Hitting the Road…Again

Well I’m headed out once again.  Since late April, I’ve been on the road more than at home.  And, it’s no different Thanksgiving weekend. I’m headed to Charleston, South Carolina to shoot and have some fun while I’m there.  For this trip I’m only packing my Fuji X-T2. For lenses I’m taking the Fuji 16-55 2.8 for the classic landscapes, the 50-140 2.8, my fabulous 18-55 2.8-4.0 to use when walking around town, and at the last minute I threw in the Zeiss 12mm 2.8/Touit.  I was actually taking some photos of the Zeiss in order to put it on eBay but decided last minute to take it with me one last time — I just wanted to give it one more shot (pun intended) before I list it for sale.  I’m leaving behind all the primes including my prized 16mm 1.4, plus my other 1.4 primes.  I’m also packing my Mavic Pro Platinum for some aerials, some spare drone and seven camera batteries plus some filters.  All of this fits in my Amazon Basic camera backpack which I have to say that for a whopping 39.95US has been used now over five years, and it’s still amazing!  Out of my twelve camera bags, it’s the bag that always hits the road with me.  The bag has a ton of room, plus a laptop pocket that holds  my 15″ MacBook – but on this trip only my 11″ MacBook Air is traveling with me in order to keep it light(er).

In addition to the Amazon backpack I’m also packing a small, lightweight Lowepro which holds my camera body with grip (if I choose to carry it)  and lens, plus an extra lens and my batteries.  It literally weighs ounces and I can fold it up and stick it in the outside pocket of my backpack or store it in my luggage.

So, I’ll be off now… Take care.  Have a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday for those of you that celebrate it.




A Funny Thing Happened on the way to a Lens Firmware Update

Well, maybe not funny, but interesting from my perspective.  I downloaded into separate folders on my desktop Fuji’s latest firmware updates for my lenses so I’d be ready to run the updates on Saturday morning.  So, here I sit, early morning, coffee in hand, ready to go.

Without giving it much thought how did I decide to install the updates?  Least used lens FIRST; So, here’s my order from least favorite to favorite:  23 1.4,  35 1.4 (though i LOVE this lens),  then the 16mm 1.4, and finally my all-time favorite, don’t leave home without it lens:  the 18-55.

Not a hugely massive post, but I found it interesting how I picked them without even thinking about it!

Lil Bit of Camera Porn This Morning

This is my X-T1, and my D800e.  I was cleaning out my gear after returning from a road trip and had placed them on a coffee table.  They were both begging to be photographed!

So I complied with their wishes.  Take a look at the size differential!!  Yeah, yeah I know the 800e has the battery grip but that’s how I use it 99% of the time.  The X-T1 does not as I like to keep it lightweight.

My wife wonders why I always grab the Fuji — Wonder no more.

Incident at the 7-mile Bridge, or Know your Rights as a Citizen and a Photographer

Location: Seven Mile Bridge
Florida Keys
Late September 2015
Perpetrators:  US Government, Florida State Troopers, Local hire Security Guards, German filming crew, Mini-Cooper Ad agency and Advertising Director, Florida Helicopters Inc.
Local Miami news (as the 7-mile bridge was closed to traffic in BOTH directions while filming the new 2017 Mini-Cooper ad was in progress)
and ME (the star of the movie)
The gentleman who followed me for almost two hours. And he was a super nice guy.  He just let me shoot, and we had interesting conversations– unlike the other guards.


