Friday, June 8, 2012

Light and Reflections - X Pro-1 Handles them Superbly

I love to shoot on overcast days. The light is even and easy to handle, and processing the raw image with today's digital tools (especially Nik plugins) gives me the flexibility to create striking images. But strong contrast - the stark difference between bright light and dark shadows - while being difficult to work with, can often allow for dramatic shots.

I'm always drawn to window reflections and as I was walking down Madison Avenue I saw this gentleman moving from a bright sunny spot into the shade cast by the awning over an antique store window. I usually don't delve much into exif (exposure) data, but in this case because of the very wide dynamic range of the shot I think it's germane. ISO - 400, aperture - f8, and shutter - 1/220. The XP1 grabbed all the highlight detail and deep shadow detail with ease.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What I Learned about the X Pro-1 Today

When I set out on my photo walk in Manhattan today I promised myself I'd not shoot from the hip, that all my shots would be made by looking through the viewfinder. It almost worked. There were a couple of shots that I simply had no time to prepare for, but it was a great exercise in discipline for me.

Now for what I learned: 1) I can't wear my polaroid sun glasses when I shoot because the polarization blocks out all the info in the viewfinder (this may not seem like a big deal, but my eyes are super sensitive to bright light so on a sunny day like today I was quite uncomfortable without sun glasses). 2) I got sharper and better framed pics by using the viewfinder (duhhhh! I'm so accustomed to shooting from the hip with my D700 that I find it's a difficult 'bad' habit to break). 3) That annoying tendency for the XP1 to go into 'sleep' mode when the shutter isn't pushed for some time makes a very slight vibration in the camera. When the camera goes to sleep, waking it can take several seconds during which time a critical shot can evaporate. Up to now I've countered this by regularly pressing the shutter button half way as I walk along, but it drains the battery mercilessly. If I just wait for that little buzzy vibration and then depress the shutter half way, I can keep the camera awake with less battery drain.

The abundant sunlight was glorious today, but it made for harsh shadows. I usually try to walk on the shady side of the street to avoid the extreme contrast, but sometimes the sun and people just won't cooperate. What's a streettog to do?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Just to be clear about this, if you hadn't guessed from most of my previous posts for the past month, I really really like shooting with my Fujifilm X Pro-1 camera and lens. There's a lot of 'press' about the camera on the internet - good and bad reviews - which breaks down very clearly into two groups: people who hate the camera and see no point to it in today's market, and people like me who love it. It's a difficult camera to learn to work with. But once you learn it, it's not difficult to work with as long as you bear in mind that if you get sloppy or lazy the camera will punish you mercilessly.

That's one of the things I love most about this camera. When I shoot with my super fast D700 and killer f 2.8 zoom lenses I can pound out the pics by the dozens. It was not unusual for me to come home after three hours on the streets of New York City with one hundred fifty shots, which I would then edit down to maybe five or six keepers to work on. It was just so damned easy to shoot with that setup! BUT, it was incredibly heavy, very in-your-face, and attention drawing. When I shot like that I would start off my walk like gangbusters and my energy level would drop dramatically until the last hour, usually when I started to make my way back to the train station, when I would shoot practically nothing.

The XP1 is not a super fast camera. Because of the size of the body the focusing motor is not as powerful as that in a dslr, the lenses are much smaller and less obtrusive than dslr lenses and so must use different focusing machinery, and the the focusing software is built differently. With practice it is possible to capture action and motion, but this is not a sports camera.

I've had to break a lot of very bad habits formed while using the D700. I'm forced to be more observant of what's going on around me because I have to prepare myself for each shot - I can't rely on the camera to nail a shot that I see at the last possible split second. I have to be much more conscious of the controls on the camera so that I can make last moment changes manually - I could program all that stuff into the D700 and forget about it. I must be much more aware of my framing of an image because I use a prime 18mm f 2 lens - there's no zoom (until next year when Fuji plans to release two zooms with image stabilization).

I love the camera for all those reasons. I enjoy my photography viscerally much more when shooting with the XP1 because I must be more in tune with everything going on around me. I have to integrate the feel of the camera in my hand into my body so that I become one with it - which takes lots and lots of practice. Framing an image properly is where the rubber meets the road - what's kept in the frame or excluded, what's about to enter the frame or about to leave the frame..... The optical viewfinder makes this a much more organic process. And yet, there are times, especially when I'm very close to a subject, when the electronic viewfinder is indispensable.

At the end of the day, or should I say at the end of a photo walk, I'm still tuned into my environment, still looking for shots, and often find myself spending much more time on the street than when I'm lugging the D700. After a three hour walk in Manhattan with the XP1 I most likely will have shot around fifty images, out of which I might find five or six keepers to work on.

Buskers of all types abound in New York. On the steps to Julliard School of Music I found these three young ladies playing cello trios.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Just a fun street shot

Just walking around in the beautiful weather this past weekend. Times Square was buzzing with all kinds of people. There are so many neighborhoods to Manhattan, each with their own character and characters. New York is one of the greatest cities in the world for this kind of shooting. What I've learned of the great cities in Europe is that you'd be on shaky legal ground to do this. In the USA it's wide open. I'm thinking of starting a small business venture: workshops for small groups of people, or individuals, wanting to stretch beyond their comfort zone to do street photography.