Matthew Hart Photography

Choosing a lens and why Facebook can’t help !

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Where do I start !

I used to own a Motorcycle Business in Kent and I lost count of the stupid questions I got as a retailer every day.

I used to tell my staff every day, today will be a good day but within a short period of time that was all over.

Stupid questions ! all day long…

Customer : Can I have a bulb for my bike ?  Sales Assistant : What bike is it ? C: A red one

Customer: I need a spark plug for my Bike. SA: what bike is it C: Honda SA: What model  C: I don’t know !!! SA: is it here ? C: Yes SA: goes outside and looks at the Suzuki and sigh’s !

This was so common it was painful. But now social media gives more room for Stupid Questions but not just stupid questions but a million unqualified stupid answers.

I used to teach my staff TMA To Much Information, facebook comes unfiltered and is just a joke. Now we all ask stupid questions sometimes and there should be no such thing as a stupid question, but there is  ! This is made worse by a 10000 stupid answers !

A lot of the time it’s about education and the person wanting a bulb for his bike should have said ” Hi can I have an indicator bulb for a Honda CBR400R on a H Reg please” but he did not know there are probably 1000bulbs to choose from.   I won’t go in to how complicated it is to find a Spark Plug for a bike when someone doesn’t even know what make it is.

These days people ask such random questions like “what is the Fujifilm 80mm lens like ?”

Sounds like a simple question and does not even sound stupid !

But what we need to know is more information Like….

What camera is it going on ?

How many times a year are you going to shoot Macro ?

What’s your budget ?

The list is endless….

This sounds like I am just being a knob but look at is this way.

If I was to ask on Facebook what is the best toaster for me I would get about 500 replies but they don’t know what the application is do they ?

Am I single and just need a 2 slice ? Am I single and a greedy git and need a 4 slice ? Have I got a family of 6 and need an 8 Slice or do I want it for my B&B and need an industrial Toaster if I don’t give the right information in the question I will get 500 wrong answers.

I know  asking what is the Fujifilm 80mm Lens like looks specific but its not, the guy who asked the Question owns a Fujifilm X Pro1. Nothing wrong with that it’s a great camera and if he was going to use the 80mm on Manual then he would get some great if he likes a great big heavy lens that costs over a grand. He will also have to  shoot on Manual because the focus system on the camera is not up the XT3s standard so spending that a amount of money on a lens would  be pointless. He would be better of with a set of Extension tubes or reversing rings and so many other options.

You see a better question would have been ” what are the best Macro Options for my XPro1 ? This in the right group on facebook would have been more helpful.

I really do think Facebook However is not the place to ask or answer to these questions, I  really do think advice in the right Bricks and Mortar shop is far better. Facebook and Twitter etc are no place for Expert advice they are just quick and easy but they just make the water twice and muddy ! When I say the right shop, I mean shops with Photographers in, not just shops with Sales people in, as they will look at you like you have two heads if they can’t just bounce there sales patter off you !

The Fujifilm 80mm Macro is a fantastic lens and the images on with this blog were all shot on the Fujifilm XT3 and the 80 mm Macro, but it really does depend on what lens this lens is going on and how its going to be used.

The purpose of this blog was not to help you choose a lens because you need to do that for yourselves the same way you choose a Toaster of a TV or a Bed, go in a shop and pick the lenses up and try them. You really will get a good idea in a shop and if you are still not sure ask the shop if they hire the lens for a few days or try Hire A Camera.

If you have a Friend that lives close that has that lens and they are a good friend then ask them if you can give their lens a try, you never know your luck ( but be prepared to buy your friend a new one if you lose it or break it )

I tend to buy lenses based on my needs and reviews on youtube or blogs by trusted people like Cameralabs but I do my research ! I ask my friends that have used the product and I only ask people I know will tell me the truth and I make sure I let them have all the information they need to give me an informed answer.

I would never ask 3000 people on facebook what they think ! I don’t need a baker with no camera experience telling me how good or bad an XT3 is although he might be able to help me with my my bread for my Toaster !

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What do you really need to take a photograph ?

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What do you really need to take a photograph ?

Let’s get the gear bit out of the way first before I move on to the future of my Blog and YouTube.

A few years back I would have recommended a film camera but with the spiralling costs of film and paper it’s probably not the answer unless you can afford it.

So I will base this on Digital.

