What can I say about my year of black and white! It was quite an easy project to be honest, a lot easier than I first thought! There were a couple of times I wish I could have posted some great colour images but not many. I did miss a few sunsets in 2013, well if I am perfectly honest I missed a lot of sunsets in 2013, I also did not shoot a lot of images in autumn and Christmas has been a little quiet on the photography front. But apart from that the year has been good.
I started out with my monitors set to black and white, but this only lasted a month! I could not cope with trying to work out the tones with my eye sight on the back of the camera in the field. I have also grown up shooting film and I did this without a view monitor on the back of my camera. I guess growing up shooting black and white you learn to see the tones of the colour image in your mind’s eye and you have an idea of what a final image will look like after editing. So the cameras got set to standard colour RAW.
The next issue that happened in my project was the X100 came in to my workflow and threw a great big spanner in the Nikon works. I started shooting with the X100 and its files were just the most perfect files I have ever seen for black and white. My favorite Nikon Body for black and white was the D200 this old Nikon body was just so good at producing a RAW file for black and white. But the X100 was better ! I started to use the X100 more and more and in the end I sold my D200 and my D7000 because I was only using the D3s and the X100. I thought these two cameras were just perfect for black and white and for my future projects. But then it all changed again! I found myself not using the D3s and having 30k in Pro DSLR gear laying about not earning its keep was bugging me! But the X100 could not replace a D3s ! So I went out and brought myself an XPro1 with a couple of lenses from Cambrian Photography. I was shooting the Liverpool International Music Festival at the time and took the Xpro1 along to give it a try ! It was slow and not a DSLR and I was not sure what to do, but after a while I decided I quite liked the way it made me think ! I was shooting with the pack with the D3s and when I got back home all my images shot on the D3s were the same as the rest of the Press Pack. Mine stood out only because they were black and white. But the few shots I got on the XPro1 that day had a little more thought go in to them. That was it I decided to sell all my Nikon DSLR gear and move over to Fuji Mirrorless ! This is a big leap and a leap of faith in my ability to make this system work for me in 2014 ! I have now got a Xpro1 and an XE-2 with almost all the lenses Fuji make. So this is one of the biggest changes that has come from my black and white year! I am now a Fujiholic ! Totally addicted to Fuji cameras, the build quality is amazing and the lenses are stunning, I am in the process of adapting the way I work to fit in with the camera system, it’s a very steep learning curve but I am getting there !
My black and white year has also taught me to slow down and think, to take my time, to wait and to shoot less! I am not a great memory muncher any way to be honest, but my black and white year has made me shoot less and this is a good thing when it comes to editing ! I now have more time shooting and less time editing.
I have tried to shoot Jpeg with the Fuji’s as others do but for me it’s just not working for me !
I have been asked over two thousand times this year how I process my black and white and what pre sets and actions I use! Well the secret is, there are no actions and no pre sets ! I shoot the image and have a plan in my head already for how I want this image to look when processed. So after downloading the memory card I import straight in to Lightroom 5.3, then I open the image in Lightroom and clone out any dust and marks as well as birds and crisp packets etc I check the image at 100% and also check for sharpness and camera shake. There are the odd occasions I have to go in to Photoshop to use content aware clone but very rarely these days. I then open the image in Silver Efex Pro 2 and convert it to black and white. I then use the sliders to give the image the look and feel I am after and this is how I first visualized it when I shot it ! There have been many times at this stage the image is rejected ! I just don’t like the look and feel. I then gets left on the hard drive to have a look at later in Colour ! When I made all the changes I need in Silver Efex I then import it back in to Lightroom for some final tweaks before exporting as Jpeg. I start every black and white image from scratch so sorry guys there are not actions to share or presets to share. I can’t show you all how I process my images because every image is different. I have however found a new way to process Colour so in 2014 I will be using the same method I use on my black and white images to make Colour images.
I have always hated Colour images and struggled for years with colour film ! I only ever processed Colour transparency film. I was late to Digital and have never been a fan of colour digital, until switching over to Fuji and now at last its growing on me, there is something about the Fuji Sensor and the way the camera processes the images that has made me want to explore colour !
So will I stop shooting Black and White in 2014 ? No, is the simple answer! I will probably shoot 90% black and white and 10% colour, black and white is my passion and always will be.
