How Robust is your camera?

Condensation Prevention?

I've read a few articles recently that warn of the dangers of damaging your camera equipment when taking it from a cold environment into a warm one. The difference in temperature and humidity can cause condensation to form.

I don't see a big problem with the front lens element fogging up but some people have mentioned condensation forming on the inside of a lens and even on the camera sensor itself!

I couldn't find a definitive answer to the question on how important it is to be aware of this issue. Many people seem to suggest that a camera should be sealed in a zip-loc or similar bag and allowed to warm up to room temperature before being removed!

I regularly listen to the excellent Tips from the Top Floor Podcast by Chris Marquardt and decided to send in this question to his show. Click here for a link to the episode and his response.

 

 

 

Fuji X-T2 - Traffic Trail Tip - Blending Multiple Photos

Regents Street Traffic Trails

One trick that I like to use when photographing Traffic Trails is to blend multiple exposures into a single frame. The result is a composite photograph that features the best of the light trails from the individual images.

The three photographs shown below are JPGs taken in Fuji Velvia Film Simulation mode on my Fuji X-T2 and the location is London's Regents Street.

I mounted the X-T2 on a tripod and framed a composition to capture the beautiful Christmas lights and the road and buildings to the side of the central reservation.

I took three images with the same exposure settings (f22, 8.5-9 seconds) and aimed to capture interesting traffic trails for both sides of the frame.

Regents Street presents many challenges due to the busy traffic and high number of pedestrians passing through the frame. The sequence of the traffic lights meant that rarely was traffic moving on both sides of the frame at the same moment so separately timed exposures were necessary.

I wanted to keep some light in the sky and as I didn't plan on using an ND filter I was limited to fairly short (around 9 second) exposures as minimum aperture of f22.

I opened all three JPG's as layers in Adobe Photoshop. Selected them all and changed the layer blend mode to 'lighten' you can see this step in the vide clip below

Adobe Photoshop Layer Blending

The resulting image is shown here with no additional editing

Fuji X-T2 - Traffic Trails - Three Photo Composite using 'Lighten' Blend mode in Photoshop

Photoshop has done a good job of blending. The Traffic Trails are better than I was able to capture on a single 9 second exposure.

I think that the color version looks a little busy so have converted to black and white in NIK Silver Efex Pro and used the transform tool in Adobe Lightroom to straighten the tomb-stoning of the buildings. A 16x9 crop brings more focus to the Angel Lights.

Hidden Gems

I was inspired by the Winning Photograph from the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition to look back over some old photographs that I took in Brighton

I found a couple of photographs of the starlings and their evening murmuration which I had previously pretty much over-looked and hadn't processed. I think the shots are OK and I'm not sure why I didn't process them at the time.

It is always worth taking a look back over your photographic history. Technology improves all the time as do your processing skills and you never know what you might find. The worst case is that you will get a stroll down memory lane.

Starling Murmuration in Brighton, UK

The remains of the pier at Bright, UK

Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016

Big congratulations to Matthew Cattell, who is the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016 and the tenth holder of the title.

Matthew was the overall winner with his image of Brighton, entitled 'Starling Vortex'. Awards founder and head judge, Charlie Waite said “The sense of movement is palpable in Matthew’s photograph and you really feel what it would have been like to stand beside him. The starlings seem to be swirling around the iconic remains of Brighton’s West Pier in a manner reminiscent of the tornado in the Wizard of Oz. A judicious choice of shutter speed suits both birds and water. An intriguing image.” 

Matthew Cattell, who is the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016

Travel Photography - The Golden 'Rush' Hour (Part I)

Dawn

It’s 4:30am in the morning and I am in a self-catering cottage on the Isle of Skye Scotland… It’s dark as I scramble around pulling on layers of clothing trying desperately not to disturb my wife who is sleeping peacefully.

Many of you will be familiar with this scenario, especially Landscape Photographers who worship the light of the ‘golden hours’ that shines when sensible people are either fast asleep or sitting down to dinner!

Photography on a family vacation is going to require compromises. Partners and children may wait patiently for you to take your photographs (unlikely) but you need to remember that this is their vacation as well as yours.

