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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I’ve been kidding myself….

I browse the web.  Alot.  Always reading reviews, how-to’s, on anything photography related.  Anything.  I also love, love, love my Fuji gear; hence why I gave up on Nikon and either sold or gave away everything I owned.  I found my Nikon gear started collecting dust bunnies ever since I got my first Fuji (the X-E1) in February 2013.  Hard to believe this journey is now five and a half years old. I’m not famous, or popular by any means – on the web or in person;  I’ve seen so so many newcomers to the Fuji system open websites, and Youtube channels and gain followers, and some monetary rewards shilling their wares.  Not me.  I just plod along, working, and shooting.  Heck, I can’t even get Fuji NA to send me a test camera or lens.  I suppose I’m just not popular enough and I don’t advertise or try to sell my soul.  Oh well…

One thing that I always fancy myself doing is traveling and exploring with prime lenses.  To me that is such a romantic, nomadic notion.  Imagine yourself in say in Paris, or Milan or Venice, chasing the light; traveling lighter, with a small shoulder bag and a few primes…. You come upon a fabulously lit scene, and of course the correct focal length is already attached, well, because you are that good.  You find the composition and fire off a shot of what will definitely be an award winner…..  Now for MY reality.  While out in eastern California, at 11,000 feet elevation, with the X-T2 and the 50-140 on one lap, and a Taco Bell burrito on my other lap trying to get up the last 200 yards to an abandoned Gold Mine with a four-wheel drive truck that refuses to go any further up the mountain pass due to fresh snow on the road and decides to start sliding backwards.  ha!  After we stop sliding backwards, precariously close to a 700+ foot drop off (and California State doesn’t seem to believe in guard rails in those remote areas) I jump out (still in shorts ad sneakers as it was 80 degrees before my accent into hell) and fire off some images with the 50-140 2.8.  Primes.  I wish..  On the way back down the mountain the views were just amazing and using primes would have been so much more time-consuming having to switch back and forth between lenses — so the 50-140 was the workhorse of that day as was the 18-55.  That’s MY reality.  Primes just don’t fit into my shoot style.  I’ve tried to make it work, I honestly have but it just doesn’t fit.

I own quite a few of them as a matter of fact:  I own the Zeiss 12 2.8, Fuji 16 1.4, 23 1.4, 35 1.4, Pentacon 50mm 1.8, Fuji 60mm 2.4.  On top of my primes I own TWO copies of the amazing Fuji 18-55 lens;  I won’t call it a kit lens because that just insults that small, yet wonderful workhorse.  I own the Fuji 55-200, which is a beautiful, lightweight, sharp, gorgeous bokeh creating machine.  I also own the venerable, sharp, contrasty Fuji 50-140 F2.8

I decided to write this post as I can’t be the only person with this delusional thought of shooting with primes.  Or am I?  I started writing this as I await the mailman to delivery my new (slightly used, under 100 images taken with) Fuji 16-55 2.8 Zoooooooom.  Yes, it’s heavy, yes it was expensive though I got it for the bargain price of only 740.00 shipped!  If it hadn’t been that “cheap” I would never had purchased this zoom as I already own TWO copies of the fabulous 18-55.  I do believe the 18-55 does 80% of what the 16-55 can do at a third of the price AND weight AND with OIS.

Now I sit here early Sunday morning, having spent one full day with the 16-55 on Saturday using it to shoot an event.  Would I still have purchased it after only ONE day of testing?  Answer: Undecided, which is never good for me.  Usually I’m stoked about a new lens but this 16-55 as you’ve no doubt have read about before is HEAVY and LARGE.  The few images I reviewed were gorgeous, but my 18-55 would have held it’s own IMHO.  At 1PM today I’m shooting another event.  This one does not require a zoom as I’ve done this event at the same location three other times in the past.  I’m bringing my 16mm 1.4, the 23 1.4, and the 35 1.4 plus the X-T2.  All the zooms stay at home.

Later this week, I leave on a three week, three-fold trip:  1. Travel to southern Florida for four days to shoot stock along the Atlantic Coast.  2.  From there, I’m on a plane to Costa Rica to photograph a small resort on the Pacific Ocean side of CR and since I’m already there  some personal and stock photography.  I will then return to Florida for another few days where I’ll be heading to the Gulf side of the state to continue my stock captures.  For this trip I’m gluing the 16-55 2.8 on the X-T2;  But, but I’m also taking my 16mm 1.4 as this will be my low-light and suedo-macro ace up my sleeve.  I was planning on packing my 60mm 2.4 macro Fuji but Nah… Not happening.  Also for this trip I’m leaving the 50-140 2.8 at home and instead packing the 55-200.  It’s a tad slower, but it has longer reach which may come in very handy for what I hope is some elusive wildlife down in CR.  Also in the bag is my Fuji 35mm 1.4 which I use in low-light AND for vertical pano’s.  I just enjoy using that 6.6 ounce lens to death!  The 35 1.4 fits in any pocket, renders beautifully, and has some super creamy bokeh plus it’s tack sharp.  In the same bag (which I posted in a previous post) is my DJI Mavic Pro Platinum with which I’ll be shooting stills and videos for the paid part of my gig.

I’m excited, and anxious.  I will say that 16-55 has added some serious heft to my carryon backpack so we’ll see how it goes down there.  I’ll post images as i can since wi-fi is very spotty in the area I’m headed to.

Signing off for now.

 

 

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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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.

Fuji camera and lenses Excel

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)

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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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