I guess first off it depends what type of photography you are in to, as will define the gear or amount of gear you need. The word NEED is the issue. What you need at what you buy and collect are hardly connected and most people quickly fall into the GAS ( Gear Acquisition Syndrome ) section.

I fully understand there is a huge difference between what you need for Sports Photography or Landscape or even Studio work.    

Because of the years I have shot just about everything I have been through the (GAS) just as everyone has. I wish someone had told me at the start that chasing the TEC and buying tons of Kit is a mugs game ! No wait they did ! I ignored them.

There is nothing wrong with buying tons of kit and people with Expendable incomes can buy what the hell they like.

I had a friend who asked me what he needed for his new camper van a few weeks back and I told him ” you will keep buying more and more gear you think you need and filling your van up with stuff, then in two years time you will leave most of it at home and just take what you need and start to enjoy your van”

But everyone must understand the gear  won’t make you a better photographer, I really do believe struggling with cheap hard to use kit and slow lenses is part of the learning process.

Let’s face it if you are going to shoot something slow moving or standing still only a few feet from you or even a Landscape and you are only going to view it on Instagram you might at well just use your Smartphone.

At the other end of the scale if you are a full time Pro shooting billboard size images for an advertising company you might need a 100mp Medium Format Camera. Likewise if you are going to do large prints all the time the Medium Format might be the way to go.

But remember the more megapixels you have the more detail you will see in the images the more dust and imperfections you with have to deal with in the final edit. Also your computer system will need to cope with the huge file size. You will also have to deal with Dust on that Sensor.

The biggest problem is once people get bogged down in cameras and lenses they hardly use what they have and they struggle to decide what to take when they leave the house ! Some take 30-40 kilos of kit every time they go out ! It’s madness no one cares what you have on your back or what you have in your hands only you ! The people who walk round camera shows with all there kit ! Who are those people ?

I guess we all have to learn the hard way. The secret to buying cameras is to only buy what you really need and to invest in glass as body’s will be updated with the new best thing in 12-24 Months  ! That’s what I was told years ago and it’s somewhat true but buying that new body is great if you are a Pro and need to have a reliable camera under warranty in your hand at all times but for the average person it really is a mugs game.

You really only need what you are going to use. If you are a Pro that’s shoots everything from Sport to Studio work then of course you are going to need a large amount of kit. That way you can pick up the right bag for the Job and run out of the house to shoot the job and get paid. Most Pros these days have lots of kit but also Hire in for specific jobs. Most of the Pro’s I know off load kit all the time. I do it as well, I look in Lightroom to see what lenses I have been using and what cameras and focal lengths them make changes accordingly. Sell bodies I don’t use and get lenses that make more sense.

I can’t tell you what you all need because I don’t know the way you Shoot or what you Shoot so it would be impossible for me to be able to advise lots of people all in one blog post.

I do know if you are a Pro then you need kit that can handle daily use, with a big bright viewfinder because you are going to spend a lot of your day looking through that viewfinder !

If you are not a Pro don’t waste your money on Pro gear just because you can afford it.

Not many people take their driving test in a Formula 1 Car ! Sounds like a mad analogy but it’s not far off.

I learnt photography with a film camera my Dad gave me and the first camera I saved up for was a Zenit E.  I made all my own Studio lights and reflectors and only had two lenses ! I learnt so much using that camera and a light meter. I also learnt all about light and composition because I had to.

These days it’s easy to buy any modern point and shoot and it will take infocus images with correct exposure on auto without you having to think too much.

You can also get round most technical issues in post processing depending on the sensor.

So if you are starting out and really want to learn Photography buy the most basic Manual camera around and teach yourself the basics of photography. You probably won’t use it on Manual once you understand it you will probably shoot in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority or in some cases like weddings and Sport full Auto. But getting the basics right first gives you the grounding you need to move on and understand why your camera reacts to light and speed the way it does.

You don’t need a GFX or a Nikon D7 to start your journey even if you can afford it.

I was watching a film last night looking at the lighting and composition as well as all the noise in the dark areas ! I also noticed it was not always sharp or in focus. These things really don’t matter as much as you think ! People are obsessed with Sharpness.

You really don’t need to have all the latest gear and lenses to take great photos trust me.

I know I know if you are going to shoot wildlife sport or birds you need slightly better kit but let’s face it Wildlife Sport and Birds have been photographed before all the latest kit came out ! So sometimes it worth looking back instead of forwards for inspiration.

