It’s Christmas,treat yourself, be self indulgent, shoot a photography project and feel the joy.

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El Puro in his home La Josefa, Cuba.

As this year draws to a close and new one gets underway it’s a good time to take stock, assess where you’re at and whether you have moved on as a photographer or just sat in your comfort zone.

It’s very easy for all of us to find a formula or genre that works for us and just stick to it, ignoring all other styles of photography and sadly reaching a plateau of creativity.

I find myself struggling for inspiration at times, much the same as any creative person, it’s hard to keep the energy and creativity going all the time. I get stale, bored and tired.

What about you, ask yourself this simple question – Are you still shooting the same subjects in the same way as you did last year, or the year before?

If you answered yes, or maybe – and lets face it we all shoot to our strengths or inside our comfort zone. Then perhaps a little photographic self help is called for?

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions as I normally fail by January 3rd, but I do set goals and challenges for myself. I never say I’m giving up this or that but I challenge myself to try something new. These challenges take the form of projects or workshops in different genres of photography that terrify me.

A project can be invigorating, challenging and frustrating but do it, even if you do just one in the year try it, you will be surprised at how a simple project can open your eyes further in your preferred genre of photography.

If you challenge yourself in any aspect of your life you will get more out of it. By removing the security blanket and stepping outside of your comfort zone magic will happen, maybe not immediately but it will come, it always does. Try it, you won’t like it, it’ll feel like you are wearing your shoes on the wrong feet but you will benefit from it.

Now don’t think I’m talking about a 365, 52 or 12 shots a year project, I personally find those too much, and instead of inspiring me they have a negative effect on me.

I hate shooting people, street or portraits, it’s a confidence thing. So at the beginning of 2016 I vowed to myself that I would shoot a set of portraits to force myself into confronting my fear of talking to strangers and taking their picture.

I’ll freely admit that this idea had a few stalled starts and almost didn’t happen but I did get there in the end.

My project eventually actually came out of joke during a Light and Land workshop in Cuba, a street artist did a portrait of one of our clients, he gave her a few coins for the drawing. Shortly afterwards as a joke I took a picture of her skulking in a by a wall sketching her next victim, I printed the image from my Fujifilm X-T2 via my phone to my little Instax SP-2 printer – it produces an instant print, about the size of a credit card. The huge smile that crossed her face when I gave her the image really touched me and I knew that was how I would shoot my project.

A street artist holds an Instax print of a picture I shot of her working
My first street portrait victim, the image itself wasn’t the best but the inspiration it gave me kickstarted the project at last.

For the next ten days or so I stopped interesting people took their portraits and then gave them prints, they instantly got excited and started showing their friends, the laughter and joy they all shared was incredibly inspiring and gave me the confidence to approach random strangers and shoot in a way I have never done before.

In a strange way it reinforced why I am a photographer, because i get great joy from taking pictures and sharing them with other people. Yes I pontificated over asking people – my Spanish is poor, my self confidence low, I always worry about being annoying or appearing rude. But somehow the anticipation of sharing those tiny photographs helped me overcome the fear.

Whatever project you choose the key is to set a challenge that tests you, however to make it a success set yourself some rules.

Be disciplined about the shoots. Perhaps write yourself a brief and list your ideas for it, imagine that you have to deliver the images to your worst critic – YOU!

If it goes wrong don’t give up, talk to other photographers you know, ask for their help if you are struggling. Also share your thoughts and fears with a friend in your club, perhaps make it a club challenge too, certainly it makes a great talking point.

Don’t worry if others don’t like it or understand your motivation for it, that really doesn’t matter, you don’t even need to share it with the world.

The most important thing to remember is that photography is fun, you should be able to look back admit (with hindsight) that you have enjoyed the challenge and improved as photographer.

Good luck!!

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Eduardo crocodile conservationist
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Mario drinks salesman
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Me sharing images in a bar
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A family in Trinidad laugh at their photograph
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Davide Onion Farmer
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Clara Railway station controller
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Jorge shoe shiner
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Aluminara cleaner

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Lasara
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Carlos barber
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Mosi and Brasilia share their instax portrait
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El Flack and family
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Ernesto former soldier
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Iralme greengrocer

A Game Changer – the Fujifilm GFX

Fujifilm GFX with Vertical grip

 

Fujifilm announced at Photokina that they intend to launch a mirrorless medium format camera, aimed at professional studio, fashion and fine art photographers.

