The eyes of the world are on Rio.
Welcome to the second installment of my travels through Brazil, covering our time in Rio De Janeiro and Salvador. Both are places that are like surrogate homes for me and of course, my wife's childhood home that much of her extended family still resides in.
If you've not already seen it, go check out my post covering the Streets of Rio with the XF35 F2.
For this trip I packed a comprehensive but compact FujiFilm kit, comprising of my XT-1, XF16, XF35 F2, XF 56 1.2, and the XF90. Much like it was during our travels in Vietnam earlier this year, the XF35 spent the most time attached to my XT-1 because of its discrete size, speed, and excellent image quality. If the upcoming XF23 F2 and 50 F2 are close to the 35 F2 in overall quality and performance, they'll certainly be making their way into my kit.
What about post-production and editing? These are all RAFs that have been edited in Lightroom using a familiar preset I've crafted and modded for this trip specifically and exported as JPEGs. Of course there's things that happen in-camera before all that, such as a bit of underexposing and careful use of spot-metering. Ultimately, it's something that comes as a result of the Electronic View Finder (EVF) and the ability to get what I want from the shot at the time it's shot. I must confess though, there are photos from our time in Salvador that were shot on my iPhone 5S when my XT-1 ran out of battery and I didn't bring a spare. A good eye should be able to pick which ones they are.
Stay tuned for my 3rd post from Brazil that's devoted to the incredible Chapada Diamantina.
Special thanks to all our amigas who got their pose on for the camera.
On one of our walks from Copacabana to Ipanema, my wife made a stop in a shop to 'browse' and well, I had to make the most of my time so I asked the sales girls if I could take their snaps whilst I waited. In a way, these photos cost us $500 because while I was busy shooting, my wife was busy shopping. As we often say here in Australia - happy wife, happy life!
It's a lovely Wednesday morning here in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon, Vietnam, as I write this post buzzing on iced Vietnamese style coffee - the juice of the Gods! My wife and I have arrived to shoot a very special wedding in a few days time and it's an honour to be involved.
About 10 hours before leaving Melbourne, Australia I picked up a little something that I'd been eyeing off for some weeks, the newish Fujifilm XF35 F2. As always, I saw the good folks at DigiDirect in the city and they hooked me up with the best price around, just as they've done with my entire Fuji kit. They were also super patient about me trying the original XF35 F1.4 back to back against the new F2 version, and although the F1.4 certainly has its merits, the F2 won out in a few key areas, which I'll discuss soon.
I'll be straight up. The photos in this post aren't intended to be about photographic prowess nor highly technical breakdowns of the XF35's features, construction, and all that camera nerd stuff. I get enough of that in the world of high end guitars, so cameras are a safe haven for me where I can focus more on creativity rather than technicality. Enough coffee induced rambling.
For a little challenge on my first day shooting the XF35, I decided to go with a bit of street style approach by firing from the hip and seeing how well the lens could keep up in the Auto Focus (AF) on Saigon's busy and beautiful streets. I must say, I am damned impressed by this tiny high performance lens.
Onto some stuff about the lens (I suppose). Something that is immediately clear about this lens is just how responsive the AF is. If you've ever been to Vietnam I'm sure you can understand that you need to keep moving in the busy streets, particularly in high traffic areas, which when trying to capture sharp and in focus pictures is not a great combination since your field of focus changes so quickly through movement.
The XF35 is quick, and I mean quick. It's the kind of speedy and accurate responsiveness that makes this such a different beast to many other Fuji lenses, particularly its predecessor, the XF35 1.4. Not only is it dead quiet and has no feel of movement from its internals, the XF35 F2 does not hunt!