Remember that Camera that was the newest best thing a year ago ? Well it not much different a year later ! I know Press Photographers still using the Nikon D3s over newer models because the camera is better in many areas and the file sizes are much more manageable.

So what do you need to take a photo if you are just starting out ? It all depends on what you are going to shoot and your budget so I can’t answer that for everyone but what I can say is. Don’t buy a Bentley before you have learnt to drive. Because once you have learnt you will realise a Bentley is a great big fat lump of a car that costs fortune to insure does not fit in to a parking space can’t be left anywhere because it might get keyed and is great for showing off in but the wife’s Audi A6 is better all round so you end up leaving the Bentley at home and just taking the point and shoot !

Don’t do all the the research online go in to real shops and pick up there cameras and feel them try out the lenses and get a feel for them once you have decided keep going back to the same camera store over and over again and build up a relationship with the staff that way you can get better discounts and find out about second hand gear when it comes in. Ever time there is a new model out all last years models end up back in the shops so keep your eyes out for a bargain.

You don’t need a Full Frame DSLR you really don’t …

Think about what you shoot now what you will shoot in the future and research that, pick a shop like Wex or Park Camera or Wilkinson Cameras or some of the Old Favorites like Ffords of Greys of Westminster find a camera shop with Camera Enthusiasts not retail sales assistants on commission.

MPB.com is also a great way to buy Second hand I use MPB and Wex used all the time the mint cameras and OB cameras are good as new at a fraction of the new cost.

Steer clear of the internet you might think it’s cheap until you find out its fake or has no warranty in the UK !

 

One you have your kit the journey really starts…

 

 

 

Out Out !

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It’s been a difficult year so far, apart from a couple of days work at Peoples Ford Liverpool I have hardly been out with a camera and this bank holiday weekend was the first real chance to be out with my camera this year. I thank my good friends Rich and Elaine for the opportunity to get out and get some fresh air.

Not going in to many details but waiting for my Gallbladder to be removed and daily pain has taken its toll. Not only am I now in daily pain but every now and again when a stone decides to move in to a bile duct I have around 15 hours of intense pain and this can be at any time of day or night at at the most random and annoying times. Lucky for me I had a weekend with minimal issues and was able to get out with my camera, even thought I probably drove my friends mad moaning about my Health !

I have driven past the Marble Church for about 10 years and about 5 years ago I decided I would like to try and photography it. However it’s one of those places on a journey so you very rarely can be bothered to stop. I had a vision in my head of what I would like but as soon as we got there it started to rain. Great for cloud formation but a pain in the arse for rain on the lens !!  I also had a vision of what I wanted to shoot and to be honest the first walk around the Church I realized I was to close and needed to be further away I also had to deal with too much distortion up close and did not have a tilt shift lens.

After taking a few reference shots I decided to move back towards the road where I had seen this Church from and the closer I got to the road the vision I have had for so long started to fall in to place. The rain stopped and a little light hit the church and lit up the graveyard. So I quickly framed the church between the bushes  and grabbed a couple of frames. I was using one of my Fujifilm XT3 bodies and the amazing 10-24mm lens, I normally use this camera just for commercial work and only ever take out my X100F on most trips but decided I wanted something a little wider today and this used to be my default Landscape Lens.

I am quite happy with the shot and I guess it just goes to show all good things come to those that wait ! I think if I had stopped and tried to shoot this Church 5 years ago it would not have been the same !

After the Church we went to the woods, the weather forecast was supposed to be over cast all day but over the last few years I think these little showers have been quite hard to predict so the cover of the tree canopy in the woods was a good choice.

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I think you can tell my mood from my images and I have always noticed this. It’s been a crazy year this year and at times as now, my mood has been quite dark. The irony of going to the woods to shoot bluebells was not lost on me being a black and white shooter  ! I just loved this path and the darkness of the woods so wanted to capture the way the woods made me feel at the time and I think this image did just that.

The next image says a lot to me, I fell out of love with Landscape images because for me there was always something missing ! Without a human element or something living I found it quite hard to connect with some scenes. When I was composing this shot I loved the way the light was hitting the ferns in the foreground and lighting up the bluebells but really did struggle with the empty space on the left ! It was at that point Jake walked in to the scene a couple of frames later I had an image I was happy with.