The Fujifilm GFX is certainly something to look forward to when it hits the shops next year, boasting 51.4 megapixels, the mirrorless body and beautiful design have been careful thought through to give the best of the now trademark lightweight body, with exceptional quality images and a new range of lenses.

However it was not the size or shape , number of pixels or any of the technical information released that excited me.

It was the one line in the press release that accompanied the launch yesterday afternoon – “a camera is a tool for producing artwork,”

This is the Fujifilm philosophy and one that I fully believe in.

Fuji has a long history of producing the finest papers and films, but also its pedigree in medium format cameras and lens is second to none.

If you look back at the medium format cameras Fuji have produced in the past they are all simple, un-cluttered, they are designed to aid the photographer get the very best image they can without getting in the way of that creative process.

The GFX is designed with the same core value, it doesn’t scream look at me, it’s not huge or flashy, it is simple and understated  – it’s a tool for a job.

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There is a demand for high quality images commercially and in the art world, Fujifilm have listened to the photographers advising them, they have taken on board exactly what the working professional and fine art photographers need in a camera and they have delivered it in a simple yet beautiful body.

In my opinion there is too much stuff on most cameras, modes, functions, custom functions, more is made of the technical specifications than image quality sometimes.

Since I switched to Fujifilm cameras and began working closely with them the thing they care about most is the images produced on their equipment, it is all about the image. Yes they make cameras and want to sell lots of them but the overriding philosophy is that it’s the image that matters most – and to me that is what really sold me on Fuji cameras and lenses.

We know that the new sensor will be of the most incredible quality, Fujifilm know a thing or two about getting the best out of their electronics and image processing. The 51.4 megapixel sensor will be capable of delivering the finest details and unbelievable texture to the images created with the GFX.

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The electronic viewfinder will be removable and have an optional mount to allow the positioning of it in the optimal place for the shoot you are doing. I just love that Fuji have understood how photographers work!

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No matter how good a camera is, or the sensor within it, the glass in front of it makes the biggest difference. Fujifilm have made the most incredible optics for years, their large format lenses are some of the very best ever produced, the dazzling array of X-series lenses delivering sharpness, colour and contrast rendition of the very highest standards will naturally be expected and furthermore delivered by the six new G mount lenses.

The line-up includes;

1. Standard prime “GF63mmF2.8 R WR” (equivalent to 50mm in the 35mm format)

2. Wide-angle standard zoom “GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR” (equivalent to 25-51mm in

the 35mm format)

3. Mid-telephoto macro 1:0.5 “GF120mmF4 Macro R LM OIS WR” (equivalent to

95mm in the 35mm format)

4. Fast aperture mid-telephoto “GF110mmF2 R LM WR” (equivalent to 87mm in the

35mm format)

5. Ultra wide “GF23mmF4 R LM WR” (equivalent to 18mm in the 35mm format)

6. Wide “GF45mmF2.8 R WR” (equivalent to 35mm in the 35mm format)

The 120mm macro is high on my list of desirables as is the 23mm, I do hope they will look at the feasibility of tilt-shift lens for the the GFX, I think this is a system where that type of lens will warrant the R&D.

I am more excited about the release of the GFX than any other camera. For me, being able to get back into using a medium format camera, that is lightweight and designed simply to help me create my images without getting in the way, will be a joy that underlines the reason I am a photographer.

 

Fujifilm X-T2 unveilled

Today Fujifilm have announced the much anticipated and over leaked X-T2. So finally I can say that truthfully this camera is out there and is wonderful to handle.

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The camera has all the good looks of its predecessor but has been redesigned based on photographers feedback. The magnesium body has weather resistant sealing to suit rugged outdoor conditions, this professional body is slightly larger than the Fujifilm X-T1 due to improved control dials that turn easily with or without gloves.

In the hand it feels chunky but not over big, it also feels less flimsy than the X-T1, the buttons and dials all have a very positive action so there is less chance of accidentally knocking the settings.

The design of the body has been altered to fit more comfortably in the hand, I really like the new feel, it feels like a professional camera, and when the new grip is added it really has the feel true photographers camera.

The very impressive 24.3MP APS-C X Trans CMOS III sensor, featured on the X-Pro2, has already proved its worth to photographers but now with the addition of 4K and 2K video formats opens up the incredible range to professional videographers too. When filming video expect incredible sharpness and low noise when recording up to a maximum of ISO 12800.

