You know you're privileged when you start losing track of how many significant places you've traveled to for pleasure in less than a year. Well, we didn't exactly move to the U.K. for amazing pay rises or weather but it sure is incredible being so close to so many significant parts of the world that are accessible on the cheap, just like in this case with our ~4 day trip to Olhao, Portugal and it's surrounds.
On a whim some months ago we booked this one in so we could see Seu Jorge live in concert and enjoy a bit of sun and damn good food. We certainly got all that and more. Having gloriously good coffee, toasted sandwiches, and sunshine greet us each day was a blessing. The few days spent relaxing on beaches and even being able to drive across the boarder to Spain for dinner one evening was everything we needed. Sending an impromptu message to Adriano, drummer for Seu Jorge, that it'd be great to say hello, only to be given AAA passes and photo access was the most perfect icing on the cake, topped off with great 3am hangs with the man himself and his band. I have never received such a sincere embrace from a stranger and someone whose music has been there with me in so much of my adult life; he is a true gentleman and a star! Many, many thanks to the whole crew for welcoming us like family throughout the whole evening.
Olhao is a truly beautiful and humble part of the world that really helped me empty my head for a few days and look for new visual experiences. I have walked away hooked on the textures of its streets and architecture, and the reassuring message the less is more by having packed only my X-T2, XF35mm F2, and 3 batteries for 5 days. The only downside is that it has left me wanting more, but that's what those EasyJet price alerts are for!
Welcome to the final part of my posts from Brasil!
If you haven't already seen the previous two posts from this trip you can check them out here.
For my fifth visit to Brasil (my wife's home country) Nat and I chose to visit a very unique part of the country that is greatly overlooked and unknown by most foreigners. Chapada Diamantina is a national park situated ~400kms west of Salvador, Bahia. It is known for its old mining towns, incredible panoramas, stunning waterfalls, and numerous ancient sandstone caves. To sum it up, it's the best kept secret from foreigners visiting Brasil, in my opinion.
Traveling to and staying in Chapada Diamantina is very easy, but you'll have to plan carefully as there are only 2 flights to the region each week, or otherwise be prepared to sit on a bus for 7-8 hours.
We were fairly budget minded for accommodation, as we wanted to make sure we could comfortably pay for transport around the national park and its many sites. We stayed with Tatu Do Bem in the town of Lencois, which was an exceptionally comfortable hotel, run by Shirley and Eduardo. They put on a fantastic breakfast (included) everyday, and also run really great personal tours throughout the Chapada. Eduardo knew of all the best places to check out, which often meant that secluded waterfalls and caves were left for us to experience independently of other tourists!
We only had two full days to explore Chapada, but we still managed to do a lot of exploring!
On Day 1 we visited Mucuguezinho River and Poco do Diabo (waterfall), Caverna da Fumaca (cave), Pratinha (turquoise river), Gruta Azul (river cave), finished with sunset at Morro do Pai Inacio.
On Day 2 we visited Poco Azul (river cave) and Cachoeira do Mosquito (waterfall).
Enough with the chatter. I hope you enjoy the snaps!
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!
In Australia we really like our long weekends. In the first half of the year we get quite a few, which gives many of us the well earned time off from busy jobs to get away with family and friends for 3 or 4 days in beautiful parts of the country, or simply veg-out a bit and relax.
. During the recent Easter holiday period we took off down to Phillip Island in Victoria's south for a quiet couple of days away with some friends who rented a sweet beach house. It may have only been 2 days and 1 night, but I was certainly treated to a few stunning photographic experiences, and as you can expect, I packed a nice little shoulder bag load of FujiFilm gear. All shots were on an XT-1 with either the XF16 1.4, XF35 F2, XF56 1.2, or XF90 F2.
As a little thank you gesture for having us, I made sure to grab a few family snaps of our friends who so kindly let us stay with them for free. It was such a pleasure to be able to merge stunning scenery with a family portrait of sorts, which also helps to keep me sharp and inspired in between weddings and other more formal photo shoots. For this afternoon walk I simply took my XT-1 and XF56 1.2, which provides that subtle hint of compression and stunning subject isolation when I take a 'wider' approach to my framing, such as with the shot above. After being so inspired by the location only 2 minutes away from our accommodation that afternoon I made a point of getting up early the next day for sunrise to see how some long exposures would work out.
As the sun rose on the opposite side of the island, I was treated with some stunning tones and during a cloudy early morning. Was it what I expected? No. Was it still immensely satisfying? Absolutely!
What I loved about where we were situated was how quickly I could walk from this beach to another side of the island that had direct morning light, offering a new and equally unique perspective to the day's beginnings. As the day moved on I returned to the beach with our friends for a few more snaps and took advantage of some of the finer details around the house in which we were staying. The XF90 was a gem as always for the close up shots because of its combined focal length and relatively close minimum focusing distance.
Our final short trip down in Phillip Island was to The Nobbies, a vital area to many animal species and a spectacular sight to behold. The boardwalk is a comfortable experience for people of all ages and abilities and awesome viewing angles are in abundance. It's a wonderful family friendly place and if you're lucky, you may get to see penguins having a rest down by the rolling hills and oceans' edge.
As you would expect, the selfie-ticks were in an abundance here but thankfully it wasn't so busy that I couldn't get the snaps I wanted. The sharpness of the XF16 with a 10 stop ND filter in some cases won for me during this experience, with a few extra shots coming in from the XF35 F2 & XF90.