I have learned to utilise the hours around dawn as a window for my vacation photography. There can be 2, 3 or even 4 hours of good photography to have before breakfast. I usually don't get an opportunity to return to bed at the end of the mornings shoot which means that in any 5 day vacation I might just manage 1 or 2 mornings out shooting or risk exhaustion :)

In this article I'll run through a single mornings photography from a vacation to Skye in Scotland

The Golden 'Rush Hour'

I was staying on the Peinchorran peninsular and the map to the left shows my car journey on this particular morning as I rushed around the area to capture photographs at various locations.

Good dawn light can be fleeting and it is generally not a good idea to spend the morning tearing around the area trying to find an interesting scene while hoping that the light will play ball. There are however some steps you can take to improve your chances of capitalising on the photographic window.

The first thing to do is to avoid disturbing your sleeping family as you leave your accommodation.

Plan Ahead - Make sure that you have suitable clothing and your camera gear for the morning prepared ahead of time and ideally located in a room away from the bedrooms.

Silent Alarm - I have a Fitbit band and find that the 'Silent Alarm' feature is very useful for waking me up without disturbing my wife.

Light in the darkness - Obviously don't go around turning on all the lights. I have found a head torch to be useful and the flashlight built into mobile phones works well and is not too bright.

Peinchorran Peninsular

Get out before dawn - Having successfully left the cottage before dawn I followed the road along the Peninsular. I could not resist stopping and taking some photographs over the water in the pre-dawn light. The blue hours can result in some interesting and tranquil scenes.

Peinchorran peninsular  on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Watch the Weather - I keep a close eye on weather forecasts to select the optimum days for heading out. 'WeatherPro' on the iPhone seems to be generally accurate for 24 hour forecasting and 'Dark Sky' is good for minute by minute predictions for rain starting and stopping in the area.

Peinchorran peninsular  on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Plan Locations - I frequently use 'The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE)' to help me plan locations. This excellent App displays a map with indicators for the direction, times and angles for the sun (and moon) throughout the day. There is also an interesting add-on available in the form of 'Skyfire' which predicts the likelihood of a colorful sunrise or sunset for given map locations. I have not used it extensively but it seemed to work the few times that I tried it out and is worth checking out the free trial.

Peinchorran peninsular  on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

It can be hard to predict that a morning will produce any dramatic light and the uncertainty can easily lead to hitting the snooze button on those dark mornings. There is an element of luck and chance and even un-promising looking days can surprise.

Peinchorran peninsular  on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

As the color in the sky faded I decided to continue my drive.

Research - I had checked out some likely locations before the trip. I find that 500px is an excellent resource for ideas and inspiration. I planned on heading North towards the iconic Old Man of Storr to try and capture it's reflection in the nearby Loch Leathan.

The early morning light was still good and passing showers added some interest to the sky. I parked my car by the roadside and found my way down to the waters edge where I was buzzed by midges and soaked by a passing rain shower.

The three rowing boats were drifting about in the morning breeze but lined up nicely as the sun broke through the clouds. This is one of my favorite shots from the trip.

Three Boats - Loch Leathan, Isle of Skye, Scotland

I stopped for a wider shot of Loch Leathan as I headed back to the car. The breeze was building by this point but the reflection of the distant mountains is still interesting.

Three Boats - Loch Leathan, Isle of Skye, Scotland

I was keen to take advantage of the decent morning weather and as I drove South I decided to continue down to the Bridge at Sligachan for some further Photography. 

The morning light was getting past it's best by the time that I arrived at Sligachan but you can't be in all places at once.

The Black Cullin Mountains, Sligachan - Isle of Skye, Scotland

In Summary

 I wonder if I made the right choices with taking on three locations. I think that the order that I visited them was probably right for the type of image and lighting.

Had I been at Loch Leathan or Sligachan in the moments before and after sunrise I would have captured some quite different and possibly better images. The compromises of available time and good weather led me to the decision to rush around the area for 3.5 hours on this day. Overall I am pleased with the photos from the morning.

I returned to the cottage at around 9:00am in time for breakfast. I showered and went out hiking with my wife for the day.

