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)
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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

StarStaX_Stars_136 Images

Shark Hunting, Key West

We had a Catamaran for a half day out of Key West.  There were eight of us on the boat;  we headed out in search of sharks and, well we found them!  or, I should say they found us!  We were in about six feet of water, and about 4-5 miles out.  And yes, only six feet of crystal, clear water.  Just gorgeous views with glassy seas.  Here are some images…

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Feeding Frenzy – 4 sharks, shallow water. 55-200
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Glassy Smooth Seas. 18-55 @ 18mm

Back from my Roadtrips

Hello everyone!

I’m back from several road trips to shoot stock and travel.  I’ve been to Maryland, Ohio, The Florida Keys,  New York, Maine, and Prince Edward island/Canada.

This was an amazing trip. Many, many wonderful people, and even more memories and images.

I thought I would share some stats with regards to the cameras, and lenses I used.

Here wo go:

First of all, my iPhone 7 Plus! I broke down and bought  the 7+, in Red, with 256G of memory.  The camera is amazing with the twin lenses; and I downloaded some apps including Camera+.  I shoot in raw (DNG) format and the quality is totally amazing!  I took a total of 1,771 iPhone images which is unbelievable for me as in all honesty I despised iPhone images.

On to the camera:  Of course I took the X-T2 with me.  That go’s without saying.  This is a recap from the metadata found in LightRoom.

 

Tout 12mm/2.8      690

Fuji 16mm 1.4     1336

Fuji 18-55 2.8-4   1671

Fuji 23mm 1.4       732

Fuji 35mm 1.4     1134

Fuji 55-200           2234

Fuji 60mm 2.4     2523

So, 10,320 images with the Fuji series, and 1,771 with the iPhone 7+

Now, I have the job of culling, then editing the images.  This’ll be fun!

As I go through Images I’ll post some here… I had a few up, but decided to take them down as I didn’t feel they did these various road trips any justice.

More To Come…

 

ThinkTank Citywalker 30 Review

This is part One of a very quick, down and dirty review of the ThinkTank Citywalker 30.  I am at my office as I write this and preparing to leave later this afternoon for a four-day work/personal trip up north.  I received the Citywalker 30 a few days ago and I have been using it for about a week now as my daily commuter messenger bag.  These are just my initial impressions, and how I have it packed and ready to go on this trip.

The first thing I did upon opening the box is I took the huge insert out.  I mean, it’s huge. If I were still shooting FX dSLR such as my D800e and my bevy of Nikon lenses it would be just about right to fit it all in, but man it would weigh a ton.

The bag is a ballistic nylon; very well made.  I got the black with the blue piping/stripe which looks really sharp and I’ve received several compliments about it at the office.  The interior is just huge–  I’ll talk about that a bit more in the images which follow as to what’s in the slots but the second thing I did upon opening the box was to place my old Jill-E insert in.  The bag dwarfs the insert but it works and doesn’t take up too much room.  This short four day trip will give the bag a true workout.  It’s the only one I’m taking with me!  A normal trip for me involves taking all my gear in a backpack, then one or two smaller bags to swap gear as needed.  Unfortunately I don’t always get to swap gear from the backpack into another smaller bag, especially if I’m running late getting to a location —   Case in point, back at the end of March I was photographing some old pier and pilings on the North Carolina Coast and put my backpack down in the sand.  An rogue wave grabbed the backpack and was dragging it back into the ocean! Thank goodness I had it closed tight; and, if it hadn’t been for my daughter that was shooting with me who snagged it with the tripod leg of her rig, the next wave that was coming in would have swamped the bag completely!  Had I had my messenger bag over my shoulder as I normally do, this would not have happened.  But luckily, catastrophe avoided!

Anyway for this short, four-day trip I decided to only pack a few folders I need for work with my Macbook Air, and as far as camera equipment goes I loaded the X-T2 with the 16mm, 23mm, 35mm and 60mm lenses, leaving behind my zooms.  This is a first for me..  I love love love my 18-55 and my 55-200!  I just hope I don’t miss them too much!

I also packed  only one of my four battery chargers to go with the three batteries – instead of my usual eight.  A polarizer, a ND filter, tripod and remote shutter release rounds out my rig.

Here are a few images of the bag, and what’s in the pockets.  As I mentioned earlier, I pulled out the huge insert that came with the bag and am opting for the smaller Jill-E insert to see how this performs in the field and on the road.  One thing about the original insert that I can say is that it keeps the bag much more rigid overall, but I wanted a more flatter, close to the body profile.  In all honesty I think I made a (intentional) mistake in getting the Citywalker 30 as it has a compartment which will fit up to a 15″ laptop –  instead of the CityWalker 10, or the 20 that only hold a small iPad or such.  But, for the price of 79.00 brand new, and free shipping from B&H I couldn’t pass up the deal when this same bag sold from anywhere between 145.oo to 200.00 US just a few short months ago.

