Choice

Fujifilm Love Hate !

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I have lent out a lot of personal Fujifilm kit over the last five years and the result has always been some love hate relationships and personal battles with the kit. I always find this very interesting. I remember my first time with the X100 and how it wound me up no end that the sensor was giving me better black and white images than my Nikon D3s but how hard it was to get used to the camera and menus. Most of all the focus system was hard work and so much more. This all made me question my choice but the images spoke for themselves ! It felt like a toy camera compared to the mighty D3s ! But who cared about the feel when the images were just so great …

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XPro2 50mm f/2

On a recent trip to Edinburgh I was having a facebook conversation with a friend who had brought an X100T on my recommendation for her Street Photography. She hated it out of the box and many times I looked at her comments on social media saying how she wanted to get rid of it. One day it was driving her nuts the next it was fine. I could see the personal battle taking place this Marmite camera was tearing this girl apart !

She even asked me when the XPro2 was out and then the X-T2 and the X-T20 but all the time she went out shooting with the X100T. On this trip to Edinburgh she messaged me and said ” I love this camera Matt I really do, but it’s taken me 18 months to make it work for me”  I laughed and said I know ! I said to her the problem with the X100 series is you have to adapt your style to the camera and no one can help you with that. It’s up to you to decide on every setting from Jpeg to focus mode. You can’t just look up what other people do on the internet or blogs you just have to go out every day and have a personal battle with the camera and almost fight over who is in change !

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XPro2 50mm f/2

I have taught over 200 workshops over the last two years and so many people come on the workshops who have the same battle not just with the X100 series but some of the other Fujifilm models.

I was talking with another friend tonight who has my X-T10 and she said I am getting there but I am having a love hate relationship with this camera ! I just laughed and said I know…

I would say 99.9% of the people that have this battle win and they fall in love with the X Series Camera system.  I know a few people who have lost the battle and gone back to their chosen brand. I have noticed one thing though, the people that battle on don’t just learned how to adapt to a new camera system their work changes for the better too.

I think the the personal battle teaches them more than just how to use a new camera it makes them look at the way they work as well. It’s all too easy to pick up a DSLR out of the box and go out and shoot on auto, it’s not so easy to use the X100 you have to start to understand your craft more and in doing so your work improves.

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XPro2 50mm F/2

Quite a few people love the way the X Series slowed them down at the start but then became frustrated by that very fact ! Fujifilm responded to customer feedback and have made the  XPro2 and X-T2 but you still have to know what you are doing to get the best out of these cameras. You can use them out of the box on Auto now but once you really learn how to set them up you take a great big step up on your photography journey.

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XPro2 50mm f/2

The shame is that most people just look at these cameras on the internet or for a few minutes in a shop ! They never get to use them for 12-18 months and so never get to experience love hate battle and that is such a shame.  So many people don’t like change but I think that is where the X100F comes in. You can buy it as a back up camera and take it everywhere. Some days you will want to throw it in the river or bin some days you will want to hug it and kiss it ( possibly a bit far ) but when you look at those images you know you have an amazing bit of kit in your hands that you can stick in your pocket and take everywhere !  Take the X100F challenge buy one or borrow one  and see how you get on, then come back on here in 18 months and leave a comment.

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XPro2 16mm f/1.4

Why Fuji ?

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I know what you are thinking, a Fujifilm UK Ambassador talking about Fuji but you need to take the time to get to know me before you make that judgement and also understand the way I have been brought up to know that I would not support a brand that I didn’t 100% believe in.

My star sign is Libra, so I naturally take my time to make a balanced decision on my purchases most of the time and don’t jump from one brand to the other.

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I am 54 years old next year so come from a generation that did not throw things away and wanted purchases to last forever and give value for money. I saved up for two years to buy my very first self funded camera and that was a Nikon Fm2. The research time that went into that purchase was probably about three months before the saving started. I ended up with a pair of Nikon Fm2s and I still have one to this day. So my brand choices are based on a lot more than you think. After that initial purchase I was then with Nikon for over 40 years. My purchasing decisions on any item are based on quality and longevity.