Fuji X-T2 - Trigger Trap - BANG!

I had a couple of Party Poppers left over from the holidays and thought I'd try and catch the streamers in flight.

Fuji X-T2 and 56mm - Cactus RF60 Flash gun fired using Trigger Trap and Flash Adapter.

IMG_3573.PNG

I used a Trigger Trap trigger with flash adapter to fire a Cactus RF60 Flash gun.

The Trigger Trap device connects to the Audio Jack of a mobile phone and the App gives a number of triggering options including sound.

Setting the sound tolerance so that the camera shutter does not trigger the flash I set up 5 second exposures in a dark room. When I pulled the string to fire the popper the sound of the bang set the flash to fire.

I was impressed by the lack of lag, the Trigger Trap did a good job of capturing the streamers.

I realize that the shot is not very aesthetic but I honestly didn't think it was going to work.

I simply set up a blue sheet of card on an office chair and pointed the flash gun (at 1/8 power) 

Now I know that the set up works I might buy some more poppers and set up a more interesting composition.

The RF60 Cactus Flashgun with Trigger Trap Flash Adapter - Looking festive post shoot :)

The RF60 Cactus Flashgun with Trigger Trap Flash Adapter - Looking festive post shoot :)

Fuji X-T2 - Christmas Lights

I wanted to get some shots of the Christmas Lights in London's Regents Street. The Street is always busy with tourists and traffic as shown in the video clip. It can be difficult to capture a clean shot with all of the elements coming together.

Seperate Frames

One thing to try is to place the camera on a Tripod and take a number of seperate exposures.

These can then be merged into a composite in Photoshop. The advantage of taking multiple shots with the same composition is that you can keep a good traffic trail from a frame that was otherwise ruined by a tourist standing in the shot.

I took 2 shots of the Angel Lights above an iconic London Taxi. The images used in the composition are Fuji X-T2 RAW files converted to ACROS (Green Filter) in Adobe Lightroom

Photoshop Edits

I opened the images as layers in Adobe Photoshop and used the layer mask feature to paint out the elements of the top image that I did not want in my scene. In this case the empty street to the right of the Taxi

White reveals what’s on the layer and black conceals what’s on the layer.

While I was in Adobe Photoshop I decided to brighten up the Taxi Cab and the lights. I used a Curved Adjustment Layer and again used a brush to paint the effect in to the scene. In this case I inverted the mask to black to hide the curves adjustment and painted white selectively to bring the brightness of the taxi up.

It is a good idea to reduce the opacity of the brush so that you can build up the effect slowly. i.e. You don't paint the mask in pure black or pure white.

Graphic Tablets such as the excellent WACOM range allow very subtle masking based on the pen pressure applied.

Final Image

I have cropped the image into a panorama to focus on the lights.

Fuji X-T2 and 10-24mm - RAW image converted to ACROS in Adobe Lightroom

Gallery

I took some additional shots on Regents Street including a shot of two tourists who stopped to pose!

I was lucky enough to grab a single frame with decent traffic trails on either side of the frame. I entered this into a DPChallenge competition and scored a 2nd place for the effort :)

 

 

 

Fuji X-T2 - Fuji Velvia - Regents Street Lights, London

I had to go in to London today and took the X-T2 and my Sirui T-025X Tripod with the aim of catching the Christmas Lights on London's Regents Street before they get switched off.

I took some sequences of images from the same position with the plan to blend multiple exposures together in Photoshop later. It is challenging getting a balance of good traffic trails as well as the lights in full illumination. I'll post a follow up article this weekend.

In the mean time here is a Fuji Velvia JPG single image straight from camera with guided adjustments and cropping.  Shout out to fellow X-T2 owner Alan who I met on the Regents Street Central reservation this evening!

Fuji X-T2, Fuji 10-24mm  - Fuji Velvia Film Simulation
Regent Street Christmas Lights

Fuji X-T2, Fuji 10-24mm - Fuji RAW converted to Black and White in Silver Efex Pro 2

 

 

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation - London

I spent an afternoon in London today shooting the X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm in JPG and ACROS Film Simulation. Here are some of the shots from the afternoon. I used ACROS with Green Filter and find this to be a good all round option for black and white photography. 