So my black and white year has made me move over to Fuji, I don’t think this would have happened if I had just carried on as I was, so that is one thing to thank this project for.
I have learnt a new way to shoot colour and discovered also that the Fuji cameras give me a RAW file that more suites my needs as a photographer and hopefully not only does it make my Black and White images stand out from the crowd but next year it might even make my colour images stand out from the crowed!
I have had some great feedback and interest on my black and white project and learnt a hell of a lot about myself that I want put in to words in a blog post, I can recommend a year of black and white to any one so why not start one in 2014 !
If you have any questions about my year of black and white or my change over to Fuji then please get in touch.
What can I say! Street shooting and Fuji go hand in hand, I lost my confidence shooting street years ago when digital first came out, everyone looks at you when you have a DSLR and even worse when you have a D3s hanging round your neck or any pro body DSLR ! I used to get asked quite a lot was I press and what was I shooting! I just got fed up with trying to explain myself. I like to shoot up close with short and wide primes, but in the end to get a more candid shot with a DSLR I had to start shooting with 300mm Prime or 70-200mm Zoom and it was driving me mad.
The DSLR and 300mm Prime worked very well for my event work, shooting up from the pit to the stage or walking around fields or events I could just pick my shots, it all works very well in the event environment but I was never very happy shooting street shots with a 300mm lens.
I have watched a few YouTube clips on different styles of Street Photography and I think mine is somewhere in the middle. I like to talk to some people and engage with them, sometimes we swap details and I send them a few images or give them a business card. Other times I like to include them in the shot but without them knowing what I am up to, the XF14mm Fuji lens is great for that, you can just pretend to shoot a wall and capture a person or people in the very wide view.
Using a DSLR for years I have never realized how great the rear screen in live view for composing street shots is on these little cameras!
As soon as you put your eye to a camera everyone knows you are about to shoot! But looking at the rear screen people take no notice of you! I noticed this with my i phone you can use your phone all the time and no one takes any notice, you are not a photographer with a phone, it’s just a phone, I am quite sure half the time people don’t even realize people are taking shots with a phone, most of the time you can pretend you are texting and shoot what you like.
I was very unhappy with one aspect of the XE2 when it first came out, I am hoping Fuji will correct with the first firmware update, that is the fact you can’t view and review with the EVF only. But yesterday it made me use the rear monitor by accident. I was struggling to get the angles on the shots I wanted due to the amount of people in the city so in the end I was using the rear screen and the fantastic zoom feature found by pressing the scroll wheel! I could check focus and shoot without lifting the camera to my eye, not something I thought about with a DSLR but it’s great to have this feature on a camera.
I was watching another guy walking around with his camera resting over his arm and trying to work out what he was up to, in the end I walked up to him to be nosey ! He had a tilt screen and was using his arm to steady his camera as he shot candid portraits from waist level. I have to admit I did think that was great.
I did take my XPro1 with me and have included an image at the bottom of this post with a shot through the XF35mm lens, I love both cameras it’s very hard for me to say what one I like the most they both have little features that make me smile, the XPro1 feels more like a camera than the XE2 and I do prefer the XPro1 in my hands, but the XE2 is growing on me.
I have had a few messages from people moving over from a DSLR to one of the Fuji cameras and one of the biggest problems they have is how the camera feels and looks in their hands. I fully understand this problem, I went from a Nikon D3s to the XPro1 and that is one hell of a size jump. But once you realize that size does not matter it’s what you do with it !!! (Sorry had to be said ) Then you can move forward and to be honest the Fuji sensor is so good, who cares if the camera feels a bit like a toy.
I had a great time at the Liverpool Christmas Market, it was very busy so will have to have a return trip. It’s the famous Santa Dash this weekend So 10,000 Santa’s shopping and staying in the city over night does not help. I can’t shoot the Santa’s this year as black and white won’t work with blue and red Santa’s and all the other colours I have seen , so going to give it a miss this year. Next year I will hopefully be shooting it with the XPro2 so will have some brightly coloured Santa images for you.
