Creating an Imperfect Image - Fujifilm X-T2 with a Helios, tilt-adapter, and other ramblings after a night of Aussie metal
To para-phrase a security guard at the photo barrier on this night "I F$%KIN hate this music! But... These gigs have the best behaved people. They drink tonnes of piss and spend heaps at the merch stands. Honestly, I'd rather get digitally f#$%ed by a giant than listen to this stuff."
Much love to this fella for being brutally honest and giving me a damned good laugh.
This gig served me up a pretty profound experience as a photographer. With no pressure of producing images other than for my own enjoyment and for all these fine bands to use should they want to, I got to experiment with some new goods, including the XF50-140 and an old Helios 44-2 F2 58mm with a tilt only adapter. This was also the first time I got to use my X-T2 properly in a live music environment, which was a bit of an overdue itch to scratch. So what made it a profound experience?
For just about my entire journey so far in photography a big part of it has been chasing that perfect, sharp, optically stellar image. An image that really isn't achievable since invariably I know I'd never be satisfied with the result. It's also quite closely linked to gear acquisition too. Undoubtedly, good gear enables great photos to be taken or discretion to be used when necessary, such as in the case of compact performers like my trusty XF35mm F2, a phenomenal ~50mm equivalent.
When I recently purchased an old Helios off of eBay ($80 for a nicely refurbished one) I didn't expect to get much more than an effect out of it that could be used from time to time for a bit of fun when combined with the tilt adapter too. I certainly didn't expect that on this occasion I would end up using it for more than 50% of my photos and come away with images that were so far from perfect they felt much closer to my perfect image than I could ever have expected.
See, the usual suspects in my Fujinon kit certainly got used and performed outstandingly. The XF16mm gave me those close wides and crowd shots with not a single focus issue, and the flexibility of the rear tilt screen of the X-T2 allowed way more freedom for me to compose with. The XF56mm 1.2 also worked outstandingly and provided me with low ISO shots due to its exceptional widest aperture. My newly acquired XF50-140 was the high performance best I expected it to be and served me particularly well when taking shots further back and elevated above the crowd. Using the image stabilization was a blast too in the face of some heavy moshing, providing some unique looks.
In light of these awesome modern lenses, using an old manual focus lens with a non-parallel focus point (can be adjusted to straight) was an absolute jam and a lesson in taking control. I doubt many purists would be overly enthused towards a lens with no hood that gives wild flaring and soft-edges, but for me, the way these 'imperfections' come together in this combo feel so right. There's just something else about making an image that is flawed. An image where the main perceived subject isn't in focus. An image where it's overcome by floods of light and shadow in inconsistent ways. I guess what it also comes down to is creating a certain mood with imagery, which certainly suits the gloominess of the metal scene. Perhaps it's also the thrill of the chase when focusing manually, knowing that the shot could be 'missed'.
After some stern words from my brother Dan at Matsu Photography recently, I think this experience is the turning point for me in seeing the enjoyment of the journey rather than the unattainable end goal, where harsh self-criticism and comparison against other talents can tend to spoil the experience.
It must also be said that I sincerely appreciate all my brothers and fellow 'creative folk' in these phenomenal bands featured. If not for letting me have this experience but for creating incredible, inspiring music that provides a soundtrack in my life. Cheers to my Ormsbros in Psycopritc, Hollow World and Hadal Maw, and to the other fellas in Orpheus Omega, Blackhelm, and Naberus.
Once again I am brought to this incredible piece of the world during the final months of my time here in Australia before we move to the UK for several years. With the perfect excuse of showing a Canadian born Fujifilm user parts of Victoria that he'd never seen we set out early one Wednesday morning to this unique part of Australia. If you're a recent follower of my work you can see a post I made of a similar visit from a year ago here.
I brought all my kit along for this one so that my companion Dragan (check his stuff on instagram!) could try out some focal lengths he hasn't experienced before in the telephoto range. Perhaps the best part of the kit to bring was my new MCEX-11 macro extension ring, which spent a good bit of time attached to my XF56mm F1.2 in the Otways Rainforest and Treetop Walk. Seriously, the best bit of cheap kit I've bought for my Fujifilm gear and works ridiculously well, particularly with the XF90mm F2.
Scroll to the bottom if you want to see me really maxing out the Fujifilm X-T2 when the local penguins returned to the beach head at dusk!
Hope you enjoy!
Anna and Chris - what gems!
It's not every week you get invited down to one of the most beautiful parts of Victoria to shoot, be greeted with some nice red vino, and watch a beautiful couple let go of their inhibitions like these two did.