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One Photograph, four versions

I was on a once in a life time (hopefully not!) vacation to Iceland. I had arrived in the town of Hofn the night before and hadn't had the opportunity to explore the local area. I got up before dawn and headed out in the dark along Route 1

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2016 Year in Review

I am sure that I'm joining a long list of 'Year in Review' Posts but it doesn't hurt to do a little retrospection as the year draws to a close.

Self Promotion

I have managed to dramatically increase the visits to my website since September!

I have managed to dramatically increase the visits to my website since September!

I recently decided that I would try to do more to promote my website and blog. I only had 9 visitors in July this year!

I have made an effort to write regular blog posts to keep the site content fresh, focusing on articles relating to Fuji and Specifically the Fuji X-T2 which I purchased in September. I participate in a number of on-line Forums and post my articles to various sites to help promote my blog (Flipboard, ScoopIt, Fuji Rumors)

If you are reading this then that means that my marketing is working and you are one of the 7,000+ people who visit each month. Thank You.

Fuji X-T2

I have always loved gadgets and I find it hard to resist when a new camera is released. In truth there is not much in my day to day photography that benefits from the Fuji X-T2 over the older Fuji X-T1 but it is of course nice to have the latest tech. I purchased the X-T2 and Battery Grip as a Pre-order deal but in three months since receiving the X-T2 I have not used the grip at all.

Fuji X-T2 Autofocus Test

The tilting LCD screen comes in handy. I find that I use this for a high percentage of my photographs. I have a small travel tripod and one of the compromises on the size and weight is the maximum height. As the camera only comes up to my chest level when mounted on the tripod the LCD comes in very useful.

Fuji have dramatically improved on Auto-Focus with the X-T2 and within a day of un-boxing I took a 24 frame sequence of my cat Ruby walking towards me. This is not a very scientific test of a camera Autofocus but every shot was in sharp focus and left me delighted with the X-T2

Project 365

I started a Project 365 on Blipfoto back in 2014 and recently posted my 1000th consecutive Photograph. I have found that the challenge of taking a photograph every day has helped encourage me to take my Fuji X-T2 with me more often and it is usually in my ONA Prince Street during my daily commute in to London.

London is a beautiful and photogenic city and I get to enjoy it through the seasons. 

Silhouettes of people playing in the Fountains on Londons Southbank in the Summer.

Fuji X-T2 - City of London - Fuji ACROS Film Simulation

Learnings

Photography is a learning curve and there are always new skills to learn (and things you know about to forget!) 

Digital Photography brings a number of advantages over film not the least of which is the ability to see exposures instantly on the back of the camera. Seeing your photographs instantly, accelerates the learning curve but can lead to laziness. It is good practice not to become too reliant on the Tech as this can sometimes let you down.  I find it useful to shoot just JPGs occasionally to encourage me to pay more attention to exposure and white balance without the 'safety net' of the post processing tolerance of a RAW file.

I have started to participate in a number of on-line forums. I have been pleasantly surprised by the community of Photographers on dpreview and the Fuji X-Forum sites particularly.

There was a very interesting thread on the Fuji X-Forum relating to significant post processing that I applied to one of my photographs from Iceland.  Strong and articulate responses to the question on whether significant Post Processing represents the image as a lie.

I learned from a forum discussion on Post Processing X-Trans RAW files that Adobe Lightrooms default RAW processing is a little overly aggressive and removes subtle color tone from images if not managed carefully. I have since updated my defaults to reduce the default values as I find this works better with the Fuji RAW files.

Places I have seen

I have been lucky enough to visit some interesting locations in 2016. I was able to enjoy the beauty of the Cornish Coast in the UK, the iconic City of Venice and the scenic Lake Garda in Italy.  All of the photos below were taken with my Fuji X-T1

Cornwall, UK
Cornwall has some of the most beautiful coastline in the UK and if the weather behaves the light can be amazing. These Photographs were taken near the town of Padstow.

Italy
I went on vacation to Italy and visited the beautiful city of Venice before moving on to Lake Garda.

