Balcony view: Fort Lauderdale

I arrived on the first leg of my trip in Fort Lauderdale Florida. My room has an amazing view of a marina. This image is from my balcony as I eat my dinner of Cuban takeout – mmmmm.  Yum

Taken handheld with my iPhone 7 plus

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Lack of Posts and Gearing up for another trip

For you guys who come here I have to apologize for the shortage of content.  I’m not a writer by any means plus I’ve been very busy — what’s the old saying:  Busier than a one-armed paper hanger.  I had been away for three weeks from April 30th to mid-May on a solo-trek out to the Sierra Nevada mountains of eastern California.  That was an awesome trip!  I had a bucket lists of places I wanted to hit up and I accomplished that.  Are my images artsy and portfolio worthy?  Definitely some are BUT they are super amazing for stock — which is where the bread and butter is for me.  I started off the trip by flying into Vegas, and then headed out to Death Valley.  From DV I made my way north all the way up to Lake Tahoe — which I have to say was one of the most gorgeous bodies of water I’ve ever seen.  I had no plans to visit Yosemite but I did a one-day, super fast drive-thru there since it was a Saturday and it was mobbed.  I hate crowds.  I hate people in general so that was tough to handle.

My most used lens during the three weeks?  The Fuji 50-140 F2.8.  Yeah, hard to believe.  I had with me all my lenses except the 23 1.4 and the 60mm Macro but the 50-140 was bolted to the X-T2 and sat in the passenger seat pretty much the whole time.

I returned with over 4,000 images;  Something I’m still editing and working through now.    I’m also preparing for another three-weeks on the road where I’ll be traveling to Florida for five-six days, and then I’m headed to Costa Rica for a couple of weeks.  I am going to be photographing a small hotel down there for some ads and I’ll also be shooting some aerials with my drone.  Here is my “Amazon Basic” backpack as I plan on taking it.  The only exception I am going to make right now is I’ll be substituting the 35 1.4 shown here with the 23 1.4 — or I may just leave them both behind…. To be determined. The open flap has a zippered compartment the length and width of the bag which holds another ton of stuff, and the backside has a padded laptop area for up to a 15″ laptop.  On this trip, like the one I just returned from, I will not be packing a laptop.  I’m only using my iPhone for any instagram, and other posts I make.

Here is my build-out for the upcoming photo trip:

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Fuji X-T2 Body.  Not taking the X-T1 as a backup…

Fuji 18-55 (my don’t leave home without it lens)

Fuji 16mm F1.4

Fuji 35 1.4 (though may pull that out for the 23 1.4 or leave BOTH home altogether

Fuji 60mm 2.4 Macro. This is one TACK SHARP little, lightweight performer!

Singh-Ray Polarizer + step up rings to 77mm for all lenses. Leaving all other filters behind.

Four Fuji batteries

Enough memory cards for up to 8600 Raw + Jpeg fine images.

Fuji 55-200 instead of the 50-140 2.8.  I realize I’ll be shooting in the jungle looking for birds, and monkeys and other wildlife but the 55-200 offers a bit more reach even though it is a 4.8 aperture at the long end.  I think slightly higher ISO will offset that and the weight and size savings will make up for any other issues.  Plus, my copy at least of the 55-200 is tack sharp so I won’t be missing out there.

Mavic Pro Platinum drone.

Controller

Extended landing gear

Extra Gold-tip propellers

Extra Battery

Other miscellaneous items.  All this PLUS MORE such as lens cleaning kit, and snacks and sundries fits in this Amazon Basic backpack which is a carry-on size for me.

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New Lens Time!

Yay Me!  Based on a professional recommendation to run out and purchase either a Reikonon, or a Pentagon FF lens from a working pro, I found this lens, a 50mm 1.8 on eBay.  It shipped from Stuttgart Germany and it must have been sent on a scenic tour of the world as it took weeks to arrive on the East Coast.  However, for $69.00 bucks, and the quality images both in sharpness, contrast, and MICRO contrast I would have waited longer!  WOW.  It’s manual focus only, and I also had to purchase a M42 screw-mount adapter to Fuji for $4.99 for it but it was well worth the price.  For a grand total of less than $80.00 shipped I got one heck of a lens~  If you can find one, get one!  or two.