In the past with some Fuji gear the AF has left me frustrated due to a missed shot or slightly lagging response time. This little piece of gear absolutely slays its siblings. My time at DigiDirect comparing the two 35's back to back quickly showed that although the 35 1.4 is still awesome and has that extra stop of light, it simply feels outdated in performance and feel when compare the the new 35 F2. When I compared them in continuous focusing with heavy back-light, the 1.4 didn't know what to do, and in single shot mode it had that slightly nagging back and forth hunt for a moment before acquiring focus. The 35 F2 displayed none of these features and made it very easy for me to make a decision on which one to take home, even though the original 35 had a $200 cashback on offer, making it around $100 cheaper than the new 35 F2.
A quick perusal of my snaps in Lightroom shows that most of my first day's snaps were taken between F2 and F4, so it's not as if the lens and camera have taken the easy path of narrow apertures, and thus, depths of field where focus is easier to acquire. So, keeping in mind that I was not holding the camera up to my eye and stopping for creative and stable framing, I think the XF35 F2 has really shown how much it's the new generation of what Fuji has to offer in terms of high performance gear.
So what about sharpness? Bokeh? Weather sealing? Well, it's the first day. I've got a wedding here to shoot that I'm sure will feature heavy use of the XF35 F2 and its brothers, but so far, for its size and performance, this is possibly Fuji's best XF lens to date. I cannot wait to see how this thing performs the new bodies rumoured for 2016, like the X-E2s or X-PRO2.
Hanging Rock, Victoria, Australia. It's a truly remarkable part of the state, and what's great is it's readily accessible for inner-city folk like myself at only 1 hour's drive away. At the spark of inspiration, my wife and I took off on a drive out there one Sunday for a good bit of fresh air and stunning, natural Australiana.
As you'd expect for this time of year the weather was a somewhat warm 30 degrees celsius, however many areas of the reserve were very refreshing due to different wind tunnels and the natural chill of many of the large shadowy rocks.
For this outing I wanted to keep it simple, light-weight and tack sharp.
Can you guess what I took?
As you may have guessed by the title of the post, I packed the XF16 1.4 and my XT-10. Two extremely powerful pieces of gear that are light-weight, responsive, and can wrestle (and win!) with the big boys. They're also incredibly robust, based on my awful experience of dropping the XF16 from waist height onto concrete some months ago. Watching it bounce several times made my heart skip a beat. Literally.
The temptation to shoot at wide apertures with this lens is always there, but with so much detail going on at Hanging Rock, I chose to shoot just about all these images between F8 and F11. I'm sure you can pick the few that are shot nice and shallow at F1.4 though.
There's really not much I can say about this combo that I've not said or shown before. Every time I pull an image off from this combo I'm just amazed at how much detail there is in the RAF files. Being able to pull shadow details from the way I expose images leaves my Canon rig for dead. I must also add for fellow Fuji X users regarding sharpening with Lightroom. Don't go beyond ~80 the amount of Sharpening and start with Masking at 100 and pull back from there. I like to sit mine around 70-90 depending on the style of photo. Trust me, it'll do your images justice.
Thanks for viewing!
As the weather starts to warm up down here in Australia (Yes, we do experience temperatures other than stinking bloody hot) and the season to be wed kicks off, I have been out getting my eye trained up for some moodier portraits, and further venturing down that road of posing models to achieve the results I'd truly like to see. I also recently had the pleasure of attending an incredible 2-day workshop here in Melbourne with David Talley Photography, Rob Woodcox, and Kiara Rose Photography, all of whom are incredibly inspiring people and artists whose level of achievements and business savvy for their ages is somewhat confronting and mind-blowing. Truly awesome young creatives!
The love for Fujifilm gear continues on for me and I am so inspired by the XF90 135mm equivalent lens that I purchased a few months ago. It's a focal length that just works for me and the quality of the product itself demonstrates how much Fuji is still evolving, leaving me to wonder what 2016 will mean with the X-Pro2 and potentially, the XT-2. Of course, photography isn't all about gear, but having an inspirational piece of equipment or gear certainly helps!