One thing I am overjoyed with is the new screen, now it tilts three ways, which means that when you are shooting in the vertical format as well as the horizontal orientations you can flip out the screen for easy viewing of your subject when working at low angles or above head height.

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Of course Fuji being Fuji don’t stop there. The X-T2 features an electronic shutter with a limit of 1/32,000 second, an Intelligent Hybrid Phase detection AF,  a 2.36 Million dots Electronic Viewfinder and dual SD UHS-II memory card slots that will capture up to 14 frames per second with the Performance Boost Mode turned on.

The new vertical power booster grip adds performance too, as well as holding two extra batteries (these too have been redesigned) the VPB-XT2 will increase frame rate to an incredible 14 fps and decrease the shutter lag when shooting video.

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When shooting at 14fps you can record up to 42 jpeg or 28 RAW files before the camera needs to catch up. You can of course select a slower shooting rate which will extend the shooting and recording rate before the buffer kicks in.

The new Intelligent Hybrid Phase detection autofocus will allow you to select up to 325 autofocus points allowing for precise focus. What this means is no matter whether the subject is within the frame, the camera will autofocus very quickly to pick up the subject.

The autofocus is fully customisable too, allowing you to adjust the tracking to your preferred style of shooting depending on the subject you are tracking.

From my limited testing of the X-T2, action photographers are going to love the faster focussing and active tracking, it really is fast and accurate.

The X-T2’s ISO range of 200 – 12800 (RAW shooting) is exactly the same as the Fujifilm X-Pro2. When recording at high ISO like 3200 or 6400 photographers will find images and video to be very clear resulting in smooth graduation and deeper blacks.

The X-T2 can also be used to command up to three flashes – Fuji have also announced the EF EX500 flash – not being a flash user I can’t comment on this. However it will be nice to have a dedicated flash system that really works.

I only had a limited time using the X-T2 and because of all the leaks, I wasn’t even allowed to take it away from the office but I was seriously impressed with it. I will be testing one in the very near future so expect a full in detail update from me soon.

The New Generation X

I converted to the Fuji X series system two and half years ago and I can honestly say it suits my style of photography. I like my cameras small and light – unobtrusive but with incredible lenses.

For me photography isn’t about the technical, pixel peeping or my kit is bigger, faster than yours. It’s solely about being able to produce the images that work for me.

My X-Pro1 and X-T1s have done a fantastic job. However I had always wanted a slightly bigger file size, maybe slightly faster focussing perhaps a wider ISO range.

My prayers to the Fuji fairy were answered in the X-Pro2

I’ve been very lucky and since November I have been field testing the X-Pro2 or Leo as it was secretly known!

The camera itself is very similar in feel to the original X-Pro1, design and weight haven’t changed too much, it retains that classic look that we all love.

But it boasts a lovely new X-Trans III  sensor that delivers a 24MP file.

The hybrid viewfinder is better laid out and the information displayed is customisable both in optical  (OVF)and electronic (EVF) modes. Personally I prefer the EVF which allows you to monitor white balance and see the subtle changes in exposure.

The shutter is new too, allowing up to 1/8000th of second plus a flash sync of 1/250th.

The clever chaps a Fujifilm have managed to squeeze more focussing points in too, up from 49 to 77. It’s easy to change the focussing point too with a simple flick button on the back which requires a positive movement by the user.

It even features dual SD card slots.

What I really like is that all the key controls can be operated without taking your eye from the viewfinder. 

The iSO dial has been moved so that it sits with in the shutter speed dial, the exposure compensation can be expanded to +/-5 stops too. The ISO sensitivity runs from 200-12800 but can be expanded in jpg from 100 – 51200.

Fuji have added a my menu so you can add up to 16 commonly used commands for quick access.

The body is tough and feels incredibly robust, however I can say that I have the dubious honour to be the first person to write one off!

While testing the X-Pro2, and to be honest falling in love with it, I was shooting in Lyme Regis on the south coast of England in high winds and rain – the camera is very weather proof – but when high winds and waves batter the tripod the camera was on to the point of knocking it over, I can report that when it falls from about 6 feet on to solid rock it does dent the body and bits did fall off – mainly filters and the lens!

Sorry Fuji, I didn’t mean to test it to destruction!

If you want a small light camera that delivers on everything then look no further than the X-Pro2 it is an incredible piece of kit, I love it.

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