 

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You’d be surprised to hear then that contrary to everything I know, I have recently made an error in my recent purchase of mobile phone moving away from Apple to Samsung and it’s got to be the worst move I have ever made! A recent comment on Facebook when I mentioned this was “but you need to take the time to go into all the settings and change it to exactly how you want it and at least with Android you can do that”.  Great comment but when I buy a front door for example, I want to go out and come back in, I want it to open and shut without having to spend hours adjusting it! Lets say I am struggling with this Samsung front door!  One thing Apple have got right is that they make a premium product that just works. Why did I change my phone ? I changed because my iphone 6 got slower and slower with every ios upgrade. Thinking that the answer was to purchase a new phone, an  iphone 7, I discovered that there was no 64 gig, I would have had to spend more money to get 128gig  and that annoyed me so I was persuaded by the sales assistant to try the Samsung S7. The S7 is fast, has a good camera and has a few good functions but the apps that I use most and the way my email works just aren’t working for me on the S7.  Hence  I will be moving back to an iphone as soon as possible and losing a lot of money in the process. Note to self, do my own research and make an informed decision, don’t change a formula that to date has served me well.

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I rarely make many rash, mood driven decisions like that they are normally well thought out over a period of time. The decision to change from Nikon to Fujifilm I have shared before but for those who don’t know this is my Fuji story.

I was getting fed up with the size of the DSLR system and also the massive price increases every year, I was shooting mostly with a pair of Nikon D3s bodies and a full selection of pro glass. These things are not small and to hold one in your hand all day takes it’s toll on your fingers and shoulders. I was hoping Nikon would eventually make something more suitable but as time went on I realised this would  not happen. My research started and I looked around for an alternative,  a new brand that would work for me and the way I shoot or a brand I could adapt myself to.

This was not easy, I am old school and to me Sony and Samsung just meant Music Systems and not quality photography equipment. I looked at the Sony NEX one of the first ever models and it was getting great reviews for the camera and sensor but the lenses were not receiving the same feedback. I used to shoot lot’s of Stock back then and had to use cameras that were on the recommended list, the Sony was not on the list. I did notice a X100 on the list but the reviews were not putting the X100 in a good light. I continued to do my research for about four months after the X100 was released. I was back and forth with Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm and all the time had my fingers crossed that Nikon would bring out a decent Mirrorless Camera.

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In the end I found an X100 on ebay, it was going at a reasonable price and so I purchased it. I was blown away by the image quality and the way you could produce such amazing black and white images in only a few minutes in Lightroom. I then realised the reviews and reports on this camera were all written by people that had not really given this camera a chance. It was not the fastest camera in the world, it was no match for the Nikon D3s but it did stop me in my tracks and make me slow down and think. I did have an X10 about this time but this did not work for me, another ebay purchase but I was unlucky enough to get one with the orb problem so sold it on.

My Fujifilm Journey had really started and it was with the X100. Change came and the images I was shooting with the X100 were getting noticed more and more on Social Media and also through my projects more so than all my other work. It really is all about the image, it always has been and for some reason the X100 was forcing me to slow down and see the world in a different way that I can’t quite put my finger on, thinking  outside the box and producing more interesting work. I guess shooting Street as well it was such a small form factor camera that no one noticed it and this was a big bonus. I remember going out for two days in a row one with the D3s and one with the X100 and no one even looked at me with the X100, this was the breakthrough moment.

My Nikon gear had some faults and was in need of a Service so on a trip to Wales I popped in to Cambrian Photography to drop off all my Nikon Gear to be sent to Nikon for a service. I got talking to Sarah about the X100 and she had the XPro1 in stock which I purchased the with the 18mm and 35mm lenses. I decided that if I could make this camera work for me I would sell all my Nikon gear and change brand.