As I look to the summer months ahead I am eagerly looking forward to a very special wedding that my wife and I will be shooting in Vietnam over Christmas, as well as some other lovely couples here in Melbourne, Australia. With the long days of shooting and travels comes preparation in the gym and good eating, which will hopefully serve me well in the more rural areas of Vietnam and some of long wedding days ahead.
To those of you who read and view my posts, and keep my website traffic at some pretty inspiring levels, I thank you for your support and hope that I can continue to keep you returning in the months and years to come.
You may have seen my earlier post about my First Day Impressions of the Fujifilm XF90,
which details my Fuji fan-boi experience with the new kid on the block. One month on and a fair few more shooting experiences later, this lens has done nothing but impress and inspire me. At my favoured full-frame equivalent focal length of ~137mm, the XF90 fits me like a glove and allowed me to move completely away from my Canon system, which had always been a go to when I needed the sharp and speedy 135mm F2 L.
This past month with the XF90 saw me checking out temperate rain-forest waterfalls in Victoria's east, shooting in stunning Western Australian sunsets with my dear friend Dan at Matsu Photography, exploring the historical sites of federation era Australia, and shooting for Ormsby Guitars and the Melbourne Guitar Makers Festival. On each and every varied occasion the XF90 never missed a beat and I have been left pondering how FujiFilm will outdo themselves next in their world of supreme, high quality consumer photography lenses.
There's something really frustrating about the XF90 - it leaves many of its brethren feeling somewhat inferior (emphasis on 'somewhat').
What Fuji have managed to achieve with this lens and its new quad-motor system is a lens that is incredibly responsive, accurate, and works extremely well in tough lighting conditions, such as low light and heavy back-lighting. I couldn't believe how well it focused on my mate Dan (below) during sunset, or at night as I often put it through its paces targeting objects near and far. As much as I love the XF56 1.2, after using the XF90 it feels somewhat slow and outdated and simply doesn't perform anyway near as well. Also, the XF90's bokeh trumps it by a long shot. Sorry, I know that F1.2 is still a hell of a feature and I'll continue to use mine, but the bokeh it produces simply isn't as smooth and rich.
Something sports and action photographers are going to love about the XF90 is how well it plays with continuous focusing mode, zone focusing and bursts, even at F2. It's smooth, accurate and damned responsive! Overall, a consistently high focus hit rate on par with what I was used to when using my Canon 7D/6D and the 135mm F2.
Did I mention that the XF90 is sharp?
Take a look at the 3 pictures above. I'm not normally a 'here's a 1:1 crop guy' but in this case I had to provide a quick screen grab at that ratio from my LR module (post grain added). I'll just leave you with those snaps to ponder.
If you're considering this lens be aware of how beneficial it is to have a ridiculously close minimum focusing distance on a lens of this focal length. I have loved utilizing the 60cm min. focusing distance so often and cannot wait to try it on some detailed wedding ring shots soon. If you like getting out and shooting a bit of wildlife like me, it's also particularly useful for some more intimate nature shots or flower snaps that provide a beautiful level of compression at this focal length.
I'll keep my conclusion simple. If you're a Fuji X-series user, buy this lens.
If you're on the fence about coming on board to the Fuji-side, get this lens and an XT-1 or XT-10 and be prepared to be blown away.
Spontaneity is incredibly underrated. And sometimes, simply saying 'yes' to an opportunity is the best way to go.
I'm sure many of us feel our work-life creep into our weekend-life, which invariably leaves us feeling unrested and often stifled by a job that we otherwise enjoy. The idea of driving 6 hours on your 2 days off a week is often too great of a sacrifice, and one that we don't see the true value in doing until we finally do it. That was my weekend. A short Saturday getaway with a good mate to Victoria, Australia's south west to the Great Ocean Road and down to the awe inspiring Twelve Apostles.
Our trip saw us travel to some pristine temperate rainforests in Otway, where the endangered black snail can be found, amongst rich, moist forest floors. This experience provided ideal circumstances for me to use my favourite FujiFilm gear to get up close and really craft an image that I wanted, first time, using the ever useful EVF of the XT-1. As we walked among the native blackwood and ash trees, some 25 floors up, I got to capture native flora that I never knew existed. In one small reserve the biodiversity was truly something to behold and had me appreciating, yet again, the beauty that exists in my own backyard.