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I had almost fallen out with Photography this year, but it’s surprising how a day out with great company and some fresh air can bring back the urge to make and create images again… I need to go OUT OUT more often !!!

You can find these images on my Instagram account @matt6t6

 

iPhone 7+

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It’s been a strange year ! Apple selling smartphones that are over the £1000 mark and people just falling for it !

I walked away from Nikon for this reason quite a few years back, suck you in to a product then hike the prices up.

I nearly bought one but then I came to my senses !

I have used the iPhone 7 for over two years and loved it to be honest and could not see the value in a £1200 upgrade !

I just wanted a bigger screen as my eyesight is not great in the winter and a slightly better camera. So I went for the iPhone 7+ and so far I have been blown away by this phone.

It’s my go to pocket camera now before my G7X Mark II, it really is a great smartphone.

I have seen some great work from this phone from Mark Littlejohn and Matt Walkley, so took the plunge and saved myself a fortune over the new really expensive models. I always get my new phones in John Lewis now, they give you such a long warranty it’s a no brainer.

I did read Apple are disappointed in the iPhone sales this year ! No shit Sherlock !

I really am very happy with this bigger phone and camera is very nice.

The images below were all shot on a recent trip to Yorkshire for the Fujiholics Workshop in the Yorkshire Dales.

Love the iphone7+ combined with SnapSeed.

Ireland with the X100F

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If you read my previous blog post or watched my YouTube video you will know I have just been to Ireland for the first time in years.

I had a rough time in Ireland with my health so did not achieve all I wanted but had a relaxing time apart from the times I was kept awake all night with Gallstone Pain.

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I was going to shoot lots of video but did not feel up to it so there is just a short film on YouTube this time.

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My previous blog post was all about the iphone and how amazing it was to have with me so that I could shoot, process and upload the images in seconds.

This is just post it just to share a few of the images I shot in Ireland with the Fujifilm X100F my favorite camera in the Fujifilm range for so many reasons and even though I have just brought two X-T3’s for Landscape and Video they will never beat the weight and ease of use of the X100F.

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I really did not want to be carrying a tripod and bags of gear with me everywhere I went in Ireland so kept it really simple. Canon G7X MKII in my pocket for video and back up, X100F over my shoulder and iphone in my pocket.

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I have to confess to mostly using the iphone and then second came the X100F and last the G7X.

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We were blessed with Storm Ali whilst we were in Northern Ireland so managed to get some interesting shots of the Giants Causeway and with storm force winds it was quite a challenge at times.

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I used the X100F with a Lee Filters 0.9 Grad handheld in front of the lens just to darken the sky and keep the spray off my lens on most of the shots.

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We had an amazing time and now I have to put together a workshop on Achill Island with Matt Walkley so will leave you to look at a few of the images I made with the X100F.

I am moving to YouTube next year so feel free to hop on over to YouTube and subscribe and hit the bell, that way you can see what I am up to in 2019.

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2017 Year of Colour

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What a year ! Its now December and my Year of Colour project is nearly over and I am glad. Its been a very busy year for me and the project has been dragging along behind me instead of inspiring me to get out and shoot ! I always thought it would be hard but it was a lot harder than I expected. I have never been a fan of colour so I already set myself up for failure before I started.

Colour for me growing up in a black and white world with black and white TVs in the house and all my film cameras loaded with black and white film 99% of the time was never going to be easy. I think after learning to see in black and white colour just does not do it for me. I very nearly gave up on several occasions but I am glad I stuck with it. I think black and white is my escape from the real world, the fantasy land of TV as a child.

The project does not really finish until the 31st of December but I have had some back problems and whilst trying to get that under control I really am not inspired or motivated to get out and create anything remotely interesting.

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I wanted to force myself to shoot Colour for a year to see if I could fall in love with it and get some form of continuity in my work and develop a colour style. I soon found out Colour does not work like that, to have continuity you need continuity in lighting every day and that is the hardest part. Its easy to set up in a studio and have the same lights and white balance but out in the real world the light is diferent every day so the only way to get a consistency would be to light the subject the same no matter what the weather conditions or time of day. In bright light the colours pop and we are cooking on gas. When there is no light or poor light we have dull washed out colours and these images require a lot more work. In a very short space of time at the start of the year I got fed up with the issue of continuity.