One last thought for every one shooting Christmas Markets, the feedback I got from the stall holders was that they have never seen any images that get shot of them, they say they have thousands of photographers pointing cameras in their faces every day and although very nice they would love to see some of the images! So drop them a card or even a print if you have time. We might think we are the only ones taking a shot but some days they have more Photographers than they do customers! Have fun…
I was going to wait for the XPro2 to arrive at some point next year, but just could not wait! I needed a back up camera for my XPro1 and when the XE2 came out, it just looked so good. I hear a rumor the XPro2 will be weather sealed, this is great news. I know everyone else would like a full frame model but this would impact on my investment in Fujinon lenses, so hope the XPro2 is still a crop sensor.
I decided to have a look around at some of the early images posted by Kevin Mullins and some of the other Fuji guys and decided I had to have one, so put my order in to Cambrian Photography in Wales, so a big thank you to Sarah, only a three day wait for a new camera was well worth it. If you live in the North West or North Wales I can recommend a trip to Cambrian Photography! The place is just full of great camera gear and they have a great coffee shop across the road and fish and chip shop close by! But be warned they have most of what you want on the shelf and in stock so take your credit card!!
I decided to give the XE2 a day out at Chester Zoo, a little strange you might think for a mirror less camera that is supposed to be slow! You could be right, but I am going to be shooting events in some low light situations in 2014 and need to see what this little camera can do. I opted to try the Fujinon 55-200mm 3.5-4.8 lens, the main reason for this was my preferred set up in 2013 was a 300mm 2.8 Sigma on a Nikon D3s so I wanted to see what I would be missing and how well the XE2 would cope !
I was not putting the XE2 up against the D3s just wanted to know how differently I will have to work next year, I did however get a good feel of the XE2 as compared to the XPro1 and now know how I will have to set myself up for my first event.
The XE2 has lost the View Mode button in to the menu’s this is the only annoying thing I found about the XE2 over the Xpro1. You can’t shoot and review the images on the rear screen using the EVF only! You can review the images in the EVF but the main reason I use the rear screen is to check focus, so this is very annoying, hopefully Fuji will fix this in a future update. One thing I do like is the fact you can now Zoom in to the image on the rear screen and the EVF to check focus and you can assign this to a function button, this is a welcome update.
I can tell you all that the focus is faster and the time lag on the shutter button is so much better than the Xpro1, I can’t compare it to the XE1 as I have not owned one.
I was shooing in the Zoo on an overcast cloudy day in very low fading light, so I set the XE2 to Auto ISO letting the camera sort out the ISO whilst I sorted out the Aperture and Shutter Speed.
I have got to say I was very impressed with the XE2 and the 55-200mm lens, it’s a strange combination, the lens is quite big for the body so it’s all out of balance but it does not take too long to get used to the set up, you can shoot with this set up all day without getting arm and shoulder ache, for me that’s a bonus. It’s not a D3s with a huge fast prime but in low light my D3s used to struggle to focus. The XE2 is not as fast as the D3s but its only fractions of a second off the focus and in some cases it might find focus when the Nikon cant, so that will be interesting at an event ! It’s a lot faster than the XPro1, so that’s a positive step in the right direction. The image stabilization on the 55-200mm is amazing! When I first put the lens on the XE2 with OIS turned off I thought I had made a big mistake and wasted my money on this lens, but when you turn on the OIS the lens is a different beast! I would say the OIS is stunning! I was shocked at how quiet and stable it made the lens, so much so that you can shoot at quite low shutter speeds and still have sharp images from this set up.
I have to say the light faded very quickly so the XE2 was put under a lot of pressure for its first time out of the box, I was not expecting a lot and due to the fact I set it up to EVF only, I did not have a chance to review my shots until I got home. When I did see the results I was happy! More than happy!
Last year in Applecross Scotland I had an Otter follow me along the shore line and only having my X100 with me I could not get the shot, I was annoyed with myself for not bringing my D3s out that day, but at the same time I was happy not to have to carry all that gear with me ! That day and my event work was the reason I decided to buy this 55-200mm lens, it’s not as good as a fast prime but I am quite sure that when Fuji do bring out some fast prime telephotos or zooms they will be very impressive.
I am not going to go in to the technical side of the Fuji XE2 or the XPro1, there are plenty of places for that on the web for that, but I will say I am so glad I sold all my Nikon Pro gear and went over to Fuji. Size and weight alone is a big reason, the Fuji crop sensors are stunning, I have used most of the Nikon crop sensor cameras and I can tell you they do not come close to the sensor in the Fuji X series! You can crop the hell out of the Fuji image and even at 100% crop have a great image. I don’t often, if at all crop my images, but for the people that do this is the sensor for cropping.