As the sun began to set low in the afternoon sky, we made a last hour drive to the legendary Twelve Apostles and were fortunate enough to arrive just in time for sunset, with thankfully low numbers of other tourists to be found or hinder the experience. The sea salts rolled in through the air and I took that breath that many of us forget to take in this working life of ever-digital-connectedness. That investment of an afternoon and an evening was worth more than 2 weeks away in a tropical paradise, and it won't be the last.
Neasa and Andy - Two beautiful people, married in a gloriously beautiful country, bringing people together from across the globe in a blending of cultures and tradition.
Their love for each other is clear and their adoration for their little boy Jack is is absolute. But something that really struck me throughout the time I've known Neasa and Andy is how they're not only husband and wife, parents, and a family.
They are best friends.
Their wedding in Dingle, Ireland was nothing short of an exuberant celebration where Irish and Australian cultures collided in a wonderfully competitive, yet friendly game of who could dress better and who could party harder into the early hours of the morning. Whether it was the classic rustic styling of Ballingtagart House, the absolutely mind-boggling combination of a pub, hardware, and bike store at Foxy John's, or the breathtaking views on the far west outlook of the Dingle Penninsulla, Neasa and Andy's was an adventure of a wedding that entertained and drew so many emotions. Their laid-back approach is something we could all learn from and made capturing their day a candid and joyful experience.
And what better way to finish off the days of wedding celebrations than with with an international match of Gaelic and Australian Rules Football!
I recently spent an incredible weekend down in Tasmania, Australia (that's the little piece of Oz that's detached from the mainland at the bottom) with the brand spanking new Fujinon XF16 F1.4 R WR Lens, XF56 1.2 R, and my trusty XT-1. FujiFilm, you made my 30th birthday extremely memorable and blew my expectations for the XF16 out of the water, and those expectations were already very high.
As with my previous post, these are all in-cam JPEGs with Chrome simulation and my own tweaks.
Given how busy my life has been for some time now, as well as my wife's more than hectic schedule, I figured a weekend away in a part of Australia we've never been to was the best way to celebrate my 30 years on this wonderful planet. Little did I know that my dearest friend from the other side of Australia, Western Australia, was scheming to get the XF16 for me as a combined birthday gift with my family.
See why we're best mates?
After waking up in a Hobart hotel with my wife presenting me with the XF16 on a Saturday morning, we grabbed some breakfast from a hipster cafe and embarked on our drive to the awe inspiring Pumphouse Point on Lake St Clair. The drive took a little longer than it should have though because there were simply too many places to stop at and shoot with this 24mm equivalent lens.
A common criticism of FujiFilm's X-cameras is the speed and accuracy of AF, which will hopefully be long gone once they drop the Firmware 4.0 update for the XT-1. So what's the XF16 like on an XT-1 with Firmware 3.0? ABSOLUTELY MARVELOUS! It's focuses quickly, hits the mark with very high accuracy, and doesn't go on hunting trips! LOVE IT!
The XF16 paired with the XT-1 is my favourite combo to date, when considering how it balances on a body with no battery grip and the size and weight of the lens additionally. It just feels right and it has a rather attractive lens hood too. It also features the clutch focusing mechanism that is featured on several other Fujinon XF lenses, which is total gem for street shots fired from the hip. The XF16 was also my first Fujinon lens that has the Weather Resistance (WR) treatment, and believe me, I put the WR of the XF16 and XT-1 to the test though rain, hail, and unexpectedly, snow!
