a place to chew the fat and ramble about all things photographic
Photo Tour Tips top tips for your next photography vacation
1. Travel Light.
Possibly key to a successful photography trip is to pack as little as possible and just enjoy yourself. It is all too easy to get carried away when packing for that big photography trip. It’s often not until we pick that camera bag up that we realize we might have to lose a few items. However, for some, that’s easier said than done there is always that “what if” factor. However, you should try to restrict your kit; you will almost certainly surprise yourself with being able to do more with less. Sure it would be great to bring everything, but the practicalities of baggage allowance, insurance and back ache need to be considered. Plus, It’s just no fun carrying huge weights for extended periods of time.
For super lightweight travel photography tours, a one camera one prime lens could be an option. However, It makes sense to have a backup body. Something that can take the same lenses and batteries you have with you and keep you working, at least while you are sorting out the repair or replacement for the broken main camera body. It is worth looking at the model down in the range from the main camera as a backup. Often lighter, cheaper and with a familiar menu layout it makes sense as a second body. Other essentials for your photo vacation would be a heap of memory cards (I don’t want to be writing over them in the field) some ND filters and a compact tripod such as a Gorillapod or a Fiesol Monopod. A super lightweight flash unit paired with a couple of lenses and you just might have all you need.
2. But which lens is best? – Choosing The Right Lenses.
Travel Photography is just a collection of other types of photography such as street photography, landscape, wildlife, social documentary, etc. So picking the right lens for your next photography vacation can be tricky if you don’t know exactly the sort of images you are after. With a clear idea before you go, it certainly helps focus the selection process. Should you just have room or budget to select one then opt for a zoom such as an 18-200mm or 28-300m, etc. If we discount wildlife photography for a minute, then it makes things a lot easier. I’m happy to take a 21mm (full frame equivalent) and just use that for all of the above. So with a mirrorless APS camera setup, a 14mm and a 55-200mm might be all you need, to begin.
If you have the extra room or would prefer more choice consider packing a portrait prime lens such as a 50mm or 85mm plus a wide angle lens 10-24mm and a telephoto zoom, say a 70-200mm f4. Regarding the 70-200mm, you might find that the f4 version is as good for your needs and a lot lighter. However, try not to just take everything “just in case” It makes for a more pleasant trip if you have a couple of small primes. If you are visiting a wildlife park then maybe a teleconverter will do the job to boost your longer zoom lens, or perhaps look into the possibility of renting a longer lens for a couple of days while you are there. Renting can save you the headache of carrying the big telephoto zoom around for the entire trip.
My selection for mirrorless travel on a typical photo tour is a 14mm and a 35mm, and that’s all I need really.
3. Go local.
When traveling abroad, I often will employ the services of a driver, translator/guide to help cut through a lot of the logistics while in an unfamiliar area. Using the services of a local can speed up things so much, and open doors that you might have otherwise walked straight past had you been alone. Drawing on their knowledge can also be helpful allowing you to think outside the box and try to avoid the cliche landmarks and views. By all means, mop them up while on your photography trip but allow yourself some creative time too where you can try to make some unique images, using unusual techniques or equipment. Such as slow shutter speeds at night, or a night time street shoot somewhere most people cover in daylight. Sourcing a suitable guide may just be a matter of a quick search online, sites such as Tripadvisor and Facebook are a good starting point, or go with recommendations from fellow travel photographers who have visited the region before.
4. Take Notes.
I carry these field notebooks and use my smart phone notes during the day to record details on my photo trips such as names and such of people I have met and photographed. After a hard day hitting those streets with your camera, take a little time to write down a few facts and thoughts in a notebook about the day’s events if at all possible.
Getting into this habit can help you remember details at a later date for blogging about your photo tours or answering questions people might have about a particular image, and you will reap the benefits when it comes the time to add keywords and descriptions of the places or people to your photos in Lightroom.
5. Scout Locations.
If time permits you can gain a lot of inspiration and save yourself quite a few problems if you can scout ahead of shooting. So leave the camera back at the hotel in the safe and book a tour with a local guide and just go and enjoy without the pressure of bagging that world class image.
While out on your tour ask your guide what areas they are requested to take photographers to more often than not they will know the best spots for the travel photographer. Also, take some time to browse the postcard stands and ask if your guide knows where any images that capture your interest where taken. If you have a wish list already from your earlier research, have your guide spin you by some of them or show you the trail heads and parking. If you find yourself needing some inspiration and wondering where or what to shoot then maybe start with a visit to the local tourist information office. Ask the people there if they can recommend some areas to visit.
All of this should help you formulate a “shot list” from the shot list you can begin to build you itinerary. This list will help flag up just how much time and how many nights you need at any one location during your travel photography trip.
6. Engage with the locals, what’s the worst that can happen?
Gain some knowledge of the locals, prior or during you travel photography trip. I asked Magnum photographer Martin Parr “what is the one thing a photographer should take with them when on a trip?” and he said, “the one thing every photographer should take with them is knowledge and an interest in their subject matter.”
Often one of the biggest hurdles for any travel photographer is confidence. We’d all love to grab those wonderful environmental portraits you know the ones expressing the subject’s character and culture and, but too many of us choose to fire of a telephoto shot from meters away for fear of rejection. We need to get up close, Robert Capa is famously quoted as saying “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” Now he wasn’t talking about using a longer lens here; he means for you to get in close to your subject. I will often shoot on a 14mm a few meters from my subject when I am shooting these type of portraits.
Being in close to your subject when taking your images helps makes it like being in their world for your viewers. So why not get in there and ask. Let’s face it, what’s the worst that could happen? They may just say no but hey that’s no big deal now is it?
More often than not they will simply smile and nod, and then you are good to go. So, just be brave, take a deep breath and walk right up to your subject and ask, just remember to be polite.
Should they no be happy, then smile, thank them and be on your way. I find it helpful if they do agree to start gently and make a few shots then show them the back of my camera, so they have an idea of what I’m doing. I also carry a small printer with me and will often make photos on the spot; you cannot imagine the positive impact this simple gesture makes.
7. Shoot in the right frame of mind.
Shooting in RAW with a small JPEG will offer you more options on your return. I have an option for a compressed lossless RAW, so I use that paired with a small jpeg. The jpegs come in handy for sending to my smartphone in the field and posting on social media I find I have little need for a large jpeg. Common thinking is that this will mean you’ll need to travel with a many high capacity fast memory cards. But that’s not what I find to be the best plan from my experience. Often bargains can be had on slightly slower older memory cards, which frankly 18 months ago would have been the best thing available. I will go for much smaller capacity cards and happily change them out around lunch time. These are so cheap that there is no excuse not to stock up. It means that should you have a card fail you might have lost a morning shooting, rather than four days if using that huge card! The slightly slower cards are still perfectly fine for daily shooting. So unless you are going to be shooting sports or wildlife in multi frames per second mode, it makes sense just to buy lots these. If you have the budget for the latest fastest cards then great just get those. I factor on having two cards for each day of your trip and try to swap them out around lunch.