The day Fuji bring out a Full frame sensor if they do, I think they will cause quite a stir in the photography world, to be honest I am happy with the crop sensor and not sure I need to go back to full frame, I did say to myself that if I needed to go full frame after selling all my Nikon gear I would just hire it for the job, but so far I have just shot everything slightly differently.
I have some spare time next Friday to get back to Chester Zoo, so will give the XE2 a bit more of a test and try to get some movement for you, I always find the winter is a good time, as they Cats are a lot more active in the cold than lazing around in the summer sun.
The one surprise of the day was the tiger cub image at the top of this post, it was shot at 200mm (300mm 35mm EQ) ISO 6400 1/100 sec. f/4.8 I have got to say I was not expecting that !
I am defiantly looking forward to my next year’s project now using only a couple of Fuji cameras and can’t wait to what they can do at events.
I am getting lots and lots of e mails and questions about my switch from Nikon to Fuji!
To be honest it could have been Canon to Fuji, it’s a change that needed to be made and the main reason was size and weight, following my fall on Skye last year I have been getting fed up carrying 20-30 Kilos of camera gear around, and also I want to change the way I work, for my future projects.
It’s strange but if you go back through my blog, I have been having this dilemma for a long time, and way before all the big names in the industry made the switch! I just had to wait to finish a few projects before I could part with my D3s, and I wanted a camera system that has some great lenses! I was thinking Sony a while back but their lenses were just not up to it. When I got an X100 I was so stunned by the images and the lens Quality it was a no brainer!
So before I went to Venice I sold all my Nikon Pro gear! I have to be honest here and say the only parts of the system I will miss are the D3s and the Sigma 300mm 2.8! I sold everything DSLR related, tripods and filters etc So am now completely DSLR free and will never buy another.
I will just say this, I was Nikon for 40+ years but feel over the last four years Nikon have been all about profit and are forgetting the end user! The last 18 months they have just been clutching at straws and bringing out one camera after another! The D800 is fine but the image sensor is too big, the D4 is not that much of an improvement on the D3s and in some respects the D3s is better ! The best camera Nikon have at the moment is the D7100. It’s a shame people with the D3 and D700 and D300 were all looking for a great camera when there model was worn out. But it’s just not happening. In my honest opinion a second hand D200 is still a stunning camera and back in my blog the cheep early Nikon VR lenses are still stunning. I see Nikon are now going to follow Fuji and try and make a Nikon FM2 style retro copy ! Let me tell you the Nikon FM2 was an amazing film camera and came from the days Nikon were top of their game ! The image sensors in Nikon cameras are good but just go out for a day with a Fuji X series and think again! The X Series sensors are stunning and the dynamic range and lack of noise is also stunning. The rumor is Nikon are going to put a full frame sensor in this retro camera! Give me strength! Please Nikon get a grip, no one will be able to keep the sensor clean it will be a nightmare for any one that can’t clean their own sensor and they are going to keep the same lens mount! I think someone at Nikon needs to get there head out of the sand and look to the future!
I will just say that in the last 18 months I have never had so many faults with Nikon gear, and it was driving me mad having to send it back to Nikon for repair! It’s not great when a company forgets how it got to where it is, let’s hope they sort it out before it’s too late.
Nokia are going to shake things up over the next few months with their camera phones and tablets so the future of the consumer camera market is going to be a mess for a while, the phone companies have taken over that market!
Fuji has got it right in my opinion, using the X100 and the Xpro1 to me were like going back to my Nikon FM2. It slowed me down and made me think, and this I like. I also want to be ready for the future and the future is not in DSLR’s I can tell you that for a fact, Mirrorless are not quite there yet but they will be and I want to learn how to use them now and know them inside out.
I decided to get the Xpro1 and a few lenses, with the hope they bring out an Xpo2 next year so I can use the Xpro1 as a back up to the Xrpo2. I sold my X100 and do miss it, so I might buy an X100s but we shall see.
