Bokeh Anyone?

moro3579

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.

 

 

My Queue is Finally Empty

After eleven months my new photos queue in Lightroom is empty.  I’ve filed away into their appropriate folders, edited whatever was needed, prepared those images going to stock sales, and submitted at least 70% of the ones I had selected to go out.

But the best part is:  The Queue is EMPTY!  Since September 2015 I’ve had images in that folder awaiting review, editing, keywording among other things.  Now it’s all done.

However, tomorrow I leave for a few days of photography; this time it’s for myself more than work related stock and travel.  I plan on experimenting with Panoramics, HDR, and long exposure among other things.  We shall see what I return with.  If I can post from the road, I will.

Tonight I’ll be selecting the gear I plan to take.  Since this is a car trip, with the exception of when we go off into the woods for a hike, the gear should pretty much stay put in the back seat in my backpack so I think I’ll probably pack everything PLUS the kitchen sink.  As always, I’ll have a couple of smaller messenger bags that are always with me for those times when i’m off on a walking adventure.

 

Just Say “NO” To the Fancy Bag

Little bit of humor here.  Ok.  Maybe not.  I’ve said it before both here, and elsewhere these man bags such as the Billinghams, and the other fancy bags do have a place in the workplace, but not in the field.  Quite frankly I never seen any of these hipsters who carry these fancy uncreased bags around cosmopolitan town even going out into the field in their tight-ass pants, and loafers.  Oh. Sorry, ranting again.  Give me a break guys.  Buying a camera bag, a lousy camera bag for $300 dollars and up, to put it down in dirt and mud, and snow, or wet sand and saltwater?  No.  Not for me.  And I doubt any of these fancy bag toters do either.  Many just want to look cool as they slowly extricate their fancy cameras out of the well-oiled bags to take that selfie, or the foodie shot, then Oh so cool, slide the camera in for another week of storage.  Give me a break.

Now, here in the photo is a true working bag.  This bag cost me $29.95.  It’s canvas.  Cloth.  Period.  Inside is a 3 velcro pocket Jill-E insert for $10.00.  See all that gear?  That’s what I packed yesterday for a short day hike into a bamboo forest. It has SIX (6) pockets just on the OUTSIDE!

I’ve included some images here so you can see what can be accomplished with minimal gear.  Oh, BTW, all of these images, and many more are already for sale on Shutterstock as of 5:00am Sunday morning. Yeah. I’m fast and the X-T1 files, couples with the amazing lenses don’t require a lot of post.

So, if you want to look like a coffee-shop dwelling Brooklyn broke hipster who shoots food, and selfies, go ahead and get yourself a Billingham, or “billingmuch” as I call them, if you want to make yourself useful get yourself a real bag.  Try the think tank series.  Either that, or get the hell out of my way as I make my images.

Thank you.  Rant over.  I’ve now taken cover and am ready for the rebuttals as to how great these expensive bags are other than for image enhancement, like botox…

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)
Guard
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

FullSizeRender
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.

 

 

Roanoke Marsh Lighthouse at Dusk

I took an impromptu 3-day trip down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for some R & R.  This trip was NOT to photograph, but to just get some rest and get away from the daily grind.  On my desktop I left over 6,300 images I’ve yet to review, process, and get out to my various stock agencies.  I did not even bother to take my laptop or externals with me.  What did I take with me to “not” take photos?  I took my X-T1, the 18-55, 55-200, and my 16mm 1.4.  I packed a couple of filters, two SD cards and only used one, plus my extra batteries.  As far as tripods, I keep one in each vehicle so that was a given they would travel with me.

I’ve been in this area on many occasions to photograph the  incredible lighthouses and landscapes in the area.  This particular lighthouse had always eluded my attempts at getting a decent image. Either the weather, the tides, the lighting something always conspired against me.  Not this time!  Using my app Photographers Ephemeris, checking the sundown times, and tide tables I decided to drive out to the area and check it out.  I spent two hours photographing the light from the golden hour when the sun was lighting it up orange, until dark.  This is only one of my favorites of the evening.  While there, a group of photographers who were taking a class lead by an instructor showed up.  The instructor asked me about the mirrorless X-T1, and as we started chatting, each and every photographer in the group had to oooh and aaah at the quality of the camera, the viewfinder,  and the images I was shooting!  It was great to talk about and promote the X-T1 and the incredible array of Fuji lenses ieven though I was only shooting with the 18-55 at the time.  I know I missed some images as the light was changing quickly having to give impromptu guidance and lessons on the values of mirrorless-especially the Fuji!  All the photogs were hauling bags full of gear with Canon or Nikon gear;  one guy had a Sony and he stayed away from me all night!  What I found very interesting is that NONE of the photographers carried a tripod!  Are you kidding me?!  I suspect it was because they were hauling around their dSLR’s and heavy lenses.  As the light started to change, and they had already seen a few of my images on the (gorgeous LCD) and handled the camera, many of them tore out back to the parking lot to get their tripods.  But, they left their gear sitting on the dock!  Hilarious. A bunch of nice guys though — except for the Sony jerk who wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence.

Overall a very productive evening considering I wasn’t even going to photograph much on this three-day, impromptu trip.  But, who can give this up?  Especially when as I mentioned this particular lighthouse had eluded my attempts to capture it for quite a few years.  Now, I GOTCHA!

Anyway here is one of the many images.  Enjoy.

Fuji X-T1, Using the horrible (just kidding, as many people complain about this lens) the Fuji 18-55 @ 55mm, 10 seconds, F14, ISO 200, Tripod, 2-sec Self timer, Velvia, Singh-Ray 77mm Warming Polarizer, Daylight WB My copy of the 18-55 is so darn sharp that at 100% in LR I can read the sign posted on the white fence towards the left side of the lighthouse.
Fuji X-T1, Using the horrible (just kidding, as many people complain about this lens) the Fuji 18-55 @ 55mm, 10 seconds, F14, ISO 200, Tripod, 2-sec Self timer, Velvia, Singh-Ray 77mm Warming Polarizer, Daylight WB
My copy of the 18-55 is so darn sharp that at 100% in LR I can read the sign posted on the white fence towards the left side of the lighthouse.

You can see more of my stuff at:  drama king images, or at my Flickr Feed.