Do try to get into the habit of downloading your images to a laptop with an external storage device every night. I sleep much better knowing that it has been backed up, believe me. Also, when you go off shooting, take twice the amount of cards/capacity with you than you would expect to need.
Have a look here If you are interested in finding out more about the gear I carry on photo trips
with the Fujifilm X-t2
The Fujifilm X-T2 is marketed as a high-quality lightweight do all camera, but is it any good for travel photography? Photographer Matt Widgery took it for a spin in Europe visiting 12 countries in two months to put it through its paces.
My journey with the Fujifilm X cameras started back in 2014 with X-Pro 1, the XF 18mm f/2 and the XF 35 f/1.4. I was still shooting Nikon professionally at that point but wished for the day that Fuji would bring out a camera that focused properly so I could use this fun, beautiful little system in my day job. The Fuji X-T1 was the answer to my prayers and I bought two of them, sold my Nikons and never looked back.
Fast forward to March 2017 and I was still using these bodies. After all, they still delivered great images, so why change? But I did. I pulled the trigger on the X-T2 with the battery grip for a 6-month adventure driving through Europe in a van. Here’s why I did that, and what my thoughts are after the first two months and 12 countries with the Fuji X-T2. As I struggled across the windy car park to the NEC in Birmingham in March to the 2017 Photography Show I had absolutely no intention of buying a new camera. But there was a great offer on an X-T2 with the battery grip thrown in for free as well as a pretty nice looking Domke messenger bag with a rather fetching leather Fuji logo stitched onto the flap. I figured I would have bought the T2 eventually anyway, and at least this way I got a nice deal on it. The battery grip is important by the way. Unlike the T1 which just gives you more juice, the T2’s grip functionally improves the performance of the camera as well: Speeding up the AF and allowing more record time to the SD card when shooting 4K. It’s a must have in my opinion. You’re not going to unlock the full potential of the camera without it.
As I struggled across the windy car park to the NEC in Birmingham in March to the 2017 Photography Show I had absolutely no intention of buying a new camera. But there was a great offer on an X-T2 with the battery grip thrown in for free as well as a pretty nice looking Domke messenger bag with a rather fetching leather Fuji logo stitched onto the flap. I figured I would have bought the T2 eventually anyway, and at least this way I got a nice deal on it. The battery grip is important by the way. Unlike the T1 which just gives you more juice, the T2’s grip functionally improves the performance of the camera as well: Speeding up the AF and allowing more record time to the SD card when shooting 4K. It’s a must have in my opinion. You’re not going to unlock the full potential of the camera without it.
But that comes with its own drawbacks, especially for travel. The reason I never used the battery grip for the Fuji X-T1 was to maintain the minimal form factor of the camera, the central ethos of which was a why I jumped ship from my big clunky Nikons in the first place. With the battery grip, and one of the f/2.8 zooms on the front you’re really getting close to DSLR heft, and for travel that ain’t good man, that ain’t good at all. On this trip, I’ve climbed Italian Alps, walked the length and breadth of Athens and the Rambouillet forest and fought my way through the tightly packed Paris Metro and Chania street market. Carrying big camera gear around is far from ideal in those situations. However, taking the grip off and slapping one of the smaller primes on the front or even the excellent little Fujifilm XF 18-55mm kit lens gives you a fantastic camera to walk around during the day and hoover up snapshots and you can break out the bigger glass and the battery grip for shooting the big set piece stuff you’ve got planned. Having the option to have either a complete powerhouse or a little walk around camera all in one body is incredibly useful.
If you’re coming from the X-T1 then the exterior of the Fujifilm X-T2 feels like a minor tweak at best. They sorted out the crappy doors, idiosyncratic dials and the desperately unsatisfactory feel to the buttons. They’ve added a marginally better mechanism to the tilty flippy screen but it still doesn’t flip out to face you so you can’t use it for vlogging which is a real pity because it would be perfect in every other way. But when it comes to raw image-making power, the Jedi Knights in the Fujifilm development dungeons have worked some dark magic with the new X-Trans III sensor and X-Processor Pro processor. I’m not going to pretend I know what they’ve done but my files are sharper, more detailed, better in low light and have an improved tonal response to processing, in both the shadows and the highlights. The improvement from the X-Trans II is nothing short of miraculous in just a single generation.
Travel photography is rough on cameras. You’ll be abusing that little black box in just about every way that is ill-advised for both longevity and resale value. You’ll expose it to sea water, rocks, sand, ice, heat and dust. It’s disappointing to report then, that I broke the screen on my first T2 body within just a few days. I can’t extrapolate any conclusions about the build quality of the screen from this one experience as it’s entirely possible that I did something dumb or clumsy and didn’t notice. But it was in a very well padded camera bag when it happened, and I’m famous for doing dumb and clumsy stuff to cameras, so it is noteworthy that this hasn’t happened before. Nevertheless, everything else feels solid and well built. My T1’s both had the warped door problems and the peeling rubber problems. The doors at least are plastic, not rubber now, so that won’t happen, but only time will tell with the rubber grip.
One of the best features about the Fujifilm X-T2 for travel photography trips is the fact you can charge the battery from USB. I can have the camera with me in the front of the van while I’m driving, plugged into the cigarette lighter and no matter how much I stop during the day to take photos it’s still fully charged at night. Genius! All camera manufacturers take note, please. Also, the fact that you can charge two batteries at once in the battery grip, even when the grip isn’t attached to the camera makes keeping a full set of charged batteries a breeze, even on the road.
The experience hasn’t been entirely positive though. Like many Fuji XT2 owners, I’ve been plagued by the dreaded freezing issue. This is where the camera occasionally won’t switch off until you take the battery out. Since battery life isn’t very good with any mirrorless cameras yet, habitually flicking the camera off in between shots is the only way of maintaining battery life. Back in the UK, I was shooting a lot of weddings and this would have been a disaster. I can’t begin to imagine feeling confident enough to shoot the first kiss or the bouquet toss with a camera that one in every hundred shots just bricks up. For the kind of work I do now it’s less of an issue, but still frustrating as hell, and falls so far beneath the acceptable standard for a pro/prosumer aimed camera it’s not even funny. Fujifilm has been great at fixing things like this in firmware in the past, but this feels like a beta product right now, at least on this issue, and the firmware needs to come quickly to prevent customers migrating back to Canikon who’s big, heavy antiquated boxes are at least reliable!
Like all Fujifilm cameras, they are flawed gems. They’re like Italian cars in that respect. There is always something infuriating about them that defies credulity, but the user experience is so wonderful when they’re working well that you accept their idiosyncrasies almost, almost willingly.
In summary, the Fujifilm XT2 is probably the best travel camera on the market today. It’s probably one of the best cameras on the market today, period. And knowing Fuji, it will only get better with firmware over the next few years.