So what do I think so far! I am in love with Fuji; I have seen every one trying to jump on their bandwagon Olympus etc and good luck to them. But for me Fuji is where it is and I hope Fuji stick to their amazing customer focused business! When you buy a Fuji and you open the box you know you have just made the right decision, even the box is stunning! (Take note Nikon and Canon)
The X100 and the Xpro1 are quirky to use just like film cameras used to be and I love that, but some of the things you can do with a mirrorless rangefinder are just amazing. Filters work like a dream and the camera even has a built in Bulb Timer! How cool is that for long exposures! Talking of long exposures you can focus the Xpro1 in the dark using the scale in the monitor to set the focus and depth of field and its spot on. It’s not as fast AF wise as a DSLR but there is a trick in the menus to speed things up and if anyone wants to know how its done message me and I will send you details. There are so many great things about these little cameras I just don’t have time to write it all down for you, but I walked around Venice for 5 days 10 hours a day with a camera body and 6 lenses and a tripod and my shoulder did not ache once!
No one looks at you with the Fuji, so you can shoot where you like and no one bats an eyelid.
You can put a huge amount of Fuji gear in a flight bag and carry it all on and off a flight, so perfect for travel.
I will only miss my DSLR for Wildlife and high ISO and I might miss a few shots when I shoot gigs or events due to AF speed but I just don’t care to be honest.
I have a few ideas up my sleeve and a few projects for the next few years that will make me fit the system.
So that’s it for now, if you want to know more about the Xpro1 and lenses feel free to come find me on Facebook or any of my other social media links and have a chat.
I will write more on the camera and lenses when I get the chance so bare with me.
I have decided to blog my view on Critique!
I have become fed up with the constant unwanted daft comments on my images and my friends images over the last few years, this post won’t change a thing but it will let you all know how I feel about it and how I feel about the people that offer so called critique or make negative comments on images.
It’s hard to know where to start but I will start with this, in the thirty plus years that I have been taking photos I have only ever asked for feedback about ten times. Once was from a major photo stock library that I wanted to sell my images for me, the feedback from the editor was simple, my Landscapes were too abstract for the library but he was interested in my black and white work as it was very strong. This was very useful and constructive.
I have also asked a few photographers for feedback on images I was going to submit to competitions and asked advice from friends on pricing an image.
I do not ever ask for feedback on my images as to the style, content or processing as I am happy with the way these areas develop and change over the years.
There is a growing trend on the internet were people feel the need to offer negative critique and they feel it’s their right under the freedom of speech! I regard this as rude! I would never make any kind of comment on anyone’s image unless it was asked for! I tend to click like if I like an image and pass it by if I don’t and if I have more time or the image is great I will say so.
I look at quite a lot of images everyday and believe me I do think to myself ‘that horizon is not straight, that tree is distorted, the composition is nonexistent, the colour balance is all wrong, the lighting is appalling’ but these are all my own opinions! I don’t know what the photographer was trying to achieve. I have had to have a thick skin in Photography as I shoot stock and anyone who has submitted images to stock will tell you it’s not always easy. In the early days I have had hundreds of images rejected for all sorts of reasons and I just suck it up and move on!
What I can’t stand is the ‘Pets and Fruit’ mentality and it’s these people that have made me write this post! I will come back to explain Pets and Fruit.
If I was walking down the street no one would walk up to me and say “Hi Matt, I quite like your trousers but your shirt it too bright, you need to lose a few pounds and that grey hair needs dying” No one would do that to me and no one ever has. I put myself out on display every time I walk out of the front door and in 50 years no one has ever made such a comment. I am not tall dark and handsome, I am short fat and bald. I have however had a few compliments, not sure why but even a nice smile makes your day a lot nicer!
So why do people feel the need to write under your image “Hi Matt, I love your work but your processing is over the top” or “Matt, that does not look like it was straight out of camera” or “Hi Matt, that sky looks wrong.” I get the Sky one quite a lot, the reason it’s funny to me is I don’t use Photoshop so the sky is how it was on the day!
So for the record………..
I use Silver Effex Pro and Lightroom and on the odd occasion other parts of the Nik Collection and when I do HDR I use Photomatix. I have not used Photomatix for over a year! The ‘SOOC’ people need to get a life! I shot film for 20 years and all my images were processed by me in a darkroom and most of the ‘SOOC’ work I have seen is decidedly average. Not because its ‘SOOC’ but because its just snaps. Not one ounce of thought has gone in to the image.
Just keep one thought in your mind and that is Vivien Maier like so many did not ever have her work Critiqued or even viewed, making her work and journey pure..
