On the 27th of June 2015 London’s rainbow warriors took to the streets again in a glorious celebration of defiance, tolerance and freedom. Here is the start of Pride in London 2015 in pictures. All photos taken with the Fuji X-T1.
On the 27th of June 2015 London’s rainbow warriors took to the streets again in a glorious celebration of defiance, tolerance and freedom. Here is the start of Pride in London 2015 in pictures. All photos taken with the Fuji X-T1.
A few weeks ago in a moment of madness I decided to buy the Fuji 56mm F1.2 portrait lens – equivalent to 85mm in full frame format. Here are my first impressions. The build quality of the lens seems very good – a large and solidly built piece of kit but not disproportionate in size when fitted to the X-T1 body. The lens hood is plastic (an advantage in my opinion over metal as it is very light) and perfectly functional.
In use the lens has so far performed very well and is able to capture a good image in very low light (the first shot below was taken in a poorly lit crypt). The autofocus is not as fast as some equivalent lenses and can hunt a little in low light – not surprising given the amount of glass being moved about by the motors but you will want to be aware if planning to use the lens for action photography rather than just portraiture.
Overall I think this lens is a game changer if you are using the Fuji X system and have not yet invested in a fast prime lens. Images are astonishingly sharp and the shallow depth of focus when shot wide open makes subjects leap out of the frame almost as though they are in 3D. In the first shot below you can see that the eyes are in focus but the ears are not – the depth of focus is really that shallow.
The only problem you are likely to come across with this lens is that the fastest shutter speed on the standard X-T1 is only 1/4000 unless you upgrade the firmware to version 3. This is perfectly adequate for most situations but this lens gathers so much light when it is wide open that the normal shutter cannot operate fast enough in bright light meaning you have to stop down the lens to get the shot which negates the benefit of having a fast lens. If you are thinking of buying this lens makes sure you upgrade your camera firmware to include the electronic shutter option as that goes to 1/32000 which will allow you to exploit the lens in all lighting situations.
Overall I am delighted with this lens – have hardly had it off the camera since I bought it.
Fuji XF 56mm R lens sample images
The bokeh (the out of focus area) is very good when shot wide open – an example is below showing out of focus candles appearing as large round globules.
The Fuji XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 zoom lens is a bit of a monster compared to other XF lenses – weighing in at 580gm excluding the hood it is no lightweight and is a bulky addition to your X system body. It is, however, quite compact when compared to a zoom lens from a DSLR.
In use I have found it to be a remarkable lens capable of producing crisp and clear images across the full zoom range. It is now one of my essential lenses and if I could only have two lenses for the X-T1 this would probably be one of them.
The performance of the lens depends to a large extent which body you have it attached to. When used with the X-Pro1 the focus was prone to hunting and was pretty slow and imprecise. It could still produce good images but was weak when trying to capture movement or action. However when married with the X-T1 the performance is totally different – it focusses quickly and accurately with minimal hunting and overall is an excellent lens for catching the action.
It has a pretty standard Fuji XF set up with very effective optical image stabilization (equivalent to 4.5 stops) and a continuously rotating ring to select the aperture in 1/3 steps – similar in style to the 18-55mm zoom. The zoom action is smooth and easily controllable via a large rubberised ring which makes the lens quite robust. The lens hood is long and almost doubles the length of the lens when attached but is essential when shooting in direct sunlight to avoid flare.
The zoom is not internal so the lens extends a great deal when zooming in (think huge). The range of view is from 29 degrees when zoomed out to around 8 degrees when zoomed in.
You can find many technical reviews of this lens so I won’t replicate those here but some of the sample images are full size so you can judge for yourself. The lens is sharp, has no discernible chromatic aberration, distortion is minimal and this is very high performing lens for the price. The specifications are below:
|Type||XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS|
|Lens configuration||14 elements in 10 groups
(includes 1 aspherical and 2 extra low dispersion elements)
(35mm format equivalent)
|f=55 – 200mm
|Angle of view||29.0° – 8.1°|
|Max. aperture||F3.5 – F4.8|
|Max. magnification||0.18x (Telephoto)|
|External dimensions : Diameter x Length* (approx.)
*distance from camera lens mount flange
|ø75.0mm x 118mm(Wide)/177mm(Telephoto)|
*excluding caps and hoods
Overall this is an outstanding lens and when paired with the X-T1 it gets a full five stars. However that is not the full picture and if you are thinking of using this lens with an X-Pro1 for action photography be prepared for a lot of missed shots as it is quirky with that combination.
However that said when used with the X-T1 the lens has been faultless. Below are some sample images including two to show the zoom range – click to view the full size images.