If you are interested in how the other camera in the range stacks up you can take a look the Fujifilm X-Pro2 review.
About the author.
Matt Widgery is a photographer, photography trainer, and YouTuber. Originally from the UK, he now spends his time shooting and teaching around the world, living out of a van with a couple of bikes, way too many cameras, and a ukulele. His work is varied, encompassing portraiture, fashion, and landscapes.
Currently working on a book and exhibition, he is spending six months shooting in Europe. The book will be out in 2018.
You can check out Matt’s popular Youtube channel here.
Travel Photography Tips backing up data on location
Photography Data Management.
I get asked often how I deal with data management when I can be away for several weeks working on a project in the field. Well, there are two things that I need to consider, firstly is it light weight and is it not too expensive. My thinking behind the second is I can buy two and have a contingency plan.
I tend to keep one main backup of my photographs these days on an external SSD drive. This is one of the advantages of using a camera such as the Fujifilm X-Pro2 with its two card slots. I already have the first backup of my images as soon as I have pressed the shutter. To explain this a little further I made a Vlog about a little trip I did and incorporated some thoughts on data backup hardware for the photographer.
If you would like to find out more about the equipment I tend to carry whilst on assignment then skip on over to the “What’s in my bag” section. Here you will find a more detailed look at the sort of items I use for travel and commercial photography trips.
Thinktank Photo Roller Derby Review Is it the best camera bag in the world?
This week I wanted to share some thoughts on the Thinktank Roller Derby camera bag. Below is a video review of one of my favourites.
When looking for a rolling camera bag for use in airports and train stations I really wanted to find a camera bag with four wheels. Many of these semi-hard camera cases have the typical twin wheel setup, so when I discovered the Airport Roller Derby from Thinktank Photo I have to admit I was immediately drawn to it and wanted to find out more. So after reading a few write-ups and browsing the Thinktank website, I ordered one. As really this is only one way to find out if it’s any good or not. What happened next was a rather extensive year of testing with this bag coming with me all over the world.
Fujifilm 14mm f2.8 review is the fuji 14mm a must own lens?
Fujifilm Fujinon 14mm f2.8 review. Fuji XF 14mm f/2.8 ASPH XF14mmF2.8 R Fuji – review by Phil M.
Is the Fujifilm XF14mm f2.8 a must have lens? What would you choose as the optimum wide angle for travel with the Fuji X-Pro2 or X-T2?
Not so long ago we didn’t have many options in the high-quality wide-angle range however, things have changed. We are now almost spoilt for choice with the XF 14mm f/2.8, the excellent Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4, and the useful XF 10-24mm f/4 plus the offerings from Zeiss and Rokinon. So when I was looking for a wide lens for travel I needed to narrow the field a little. When I travel I need to stay light and small, so the Fujifilm Fujinon XF14mm f2.8 seems to fit the bill rather well. It not only is smaller that the other offerings from Fujifilm but also is pretty sharp and shows very little if any distortion.
But is it a must own Fujifilm lens? And is it good on the go? Well, after a year of jetting around the world with my camera gear I would like to share my thoughts in the video below.
Well, there is a choice these days with the excellent Fujifilm Fujinon XF 16mm, the Fujifilm Fujinon 10-24mm and the Fuji XF14mm f 2.8. But which is the better choice for the travel photographer, In the video above I share my thoughts of this.
The XF 14mm for the Fujifilm X series is possibly my favorite lens to slap on the camera and leave the house with. It offers a wonderful view of the world, giving an equivalent to a 21mm lens in the world of 35mm film. I originally feared this would be a tad too wide for my needs and offer up too much distortion. How I was wrong, it just goes to show you cannot make a judgment on a piece of equipment before really taking it out into the world for a damn good go first.
It’s hard to explain exactly why I like this Fujinon 14mm lens so much. I might be more in love with the results it gives me If I’m honest. Certainly, I would never have said prior to using it that it would be a great portrait lens. Conventional thinking tells us it’s a total no-no. However, I shoot more environmental portraits with this than any other lens in the Fujifilm range. I have to admit I thought the excellent Fujifilm XF 35mm f1.4 would be my main choice for that sort of photography. I love the 35mm for sure, but the 14mm lens just does things so much better in the real world when I’m travelling
As you can see, the XF14mm is capable of producing some incredible images that are very sharp corner to corner from around f4 onto f8 with little to no distortion, just exhibiting the expected deformation … I have used this lens now extensively having shot with it around the world. I can conclude that for me at least, it’s a must have!
The Fujifilm Fujinon 14mm f2.8 review. Fuji XF 14mm f/2.8 ASPH XF14mmF2.8 R (21mm equivalent) review by Phil M. This fast wide prime is very small. This makes it great for travel, sure you can have a faster lens, the Fujinon XF 16mm for example or a wider one, the Fujinon XF 10-24mm zoom. However, they are too bulky and heavy for me to use in my travel kit. This great little wide angle fits in a pocket no problem. It’s not weather sealed sadly but it is very sharp from f4 onwards. This makes it perfect for my travel photography needs. It works great when paired with the Fujifilm X-Pro2, so much so I could happily take just this one lens and body combo on trips overseas.
The Fujifilm Fujinon 14mm f2.8 review. Fuji XF 14mm f/2.8 ASPH XF14mmF2.8 R (21mm equivalent) review by Phil M.
Kicker lighting so what is that then?
Travel lighting might be considered a little confusing and be intimidating for some, but fear not. Since posting some of the India images on Instagram I have received a few questions about how I did it and what was used. What is a Kicker Light, when do you use hard lighting? Well in this posting I have made a video that attempts to explain a few of these questions.
In this video, I explain how I use the Godox Ving850 (which has now been replaced with the Godox Ving850II, link below) alongside my Fujifilm X-Pro2 for some travel photography portraits in India.
The Godox Ving850 is available to buy in the US, click the link Godox Ving 850II
Travel lighting off camera flash on location
So what’s the best way to achieve the lighting needed while Travelling? If you want soft light, how big a softbox will I need? How do I mount that light and most importantly how do I keep the cost and the weight down?
Travel lighting might be considered a little confusing and be intimidating for some, but fear not. Since posting some of the India images on Instagram I have received a few questions about how I did it and what was used. Well in this posting I have made a video that attempts to explain a few of these questions.
In this video, I explain how I use the Godox AD360 alongside my Fujifilm X-Pro2 for travel photography portraits in India.
Check out my YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/c/philm
Product links below – Click the description
Godox Witstro AD360 High Power External Portable Flash Light Speedlite Kits with 16 Channels Trigger kit and Lithium Battery Pack for DSLR Camera
Kumortuli - The Potters lanes of north Kolkata - The Men Who Make Gods
Kolkata, a 300-year-old city that was once the capital of India. This place is known for its various festivals throughout the year. The most famous and colourful festival is in the worship of the Goddess Durga, locally known as Durga Puja. However, due to my terrible timing of my trip, the dates meant that I would totally miss it all! However, covering the big festivals was not my plan at all on this trip. In fact, I was looking to capture a more intimate portrait of daily life in this beautiful, crazy, mysterious city.
