August, the Cruinniu na mBad festival happens in Kinvara. It stems from the tradition of the Galway Hookers (a flat bottomed sail boat) coming across Galway Bay from Lettermore in Connemara to deliver the turf for the winter fires in Kinvara.
The Baileys are one well known family from Lettermore that sail these magnificent boats. A good friend and fellow former chairman of the Galway Camera Club, Andreas Riemenschneider had organised a trip in on one of the boats. The plan was that they’d stop off at Parkmore Pier on the way into Kinvara for a little barbecue.
The weather wasn’t great, so the boats actually docked the night before in Kinvara. Still, we were blessed with the opportunity to go on one of the two boats that docked at Parkmore. So with Luke Bailey at the helm, we took the roughly 30 minute trip into Kinvara when the tide came in.
There’s a lot to getting the sails up, so it took a while before we got going. Using the wind, we swung back into the bay and around. With the edge of the boat practically lapping the water, we spun around and headed into Kinvara. With the hard part out of the way, the boat sailed quickly and calmly into towards its destination. It was a little surreal.
Once docked we all helped get the turf out of the boat. It really was a great experience. Thanks to Andreas and those at the Cruinniu for allowing it to happen too!
Firstly, let me begin with saying I follow Nick Fancher’s Instagram. It started with Nick’s post on Scott Kelby’s blog. I loved the work, and put in into practice immediately. It became part of my arsenal and I’ve used variations on it as time has passed. Working up towards publication, Nick’s Instagram feed has been the trailer for the book. Does it mean I’m a fan? Kinda. At the same time, disappointed fans can be harsher than those who may be more neutral in persuasion. So have I been disappointed? Only one way to find out!
Studio Anywhere 2: Hard Light is the movie version of Nick’s Instagram trailer. While there are BTS shots on Instagram as well, there isn’t the level of detail that Nick goes into with the book. This book is all about recipes for success with hard light. It also has a few scene quizzes along with way to make sure you’re keeping up.
Split into 9 chapters, with an educational Introduction, and a forward thinking Epilog, this book (which I’ve read as the ebook version) provides a great basis for working with hard light on location. Nick delves into his kit to reveal a tightly curated gear bag, perfect for travelling light, without feeling like you’re leaving something important behind. As I’ve given talks on shooting as Ryanair photo traveller, I’m totally down with that.
Lighting wise, I’m quite experienced, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything from the book. Quite the opposite in fact. Even in the intro, Nick discusses the difference between speedlight and monolight shadows. It’s something I’d know unconsciously, but having it spelled out on paper brings it into sharp focus. It boils down to having different experiences and Nick is imparting his experience, quite successfully, in the book.
I’m not going to do a blow by blow account of what’s in the book. It’s full of practical setups to get interesting light in a variety of situations. Often these include little hacks to make better use of your gear, with things like homemade snoots and barndoors, or hacks to make your reflector do even more work for you.
Soup to Nuts
As well as the background detail on the shoot, each setup generally contains a scene shot, a shot of the gear, the unedited Raw file, the Lightroom settings and the final edited image. You get to see everything that went into making the image. Where Photoshop played a part in the image, this information is included as well. Changes made to perfect the lighting also get a mention, so it’s a full soup to nuts approach to imparting knowledge.
The big thing that drew me to the book was the gel work from that Scott Kelby guest blog. This book includes both the original black and white inspiration work, and the resulting colour work, but takes it a step further. Because Nick has had time to work and refine the technique, a more mature version of it appears in the book. Coupled with colour theory, and the other gel related tips, this made for my favourite part of the book.
There’s a lot in the book about Nick’s photography background, from his education right through to where he is now. He’s candid about his approach to clients, and gives out advice in relation to it. There’s also some pro tips, again based on his experience, to fill the book out even more. This means you’re getting business advice on top of the lighting techniques. Seeing Nick’s progress will definitely be a help to those working their way into a crowded market, or even those looking to add some extra cash from part time photo work.