The Setting:
 I’m down in the Florida Keys shooting stock and travel; I’m staying  24 miles south of the 7-mile bridge at a local resort. As part of my “shot” list I wanted to capture the old bridge and the new bridge with the surrounding area at sunrise as I had scouted it the day before on my way south.  Even that early in the morning it’s a 35-40 minute drive not due to the traffic, but the Big Pine Key, which is the protected Key Deer area has a 25-35mph speed limit from sundown to sunrise and it is strictly enforced.  Trust me. It is.
Since I had to drive north through Big Pine Key and Deer Key I’m up at 3am.  I already have my gear for the day (all Fuji of course) packed and ready to go. Shower, dress, make sure I didn’t forget anything and head out the door before 5am as the “nautical” sunrise was a 6:24am and the actual sunrise was at 7:15am.  I grabbed an expresso at a local Cuban restaurant and a pastel de guayaba and headed north.
The Situation:
On the north end of the “new” 7-mile bridge there is a small parking area;  This is the area I had scouted out as it had access to the “old” 7-mile bridge.  I wanted to walk out onto the old bridge and do some photography there.  The sky now has been turning a deep blue, and as I approached my turn into the old bridge parking area notice some activity in the parking area.  Now, I’m not the only tourist or photographer who wants to photograph from this location but funny thing is most of the vehicles were leaving, not coming in.  That was strange.  I also saw a bunch of black SUV’s butI didn’t pay any attention to them as I was focused on the sky and what I had planned to shoot.  Near the end of the parking lot there is short walk to the ramp onto the old seven mile bridge; I see several men and woman with a janitorial cart full of brooms, mops and assorted cleaning supplies.  Honestly I thought they were there to clean the facilities, but the other part of my brain was thinking:  There are no facilities here.  Anyway, I pull in to the parking lot and it’s eerily deserted — very unusual as it’s a gorgeous place to stop and admire the view and to photograph.  There was some activity going on near the ramp to the old bridge but I paid no mind.  Anyway I go into the trunk of my car and pick up my bag and my tripod and before I close the trunk I’m literally jumped by a rent-a-cop security guard who tells me I need to leave now.  I was taken aback!  What is going on here? Why are all these SUVs here?  When I simply asked why I was told it was a private event and I was trespassing.
Just for those that don’t know me I’m very casual, easy going, professional and relaxed.  However, don’t screw with me or my rights — that is where I draw the line in the sand.  I’ve been up since 3am, I have one shot at shooting this area before I head further south and I’m not leaving.
So very politely I told the security guard that I was on public property, and that I did not have to leave.  That did not go over well — he went off to talk to another guard, I’m assuming the head security guard.  Now, I have my X-T1 over my neck, my camera bag over my shoulder and I start out from the parking area to the entrance to the old bridge;  I got about ten feet before I had the head security guy cut me off and tell me I must immediately put my camera away and leave. Well, that was not going to happen so i sidestepped around him as I didn’t want to get into an argument at 6am.  He followed me.  I informed him that I was on public property and I was here to photograph and I would leave when I was ready.  These folks were out of control barking orders and demands at me to leave — which is why I saw all the other photogs and tourists leaving the area!  I understood now.
Anyway this guy followed me out onto the bridge and kept hurrying me up as  I think he finally realized I was not leaving.  I spent about an hour photographing the old bridge, trees, sunrise etc.  The entire time this guy was with me.  Off in the distance, on the old bridge I saw an entire film crew and a hovering helicopter.  I asked the guard (he might as well  make himself useful) what was being filmed.  He told me it was a TV commercial for a new 2017 Mini-Cooper convertible ( in a horrific and hideous mint blue/green BTW) and they were paying for the helicopter by the hour.
Once I was finished shooting I started to walk off the bridge, through the parking lot back to my car.   As soon as I stepped off the bridge I was approached by yet another security guard and was once again told, very loudly, that I must put my camera away.  Umm.  No, that wasn’t going to happen.  As soon as I said that, The four SUV’s that were off to my right just ahead of me in the lot, must have been radioed as they started up the four massive SUV’s and literally surrounded the Mini-cooper convertible like a wagon train protecting itself against an attack in an old western.
I could have been a dick and stopped to photograph the car but again, I’m a reasonable, calm person so I kept walking to my car– besides, I got what I came for so I figured I’d less these guys do their job.  I didn’t realize that by this time the Florida State Police had arrived to close the North and South bound lanes of the new 7-mile bridge as the television commercial was for the Mini to drive the across the bridge and to film from the old bridge, and the helicopter.  Anyway when I said I was not going to put my camera away the guard ran away and brought back the FSP trooper.  I must say he was extremely courteous, and when I asked him if this was still public property he actually acknowledged that it was so, and I was not obligated  in any way to put my camera away or leave for that matter, nor could he force me to do so.  Finally! Someone who knew the laws and citizens rights.  As I was headed back to my car he walked with me as his cruiser was parked next to me and we chatted about this and that for a few minutes.  Once I was in my car  he pulled out in his cruiser and blocked all traffic southbound on the new bridge, and another officer at the south end of the bridge blocked all northbound traffic so they could film the Mini driving all by it’s lonesome self across the clean, new 7-mile bridge with the beautiful couple smiling pretty.
By the way when I left the parking area and turned southbound back across the 7-mile bridge I was the only vehicle  except for a black Tahoe SUV that followed me all the way to the other end then turned around when I had reached the south side of the bridge.  I wondered what he would have done had I actually stopped ON the bridge to snap a few images…
The Solution:
Moral of the story:  Know your rights.  Be polite and courteous to everyone.  There is no need to be nasty or rude but don’t give in if you are in the right.  I was lucky in that the Florida State Police, at least the officer who approached me knew MY rights, and the situation didn’t escalate any further.  Had it been a know-nothing bully officer, I was prepared, and ready to talk or be ready to be taken in as I was in the right.
My biggest fear if that had happened was telling my wife I was arrested 😃