One of the main parts of the Durga Puja festivities is when huge clay idols of gods get immersed into the waters of the holy river. I figured it would be a superb time to see just how these sculptures are made in the build up before the festival. The incredible often life-size or bigger clay and straw sculptures are produced painstakingly by an army of artisans using methods passed down often through many generations. It just so happened that I had chosen possibly the best time to visit the area where they make all these idols. There would be plenty of activity with the various workshops all in full swing, trying to meet the orders for the coming festival.
The district where all these huge clay and straw sculptures are created is known as Kumortuli, literally meaning potters quarter in the local language of Bengali. It’s a mesmerising labyrinth of bustling, confusing dark alleyways. Often in the dank, smelly lanes, I would see rats running about or get bitten by mosquitoes, but it is well worth the suffering. Often only armed with the trusty Fujinon 14mm due to the tight spaces these small workshops are addictive. My advice is to leave the backpacks at home and travel as light as possible. I asked one sculpture if he found the presence of photographers annoying at all. “only when they knock the fingers off my sculptures with their bags” he told me.
The area has become more and more popular with photographers over recent years, and it is not uncommon to see other snappers. As a result, the people of Kormutuli has grouped together, and you now have to buy a permit to take photographs. These are purchased from a guy call Amit who works out of a weird empty store at the end of the main road there. On my first visit, I did my best to avoid him and didn’t take photos, using the time to get a feel for the place and look at the light. As it turns out, Amit is in fact, kind of cool and on my second visit, I spoke to him at length. He explained to me he doesn’t sit in the empty room all day but in reality works out of his radio repair store just opposite. He was keen to talk to me about where I was from and how I had found the place. I thought since he was charging me to take photos I would grab some shots of him just for fun. He said that no-one had ever done that before and found it amusing. The cost of the permit I had to buy from Amit was 20 rupees so around 25p/30cents, so it’s more of a token gesture really, with the profits going to help with the general upkeep of the area.
Contrary to what I had read about getting to the potter’s district early in the morning, I decided to hit this area around dusk. This was partly due to me not really liking shooting with other photographers present and also on the advice of my pal, a talented local snapper, Ritesh whose advice had been invaluable on this trip. He said that the light would be better once the sun had set and the sculptors had turned on their lamps. It turned out to be true, and the latter lighting fitted my style better.
Once again my plan was to seek out interesting light and then supplemented it with flash where necessary. I carried a Godox Ving850 flash mounted on my carbon fibre monopod from Feisol in a small sling with my other gear just in my pockets. As before I spent time talking with subjects and getting to know them while observing them work. This method afforded me time to set up a flash and let them become comfortable with me watching them work.
I visited the Potters quarter many times during the course of this two-month stay in India, and every time I went back the place had a different feel to it. Everything had moved on from the previous visit and was entirely different. A workshop that yielded some great images the day before was now too busy or too empty to be of much use. It meant that no matter how many times I visited it would seem the job was never finished. Before too long the people of Kumortuli there got to know me, and this was helpful. I was able to talk at length with some of them and when I returned smiles or knowing looks would greet me. I know I will be back again to photograph the “God Makers” of West Bengal, like so many of the places I visit in India, It’s addictive.
I have been asked about running an India 2017 Kolkata workshop, if you are interested then have a look at the photography workshop page.
Into the desert the Pushkar nomads
My continuing exploration using the Fujifilm X-Pro2 System in India.
With the sadhu box ticked for now (see the previous posting by clicking here), I headed out for a scout to the desert on the outskirts of town looking for the gipsy nomads. I had a couple of days left and knew that was never enough time to do a complete study. However, I thought I could lay some ground work for the next visit. The gipsies hover around the edge of the town for a few months at a time and work the hotels as dancers and musicians and even snake charmers while herding goats to make a few rupees and scrape a living. Again, on my first visit, I didn’t take camera gear as I didn’t want to get all in their face without first getting to know a few in the camp. I had recruited a local and asked if he could go and check the location of possible camps before my arrival. So within about 20mins on the back of his motorbike, I could see the first signs of the gypsies camp.
I laid the foundations so I might return at dusk the following evening to grab a few frames. The camp is relatively abandoned during the day, as the inhabitants will be off busying themselves in the local town, only to return at supper time to cook. So, this gave me a very narrow window to get some shots, between them returning to camp and losing the light completely behind the surrounding mountains.
On my return visit, I was kicking myself as In the hurry to strip my kit down to a smaller bag I had forgotten my ND filters for the Fujinon 35mm f1.4. I knew this was my only chance to get any frames of the nomads, as I would be leaving town the next day. I had to make a decision, go back to the hotel and get them, this would take me around 30mins round trip or stay put and make do. I was looking at the sun there was time before sundown to get to the hotel and back. But I hadn’t accounted for the mountains. I had time before sunset sure, but I guessed I had only around 20 mins before the light on my subjects had the shadows of the mountains cast across the area. So I made a plan to wait until I had almost lost the light to start shooting and make do without the ND filters.
I had an opportunity to I just hang out with the gypsies for a while, and they dragged out a bed for me to sit on. I spoke to them through my local guide while keeping an eye on the fading light. Then in no time at all, it was show time.
I managed to grab a few frames while working as fast as I could. My subject was the elder lady of the family, she had a daughter I had met the day before who I really wanted to shoot. The problem I had was it was really now or never, and her daughter was not back from town yet. So, I had to quickly rethink the plan, as I was about to lose my window of opportunity altogether.
I had pre-rigged the softbox with a grid on the Godox 360, using it boomed overhead and slightly to the off side from the sun. Shooting on the Fujinon 35mm f1.4, to begin with as it’s my first choice for this type of portrait and very sharp. In this situation, It’s so tempting to bring the ambient light way down for an overly dramatic effect, and I had to try to resist that as I wanted a softer feel to these shots. There were huge ants everywhere and spiders. Whilst I was flicking a spider off of my bag looking a bit concerned at my guide he leaned towards me, ” it’s not those you should worry about it” he cooed to me “It’s the snakes and the scorpions”. With a few different frames shot of the older lady and her other daughter in the bag, I was happy that I had captured at least something. I estimated I had a few mins of daylight left before we were in shadow. Just to my left, a guy I had briefly spoken to the night before, had just started cooking his evening meal. So, I thought I should try to capture an action portrait as I prefer that sort of real life thing rather than posed setups.
Below is a video that might help anyone interested in the gear I current carry for this type of shooting.