Overall, as a work bag to and from the office on a daily basis I think it’s absolutely fantastic!  I can’t be happier.  This weekend will be test of the CityWalker 30 as a camera bag first and foremost.

Not shown in these images is the rain pouch which comes standard, nor the ThinkTank strap where I can put my keys, or my ThinkTank Pocket Rocket memory card holder, etc.

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Front Flap of the Bag.  Very Discrete i think and it has a zippered area as well for boarding passes, passports, phones, etc.
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Back area – where just above this lable is a  back much with Velcro outlined in the colorful Blue for documents, folders, iPad, etc.

 

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Interior, contains two pockets inside at each end that velcro shut with a strap. You can see my 23 1.4 with a 77mm Step up ring and a 77mm lens cap hence the size.  the strap that keeps the pocket secure is open up to the left. You can also see a compartment of the Jill-E insert with the 16mm 1.4 and the same step-up and lens cap setup as the 23 1.4 so everything is interchangeable and quickly available

 

 

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This is looking at the bag with the main flap open.  This pocket velcro’s atypical ThinkTank with the black flap just behind the phone.  I pulled it out to show it hence the bulge.  Normally it sits tightly velcroed against the main part of the bag. The Main compartment which is huge (!) has my Jill-E insert, not the standard insert that came with the bag, and it has my X-T2 with the 35mm 1.4 attached, the 16 1.4 in a second slot, with the 60mm F2.4 in the third compartment.  In the rear compartment which also velcro shut sits my Macbook Air and a moleskin notebook.  This compartment easily accommodates a 15″ Laptop such as my MBP.
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Closer image of the Macbook Air and the notebook in it’s separate velcro’d compartment.  You can see the 11″ air has plenty of room in there. As I said this bag is large!
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This is another view looking in to the bag. at Each end, INSIDE the bag, are those HUGE pockets that easily would accommodate any lens I have up to and including my hooded 55-200 zoom if I wanted to.
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This is the zippered pocket on the front flap.  Another great place for miscellaneous stuff – papers, passports, boarding passes, iPad etc.
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The bag also has two breathable, mesh pockets on each end of the bags exterior.  These will hold a water bottle, a phone, a zoom lens such as the 55-200 or the 18-55, etc.  Large, roomy and they expand a bit.  My plan is to use both of these pockets while in the field to hole remote, lens caps, filters, etc.  while I keep the main compartment closed.  Compared to the outside compartments on the ThinkTank Retrospective series these are huge!  On the Retro series, which I owned, you can’t even put a phone in there without having to dig for it as they are so tight.
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And one of my favorite parts is this small carry strap.  Whether the bag is open or closed you can just grab and go without all your stuff falling out. I can’t say that about my other bags.  I love this feature!  On the backside that sits against your hip there is a velcro’d pocket that runs the length of the bag for papers or whatever you want to use it for.
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The bag also comes with a card holder plus the amazing Sound Silencer Velcro tabs, AND a secondary clip to keep the bag secure.  Trust me, if the sound silencers are engaged NO ONE is going to open that bag without you noticing it!
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On the inside front of the bag, just behind the outside velcro pouch that I showed in an image above (with the cell phone) is another zippered compartment.  This one has my remote, and a couple of batteries in there now.

Overall:  An excellent value and a kick-butt utilitarian bag that will serve my purposes for many years to come.  Roomy, safe, secure, large. Heck, if you are going away for a weekend you can probably pack some overnight clothing, a jacket and snacks in there and still have room for your gear!

This trip will be it’s first official outing as a dedicated camera bag instead of a to-from the office messenger bag.  I’m very much looking forward to working with it and I’ll prepare an update when I return.

Thank you for reading.

My First Image with the new….

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The tack sharp and reasonably fast  Fujifilm 60mm 2.4 Macro.  Why’d I buy that you ask?  Well I’ll tell ya pardner.

I was considering the 50mm F2.  At 449.00 on Amazon it seemed like a good buy;  except, like it’s two other siblings – the 23F2 and the 35F2 its just freakin’ ugly.  Plain and simple.  I knew the 60 F2.4 Macro was what I needed even though I have the extension tubes for my camera.  Anyway the 60 2.4 was a tad high priced at 679 or 699.00 US – I can’t remember which.

Anyway, I’m shopping the web and came across a deal for a brand new, boxed 60mm for $479.00!  I couldn’t pass it up!  I killed two birds with one stone – actually  more as I’m getting a slightly longer focal length; better looking lens, crystal clear and tack sharp lens at that!  And I saved over $200.00 to boot — or if I look at it logically, because I would not have purchased the 60mm for the 699 price tag, I got a dual purpose lens for the same price as the 50mm!