As I walked to my car this morning…

I parked in my reserved spot, picked up my bag, slung it over my shoulder and headed to the office. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks!  The X-T1 and several lenses are so light I hardly feel it!

In the mornings when I leave home I usually have over my shoulder a Fossil leather bag –  In it I keep my Macbook Air, my yogurt for lunch, and some basic file folders.  In itself the Fossil bag is rather lightweight.  I’ve had it since 2007 and it is still an amazing piece of luggage that I proudly use in my daily life.  Every now and then I’ll stick a Jill-E insert in the bag and carry my X-T1 with me.

Today, I packed a small $30.00 bag I found on Amazon.  It’s called the Lowepro Exchange Messenger for dSLR kit and essentials.  Here’s the link.  I bought this wonderful bag in July of 2013 when a very good friend of mine and I took a three day tour around coastal Maine; he carried his two Leica’s and assorted lenses in this bag.  After seeing how light it was, and the fact I was able to store it flat pretty much anywhere I decided to purchase one right there and then and so I did.

Today I’ll be away from home for a couple of days but had to go into the office first; Instead of my Fossil leather bag I instead packed my LowePro.  In the bag I loaded up my X-T1, the 18-55 lens, the 16mm F1.4 lens, the 23mm 1.4 lens, the Fuji EF-42 Flash with four batteries, and an extra two Fuji batteries for the camera, and my lunch.  The bag has very deep pockets, one has a zipper for additional security; normally, that would be where I store my SD wallet but since the X-T1 is packing a 32G card that allows for over 700 jpeg+raws I didn’t bother bringing any more along.

When I arrived at the office and picked up the bag out of my car with the always present Macbook Air I had to do a double-check to make sure I packed what I needed!  It was that light.  I remember the days pre-Fuji when I carried my Nikon D800 or D700, plus Nikon glass — or better (or worse) yet when I carried my Mamiya 645AFD medium format!  Heck, going back a bit further my old RB67.  Now that was a beast.  I actually smiled as I walked down the Philadelphia streets to my office.  It absolutely does makes a huge difference carrying a smaller mirrorless camera.  I don’t care if it is a Fuji, Sony, Olympus — whatever floats your boat, just try one!  I do not miss my dSLR’s or MF at all! Since I haven’t printed larger thant 24″x 20″ I haven’t needed more megapixels.  If I did, I can always work some photoshop magic though I try very hard to stay out of PS. CORRECTED – SEE LAST TWO PARAGRAPHS ADDED AFTER THIS WAS PUBLISHED!

With that being said I am awaiting the arrival of the X-T2.  As I am a travel, and stock photographer the 24mp sensor keeps me ahead of the curve and my images relevant when a clients wants a bit extra oomph.  Usually we can show them that 16.3mp is more than enough but at times, they are rather adamant about larger files.  If it were not for that I wouldn’t be upgrading at all!  With regards to the rumors here of a potential Fuji medium format camera my first questions are not resolution or megapixels but how big is it going to be?  What is the weight of the system?  How about lens weight? I am now totally spoiled by the compactness, and the image quality coming from my Fuji system and I would not go back, ever, to a Nikon or any other brand.