Almost immediately I realized I needed to go wider. I was backed up into a tent post so could not move back, the Fujinon 35mm I had mounted was not wide enough. I needed to swap out to the trusty Fujinon 14mm f2.8 that I had in a pouch on my belt. A further delay and now I knew it was a matter of minutes before it was game over due to the light. The sand here is so fine it’s like flour, I needed to be extra careful when changes lens in a hurry. Had I dropped it, it would have certainly been the end of that lens. It helps if you have practiced with your gear and know it backward. This is the sort of time when you really need to trust your equipment and be decisive with you actions. The guy cooking just carried on and I didn’t give any direction to him. I would have liked to have moved him around maybe a little, but that wasn’t an option due to the time constraints. In the end, I bagged some grab shots of him preparing his evening meal.
As it happens despite the manic rush, it paid off and I’m reasonably happy with the results of my brief time with the nomads. Plus, I know that I will always have a very narrow window to shoot them just after they have returned to camp and prior the sunset. So, sure mistakes were made. However, I always like to judge people not on if they make a mistake but on how well they act to solve the issues and still get the job done. One thing I know for sure is I will defiantly go back and explore this subject further, as these people and the way they live are just so fascinating.
Now back to Kolkata to continue my exploration of India and its inhabitants. In my next blog, I go in search of the men who create God, but that’s another blog post.
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One of the main reasons I like photography is it allows me to explore a subject whilst hiding behind my camera. It’s like a shield, an excuse to go and do things I would not normally do “naked” without it.
I wanted to meet some Sadhu, the holy men of India who dedicate their life to the Hindu religion. Giving up their past, to the extent that the person they were before is officially dead to the Indian government. I wanted to know all about them, any regrets, why do it and what’s it like to sleep on a marble floor for the rest of your life?
Ever photo assignment delivers its own unique set of issues. After all, good photographers are part creatives, part storytellers, and part problem solvers. This trip was to be no different. I had heard of the holy city of Pushkar before and had always wanted to visit. Even though it was still out of season, I thought I would risk the monsoon and at least try to see what it was all about, treating the trip as a recce for a later trip in the year. My plan was to use Pushkar as a base and work around the outside area of the city to find some photo opportunities, maybe some nomads maybe some holy men. I would hopefully make some contacts, have a good look at some areas and hotels and then plan a trip for a later date. Perhaps, if I’m lucky I might get a few frames in the bag on this trip too. So, despite it being totally the wrong time of year I decided it was worth trying, what’s the worst that can happen?
I have been shooting a lot on the Fujinon 14mm f2.8, as discussed in my previous blog with a fair amount of success in the cramped conditions of the markets. Tight spaces were not going to be such a problem here. So far the X-Pro2 has been stellar on this trip, it’s not missed a beat. I’m enjoying using it in India a lot. As the spaces I would be working in would not be as tight, my plan was to shoot on the excellent Fujinon 35mm f1.4 and do some wide portrait studies. The Fujinon 35mm f1.4 is sharper than the 14mm, so it is my first choice providing I am able to move back a little. It offers just the right amount of “wide” for my liking. I always shot horizontal, even for portraits these days. Something that raises a few eyebrows and the odd question but I like the dead space in the frame it affords me. It makes me work harder with the compositions and I find that rewarding. I guess this is a habit of having to make do with the horizontal format and never being able to frame vertically from my days working in television. You can not simply tilt the camera on its side to help you compose a shot when making TV programs. It’s my “thing” I guess, I’m going for a cinematic look with my images. I try to make each image look as if it could be a still from a film or a commercial with the lighting, color correction and composition and this horizontal only thing helps with achieving that goal.
I decided to try to travel a little lighter than before but frankly, this was a futile effort. After various packing and unpacking at the apartment in Kolkata, I ended up bringing all my lighting and actually only shed a few kilos. I was gambling on the sun being out and that I may need to overpower it. Working with a softbox, I would need some serious juice to do that. So, I needed my larger flash. I’m currently using the Godox 360. It’s cheap, fairly powerful and comes with a beauty dish / small octobox. I have an egg crate for this too, so it really is a very versatile setup. In fact, I have brought two of these modifiers and have one as a backup should the first get damaged. I prefer the 360 as it’s battery pack is separate, this means the head on the end of your pole if you are booming it overhead is a lot lighter so less fatigue. As I also have the Godox 850 here on this trip I am able to trigger two flash heads from the camera with the one trigger. So, a potential of a 3 light setup, if I’m using the sun as the third light. I actually also have a coiled cable and Nissin i40 to, hey you never know, right?
Pushkar is not the easiest place to get to, there is no airport for one. There is a railway station on the edge of town, but as my time here is limited. I opted to fly into Jaipur, the nearest big city and arranged a car to be waiting to take me the three and a half hour road trip. This road journey is the usual India craziness. With a six-lane freeway most of the way, it sounds so easy in theory, but this is not the case. You end up playing a computer game of dodge the sleeping cow in the fast lane as you pull out to overtake a slow moving truck stuck in the middle lane. If you try to undertake, you meet a truck driving up the slow lane the wrong way, as he is too lazy to go over to the correct side of the freeway. But, it’s ok as he has put his main beam on! After thirty minutes of nail biting, I just reached into my bag, found my headphones, put my seat belt on and closed my eyes drifting off into a nervous sleep. I was half expecting to wake up upside down in a ditch with the car on fire. As it turns out, I was to awaken somewhere equally as uncomfortable, the Baharapht palace hotel. Now, don’t get me wrong the owners Nina and Dillip are both wonderful and very helpful and welcoming. And the position overlooking the holy lake is a must see. But it’s basic, certainly not a palace and the double food poisoning I got there was not good. Added to that was the fact that the people of Pushkar love a bell and some chanting. Being only a few meters from the lake and that the rooms have no glass in the windows, you can hear it all. Now, this noise is pretty cool and adds a magical atmosphere to the place. However, it starts up from around 4 am and goes on until about midnight. So, if you are just in town for a day or two and chanting through loudspeaker systems and bell ringing is your thing, it might be just the place for you. Next time, I’m going somewhere a little quieter.
I had really wanted to meet and photograph some of the holy men, the “Sadhu” whilst in India. So, prior to my arrival, I had made some arrangements to find a few and give them the heads up that I wanted to hang out talk and photograph them. I was also interested in finding some gypsies who live out in the desert. These two subjects would be my main focus for this short trip to Pushkar.
My plan to escape the huge rains and humidity of Kolkata with a trip out to the desert of Rajasthan was not a good plan. As it happens, it ended up being even hotter and even more humid here in Rajasthan. With the first two days of rain, cloud and 96-100% humidity. This gave me time, so I thought, to relax in my hotel and chill whilst writing the blog and editing some images. This was always my backup plan, If weather stops play, I can retreat to the hotel and write or so I thought. On the morning of day two of rain, when my Macbook gave up and died with a suspected Logic Board failure, I was then in a pickle. Added to that, the food poisoning I then came down with and the repeated power cuts the hotel was experiencing, It was beginning to look like I would not get any photos at all. Sitting in the dark room with no AC, no wi-fi and no computer in 40c heat with it raining outside were a low point. I was lying there and knew I must just tough it out for at least a day or two and keep sipping water chanting my own mantra now “it’s going to be ok, just tough it out”.