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I was shooting at 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, I was shooting with  the Press pack and when I got back home all my images shot on the D3s were the same as the rest of theirs and the only difference was mine were black and white. But the few shots I got on the XPro1 that day had a little more thought go into them. That was it I decided to sell all my Nikon DSLR gear and move over to Fuji Mirrorless !

Selling my Nikon gear also funded a trip to Venice. Not only was it simple for Airport security but I actually found myself enjoying my photography again. The XPro1 was slow to focus and not that easy to get used to, it was almost like going back to film but I was producing better work than I had for a long time. I was falling in love with photography again.

It was through my images that Fujifilm UK started to take an interest in my work and I started to build relationships with some of the Fujifilm Team.

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The Fuji X System being so new there was some serious gaps in the X System in terms of Cameras with a decent focus system for Wildlife and Sport and not a very large selection of lenses.

The team in Japan were few in number and had already been shocked by the support of the professional photographers around the world for their product. So much so that they actually listened  to what we had to say. They actually took notes in meetings and made changes to the cameras and lenses based on what we had to say.

I was impressed with the whole way Fujifilm worked with its team and customers and one night came up with the the idea of Fujiholics, one big Fuji family of like minded people that wanted to get together and talk about their love of the Fujifilm Camera Systems.

As time went by I started buying more and more lenses and updating my camera bodies. I was then asked for more feedback by Fujifilm and eventually asked to be an X Ambassador and this was all down to my images and love of the brand. I had made a huge decision to move from Nikon to Fujifilm and also spent a lot of money changing over. I also had to play the waiting game for the X System to catch up with lenses and faster AF bodies.

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It takes time for a big company like Fujifilm to notice you and even longer for you to build trust. I was asked to test and produce a set of images with the XPro2 before its launch and for this I would receive an XPro2 which came with my name on it! That was a proud moment for me. As a Fujifilm Ambassador I talk for Fujifilm and use exclusively Fujifilm cameras systems only. I am lucky enough to be able to borrow Fujifilm lenses and Cameras on short time loan and to be able to take their camera systems to events and talks.

Working hard is an understatement at times in this industry, my friends can vouch for that and my Fiancee Jane has got used to the amount of time we communicate by text or phone from hotel rooms.

I would not have it any other way, I love photography and I love my job it is the job I dreamed of as a little boy and Fujifilm have backed me all the way pushing me out of my comfort zone out on to the stages at The Photography Show and the support from the X Photographers has been outstanding these guys have become friends for life.

 

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I do believe the Fujifilm XPro2 and now the X-T2 are both game changing camera systems and the new GF50s is also going to make the MF system more accessible for more pockets. I also love the Fuji Glass and still love to shoot with it and prefer it to my old Nikon pro glass.  I believe Fujifilm offer me the image quality I need to get the job done. It’s a bonus that the Fujifilm Team around the world are an amazing bunch of hard working people who are dedicated to the brand and that all the X Photographers are amazing people too. On top of that the Fujiholics are also a fantastic bunch of people and through the photowalks I have made some friends for life. I cant wait to see what Fujifilm have up their sleeves for the future and just love being part of the family.

 

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Why Fuji? Well it all started with the X100 I wonder where we will go next…….?

 

 

 

 

Image selection and Scene Building

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I have been asked on many occasions to help someone pick an image as their best image. I still find this very frustrating to say the least however it’s worse when someone asks me to give my views on their image, they tend to get very defensive !

I do offer critique but I have never asked for it and I never will. My personal journey is just that,  mine. I only ever give critique by email if asked and never in open social media.

Apart from working with clients I always make my own decisions good or bad and stand by those choices because my images are mine.  It’s great to be able to self critique and I know it takes quite a while to become comfortable with doing this but by working it out for yourself it’s very refreshing when it all starts to make sense. It will take a lot longer to make sense if you always ask other people, it’s like starting a new job after a while you just get on with it and learn as you go, if you are still asking questions a year later there must be a problem!