So, when I leave my office later this afternoon and head south for a couple of days I’ll still be grinning like a Cheshire cat!

I was going to end this post here then FedEx came in.  I sent out an image to be printed a while back and I just received it!  It’s a 30 x 20″ print of an image that was processed from a RAF file into a 95mb TIFF in Lightroom.  I thought about processing it in Iridient which I own but decided i would process it in the same app that I use for 99% of all my editing work.

Here, I’ve laid it across our conference room table in order to flatten it somewhat.  But I have to say it looks amazing!  I can COUNT the grains of sand, and you can as well just from these two iPhone images!  This is 30″ x 20″ and I think I can go up to 40″ plus so that will be the next round of tests.  I performed this print test to see how far I can push 16.3 megapixels.  I have to say, these results are truly amazing.  I’ve taken my glasses off and pressed my nose and eyes very close and it’s well, trust me:  amazing!FullSizeRender 2

in this image, taken with the X-T1 and the Unbelievable 16mm 1.4 you can count the grains of sand flowing as the water ebbs, under the shell, and throughout the image. It’s that clear here even though I used an iPhone for these two

Enjoy the rest of your day.



Do you See a Problem here?

Well?  Do you?  I was reading some guys blog this morning and he has bashed the Fuji 18-55 before; and he was at it again.  I don’t get it.  I use the 18-55 all the time.  It’s almost a go-to lens.  I shoot stock, I shoot for pay, I shoot for me.  I use the 18-55.  I’ve made and SOLD 30″ x 20″ matted and framed images made with the 18-55.  So I have to wonder if he is just passive-aggressive, or he just has a Fuji problem.

The image here I took this morning as I was walking in a parking lot.  Nothing spectacular but the texture and colors caught my eye.  I used the 18-55.  I am betting I can sell that in stock. No problems.  This image was imported from the camera to my iPhone as a 3MB file.  It has had NOTHING done to it.  Nada.  Zip.  As far as I’m concerned it’s pretty darn good and sharp.  Imagine if I worked on the Raw file???

On a related note I do own the 23 1.4, and the 35 1.4 plus the Zeiss 12 2.8.  Are they sharper than the 18-55?  Yeah. Probably.  I would expect to be sharper or I would have returned them!  But as a stand-alone lens, the 18-55 is just amazing.  To call it a “kit lens” is a disservice to Fuji.  This is just my 2 cents worth but I’ve been using the 18-55 since I bought it bundled with the X-E1 back in February 2013.  No complaints here; as a matter of fact, in a couple of weeks I’m headed out on a stock shooting trip and the 18-55 will be mounted on the X-E1 and sitting on the seat next to me.

Fuji X-T1, 18-55 @55mm (the supposed bad area of the lens) F8, 1/320th second grab shot in a parking lot.
Fuji X-T1, 18-55 @55mm (the supposed bad area of the lens) F8, 1/320th second grab shot in a parking lot.

This is the full 3MB file.  (Click for a larger view)

More of my work can be seen at Drama King Images and at my Flickr Feed

Fuji X-T1 Musings

This blog is free to me. I sell nothing.  I offer my opinion only and you don’t have to accept anything I say. As a matter of fact I would appreciate if you didn’t — you should try it for yourself to see if it fits you, if it works for you.   I feel sorry for all the bloggers out there who have to post everyday and many times more than once per day just to get the “clicks”. How do they do it?  I couldn’t keep up!

I read many blogs – these open up automatically when I crank up Safari first thing in the morning.  Some days it’s interesting stuff but most days though it’s either old news, regurgitated crap that’s being re-blogged many times whether it’s accurate or not.

Many folks depend on the advertising revenue from their blog work.  Me?  Nope.  Any ads that appear on this site are courtesy of whoever the heck owns WordPress; I could care less.  I’m under no pressure.  I post or write when I want and what I want.  I am indebted to no one.  Would I want to generate income from my posts you ask?  Nope.  I’m perfectly happy where I am now.  I post when I want.  I photograph what I want.  I go where I want.  I’m under no direct pressure to create, or write unless it is self-imposed.