Near the edge of Pushkar, there is an “Ashram” a temple of sorts where the Sadhu can go for training. So I headed there leaving my gear behind, with a local who could translate for me to hunt out the mystical sadhu and make first contact. For this first visit, I thought I would not take the cameras and just go to talk and arrange a return visit for the following day. As it turns out, I made three visits and spent many hours talking with the Sadhu. On this first visit, I discovered a windowless room with a staircase going up into the courtyard above. The shaft of light coming down these stairs into the windows dark room was just great. I knew immediately that this was to be my key light for the portrait I had in my head. This room was used by the Sadhu as a dining room and there was an interesting guy eating his lunch on the floor that first day. He was to become my subject for this study. I spoke briefly and asked if it was ok to come back the following day and chat and make some images of Sanjib the Sadhu.
My second day at the ashram was spent mostly talking for a few hours and feeling my way with Sanjib to see how long before he got bored of me snapping away as he was eating. I was trying to get him used to me being there and basically get bored enough to ignore me. Then I would get him as relaxed and natural as I am ever likely to. I made a few frames that were ok but knew I could do better.
On my third visit, I came armed with some Instax shots from the previous day’s shoot, this really helped me to get the shot I had in my head the night before. It was time to get some lighting out and really work the shots of him eating in the dark, humid room. My plan was to use the shaft of light from the stairs as a key light. Supplementing this with a quarter CTO gelled flash off on my trusty Feisol CM 1443 monopod to the right of camera to lift the dark side of the subject. It created a really nice rim light that helps separate him from the background. I used the doorway to the rear of the room to help lift my Sadhu further from the background on the left of the frame. By closing the doors almost fully and just having a crack of light and some spill on the floor it also adds some depth to the shot. So really a simple one flash setup but with a bit of careful placement of the subject.
Below is the final Image I made and it captures Sanjib perfectly. I believe it’s one of my favorite images from the trip so far. Click to enlarge.
I then moved round and used the softbox to get the shot below. The sun had gone behind a cloud so I quickly grabbed the rim flash I had been using and threw it at the top of the stairs. I wanted the light to waterfall down and just hit the tops of each step. I’m still in India so have not really sorted the color on this image as yet and will look at sorting it out when I have more time. It clearly needs a little work still. I thought it might be useful for you to see it and to see how the setup developed, so I have included it.
Well, if you made it this far then well done. Stay in touch to find out how I got on with the Nomads in the desert. click here
Markets of Kolkata Portraits with a 14mm?
The markets of India.
So, as phase one in India comes to a close, I have time to reflect and debrief a little. The one lesson I have learned on my journey as an image maker is to pace myself. It’s hot and very humid here, around 100% humidity and often more than 95 degrees. Hitting it hard for 16 hours a day is simply not possible without burning out. So, you cannot achieve as much as you might think here this time of year. Also, you can waste hours of your day trying to navigate the busy city. As a result, I decided to book a car and driver for my shoot days. This is an extra expense sure, but well worth the investment in the time gained back from having a car available to collect me kerbside at the end of the phone. It buys you back precious hours. As well as making it a little easier to navigate a large new city, it also means you can shelter in the air-con of a car every few hours or so at least. Hydration and bathroom breaks are also something that requires consideration, as the areas I’m going into don’t really cater for this. But it’s no fun carrying the camera gear and lots of water. So why should you bother going through all this hardship you may ask. Well, the rewards are worth it and frankly, the dark, humid and often smelly markets are a wonderful and fascinating place to visit. They are like the beating heart of this old and hectic confusing city. Offering up some of the most incredible light and faces you are likely to ever encounter.
It’s monsoon season here in India. But necessity being the mother of invention and all that means there are still some great places to explore for the adventurous photographer. Namely the covered markets, of which there are many. The rain has driven me indoors into the dark interiors of the city. I’m having to crank the ISO right up, often 4000 or so. This environment is also forcing my hand with the choice of lens, as it’s often extremely cramped too. Working in theses small spaces the 14mm seems to live on the camera as the default lens for exploring the markets of India. It seems this is the place it was designed for.
It’s so busy and cramped in these markets, that you really only get seconds to get the shot, you must be quick on your feet. My approach here is to find the scene, setup a flash on a stand and have the shot ready for me to swoop in and grab a few frames before getting trampled to death by guys carrying huge sacks of vegetables on their heads. Believe me, they are stopping for no-one! When I say you have seconds to get your shot that is possibly wishful thinking, often you have less than a second before having to move out of the way again. The 14mm has not missed a shot often having to focus in total darkness. I’m using the X-Pro2 and I’m sure that is helping. The small size and wide angle and light weight make this Fujinon 14mm f2.8 the ideal choice for me when working in these conditions. Though I am planning to return and would like to try the 16mm if I can get my hands on an example for the trip later this year.
I have come equipped with various flash heads on this trip, but my weapon of choice in the markets is a Godox Ving 850 with a grid/egg crate. Frankly, you don’t need much power, I’m often working at 128th and now have added a gel to reduce a further 2 stops. I have found the small lighting stands available still too heavy and have sourced a carbon fiber monopod with legs made by the Taiwanese company Fielsol and I added a Novoflex ball head, this thing works great. I also need a way of moving around with this flash and stand setup so I’m using a bag made in the USA by Tom Bihn. It’s basically like a quiver you might use for archery for the arrows. The stand with flash attached just drops in and I’m off. (I will write a dedicated blog just on equipment and flash technique used soon, so check back soon).
Often the produce in the markets is lit rather well and sometimes the sellers have taken the time to gel the lamps to make it look even more attractive to the passing shoppers. If you look carefully at the photo of the chili trader below you can see a green gel on his lamp making his chillis look even more green! So, some great light can be found, but I noticed that the vendors would often be in full-shade whilst the vegetables would be spot lit. This would cause a contrast ratio that despite the camera sensor being able to cope with just, I simply couldn’t live with. So some flash is required on practically every shot to lift the faces of the people here. My tactic is to stroll around until I find same great light and then supplement it with my own to lift the dark areas.
I’m also loving the fact that I brought the small Fujifilm Instax mini printer with me on this trip. I am able to create some small prints and then hand them out later. I often create the prints as I’m reviewing images in the evening. This way it motivates me to go back the same place, just when the people are thinking, oh no not this guy again! I can present them with an image. This instantly changes the mood and they are now going to be more than happy to help pose or speak to a colleague and help arrange a shot. So returning to the same place a number of times can be a good tactic. I also feel it is helpful for the photographic community in general, that I didn’t just take their image and run. That now, I’m spending the time to engage with them and get to know them. I’m sure it has helped with getting local rates at the tea shop in the market too. Sure there is a cost to me as I’m handing out lots of these prints, I have given away around 50 already! I just feel It has to be worth it in the long run, karma and all that, eh? I just hope I have brought enough packs of film on this trip!