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One thing I have noticed with the “fly-by-wire” or electronic Fuji (as well as others such as Nikon, Canon etc) is that an auto-focus lens, when you attempt to manually focus, just doesn’t work as well as most people say.  There is too much turning of the focusing ring back and forth, and I have never been happy with the results; besides, it’s auto focus – so why would I even want to manually attempt focus?  Honestly.  However, this lens is a fully  manual lens, using the focus peaking on the X-T2 is just amazingly easy!  I can’t get over how simple, fast, and easy it is to focus.  This lens is all metal and has a beautiful rubberized ring and I have to say it’s as smooth as silk.

Here are some images I took the other day while playing around with it:

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I’m amazed at the clarity of the images.  These are taken in Acros, Jpeg.  The bokeh it produces is circular, and oh so creamy.  You can’t tell the there as I had it stopped to maybe 5.6 but it’s just so darn cool!

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The rendering of the background trees is Just Beautiful!  The crispness and clarity of what’s actually in focus is unreal.  I can’t get over not only the image quality, but how easy and how much fun it is to use.   When I first purchased the Fuji X-E1 in February 2013 I mounted my old, well used Minolta 58 1.4 to use it.  This was a fully manual lens and was so simple to focus and use. Today’s Fuji’s coupled with the tremendous improvements in focusing and speed via perpetual (it seems) firmware updates – especially in focus peaking, makes using TRUE manual focus lenses such a joy again!

 

Here are a couple of other images, photographed Indoors, Jpeg mode, just testing not only the lens, but my manual focusing capabilities:

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Sharp, contrasty, and bokehlicious.  50mm Pentagon, ISO 3200
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Dog sitting.  Look at the sharpness clarity, and contrast in the eyes and the eyebrows! Holy Smokes!  ISO 800, Window light only
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Dog sitting II  ISO6400 JPEG.  Tack sharp which not only speaks to the sharpness, contrast and clarity of this lens, BUT more so to the ease of focusing!!!!  She did not sit there for me to leisurely photograph her,  Oh No…

Weighing in on Fuji Gear

January. Always something for me in January.

In a few days I’ll be in the hospital for surgery, then recovery for 3 weeks. I have a three week recovery period which will provide me ample opportunity to finish culling and editing the 5,300 images still remaining from my shoots between July and September of this year. After that, begins the submission process to the various stock agencies.

The last week of my recovery I am allowed to drive, and move around; weight restrictions are ten (10) pounds maximum, no heavy lifting. As a lark I decided to total up my Fuji gear camera, lenses and batteries — not all the other peripherals such as tripods, chargers, etc. This is gear that I can actually place in a sling bag and go shooting. Since I have that third week….

My wonderful spouse is insistent, no, adamant that I pack my gear carefully to keep it under the ten pound medical restriction including tripod and other peripherals.

With this in mind I decided to visit B&H and Fuji and get the weights for not only my gear, but the other Fujifilm lenses as well. I did not include Samyang, or Rokinon, well, frankly because I don’t use them. Not that there is anything wrong with them, I just prefer the Fuji.

I then created an Excel work where I listed not only my gear at the top half. This is what I own as far as camera and equipment. Across the top you’ll see Kit 1, 2, etc. — this is so I can modify my kit/gear bag for what I plan on carrying to determine the weight.
Regardless, even if I pack all my camera and lenses, the total is under 10 lbs which is quite honestly mind-boggling when you consider the truly amazing quality! Am I right?

If anyone wants to use this spreadsheet as a tool or just to have fun either grab it here, or comment me and I’ll email you a copy out.

Column A is self Explanatory.
Column B is the weight in Ounces. You can easily find the weight in grams if you wish and modify the worksheet to suit your particular situation

The rest of the columns I’ve labeled as “Travel Kit 1, 2, etc etc. You can lay out as much as you want, and play with the gear to come up with an ideal carry weight. I think I would also find this useful if I have to deal with travel weight restrictions.