I shot landscapes for a long time before I realised that my horizons were not straight! From about 10  to 14 years old I had some horrendous landscapes but every one told me I was a great photographer !  The day I worked it out for myself I started to look deeper into my own work and study some of the past Masters, not to copy them but to learn about composition and try to work out what else I was doing wrong. I see it still to this day on facebook, someone will post an image with an horizon that is obviously not straight and 45 people click like and say WOW! Whilst photography is your own personal journey, those comments are not helpful.

People go out and shoot 400 images on a day out, then go home and post 375 on Facebook or flickr because they can’t decide what images are the best or because they like them all. The best way to decide what are the best image from your day out is to make a book of your day out with 20 images you soon will start to see how unimportant 15 shots of the same tree are or 30 shots of your dog.

So what is this blog post about ?

Well it’s going to be very subjective, my choice, my journey. Lots of people will disagree with me and that’s great, it would be a boring world if everyone agreed.

I will not be getting into a debate with anyone once this is posted I just don’t have the time and life is too short but I will give you a quick look into how I think, when out on the street and how I choose an image from a sequence. I delete all images I don’t use so I had to go out and shoot these images so I could show you how I work. The images in this sequence were shot on a Fujifilm X-T10 with 35mm f/1.4  and shot at RAW files, I shoot single shot and not continuous.

I was shooting in London and found these two guys on a bench and quite liked the interaction and started to work the scene, for me these two were interesting but I needed more, the guy on the phone was added interest.

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So I stepped back and started to wait but did not take my eye off the two guys or the benches. I did notice the yellow flowers and the empty benches. As a girl walked past from the right I noticed a girl coming into the frame from the left with orange hair that went quite well with the flowers.

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_DSF0019 As the girl came into the frame a guy who was not with her sat down on the bench and admired the girl as she started to put her jacket on. I liked the shapes she was making with the jacket. The scene was now starting to build and lots of elements were coming into place for me with my new interest in colour. I was so pleased she had walked into the frame adding more of a story and more subjects to make a much more interesting scene.

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I liked the guy under the Cheapside sign but the guy with the bike helmet came into the frame and the woman in the white jacket far left was distracting me, so I made one more exposure by moving the camera to the right and waiting for the guy to be behind the girl, a personal choice based on the fact he was distracting from the guy looking at the girl.

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At this point I was sure that  this frame frame was the one I wanted to use but would leave them all on my memory card until I got home to make my final choice.

It’s bad practice to delete from your card as this creates gaps in the data and when the card fills up this can cause card corruption, as well as accidental deletions.

I had waited for the scene to build and let the subjects all take up their positions in the shot, all the time I was standing only feet away just watching the expressions. The girl picked up her bag and walked off after this shot and the guy at the end looked down at his phone.

I could have stood here for hours just shooting these benches and the people that came and went all day.

My normal method of selecting  and editing my work is harsh and involves the deletion of all the images I don’t use. Its worked for me all my life and I am happy with it. The main reason I do this  is to force me to go out and shoot and look for new images every day. I can’t sit indoors in the winter and look through my hard drive for images that could have been, I have to go out and look for that image that amazing image that is out there somewhere.

So when I got home from my trip to London I quickly chose the main image in this set and the only reason the others are still around is this blog post. The only edited image is the main image and last image the rest are RAW files.

I am not a prolific shooter but I do work a scene just like this when I find some interesting subjects.

I was in London for three days and shot about 100 images a day and in my London file now sits 35 images, but 10 have been kept for using like this on my workshops. So I have have 25 keepers but out of the 25 keepers I only have 4 I like and nothing I would call great or amazing, that one is still out there.

This is just a little insight into how I work and to help you guys that email me and message me on facebook about how I work that don’t get a chance to come on my workshops.

I do manage to get some quite good single shots but most of the images I have I like have been part of a sequence where I have allowed the scene to build whilst shooting and observing.

I used to wait weeks to develop my film and still do but once developed I follow the same route, if I ever get stuck in a sequence I will print my images out and put them on my wall until one jumps out at me, but most of the time when I do that I just delete the lot !