The book is a great read. Like anything, you need to put the information into practice before it makes proper sense. Without that practice, you’ll never absorb the information. Is this book worth getting? Well, it’s a step up from introduction to lighting books, and there’s a certain amount of prior knowledge expected. It’s like you’ve joined in after a conversation has started-you have to pick up what’s already been said. As I haven’t read the original Studio Anywhere book, I can’t say if this information is in that book-it may well be. It’s not a problem, merely an observation. Despite the information being more intermediate than beginner, it’s still quite accessible. On the other hand, if you’ve been in the game a while, Nick provides plenty of new tricks in the book to satisfy your lust for light.
I’m struggling to pick holes in the book. The only thing I’d love to have seen is more final photos. As in a greater range of finished images showing slight variations in each technique-like a mini portfolio. What’s there is great, and really does serve as wonderful inspiration, but I’d love to have seen more. Weighing in at 226 pages including covers and index etc, more images would’ve made the book longer and even better-especially in a print version. But it’s truly just a nitpick.
As I’m not stuck with Amazon terms, I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5. If you enjoy using lighting at all, this book deserves to be in your library and will expand your options on all future shoots. The ebook version is available right now for $27.99, with the print version coming in January. Right now, the coupon code NEWNOVEMBER will take 35% off the eBook price!
With the lack of frequent of posts, you’d think that I wasn’t up to much, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’ll post more about it in my Newsletter shortly. Last week was Glor Tire though, 5 days of solid work shooting for this Gael Media production. Glor Tire translates as ‘Country Voice’ and is a singing contest with 9 contestants, 10 bands (including the cream of Irish country music), 3 judges and 2 presenters. Over the 5 days, 11 episodes were shot, so as you can imagine, it’s a bit intense. Here’s Johnny Brady from his set on the show.
Shooting for the show is hectic. While there are lulls, they’re interspersed with high pressure shooting situations where time is absolutely against you. As the stills photographer, you’re completely squeezing all the required shots in around the production itself. I start with studio style portraits. This year I used the AD360 in the 120cm Octa as my white background. The key light was a 70X70cm softbox with a Neweer rebranded Godox V850. I could’ve used another V850 in the Octa, but the recycle time of the AD360 helped a lot. I held a Lastolite Silver/White Trigrip in my hand to fill in shadows using a modified clamshell setup. Each portrait was shot using a Fuji X-T2 and the 18-55mm lens. Using the dual card slot in the X-T2, I had Raw files going to Slot1, and Small Jpeg going to Slot 2. Slot 2 had an Eye-fi card, which was transmitting to Shutter Snitch on an iPad Mini 2 16Gb. This meant that each contest, judge and presenter could choose their favourite image immediately on set, bypassing the need for 15 selection galleries and back and forth with email.
Cheers to Noel Vaughen for the BTS shot.
For the show, I ran with a double strap harness (just one I got on eBay). On the right was the X-T2, with the 50-140mm f2.8 Pro lens. On the left was the X-T10 with 18-55mm for the wider scene shots. Because of the nature of the show, I shot JPEG. I truly hope that one day, camera makers will offer a Lossy DNG option, to give JPEG sizes with White Balance and Highlight recovery. Generally, I shoot Raw for everything except super high volume stuff ilke this. I shot over 10,000 images, with a first pass bringing this down to 1000. The next pass will half that. 500 sounds like a lot, but with so much happening, it barely gives a flavour of the show, with a small bit of variety.
For the band nights, there’s 3 bands performing. There’s a contestant solo, and a duet with the band leader, as well as the band shots. Generally I shoot 4-5 songs, then import and do a first pass to get the basic edit done before the next band changes over. It makes better use of the down time, and helps reducing the mountain that edit would be otherwise.
This is my 7th year shooting for the series, and it’s always good fun, albeit a lot of work. For me, the Fuji setup I’m using here has made it the most comfortable series yet. The only way I feel I could improve it, would be to switch the wide setup to another X-T2, and perhaps the 16-55 lens (though the 18-55 performed flawlessly).
When the season begins broadcasting in January, I’ll do more posts with all the photos.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. AmazonAmazon UKB&H Photo Video (Affiliate links)