I’m trying to keep my Kit around 5 pounds, as I also have to account for my tripod and filters. So, in my case, for my recovery period I’m going to stick with Kit #2, or #3 – around 5 pounds, and then of course there is the weight of the tripod, some filters, memory cards, etc. I’ve already accounted for 3 Fuji batteries which is what I’ll normally carry with me.

Anyway I thought it was an interesting exercise to see exactly what I carry. I hope you find it useful and fun to use!  Please note when you click this link, the excel will download to your machine either into the “downloads” folder, or wherever you’ve told your system to place downloaded files.

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Fuji’s two SD card slots – my way!

 

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Fuji X-T2, 23mm 1.4 laying in the sand, using the rear LCD

Since i received my X-T2 about two years ago I’ve been playing with the memory card configuration.  I’ve tried all the option:  Sequential, Raw/Jpeg, and Backup.

Sequential: It just works.  No worries.  Fill up the card in slot 1, and the camera automatically rolls over and begins using slot 2.  A no brainer there.  Great for casual shooting, and casual shooters — of which I’m neither.

Raw/Jpeg:  This is the option I’ve most often used.  I always shoot raw/jpeg anyway but wind up keeping the raw files, and deleting the jpegs 90% of the time.  This option makes it so much easier not having to load both jpeg/raw’s together.  I just pop the card containing the raw files out of the camera, and import my images into LR.  Easy enough.  The only problem I find is if the card containing the raw files is for some reason corrupted or somehow damaged I’m left with only the jpegs.  Now don’t get me wrong, the jpegs are nothing to sneeze at; as a matter of fact, the fuji jpegs are just amazing out of the box but as a travel, landscape and stock photographer I ‘really’ need those raw files.  Granted, I’ve been shooting digital since 2002 (back then using “Smartmedia” cards in my Fuji 4900z) and in all this time I’ve only had one card go bad on  me.  This particular CF card actually worked and I would have never, ever know it wasn’t working – that is – until I pulled the card out of my D700 at the time, uploaded the images to my computer and discovered that a Nikon raw file was missing every four-five images!  I would never had known this if I had just formatted the card, and went on my merry way.  This is why I always purchase, and test, test, test.  I wound up returning the card for a refund, but continued to use my other Transcend cards with full confidence.  Frankly, I think it was just a bad sector on the card, that formatting both in camera and in computer did not fix.

Backup:  This is it.  This is nirvana!  Yes.  I found it.  This week, after much trial and error and flip-flopping between the three methods I’ve decided to use this option going forward.  Even though I have not experienced a catastrophic card failure while out in the field, I still feel much better knowing that I have a “backup” of both jpegs and raw files on card 2.  The way I’ve set this up is to use a 32G card in slot 1 of the X-T2, and then use my 128G card as a backup in slot 2.  Yes, the backup card is massive; I normally would never, ever use a card this large in any camera but for backup?  Why not.

There are two very important reasons why using very large memory cards is not the most optimal solution:

  1.  Two cards, identical speeds, 32G and say 128G or 256G, the smaller card will ALWAYS write and read faster.  Proven point.
  2. Using smaller (32G) cards doesn’t put all your eggs in one basket.  If something happens – camera is stolen, you drop it in a lake while photographing beavers (been there, done that) at least you will only lose the images on the card at the time.  I recall a story from a workshop leader of a woman on a 10-day excursion into the Amazon.  She had one huge CF card in her camera.  On their last day there, they were at a local roadside cafe where she, for some reason, decided to pop out her memory card, and promptly dropped it in a puddle of water.  Images lost.  10 days worth.  So, no.  DO NOT place all your eggs in one basket.   Think of it this way:  You’ve paid for the gear, you’ve gotten yourself to a great location, got the images you came for.  Are you going to risk losing it all because it’s all on a single card?  Heck no.