In a few weeks I’ll be headed out again for another 10 days of stock and personal photography.  This particular trip will be a very intimate journey for me as I haven’t been back to this particular location since 1974.  It was me, my trusty Minolta SRT-101, a 28mm 2.8 Telestar wide, and a Minolta 135mm F3.5 plus about ten rolls of 36 exposure, Kodacolor 100 print film.  Yes. Print film.  Since my dad was paying, he refused to buy me any slide film as he wanted to physically see the 3 x 5 prints after developing them at the local outlet.  The memories that brings back!  Oh, and I forgot to mention my parents and my sisters tagged along as I was only 16 at the time.

The area I’m headed to is my “mecca”.  This is the place I’ve wanted to visit for years now, just I never was able to get away for that amount of time.  Of course the location has changed drastically in all these years –  but who cares?  It is still a gorgeous, tropical location as far as I’m concerned.

In upcoming posts before I head out I’ll talk about what gear I’m taking with me, probably illustrated with some photos of it.  I find that if I post images, that I’m less likely to take extra gear;  As I lay out the gear for the photo I constantly question myself why I’m taking a particular piece of equipment. If I can’t justify it, it remains behind.

As this is a road-trip, albeit a long, long road trip weight limitations won’t matter much — except I’ll be out on an island for 3 days and the boat I’ll be on has a 60lb limitation per person so that may cause an issue.  This weight restriction includes all the camping and survival gear as there are no facilities – such as cell service, wi-fi, medical aid, water, bath, nothing. Zip.  Nada.  This location is about 75 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico so I’m truly excited at trying my hand at some night photography without any light pollution.

At this point I’m fairly decided on using my X-T1 as my primary camera.  That means it literally and figuratively won’t leave my side.  I anticipate shooting with this camera all the time.  As my backup I am packing the Nikon D800 and ONE single lens: the 18-35G series which is incredibly versatile and tack sharp on the D800.  I am dedicating one single 32G memory card to the D800 which will provide around 280+ jpegs + raw images, and the balance of the 15 other 32G and 16G cards to the X-T1.

After my last trip a couple of weeks ago when I went up to New England, I found myself grabbing the X-T1 for about 70% of the images taken.  The X-T1 is just so user friendly, and fun to use!  The EVF and LCD show you what you are about to capture, in whatever flavor of film simulation and settings you’ve selected.  Also, before I left for my trip I turned on the focus scale so I know how far out my focus is in feet, and also the DOF the particular aperture I’ve chosen will produce.  As I’m just getting into the hyper focal focusing thing I really need to explore that further as it may have some use.  My go-to film simulation – Astia – it is just so perfect for me I created a LR import that takes all the raw files and applies the Astia film simulation on import; in addition to the film mode, I also have my sharpening set according to the Pete Bridgwood method of sharpening the X raw files.  His method has proven to be a lifesaver! I can now edit my images in LR and not have to go out to Iridient, or Silkypix to do so.  I also very much like the color the LR produces as I find the Iridient and Silkypix to be a bit too warm for my taste – but that’s my opinion — and yes both my screens – an Apple display, and a NEC 27″ are all calibrated and set correctly.  The one and only issue I may possibly have is chimping on the LCD screen in the extremely bright sun light.  I am taking with me a large dark blue handkerchief that I use as a head band that I can drape over me – view camera style – to double check I’ve captured the frame as I want.  That is, unless I chimp in the EVF but that is just too uncomfortable for me.

I will say that during my recent trip to New England, whenever I grabbed the D800 to photograph anything my main concern was whether the image would be sharp or not.  Honestly who wants to grab a piece of equipment and have to worry about whether it’ll deliver the goods?  Certainly not me.  However the D800 files, when the camera, and it’s operator are in sync and work the way they should, are just glorious in size and detail.  Certainly can’t argue with the quality of the files –  They are just amazing.  However, the 16MP X files hold up to enlargements pretty darn well.  An image I photographed on January 1, 2015 at sunrise of the Portland Head Lighthouse (see it here)  recently sold as a matted and framed 30″ x 20″ print that looks stunning.

Well enough ramblings for now.