With only a bit more than half a year left before we move to the UK for a few years, I have become increasingly eager to explore my home country. Sure, things will probably be much the same when we return but there is certainly a yearning to live in the now and for experiences, not things. I also hope to inspire fellow visitors or dwellers in Australia to get out there more often and see what this massive country has to offer. Go get lost!
I just need to get this out of the way.
If you've not visited Vietnam, do so as soon as you can. The people, the culture, the food, the traffic, the history behind the nation, and so much more are something every traveler or adventurer must experience. I am already planning to go back.
We were very fortunate with this trip, having been hired to shoot an incredible wedding in Saigon for Winnie and Elvin, which enabled us to extend our travels throughout Vietnam afterwards. Since the wedding was our main priority, a full kit was packed for our travels, including my prized Fuji family below, with the XF35 F2 being a late addition just before we left Australia. Despite having such a formidable kit, outside of the wedding, most of it didn't see much use*, as the new XF35 F2 completely dominated as a discrete and powerful combination with either the XT-1 or XT-10. I cannot praise the new XF35 F2 highly enough.
*For the purpose of addressing people's curiosity, I will tag photos with lenses that aren't the XF35 F2.
Fuji have really created something special with the XF35 F2.
For many, an F2 50mm equivalent lens doesn't sound particularly amazing, especially when you can get a basic F1.8 50mm for around $100 (disregarding Fuji's XF35 F1.4) with other brands. However, lenses like that feel cheap and simply don't have the performance and quality of this little beast from FujiFIlm.
The very immediate and obvious thing about the XF35 F2 is that it focuses so brilliantly fast and accurately that it puts all the small talkers who badmouth mirrorless cameras for having slow auto-focus right back in their wornout, chiropractor's best customer, DSLR ladened holes. This lens is basically silent, has little to no focusing feel to it and slays (gets the shot) in very tough lighting conditions. And how about that F2 maximum aperture? Well....
The big thing about the maximum aperture of F2 is that it is way more flexible and capable than I imagined and works in conditions I didn't expect it to handle. Throughout my time in Vietnam when shooting with it on my XT-1 or XT-10 (depending on weather) I often shot from the hip in a vertical/portrait position, shutter priority and wide focus, What really made this work was I could push the shutter button and be guaranteed focus in a very, very immediate manner as I walked past or towards my subject. This had two benefits. For one, the plane of my depth of field was basically unchanged so shots (most between F2 & F4) were on the mark, which gave me the highest keeper ratio I have ever had on any camera and lens combo. The other really profound thing was how the auto-focus of the lens performed in low-light or mixed lighting in streets and social settings - think loads of motorbikes, cars, lanterns and other sorts of mixed lighting. I was able to find something that caught my eye, frame it, shoot it, and capture it, without issue.
Wait? That doesn't sound very impressive.
Well, when I want THAT shot it's when I'm most stable at that point of grabbing focus and taking the shot. In clearer terms, I was able to shoot at shutter speeds much lower than I previously could because the absence of lag between me pressing the shutter button and the camera acquiring focus was minute (very, very short/small). If it was down to shooting action on the streets at night with the XF35 F2 and say, the XF56 1.2 I would take the XF35 purely for its speed, accuracy, and very, very nice ease of handling.
The image quality and characteristics of the XF35 F2 is something I'm still trying to figure out. It just has this certain 'pop' to it and the bokeh is just lovely, smooth and has a wonderful fall off between the in focus and out of focus areas. . If you're keen to see what I mean by 'pop' and just really deluxe detail, take a look at this link. That image was shot at F3.5 I have also found this to be my favourite lens when shooting at ISO6400, as it retains a lot of detail and separation between subjects across the image, and there is very little colour bleeding. Check the 100% crop below of the old dear from earlier on.
Another rather big point I want to discuss about this lens and camera combo when traveling in countries like Vietnam is discretion. Having only been shooting for ~2.5 years, this was my first time hitting a 'photographer's country' so I was somewhat concerned about how to approach photographing locals in a respectful manner, whilst also not drawing unwanted attention.
I am not lying when saying that over the course of 16 days of travel I could count on 1 hand when someone reacted or observed me using my camera, and I shot daily. What was very evident was the epidemic, if you will, of DSLR users EVERYWHERE and how very aware locals were of their presence. I'm sorry, but standing 30 meters back from a street vendor with a 70-200mm lens is not street style and you're leaving yourself open to potential trouble from criminal elements, not to mention missing out an opportunity to connect with a local or show them a little support.
To put it simply, if you want to get undisturbed, candid shots during your travels, this is definitely the kit to get, and would easily be my go to combo if someone forced me to take one camera and lens. Did I mention that I shot a significant part of the wedding we were hired to do on this lens? Yeah, it was that good, and I have used it for several more since with sensational results.
I know I talk about all my Fuji gear being amazing, however this is one really special bit of kit and it's left me hoping that Fuji will make more F2 versions of their lenses.
Perhaps a 56 F2?
Like many other folks who've posted about it before me, this lens has always been on either my XT-1 or XT-10 since its purchase. If you're on the fence about which XF35 to get or perhaps just adding another focal length to you kit, get this one!
If I could give a 'satisfaction or your money back' guarantee I would because I know you wouldn't part ways with it once you've tried it out.
Hit me up on Instagram or Facebook if you're keen to see more XF35 2 snaps.
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.