So for me it’s now 32G in slot 1, and my 128G in slot 2 for backup purposes.  That 128G will stay in there until it’s full which means I can run through FOUR 32G cards in slot 1 before the 128G card needs to be wiped.  So my images will remain on there for the duration of the trip, or until I get home, upload them, and decide I’ve got what I need.

On another note, but along similar lines:  Once I have a card full, and it’s removed from the camera, that card is NEVER, EVER in the same location as any of my gear.  Why?  Because of the nature of my work, if my gear get’s stolen, or lost, the most important asset – the images – are safe, on my person.  In practice if I’m shooting all day, get back to my room and then decide to go out to get a bite to eat, sometimes the cameras stay in the room, however, the memory cards are with me.  The images I’ve taken become the most important asset to me after the cards are ejected from the camera.  I can replace the gear, but not the photos… At least that’s how I see it.

Hope this post helps you out now or in the future.  thanks for reading.

Bokeh Balls (not broken balls)

So yesterday my wonderful spouse convinced me to leave the office and go out for some holiday spirit with her.  I did.  What did we come back with?  She came back with some great memories, and some gifts for the grandkids;  me?  Oh, exactly 1,698 raw files.

The place we went to is KNOWN for it’s holiday light displays.  This is a wonderful place to visit anytime of the year, but during the holidays, it’s magical. I had been here once before, in December 2012 with my lil Panasonic LX7.

Knowing what to expect I packed my X-T2, the 16 1.4, the 35 1.4, and the 60mm Macro 2.4;  and just for kicks, and because I Loooove the zoom effect on lights of any kind, I threw in my 18-55 lens.

I also threw in my small canvas carry-all bag a load of ND filters –  which didn’t get used at all, my electronic shutter release, which absolutely sucks,  and my travel tripod.  All this fit inside my small, lightweight canvas bag with a Jill-E insert.  In the outside pockets I threw in a water bottle, some ibuprofen tabs for my back (from carrying medium format film, and Nikon digital for years) and that was pretty much it.

I did not use the tripod at all.  ALL my images were taken between iso 400 and 1600, handheld mostly wide-open at 1.4 whenever possible.  I’ve posted below how many images per lens.  Of course, I have yet to cull these for the keepers  — I also have to cull through 11,911 other images that I’ve taken for travel/stock and personal use since July.  I have whittled it down from 16,000 so I’m slowly making progress.  I certainly won’t be at a loss as to what I’ll be doing on long winter nights!  As a matter of fact I met a guy up in Maine that was out shooting with his 4 x 5 film camera.  We got to talking and he told me that he would shoot all spring, summer and fall, then “relive” his memories as he developed his film in his darkroom over the cold Maine winter nights.  He actually inspired me “not to worry” about getting caught up and up-to-date unless I was on deadline.  And boy was he right!  I am stress free with over 11,000 images to review, then edit and distribute around to the agencies.

Here are some details as promised  as to the lenses I used at the village for the images:

16mm 1.4:  923 images,  35mm 1.4: 626 images,  18-55zoom (for special effects): 120 images, and the incredible 60mm 2.4 Macro:  29 images and only because it was just too dark to handhold the 2.4.

All ISO’s were from a minimum of 400, to a max of 1600.  I selected the ISO instead of letting the camera do it.  I just love these images, and the bokeh my lenses produced!

And to be perfectly clear:  Not one lens gave me any trouble locking on to the lights.  I don’t know what ju-ju Fuji has introduced but the 16, 35 and 60 locked on instantly — the 18-55 hunted a bit – especially at the 55mm F4 end but overall I could not be happier with the selection I took with me.  I kinda wish I had taken the 23 1.4 so maybe if I go back next year I’ll be sure to pack that one as well, and leave the mini-tripod at home to balance out the weight.

All these images were shot as UNCOMPRESSED raw, 50.6mb each.  I used a 128 Lexar fast card in slot 1, and a 32G Lexar in slot 2 for JPEG’s.  I didn’t touch the JPEG’s.  And, yes I shoot only uncompressed as no matter what anyone says I still don’t believe that no data is lost between compressed and uncompressed.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some fine Bokeh Balls!  Look at how clean and crisp they are! I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I enjoyed making them.