As part of getting to know Anna and Chris before their wedding day next March we teed up a little evening shoot in Airey's Inlet along Australia's Great Ocean Road, and as soon as they stepped out of the car down the stairs to Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary, Anna and Chris lit the place up. We stayed on at the beach until the sky turned a deep blue, and as a final bit of awesomeness they bravely jumped in for a post sunset swim in the very frosty water.
Massive shout out and thanks to Chris and Anna for being so awesome to work with and getting me back to Australia (along with a few other couples) next March for their big day. I can't wait!
Here's a post I have been looking forward to making since I heard the X-T2 was coming into existence, and boy I was not left disappointed.
In the lead up to the release of the X-T2 there were a few things I was looking forward to seeing improved upon, one being a more competent auto-focus system that followed my instructions a bit better, particularly when shooting my beloved XF56mmF1.2 R. I am well aware that on an ~85mm equivalent lens, AF speed and accuracy at F1.2 is not exactly an easy thing to achieve, and Fujifilm wasn't alone in this department when compared to Canon's 85mm F1.2 L behemoth.
Well, after almost 2 weeks shooting with the X-T2 and my XF56mmF1.2 R on numerous occasions and circumstances I can safely say that Fujifilm have made me a very happy camper. This new pairing is fast, accurate, and surprisingly tracks really well in continuous focus mode. That said, today's post is all about portraiture so you'll just have to wait for another day when I post about the X-T2 and its ability to capture action and fast paced, changing movement.
I had the pleasure of meeting the martial artist, model, actress and generally awesome human, Ann Truong, during some captures at my local Muay Thai gym. We met up in our local neighbourhood one Saturday afternoon recently for some impromptu portraits and I got to put my new camera through its paces, all whilst showing her and another friend some unique parts of the town centre. For this series I used the XF56mmF1.2 R with only a few noted shots on the XF35F2.
You can take a look at full size JPEGs at this link.
Fujifilm have improved their auto-focus system out of sight when comparing the new X-T2 to the X-T1. Yes, I loved my X-T1 (it's moved to a new home now) but at times it was like a disobedient child that you wanted to do one thing and it wanted to do... well, not what you wanted i.e. lock focus on this subject, not that piece of shrub in the background. The immediately noticeable difference is the focus acquisition speed and accuracy when shooting with all of my lenses, particularly the XF56mmF1.2 R @ F1.2. Even when shooting into heavily flared afternoon sunlight behind Ann, the camera and lens combo still hit the mark and didn't go off in the woods hunting! Hallelujah!!!!! In cases where I have shot between near and far subjects, it's quick to find focus and has proven to be a gem at this too during very dim light in my home environment. I will test this more in future though.
So what is there to be mindful of when using this combo?
Fujifilm have a great menu system that can readily be used to access features like face and eye detection. Heck! It can even be setup to choose left or right eye as a priority on the fly. So, if you've got a relatively settled/staged subject this feature is a god send for getting dead set focus on the eyes of your subject. Another thing to be mindful of is that this lens seems to really eat battery power. I am not sure what combo of the lens' motor and camera would cause this but I am certain that the camera would have to work overtime to acquire focus like it does at F1.2. Always pack an extra battery or two, or get the new vertical battery grip.
On a final note, if you're a Canon user and your 85mm 1.2 L is doing your head in with it's heft, awful purple fringing, and slow focus, seriously go and give this combo a test. If you're not this kind of person/user, just go and do it anyway!
For some time now I have been making a personal effort to capture Footscray as I see and experience it so that I can hopefully preserve my own memories of it. My time in Melbourne is quickly coming to an end due to our impending move to Oxford in January. Through my ~5 years living in Melbourne's inner-west I have come to love the elements that make up this place, particularly my home suburb of Footscray. It has an incredibly rich cultural history that has served as a new home for migrants from all over the world and each culture has made its mark on the architecture, food, and character of this wonderful place. Unfortunately, as the area gentrifies I am sure some of the suburb's history will be lost as the facades of streets and generations move on.
This is my first post using the new FujiFilm X-T2 but it's not intended to be a review post much like many of my others. I've had the camera since its first day of release and I am yet to fault it. Fuji have taken the few niggles and irritations of the X-T1 and produced a truly phenomenal camera that can hold its own and then some against the big boys. I'll save that review for another week though.
This entire post is devoted to a weekend of shooting for enjoyment and moments, of which I have captured using the Fujifilm emulation of Acros. All of these pictures are Straight Out Of the Camera (SOOC) JPEG small with either AcrosR or AcrosY used (sorry, I don't remember which ones) and have +1 highlight, -1 shadows, +2 sharpening, and strong grain effect. I used the XF16, XF35 F2, and XF56 1.2 for various shots featured.