Part two – Meeting the holy man here
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Fujifilm X-pro2 can it be used for action?
Fujifilm X-Pro2 in an Action Shoot?
What’s it like using the Fujifilm XPro2 in a fast paced, chaotic, action environment, you ask? Well, there’s really only one way to find out now isn’t there?
I was chatting to fellow photographer Matt Widgery over coffee recently. We had been having a little X-pro2 test day. I had let him take my camera out for some shooting when the test had been cut short by the rain. We were chatting in a coffee shop whilst sheltering from the sudden shower. There, we were pondering if the Fuji X-Pro2 would be any good on a fast action shoot. Matt was fairly sure it would do it, I was not so convinced. I suggested what was needed was a proper field test. A real life actual job, where heads would roll should you not be able to deliver the goods. As it happened, I had a couple of overseas shoots coming up that would certainly fit the bill. They would be frantic, dangerous and with zero margins for error. It was then that he sort of challenged me to do it. As I say, I was not sure this was the right camera for the job. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the Fujifilm cameras, but with primes, as a travel camera system. However, on the journey home, I found myself thinking maybe I should give it a go. So it was then I decided hey why not, after all, what’s the worst the can happen, eh?
I had been asked if I could create a series of stills images to be used in a new aircraft brochure. The main thrust of the shoot consisted of various ground detail shots and a series of planned aerial shoots from a light aircraft. These would be air to air, from one plane to the other. I would be operating from a very small Cessna 172. Not my first choice for this kind of shoot, I have to admit. But, as this was all that was available within the budget I was going to have to make do. I requested for the door to be removed and the front seat to be taken out, to give me a fighting chance of getting into the right position to get the shots required. The subject I would be shooting was a small plane used by government agencies as an observation platform. The little German built carbon fiber motor glider starts life as a fun aircraft the public can buy. It then gets heavily modified and fitted with millions of dollars worth of gyro-stabilized camera and tracking equipment. It can then be deployed to monitor large sporting events, shipping, border patrol and a whole host of other secret security things.
I had spoken with the art director of the project Bill and he had a very clear idea about the style of shots he wanted. This was great to hear, as it’s always nice to work with people who have a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve. He was also keen to see this new camera I had been raving about, the X-pro2. He had a passing interest in camera gear but was not really aware of what has been going on in the world of mirrorless. However, he was onboard with the idea that this was a proof of concept shoot and we would be trying out the Fujifilm Xpro2 and Fujinon 50-140mm f2,8 for this particular job. Something we were both quite sure and not been done before.
Could it be done without comprising the shoot? What was our hit rate going to be? Could the images from the X-pro2 live up to the expectations of the client? Well, we were going to find out soon enough.
More often than not with air to air shoots we tend to see a lot of images of aircraft from the side, maybe slightly above and from the side. However, Bill really wanted to illustrate that this is a plane for observing and looking down on things. The photography, therefore, was to reflect just that. He was asking if it’s possible to shoot top down over various geographical features, such as a solar farm, forest, urban, Docklands etc. I explained that to achieve this I would need to way out in the airflow to get these images from the platform we were using. A situation you would normally try to avoid at all costs. I would be getting battered for over and hour in 110+mph winds on each of these aerial trips, it can be brutal. Also that due to the exact placement of the aircraft in the frame he was asking for, I would often need to be holding the camera on its side or even upside down. We were also probably not going to shoot exactly top down, but “I could get very close,” I told him.
Over dinner the first night in Belgium, we wrestled with the various logistics of how we might replicate the images that he had brought with him in a rough mockup version of the brochure. Much to the confusion to the other diners in the hotel restaurant, we experimented with various shooting scenarios with beer mats, napkins, and cutlery on the floor of the dining room. Whilst also making the noises of aircraft etc. To be fair, by that time had been chugging on many of the excellent local beers on offer. Hey, we are in Belgium, right!
My main concern was ensuring I didn’t fall foul of camera shake. That would be a killer for the images. But I was unsure what sort of speeds I could hold the camera at in the wind and still not get motion blur. Often for shooting propeller aircraft you would like shutter speeds around 1/60th, you get a nice blur on the propeller then. I explained that this was going to be out of the question on this shoot. If the blur was required, we needed to come up with a workaround in post production. Also, fatigue would be a problem as would losing concentration. As that could be fatal.
After a few more beers at the hotel bar, I assured him we could get pretty much what he had in mind.We ended up with a fairly good plan and decided to draw up a rough ‘storyboard’ for the main images we thought we would need. “Let’s just give it a go, it’ll be fine,” I said.
What’s the worst that can happen?
The following morning after a good breakfast I headed to the airport to meet the guys who operate the “spy” plane. The pilot and company owner was ex-special forces and used cryptic words like “foreign agency” when he was talking about private jobs his company had been contracted to do. He would be the pilot of the subject plane and seemed to be a good pilot. My camera ship pilot was a quiet older guy. I couldn’t quite work him out at first. Often, I find there are two main reasons people are quiet in these situations. Either they have been there and done it and don’t want to show off, the modest types. Or they are covering the fact they aren’t very experienced and feel it better to keep quiet and hope no one notices. The latter make me nervous, I am quite literally putting my life in their hands. Fortunately, as I found out later my guy was the former.
One advantage of this system, especially when you find yourself working in very cramped tight spaces is that it’s relativity small. I always use the same MountainSmith grab bag for shoots from vehicles. It’s drawstring side pockets are extremely useful for securing bits and bobs in a hurry. Also, the inner is bright yellow making the finding of all those bits of black plastic we photographers seem to need much easier. I was able to fit the X-Pro2 with 50-140mm f2.8 attached in the main, top loading section of the bag. With spare batteries and cards in the pockets and still have room for a second body and 14mm in the side mesh pockets.
On these air to air shoots I utilized the single shot drive mode, with continuous focus, most of the time. I just used the little joystick to place the smallest focus point to the exact area I wanted the subject aircraft to be in the final frame. I have also setup the rear focus lock button and experimented with that a little. It was simply a case of just nailing it when it hit the right mark with a good background. I think this is where we start to see a real advantage in using a mirrorless camera system such as the Fujifilm over say an SLR. The fact that I am able to shoot using the live view in a real-time split second situation and I’m able to rotate the camera to appear to be giving me different angles and therefore more shot variation is one of the big benefits. This became apparent almost immediately once we landed and started reviewing images in Lightroom over a coffee.
That fact that I didn’t have to dig around in menus was also very useful in this sort of environment. I never found myself fighting with the camera to make it do what I needed. It was pretty easy to bend it to my will in the ever changing light I had.