The Best Laid Plans

Have you ever come up with an idea for a photograph in your head and then attempted to create it in reality?

Every now and then I like to try and come up with a creative photograph.

I formulate the idea and how I see the finished image looking and then try to capture it. This does not always work out as planned.

Following on from a shot that I took recently with a used Jack Daniels Bottle and a Firework Sparkler.  I thought I'd try and re-creating the 'lightning effect and produce a macro 'sea scape' with a storm at sea effect.

I half filled an old goldfish bowl with water and floated a Preiser 1/28th scale model fisherman in the middle. The idea was to drop the sparkler in the top and create the lightning effect through the smoke.

Snags

I 'sensibly' managed to fill the tank up with warm water which was a mistake given that I had to shoot outside in sub-zero temperatures. The water quickly fogged up on the sides of the tank obscuring the fisherman (of course!)

I was also a little early in the evening and there was a bright twilight sky which looked pretty but due to the reflective bowl created some un-wanted reflections (of me, of my house, of surrounding trees etc.)

Pictures

The bottom line is that I didn't get that close to capturing the idea but I did get some interesting shots from the evening.

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 56mm f1.4mm
The warm water in the bowl is forming condensation which was a mistake but it makes this shot look like a dawn mist on a quiet lake.

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 56mm f1.4mm
The Smoke from the Sparkler is too thick and obscures the subject. The Sparks are also not interesting enough and don't resemble lightning.

Light Catcher

In one of the shots a spark from the sparkler has streaked down and hit the bucket in the fisherman's boat. This feels like a keeper and I titled it 'Light Catcher'

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 56mm f1.4mmFuji X-T2 and Fuji 56mm f1.4mm

 

 

 

Fuji X-T2 - Polesden Lacey

It was a beautiful bright winters day in London today so I took the X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mmto a local country house and grounds. I shot in RAW and converted the shots in Adobe Lightroom CC.

I didn't spend much time a Polesden Lacey but the misty sunlight made for some nice snapshots. I've added details in the captions for reference.

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm - RAW file processed in Adobe Lightroom using ACROS profile under the Camera Calibration Panel. 

It was a cold night with a heavy frost. The photographs were taking at around 1:00pm in the afternoon but the frost persisted in the areas of ground where the sun hadn't reached.

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm - RAW file processed in Adobe Lightroom

uji 18-135mm

The 18-135mm is not going to win any awards as a fast lens but the Bokeh is pleasing enough when shooting around 135mm with a large f5.6 aperture as in this photograph.

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm - RAW file processed in Adobe Lightroom.

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm - RAW file processed in Adobe Lightroom using V profile under the Camera Calibration Panel. 

Adobe Lightroom Camera Calibration

Adobe Lightroom includes Camera Calibrations options to replicate the Fuji Film Simulations. These Profiles do a remarkably good job of processing RAW files to mirror the Fuji JPGs with the added advantage of that you are editing a RAW file and as such have more tolerance with processing that the out of camera JPG's

Polesden Lacey

Polesden Lacey is beautiful. It was host to the Queen Mother on her honeymoon..

This country retreat has glorious views across the rolling Surrey Hills and acres of countryside.  It was home to famous Edwardian hostess Mrs Greville, who entertained royalty and the celebrities of her time, you can only imagine the lavish parties that might have been held here!

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm - RAW file processed in Adobe Lightroom using VELVIA profile under the Camera Calibration Panel and cropped to a Panoramic aspect ratio

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm - RAW file processed in Adobe Lightroom using VELVIA profile under the Camera Calibration Panel. I used the 'Guided' option in the Transform Panel to address the distortions. (red lines indicate the chosen guides)

Adobe Lightroom CC - Guided Transform

I have found the new Guided Transform feature of Adobe Lightroom to be quite useful with certain images. Where there are obvious vertical and horizontal elements that can look odd with key-stoning or other lens distortions. Simply selecting 2 or 3 lines in an image corrects the distortion nicely.

Fuji X-T2 and 18-135mm Lens. Un-Edited RAW file showing distortion introduced.

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm - RAW file processed in Adobe Lightroom. I used the 'Dehaze' option under the Effects Panel to bring some contrast back into the misty view.