So I should explain ‘pets and fruit’. In the thirty years I have been taking photos I have never once had constructive feedback from any single person about my work. I do not ask for feedback but I receive it once a week at least on an image or by message. I always check out the work of the person that gives me critique (as they call it) and in thirty years it’s always the same! Their work is, well their work! Most of it is shots of the family around the house and garden, holiday snaps and of course shots of the family pets and various attempts at still life with fruit! Pets and Fruit! There is nothing wrong with having a body of work that consists of pets and wonky fruit but why do all these people feel the need to make comments on my work? I have never been sure but when I ask them, they run off or accuse me of being nasty!! Most of them block me! Strange that.
I know some people that think critique is important! My view on this subject is simple, if I asked 30 of my friends to tell me what they thought about my work I would get their views depending on their style of processing etc and if I listened to all of them my work would start to look like 90% of what you see on flicker, a set of images that are made up of 30 people’s ideas! If I joined a critique group on the internet I would end up with 500 people’s views! This would make my images even worse!
I have never seen one good image from any one that openly offers to critique work! Never have and never will!
The worst part of this is some people new to photography stop posting their images because of the bullying ways of ‘pets and fruit’ people and that is very sad.
So this blog post is for you Mr or Mrs Pets and Fruit. If you are going to critique peoples work who do not ask for it just remember, your work is probably average! I do not know one professional photographer or gifted amateur that takes amazing images and openly critiques other peoples work. They don’t have time and they do have respect for other people unlike Mr or Mrs Pets and Fruit who are just rude!
I have been using the Fuji X100 now for over a month and have to say I am shocked!
When the camera fist came out I had a Fuji X10 it was a great little camera but would not produce images for stock or for printing so it had to go. I was reading up on the X100 at the time and there was mixed reviews so I just did not bother. I decided to get a Nikon D7000 and a couple of lenses as my carry around kit. But this started to get on my nerves, I wanted to enjoy my days out without having to carry so much but still wanted the option to shoot some stock, as well as the fact I just have to carry a camera everywhere I go !
When the X100s came out every one was raving about how good the X100 was and how great the X100s is so I decided to buy an X100 and see what all the fuss was about!
Well I am blown away by this little camera, not only does it look great but it’s all you need when you are out and about in town or out on your bike, anywhere to be honest, it’s a stunning bit of kit ! So much so that I sold all my DX Nikon bodies and lenses! Yes believe it or not I sold the lot! I still have all my Pro glass and my D3s bodies as I need these for Wildlife and any work that needs fast reaction time. To be honest the X100’s images are nearly as good as the D3s images, the X100 is very slow to focus and due to the fixed lens has no flexibility! So now what do I do!
I am gutted I brought the X100 and not the X100s but I can live with that, what I can’t live with is the weight of the D3s and all the Pro glass now I have found the X100 !!
I am so shocked at the quality of the X100 images I want to sell all my Nikon gear and move over to Fuji, but I can’t!
Well not just yet but I feel I will be able to soon! I am very tempted by the Xpro1 but I know the Xpro2 will be out very soon, the only downside is the range of glass for my needs is not quite there yet and I don’t think the Xpro2 will focus as fast as I would like and the frames per second wont quite cut it and some of the quirks will still annoy me! or will they ! I guess I will have to wait and see..
I very much expect I will buy an Xpro2 with some of the lovely Fuji glass and keep my X100 and my D3s but I have a feeling by the time the Xpro7 comes out I will be shooing Fuji all the time !!
Thank you Fuji for taking my photography to the next level by taking me back and making me think !
The image at the top was taken on the X100 using its built in ND filter, I have just ordered a screw on 3 stop filter to help slow things down a little more as this camera is just fantastic for long exposures ! I have just had this image printed and the detail in the mountains in the background is stunning.
I have not raved about a camera for years and I am raving about a camera that is now a year old but I love it, yes its quirky and has some little annoying futures that they have corrected in the X100s but even the X100s has a few quirks, it’s not a DSLR but who the hell wants to walk around with a great big heavy DSLR any more when you can pop an X series in your pocket or even in a canvas bag and walk around all day without feeling all that weight on your shoulder !!
I will sit here and tap my fingers and wait for the Xpro2 ….. Thank you Fuji…