The dual card facility is also a blessing to get with this camera. I chose to set this to backup mode, Meaning, when I take an image it’s written to the card in slot one, a second identical image is then written to the card in slot two giving you an instant redundancy. I have to admit I love this, it’s a welcome feature giving me an instant backup and therefore saving me time back at the hotel. I can simply drag the images into Lightroom whilst on location and then I have my two backups on the SD cards. Less time in the hotel room watching progress bars equates to more time at the hotel bar.
It’s a sad fact, that in the world we now live everyone wants to see the results immediately. This job was no different. I had five people swarming around the laptop as soon as I was on the ground. This was within four minutes of engine shutdown. I was importing the images into Lightroom, whilst still taking my harness off and people were already forming options and critiquing the images. I was also laughing at Bill as he had gone a color between green and blue. Maybe due to the fact he had had a few too many of the local beers the night before and was also now suffering from a slight hyperthermia. I was cold too, but was I about to admit that in front of my ex-F16 pilot and the two special forces guys, was I hell!
I had had quite flat, boring light many times during the shoot due to broken cloud, but sometimes the background was interesting enough for me to grab a few frames here and there whilst directing my pilot to chase the gaps in the clouds. I was, therefore, thankful for the Fujifilm film simulations. I used Velvia as a preset so there were various oohs and ahs as images popped up. First impressions count and I would be hard to explain about flat looking Raw files to people who are not into the photographic process. The Velvia simulation gave enough punch to the files plus a little sharpening of around 25 that the images popped. Thankfully everyone was pleasantly surprised and any doubts about the camera and lens choice were soon dismissed.
One thing I really don’t like is how fuji have pandered to those people who were crying about having to add the old glass diopter to the X-Pro1. I rather liked that old, Nikon type, screw in diopter lens.
We now have the adjustment dial and where it’s situated, on the outer edge of the body, you’re likely to knock it. You will then be wondering why you are going blind for the next 2 minutes until you realize you have moved the thing. The best solution is to tape it and forget it. Frankly, from day one as soon as I took my Xpro2 out of its box I could see it would be an issue. It would need me to rectify it immediately and after a little consultation with Dr. Gaffer tape, things were fine.
To add a little context to this issue, I would like to say that I don’t think this a big miss on Fuji’s part. I have had to travel around the world with all sorts of bits of tape and velcro stuck on dials of all sorts of cameras from other manufacturers. Some of these cameras costing in the region of $50,000+. So I see it as just a fact of life that we have to do these modifications to our gear.
The ISO dial on the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 is incorporated into its shutter speed dial. Though this is a little modern marvel and great to look at, it is just plain fiddly when all hell is breaking loose. Now don’t get me wrong, In future models, I would like to see it retained it’s cool and sure, for a gentle stroll around the streets it’s neat. But what I would like is to see is a way of overriding it on the Xpro2. So I can change it some other way, say with a button or a dial. (Possibly by the time of reading this it has already been done- yay)
Battery life and settings
Battery life can be an issue in certain situations with the Fuji X-Pro2. Even with my rather conservative shooting style, being originally a film shooter, I’m more than likely to shoot over 350 images in a 45-70min flight. This means I am possibly forced to do a battery change mid-flight and that’s not ideal. Especially if using the screen a lot and a lens that draws power. Now, I’m glad that Fujifilm decided to retain the same battery as used by the other cameras in the system. So this is not really a fault of the camera and hopefully, we will soon see a higher capacity battery when the technology allows it.
In most situations, I don’t mind having to swap out a battery or two and I always carry a couple on me in a thinkTank battery pouch. It’s just the fact that having any loose items slip through your fingers in a plane with the door off whilst flying in close formation with another aircraft is a scenario that fills me with dread and best avoided.
This is something I’m very interested in both in stills photography and a video. Us photographers have limited time to achieve the objective of a shoot, so the more high quality ‘keepers’ I can get in a short period of time the better. On this shoot, I was shocked frankly, at the high rate of success. I mean I’m talking about 95% or more. I’m used to handing the all Raw files over for retouch to an agency or my video tapes to an editor, the hit rate is important. You will be judged by how much of the work you shot is usable.
It’s rather like the film days where you might have to hand the unprocessed films over to the newspaper after an event. You will be found out rather quickly if most of your images are bad. It’s the same working in TV. You are a cog in a bigger machine. Editors and producers and loggers get to see your entire day’s work, warts and all when they review the tapes. So it’s not a bad idea to be as good as possible and give them a tape of 90% usable footage. So if you are finding the equipment is making you look bad and it’s letting you down it can be very frustrating. The X-Pro2 was great in this respect, delivering an unheard of rate of perfect images. I am still slightly surprised at how many great images we managed to get from the days shooting. It has helped boost my confidence in the Fujifilm X system enormously.
Being able to position a focus point right towards the edge of frame with the little joystick is extremely helpful in a situation like this. Something i’m not sure I would be able to do with a DSLR. There is no need to waste time with a lock and recompose workflow with this camera. If I had to do that, I would have been missing shots for sure.
In conclusion, I will say only this. I was nervous going into this shoot using exclusively the Fujifilm X system. I have come away thinking it is a near perfect setup for this kind of work. I’m not sure I could have attained such a consistently high quality, high volume set of images with any other camera system.
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Now, much of the success of this particular shoot is also down the rather surprising Fujinon 50-140mm. There is a certain amount of overlap in the review of that lens and this camera due to it being done on the same assignment. However, it’s well worth a read, particularly of you are at all interested in a short tele-zoom for the Fujifilm X system.
The review of which can be found by clicking Fujifilm 50-140mm review.
The things I liked about the X-Pro2
- the handling
- joystick for focus
- twin card slots
Things I would like to see improved –
- battery life (so not a camera thing really)
- iso dial thingy – it slows me down (not always a bad thing)
Equipment used on this shoot –
- Lenses – 14mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4, 50-140mm f2.8
- Bodies – X-Pro2, X-E2, X100t
- Flash – Godox 360 with softbox, Godox V850 x2
- Bags – thinkTank Roller Derby, Moutainsmith daypack
Note About the Author
Phil M is a photographer, traveler, adventurer and ex-BBC cameraman/director. He also has an interest in aviation. You can view his blog where he talks about all the equipment and techniques used. Follow him on Twitter.
I’m sure there are a number of people who judge a camera on its features and technical specifications before ever actually using it. To me, this is just wrong. It seems a rather boring way for me to evaluate cameras, to just simply read spec sheets. I need to go and really put them through their paces. I want to see how successful I am with it and how it makes me feel using it. I hope to reflect that in these write ups. As a result, they are as much about the situations I have used the equipment in and the results I find myself getting, as they are about the actual hardware’s technical details.
As a little bonus, below I have added an image, this was not taken on the shoot in the review above. I did some further work with the same aircraft over the Rockies in the USA. The image below is taken from a Cessna with the door off using the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and the Fujifilm 50-140mm f2.8. It was just a grab shot as we headed home, but I rather like how it came out. I will be doing a short write-up on that shoot on the blog at some point.