I just received it last night and this image here was one of my first seven images with the lens on my X-T2.  I have yet to play with it at length.  Light was dwindling fast, but on everything I shot on my walk around the block focusing was reasonably fast.  Now, when I went inside and tried to take some images there, it is darn slow.  I mean creepy crawly slow.  I’m ok with that as I knew what I was getting into so no big deal here.  But man o man is it slow.  LOL.  Once it locks on it’s razor sharp.  Do I wish it were faster?  Heck yes but I did not purchase this lens for speed, but for the clarity, sharpness, and close-focusing capabilities so I am thrilled with it!

The image above is from the raw file.  No adjustments other than sharpening.  And it’ll make you bleed if you get too close.

I’m in love!  I can’t wait to take it out for a real spin.

 

The Amazing 18-55 Fuji Lens

I have written about the Fuji 18-55 in the past.  However, on New Years Day i was shooting up in Old Orchard Beach in Maine using this wonderful little lens.  It’s lightweight, solidly built, and oh so darn sharp!

As proof how sharp this this little puppy is, check out this screenshot of my lightroom image of Old Orchard Beach at 200%  — Yes.  200% !! This is the raw file, Sharpened with 100% details, 41 pts of sharpening.  Then below it is the full screen!  Now, look at that sharpness and clarity!!  I can read the Shipyard Beer sign out on the pier and that isn’t even dead center; more like top center!

Would the 16-55 2.8 be sharper?  Meh.  Maybe.  But this is pretty darn freakin’ sharp for me, and the weight/size savings alone are, to me, worth the tiny loss of sharpness. I’d rather be more light and mobile.  Your mileage may vary.

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2016 In my Rear View Mirror

2016 was a rockin’ year!  I received the blessing of a 3rd Grandson which is the grandest of all gifts.  Stock sales, though down in the market overall, I made up for in volume!  What that means is a ot of more work, for basically a small increase in income.  Volume rules at this point; gone are the days of licensing an image for 40 – 50 bucks when anyone can go online and pick up an image for a quarter.  Oh well, such is life.

On another but related note I am now dSLR free.  It’s a double-edge sword and my feelings are torn.  I sold the last of my Nikon gear – being the D800e and a 50mm 1.8 lens.  I am now all in on Fuji with the X series cameras and lenses.  Will I miss those glorious 36 megapixel files?  At times I’m sure I would but in order to have those files, I had to shoot them, and in all honesty, as you can see by the stats I rarely used the camera!

So, here is a re-cap of my 2016 stats, cameras first, then lenses.

  • Nikon D800e:  1,371 keepers
  • Fuji X-T1:  4,117 keepers
  • Fuji X-T2: 4,503 keepers (purchased in September 2016!!)
  • 16mm F1.4: 1,514 keepers
  • 18-55 2.8-4.0 Zoom (my don’t leave home without it lens) 1,489
  • 23mm F1.4: 1,094 keepers
  • 35mm F1.4: 2,256
  • Fuji 55-200 Zoom:  2057 keepers
  • Zeiss 12mm F2.8: 135 keepers.  Most unused lens, but when you need it you need it!

That’s pretty much it for my year. Hears hoping to a profitable, successful and FUN 2017.

Happy New Year

 

 

Bokeh Anyone?

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I’ve written about the fabulous Fuji 55-200 lens in the past but I have to say it is a truly spectacular piece of glass!  FF field of view approximately 84mm to 300mm.  Pretty sweet.

I got this lens before the 50-140 2.8 came out; and I considered my options — upgrade? sell the 55-200?  what should I do?  I’m here to say I’m glad I did nothing.  The 50-140 2.8, though a phenomenal lens, is too expensive, too big, and too heavy for me.  I switched from Nikon to Fuji to save weight, and my back so I’ll be darn if I’m lugging the 50-140 2.8 around.  Heck, I remember lugging my fabulously sharp, and oh so heavy, 70-200 2.8 in the woods.  No more.

Honestly I’ve tested both.  I cannot tell the difference in sharpness.  I read the stories and reviews about how phenomenal the lens is, and the writers are most likely correct.  But for me the 55-200 just works.  But that’s me.  It’s small, lightweight, and has a marvelous range, plus it’s reasonably fast!  Can’t ask for anything more than that.

What I will stress here is that if you are planning on purchasing one or the other, test them.  Rent them.  Use them out in the field.  That would be the best way to determine if you can live with one or the other.  I remember a year or so ago I purchased the Fuji 56mm 1.2 based on the positive reviews online.  I shot three events back to back with it the same day and, after only the first event, wound up switching to my 35 1.4, and the 18-55 to finish the job!  The 56 1.2, in a extremely well-light church and I mean well lit — sunny day, large skylights, bright light colored interior, and huge windows letting in the light down both sides, the damn thing refused to lock focus often enough that I switched it out and never looked back.  It was returned for a full refund that Monday morning.  Maybe it was a bad copy.  Maybe it was I read too much into how great the lens was.  I don’t know.  But I’m to going back to it.  Waaaaay too much money for a fixed focal length, that almost cost me some serious dough by not working as I expected it to.

Anyway, I’ll stop here singing the praises of the 55-200.  You be the judge.