UPDATE (next day) Apologies if you read this when I had Astia written down instead of Acros, which is what these are using. I was trying to be productive yesterday after a day at a rather nice winery (pictured) and made some mistakes on here. I have also added in a few other Acros JPEGs where I have pushed the shadows out to +4, which is a look I really dig. They're at the bottom of the post.
A massive shout-out to everyone I got to hang and create with over the weekend, particularly Dragan and Ann. What was set to be a casual photo-walk turned into an amazing afternoon and evening of learning new street portrait skills from Dragan, and passing on some of my more posed portrait skills to him after we bumped into the ever awesome Ann. Ann is a bad ass martial arts actress who stars in the new Hard Target 2 film. Check her out!
The photos below are also using Acros but with Shadows at +4.
They were all shot with the XF35F2
Me - "Looks like it's going to be raining for our shoot. Are you up for a bit of getting wet?"
Sophie - "Oh yeah that's not a worry at all! We're from Ireland and England- we're not afraid of a few raindrops "
YES! YES! YES!
I had the pleasure of working with Sophie and Ritchie last week only days before they were set to venture off to the UK to be wed. For this shoot it quite literally rained, hailed and shined for us and these two embraced the elements with pure devotion. Running in and out of the scarce cover from the rain for various snaps was such a blast, and Sophie and Ritchie absolutely shone throughout it. You really can't beat their two smiles, right?
Thank you for an incredible photographic experience, Sophie and Ritch!
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!
Well, it's been 48 hours since I arrived back in Australia from my 5th visit in ~10 years to Brazil and I've got 100gb+ of images to work through from my 2 weeks in the country. It was my first time visiting Brazil with decent photography skills and of course, my first time with my FujiFilm kit.
Leading up to this trip was a bit different than previous times, in the sense that recent media chatter about the country being 'terribly unsafe' and rampant with Zika had, for the first time, left me questioning my safety during the visit. Had Brazil suddenly changed? Did its beautiful, rich culture and warm-hearted populace change in a matter of 3 years since my previous visit?
Thankfully, no. Brazil is still as I remember it from my 4 prior visits, and its sociable and outgoing way of life is still very much intact, with people who frequently go out of their way to say 'hello' and 'good day'.
Like every country though, Brazil certainly has its issues, but I'm not going to get into that here.
Ever since my first to Brazil in 2006, I have been fascinated by the overtly social manner in which Brazilian people go about their lives. I still vividly remember the Tuesday morning bus ride in the outer suburbs of Rio that created this feeling as I watched the day come to life, which sadly, was contrasted with a drive by viewing of a recent murder scene.
Leading up to my recent visit, I was determined to try and capture my vision of social interaction and daily life in Brazil with a focus on Rio in particular. This meant I had to be observant and discrete, which is where my essential Fuji kit came into play. For this first post of what I am estimating will be 4 posts in total from this trip I have focused solely on the streets and beaches of Rio using my XT-1 and XF35 F2.
I hope you enjoy my perspective.
There is something profoundly beautiful and saddening in observing a creature knowing it is time to move on from this world, and for its family to celebrate their life and passing in a respectful and dignified manner.
This post covers the final day of a little Staffy called Buddha who was diagnosed with a very aggressive, advanced cancer around her organs, and as a result, was living in extreme pain and discomfort. The very difficult decision was made to have her euthanized in the most humane and respectful manner possible. My dear friend Nas sent me a message in the final few days of Buddha's life asking me to document Buddha's final day. Knowing full well how significant Nas's dogs are to her I felt privileged to be asked to undertake such a special task for her.
As I observed Buddha and the people who surrounded her at various points during her last day there were many ebbs and flows in her demeanor. She undertook all of her favourite activities this day, like going for a walk around her neighbourhood seeing all her favourite houses and people, having a bath, eating peanut butter, and getting pats from many of her friends. At times she would perk up like a puppy filled with life. During others, the pain of her sickness would overtake her and she would gaze outward, as if to look at something else waiting beyond for her to go to. I heard many stories from the people around Buddha that day and she was truly a people's dog. What was perhaps the most profoundly heart-breaking though was watching Buddha on her final return home take seat on the blanket that was laid out for her, as if to accept that her time had come and she was ready to move on peacefully, ridding herself of this corporeal pain.
The respect paid to Buddha's life was exemplary; filled with dignity that would be owed and justified for any living being.
She found peace.