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Revolutionary War Leftover Ruins at Sunset  16mm F7.1, 1/25th
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Bokeh from the 35mm 1.4, ISO 800
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35mm F1.4 @ 1.4, Focused on red bulbs, ISO 800
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16mm 1.4 @ f1.6, 1/90th, ISO 800  I probably could have taken the ISO down to 400 but the noise is relatively non-existent so I left it alone.
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ONE OF MY FAVORITES of the night:  16mm F1.4 @ 1.4, ISO 400! 1/20th handheld burst
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35mm 1.4 @ 1.4, 1/35th second, ISO 400
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Fuji 18-55, F4, 1/2 second, ISO 800 zoomed out from 55mm (that’s a small pond in the foreground)

It’s been a while…

Waves wash over small stones grinding them smooth and creating p
Small waves wash around well worn stones on Martha’s Vineyard

I can’t believe an entire year has passed us by already!  It’s been amazing for sure!

Since mid-July I’ve shot in the Florida Keys, New York City, Maine, Canada/New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Martha’s Vineyard.   I’ve taken almost 16,000 images since I started and I am still culling just over 11,000 that I have to yet go through.  Once I complete the culling then I’ll edit the keepers, keyword, and start submitting to Getty Images and others that use my work.

In a few weeks I will compile the lists of lenses and how many images I made throughout the course of the year.  I can without a doubt tell you my Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 is again, my least used lens.  As a matter of fact, I’m considering selling it before the end of the year.

 

 

Star Trails with the Fuji X-T2

Last night I was supposed to head down to the beach and photograph the meteor showers that were happening.

I opted to use the X-T2, with the 16mm 1.4.  In previous attempts at shooting meteors and stars I used my Zeiss 12mm F2.8 Touit but I found the chroma was too much for me.

At the end of the day I decided not to drive an hour, but to go out on my back deck and play with the X-T2.  I setup the camera on a tripod with the 16 1.4.  I made the focus point to the second smallest square;  opened the lens wide to 1.4 and pressed my back-button focus.  What surprised the heck out of me, and I mean very pleasantly surprised, was the fact the 16 1.4 actually focused on a distant star THE FIRST TIME.  No hunting, nothing.  I was so surprised, that I decided to re-focus again.  Same thing.  Perfect focus the first time!  Damn!

I turned off Auto focus – moving the button on the front of the camera to M; Turned off Long Exposure Noise reduction, put the camera in .raf only.  I turned the white balance to incandescent mode, I put the camera on “T” mode and made a test exposure of 50 seconds, at F2.  That’s all I needed — one exposure.

With a fresh battery I set the intervalometer to 200 images at 1 second interval; started the first image and went back in the house.

I checked on the camera a few times and since all was well I left everything alone until the battery died at 196 images.  I left the rear LCD image on which killed the battery a bit quicker than I wanted.  I’ll need to shut that off for next time!

Once I had all the images in LR, I did some minor editing then used Photoshop to create the time-lapse.  With the same images I used the free software Starstax to create one image out of the 190+ images.  I caught too many aircraft flying by but they don’t bother me so I left them in.

Here is the still life as my version of wordpress won’t allow a video….

Enjoy

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DJI (Phantom Maker) Is the Devil incarnate! (But they get you hooked!)

There will be more to come on this but suffice it to say that if there were ANY OTHER company, making a quality drone, I’d be all over them.

This is an image taken in the Florida Keys.  It is one of only 28 TOTAL images before the drone crashed and drowned in salt water.  At this point, I had flown it a total of three times and it crashed on me three times.  I do believe there was a problem with it — Long story coming soon!  I am now waiting on my THIRD replacement drone!!!!  Yes, third.  The second one did not work out of the box.  But man! the images/video are just too much to pass up.  More to come at a later date!  Stay tuned.

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