For most of time we spent in Tasmania it rained and snowed, which gave me an awesome opportunity to test the XT-1 and XF16 in some rather rough conditions and see if Fuji is worth their word on their weather sealing. Heck, I even used the XF56 in some less than stellar conditions. Needless to say, the whole kit held up perfectly and in the days I have been using it since, I have not had a single issue. *fingers crossed
I could ramble on about how good the lens is and attempt to get into highly technical language about why it's good, but I think enough has been said in pictures alone. FujiFilm is making the best 'affordable' professional glass out there. The XF16 is a sensational lens and I highly recommend even non Fuji owners get out there and try it out. My wallet is going to hate me though, because with the impeding release of the XF90 and the fact that it's going to be at least on par with the XF16 for IQ, I am going to have to buy it.
One last little snap with the XF16. We are going to be shooting this little man's mum and dad's wedding in Ireland in a few weeks! I think he's a bit excited.
It's autumn in Australia! What better way to show it off than to head off into the temperate rainforests of Victoria with my FujiFilm XT-1 and X100S.
Rather than rattle on about 'performance this...' and 'sharpness that...' here are some snaps from some bush-walks in some amazing forests that are less than 1 hour's drive from Melbourne's CBD. If you're ever in Victoria, Australia, be sure to check out Sassafras, Ferntree Gully, and East Gippsland.
Massive thanks to my good bud Theo, for taking us well off track for some of these snaps and for the lovely collection of baby leeches that tried to burrow through my shoes.
Recently I was very lucky to spend 5 days cruising through the countryside of Victoria, Australia, soaking up amazing scenery that is unique to this part of the world, and experiencing some of the best light I've ever seen. There were many euphoric moments of awe and appreciation for my home country's beauty, beauty that I had never seen or made a strong enough effort to experience and appreciate properly beforehand.
Knowing full well that I had many kilometers of riding on rough tracks ahead of me, I packed a light day kit, which of course featured my FujiFilm XT-1, XF56, XF18, and the underrated XC50-230. With just about every focal length covered, plus a few spare batteries, I was ready to capture just about anything that caught my eye, which there was of course and abundance of.
My approach to capturing this experience was a little different than usual. I didn't want to think about taking a photo and consider how it could be improved in post-production later on. I really wanted to show off how Fuji's JPEG system is supremely impressive and let the pictures and lenses speak for themselves. All pictures in this post were shot in JPEG with the Chrome simulation, and had a global modification of slight sharpness and shadow boost applied to them in Lightroom. The only exceptions were the few black and white conversions that you'll see in my post.
I spent 4 nights camping in a local caravan park in the town of Yea, Victoria, which is not far from the alpine regions of the state. The locals were extremely welcoming and talkative, even the local wildlife let me get up close and personal with XF56 on a few occasions! Overnight temperatures were pretty mild at ~3 degrees Celsius, which helped provide some truly amazing sunrises that featured beautiful fog and mist peering through the native forests and rolling hills. I love the XT-1's solid metal construction but jeez, when it's cold and you've bare hands you can certainly feel it! That said, I quickly realised too that having all the analog dials were great when wearing gloves because the camera was still very usable and easy to adjust.
The XT-1 performed admirably as always. Having the electronic shutter capable of shooting at 1/32000 of a second was very useful during the early morning sessions when firing off the XF56 at F 1.2. The XF18 was an exceptional performer in the AF department and was comfortable to use on the fly whilst riding. However, the budget master XC50-230, really impressed me. Sure it doesn't quite have the unique 3D crispness of the XF series but to have the equivalent focal lengths of 76-350mm for ~$200 it focuses well, renders detailed and sharp images and is very light weight. Definitely a top contender for best value for money in the entire Fuji lens range.
Below is one of the locals to the caravan park I was camping in - Sexy Face.
Sadly, this fella has a virus known as Psittacine beak and feather disease, which causes progressive feather, claw, and beak malformation and necrosis. Immunosuppresion is a secondary stage of the disease and eventually the poor fella will probably die from a secondary infection of some sort. Sexy Face (as named by the locals) was a very friendly fella and didn't shy away from the camera though. I hope he has a few more years left in him.