Friday, April 20, 2012

Two Women

Last Monday, as I was walking from Penn Station to Bryant Park,  I stopped at a crosswalk to wait for the signal to change. When I turned to look around me, I saw this woman standing just behind me with a very contemplative look on her face. She was about seven feet from me when I shot this. When I'm in auto mode with the XP1 I tend to shoot horizontal (landscape orientation) compositions. In this situation it worked out well because the scene behind her gives the feeling of depth and mood. But I have to get as comfortable shooting vertically as well. That doesn't come naturally yet, but I've just had a little over two weeks to practice with the camera. The XP1 handles wide exposure latitudes nicely, and holds image detail extraordinarily well in bright highlights and deep shadows. The ISO for both these shots was 400, which I tend to use as my native ISO (I always shot Fuji Neopan 400 film). Some minor noise reduction was applied but the details were so strong that they held up well.

I shot the second photo from my waist with very similar settings to the first image. The image is a nice counterpoint to the first, the woman's attention is directed towards the lens of the camera (not at my face) to see if she could detect if I was taking a picture of her. The XP1 with the 18mm f2 lens is virtually silent unless your ear is right up next to the camera, and the lens is very small. So with the lens hood in place there was no way she could know that I had taken her photograph. It's a great camera for streettogs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Few Hours In Bryant Park

This past Monday, April 16th, was the first day of summer in New York. The temperature, as promised, rose to 90˚F and Bryant Park at lunchtime was filled with people playing chess, ping pong, and bocci ball. People were lounging in the sun and enjoying books from the Bryant Park book stalls. It was a festive atmosphere, and prime pickings for a surreptitious streettog (that would be me). It was a great chance for me to work on my XP1 skills.

The new accessory grip really helped a lot. My hand was steadier and more comfortable and working with the auto focus was much more successful. I still have yet to figure out how to smoothly and comfortably manipulate the camera into a vertical position for 'portrait' orientation shots. But as before, when I got home and loaded the shots onto my computer I was blown away by the amount of detail the camera can capture. The first of these two images is a case in point. 

In the second image, I was intrigued by this gentleman wearing a jacket and an ascot while everyone else was perspiring. As he approached, he looked up just when I pressed the shutter. Serendipity!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How Many Photos, Do You Think ......?

When I go out for a walk in Manhattan I am always surprised by the numbers of people walking around with cameras hanging around their neck. This article, which I read this morning, gives some startling statistics about the numbers of photos that have ever been taken. It's short and well worth the read.

I received a few comments on yesterday's blog post about the b/w image, and how it looked in color. So, here it is right out of the camera, with no processing (except to convert the RAW into a jpg):

Monday, April 16, 2012

How The XP1 Is Making Me A Better Photographer

I'd like to start today's blog with a quote from Magnum photographer Alex Webb, talking about his work: 'Luck - or perhaps serendipity - plays a big role ... But you never know what is going to happen. And what is most exiting is when the utterly unexpected happens, and you manage to be there at the right place at the right time - and push the shutter at the right moment. Most of the time it doesn't work out that way. This kind of photography is 99.9% about failure.' 

This quote speaks to so much of what I have put forward in many of my previous blog entries. To be there at the right place and time, you have to be out on the street, a lot. Moving, looking, anticipating, planning. And you have to have your camera with you and ready to fire. I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I've gotten poked and prodded so many times by friends' jabs at me for always having my camera with me. Now here's the thing - the size, weight, and inconspicuousness of the XP1 make it so easy to have with me all the time that there's no excuse not to. 

The D700 was an entirely different beast. When I was out with my D700 I always had the shutter set to continuous/high mode so that when I saw something interesting I could fire off a series of exposures - that's the machine gun syndrome. It worked well with the camera and lens combo because the shutter and focus were so fast. But they were that fast because the camera was big enough to incorporate the necessary motors and electronics to enable the speed. There's always, always, always a trade off.

With the XP1 I most often shoot in single shot mode. Because I can't fire in machine gun mode and be relatively sure the shots will be in focus, I have to be more aware of events as they develop and of people as they move into target range and become fair game. I have to anticipate my shots more carefully and prepare myself to fire the shutter when the instant is right. Which all makes the whole shooting experience so so similar to shooting with my beloved Leica M6.

And another thing, I haven't yet figured out how to display an image on the reader LCD after each shutter click - I'm sure I can do it, but after a few days without that functionality available (without being able to chimp, that is) I find I don't miss it, and there's that electric kind of anticipation, that I used to have shooting film, about seeing the shots at the end of the day when I unload them to my computer.

One more XP1 related note. If you're considering using this camera, don't hesitate for a moment to get the additional hand grip. It makes all the difference in the world. After one shooting session with it I realized my hand was much more relaxed, I wasn't constantly pushing buttons and switches that turned functions on or off, and because I could hold the camera better I got many more usable shots. I'll have some of those processed for the next post.

For now, here's a couple of shots from the Saturday walk. The first is my usual, much anticipated b/w. The color in this shot was amazing. It almost made me want to show you why I have a little tickle in the back of my mind about doing some street shots in color.

I included the next shot with no processing except to convert the RAW file into a jpg, just so you could get some idea of the incredible detail the 18mm f2 lens can grab, and how sharp the revolutionary new sensor technology in the XP1 really is.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Saturday, A Beautiful Spring Day

The weather was so fine on Saturday it just screamed out to me to go for a walk. I walked across Canal Street, up Broadway and around SoHo, and then up to Union Square. I tried several different focus settings and techniques on the XP1 (for future reference that would be the Fuji X-Pro 1). When I did these walks with the Nikon D700/24-70 f2.8 combo I got drained of energy after about two hours. With the XP1 I was out for four hours and could have gone longer.

I began to notice a difference in my shooting pattern during the walk. With the D700 and it's fast firing rate/fast autofocus I shot many frames in a two hour span - usually upwards of one hundred. With the XP1 I shot slower and more thoughtfully, almost like I did with film in my Leica M6. This is not better or worse, just different. I actually like working this way a bit more. Honestly, I got quite a few bad shots - some out of focus, some badly framed - but I'm getting much more comfortable with the camera. It's a bit difficult to hold in my hand for the entire walk because the body is slim and the grip requires some hand effort. I got the auxiliary hand grip after that walk and plan to give it a run tomorrow when the temperature promises to be around 90ยบ F. Should be lots of fun in Bryant Park.

I got a chuckle out of this shot. Caught the guy in flagrant.