If you are looking to hone your street photography skills you should try covering a march or a demo in London. It will give you a great opportunity to practice those key skills (composition and timing) while allowing you to engage with people in a non-threatening way. Everyone expects to be photographed on a march so you won’t stand out and as one of a crowd of photographers you are less likely to be nervous. Some people say that street photography is always about getting close to the subject with a short lens, sticking the camera in people’s faces and taking the shot. I tend to think that is too prescriptive. You should use whatever method makes you comfortable and as long as you aren’t being intrusive or creepy about it a long lens is perfectly fine. In fact I would say that when photographing a march it is almost a prerequisite as it allows you to pick people out of the crowd, will normally throw the background out of focus, and can still allow for personal engagement. All of the shots here were taken with a Fuji X-T1 with the 55-200mm zoom lens. ISO was set to auto (max 6400, default 200 and minimum shutter speed of 1/200). Most demos look best in colour but sometimes black and white is the way to go if you want the shot to look timeless. There is a mix of both types below. So next time you see a demo or march in London don’t walk the other way – head into the action and get some great photos!
Street photography can be a strange and intimidating experience. One technique you can try to make it easier and more focused is to set out with a specific subject in mind and then allow the shots to form around that. In this case I chose shop fronts at night which was inspired by the famous painting ‘Nighthawks’ by Edward Hopper which can be seen here http://www.edwardhopper.net/nighthawks.jsp
Choosing a subject like this allows you to capture some good street photos without appearing obvious and looking for interesting shops to photograph will keep you alert. Here are a few I took last year (click on the photo to see full size) and the Nighthawks project is ongoing. All photos taken with a Fujifilm X-T1 and 18-55mm zoom lens.
Some photographs from today’s unity rally with Paris at Trafalgar Square on the 11th of January 2015. A sombre and dignified show of solidarity.
Wolf Suschitzky was born the year that the Titanic was launched and is still taking photographs 102 years later. He is without question one of the greatest documentary photographers of his generation having produced inspirational black and white street photographs for decades. His work has now been released in a new book ‘Seven Decades of Photography’ (edited by Michael Omasta and Brigitte Mayr) which contains many previously unpublished photographs. I have not reproduced any of those here – for that you will need to buy the book.
Suschitzky’s photography is both instantly recognisable and hard to define. He seems to have a peculiar talent for capturing a moment in history as well as creating a sense of mystery which raises more questions than it answers. His use of the anonymous figure across his photographs adds scale, context and stimulates our intellectual curiosity. Who were these people and what became of them? Where are they going? What was in their minds? Photographs such as the one of Amsterdam below assault the senses on so many levels. It goes without saying that it is technically masterful – wonderful composition, separate figures that do not overlap, a sense of movement, converging lines of cobbles that draw the eye into the photo. It makes you want to step through the image into old Amsterdam to experience if for yourself. That is the wonder of Suschitzky’s art – he connects you immediately to the subject and explores human interactions from a humanistic and compassionate perspective.
Suschitzky has been an inspiration for much of my black and white photography going back thirty years and it was a rare privilege to meet him briefly at the launch of this new book – although I did have some trepidation when it came to taking his photograph. Not one you would want to mess up!
The indistinct image of a milkman in the photo below is very typical of his earlier work and it illustrates nicely how difficult this type of photography is to get right. The image includes a hint of movement due to a longer shutter speed but not so much that the meaning is lost. The milkman is cast into anonymity by silhouetting but is clearly visible against the background due to Suschitzky using the light coloured van and the reflected light on the street to create contrast between subject and ground. The rule of thirds abounds within this photo and the timing is perfect. Any later and the subject would have been lost against the lamppost. There is so much that could have gone wrong with this shot but photography is all about patience and what comes through in this new book is that Suschitzky is a master of waiting, only pressing the shutter when the scene develops into that sweet point of maximum impact.
The book opens with a personal reminiscence by Amanda Hopkinson followed by a useful analysis of Suschitzky’s photographic style by Julia Winckler. Both sections help with understanding what it is that makes his photographs so good and highlight the dynamic between the commissioned works and his spontaneous photography that makes this collection such a rich mixture.
The son of a social democrat Suschitzky grew up in Vienna and although of Jewish background appears to have grown up outside of the constraints of religious orthodoxy before moving to London in 1934. I am sure this helped form the foundations for his humanistic approach to documenting the world which is a common thread that runs through all seven decades of photographs. It is not possible to properly document something unless you have empathy – it is the cornerstone of our humanity. It is self-evident from his work that Suschitzky has an empathetic approach to his subjects which is why the images have such an enduring ability to take us back in time.
Photographs such as the one above speak to the social inequality that was rife in London – the contrast between the well-to-do couple and the anonymous worker cleaning the shoes is stark and although at first glance you are drawn to the faces of the couple the eye is inexorably taken down to the man on his knees whose face cannot be seen. The theme of working people runs throughout his work and is illustrated beautifully in the selection of photographs chosen for this new book.
Overall I think this is a must have book for anyone who appreciates the timeless quality of black and white photography from the glorious days before digital. There is so much to learn from these images and the subject matter is very eclectic which made every turn of the page a delight of exploration.