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I did however start to look at and play around with film simulation modes on the Fujifilm cameras and even though you could not quite get the continuity you could get a consistent body of work that looked the same. I also looked in to colour grading as they do when they make films but this started to get very complicated. I am in the process of learning to edit film and thought it would all come in handy and it did. I shoot my video in colour so I guess my year has not been wasted as I am putting some of the things I have learnt about colour to good use in camera for my blogs.

I started out hating colour and to be honest for still images I am still a Black and White lover, in all honesty I prefer black and white films as well. I guess colour is so very distracting that it confuses me. My black and white has a consistency and style that works for me. Black and White is a story telling media and colour sometimes can distract you from the story if you get it wrong or are super critical of the way colour works in a scene. I dont hate colour as much as I did and I have a newfound respect for anyone who can keep their outdoor work consistent in every lighting condition without elaborate lighting set ups. I want to do more exhibitions in the future and this is where I need continuity.

Iso also has a big to play in this situation the higher the ISO the darker the image and the more noise is introduced, this looks fine in black and white and even better when printed but really does darken your colour images down. The other issue with colour is my mood ! In black and white you can see my mood changes in my work and this is shown as you would expect in dark moody images with lots of black. In colour they just look more dull and boring ! Primary colours can also be so very distracting in colour images form the story or from the main subject so this to can be very frustrating.

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I used quite a few Fujifilm cameras during my project and have to say that helped me to decide on what cameras to keep and what to sell. With black and white there is always a small difference in how you process between sensor upgrades but with colour this is huge. I soon discovered that as long as you keep to the same sensor across the board when editing then the files are the same across the editing range, but as soon as you work on say and X-T1 file and an X-T2 file they are worlds apart. As you all know I am not a bit fan of editing so I need a simple workflow that does not take up much of my time.

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When I did my year of black and white I did change cameras because of the project and the same has happend this time. I sold all my older X Series cameras and updated to the newer versions to keep sensor continuity across the range. So now I have X100F, XPro2, X-T20 as my main X series work horses. I did however buy a second had X70 to stick in my pocket and take everywhere.  I also splashed out on the GFX but that’s more for some projects I have in 2018/2019. I also sold quite a few lenses to lighten my load but that was more due to lack of use. I always do regular lightroom searches to see how much use a lens is getting and if its not getting used it’s not earning its keep so needs to go.

Projects help me to make these camera and lens decisions as well as other work I do, because I might use a diferent lens for a project than I do for my street or client work.

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The year of colour was not a complete waste of time I did learn a lot and I did have a good play around with film simulation because I did quite a few edits on my ipad and not on my macbook so I found taking a Jpeg in to SnapSeed or Lightroom Mobile was a lot more simple if I had already applied a preset and got it to as close as I would like in camera first. Most of the time it just needed a slight crop or straighten before posting the image. I am not a fan of editing on Tablets and that I think is just down to my eyesight. I prefer 27″ monitors so that I know there is no dust on the sensor or other issues.

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I set my X70 on Jpeg and RAW on classic chrome and in 2018 I will change this to Acros and green filter. I use my X70 as an extension of my iphone for blogging etc I know the XE3 is now out and far better but I prefer the screen on the X70 as it’s so much more versatile. Hopefully one day Fujifilm will make an X80.

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I think we all see colour in a slightly diferent way and I know I have a few friends who are colourblind. I also think we all like to view other peoples work not just for the subject matter but for the colour style they have. I think in time I could find a colour style that would suit me but I really do just prefer black and white.   It’s been an interesting experiment. Its not been as interesting for me as my year of black and white way back in 2013 but I have decided to go back to 90% black and white for 2018 and have a play around with colour when the mood takes me.

I have some new projects in place for 2018 / 2019 and these are all secret projects. One I am doing with a few friends and two by myself but they all work quite well together. Hopefully all the projects will come together as a book and also at least two exhibitions. I normally do a book at the end of every project but this year I don’t feel the images from my year of colour are strong enough for a book so will skip 2017.

I am going to take some time off over December and January to give my back a chance to sort itself out. I have had two quite serious accidents in the past one that broke my back and it appears this is all coming back to haunt me. Taking time off to heal and to put some thought into my projects.

I still have a couple of workshops left in 2018 as Matthew Hart Photography but will be putting a lot more time in to Fujiholics.

I hope you all have a great Christmas see you all in 2018.

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