The book is around 200 pages long with 170 photographs reproduced to a high quality and is available on general purchase from December 2014. It is a perfect Christmas present for those who love quality photography or anyone who has an interest in social history. A unique window into the mind of a master photographer and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
More information on Wolf Suschitzky’s work can be found here http://www.wolfsuschitzkyphotos.com
Please remember that all photographs in this review (apart from the first one) are copyright Wolf Suschitzky and should not be reproduced in any form or used elsewhere without his permission.
Book details below
SYNEMA, Society for Film and Media
A-1070 Vienna, Neubaugasse 36/1/1/1
Tel: (0)20 8747 1061
Wolf Suschitzky: Seven Decades of Photography
Editors: Michael Omasta, Brigitte Mayr
200 pages with 170 b/w-photographs, printed in high quality duotone
SYNEMA Publications (Vienna) 2014
Hardcover, 21 x 26,5 cm, Euro 35, £28.
With the sheer number of photographs now being taken and published on the internet it is easy for your shot to be lost in the noise, especially if you simply go with the flow and take the photo in the same way as everyone else. Here are five things to consider when taking a unique image that stands out from the crowd.
1 Look at what everyone else is doing and then do something different
The vast majority of people will take a prompt from how other people are photographing something and then simply replicate this. You see it all of the time in London – everyone walking up to the same place, lifting their camera and taking what is essentially the same shot. This is particularly noticeable at places like the Palace of Westminster. People either cross the river and photograph the Palace including the bridge (as below) or point their cameras up at some crazy angle to try to capture Big Ben. Often they will ask their relatives to pose in front of the scene and then wait until faces go stiff before pressing the button.
The result is thousands of homogenous photographs that lack any impact. So the first rule of a unique photo is to look at what everyone else is doing and then resist the urge to copy them. This will normally mean moving away from the place where all of the photos are being taken and going somewhere that is less obvious. When I took the photograph below people were clustered on the southern embankment and beneath the clock tower so I deliberately decided to take the photo from the bridge. The problem was that to capture the image in landscape format meant that the only option would have been to tilt the camera upwards which would have created crazy converging lines on the building. So the secret to that first shot is that it was taken in portrait mode and then cropped in post-processing to a landscape format. Once the shot was framed I waited for the lamp to be switched on, exposed for the sky to throw the image into silhouette and then pressed the button.
We all have smartphones these days and this can give you a real edge when it comes to taking a unique shot. Simply do an image search for the location and you will get an insight into how people have interpreted the location photographically. You can then consciously decide not to replicate this.
2 Use framing creatively
A simple technique like using elements of the scene to create a frame around your desired subject can make a real difference when it comes to creating unique images. When I took this photo of the GLA building in London I knew that the area had been photographed multiple times and there were literally thousands of photos of that building sloshing around on the internet.
The answer was to look for a possible frame around the shot so I crossed Tower Bridge and after a few aborted attempts to frame the building through the holes on the top of the bridge I found the perfect frame for the shot – the Dead Man’s Hole which is a mortuary that sits beneath the bridge on the north side and allows for a perfect view of the GLA building.
I used a similar technique when photographing Battersea Power Station and although the result was a little bit “Christmas cardy’ the photo illustrates the point well. Using a frame for your subject can have a powerful impact.
3 Experiment with silhouettes
The use of silhouettes can be a good way of making your photograph stand out from the crowd as most people will expose for the subject rather than the background and that is the way that most light meters work. So if you are struggling for a unique shot and the lighting is right consider whether the shape of the subject is sufficiently powerful to be able to use silhouetting.
4 Change your perspective
It seems silly but the simple act of not photographing from eye level can have a profound impact on your final photograph. Most people will take photos by bringing the camera up to eye level as that requires the least effort and is intuitive. I would guess that over 90% of photos are taken in this way. So one simple way of changing the way your photos look is to kneel down when taking the shot. The difference this makes is illustrated neatly by the two photos below, one of which was taken at eye level and one when kneeling down.
5 Use a long lens
A lot of us have a portrait lens or telephoto lens in the kit but tend to use it only for close up work. One tip to making a difference to a shot is to use a long lens to compress perspective. Intuitively people tend to want to get close to the subject so don’t go with the crowd – move away from the subject and use the long lens to create a different effect.
The basic rule when it comes to taking unique images is that you have to resist the temptation to follow the masses and this sometimes means ignoring the rules (even this one!)
There is something that new users need to know about the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 lens – as the X series are not full-frame cameras then the lens is really equivalent to a 21mm lens when it comes to the field of view and should be considered with this in mind. This is not like the Voigtländer 15mm lens in terms of its field of view so it is important you manage your expectations. It remains however an ultra-wide angle lens by any standards and gives a pretty extreme angle of view at 89º. The lens I am using as a benchmark for this review is the Zeiss Biogon T* 2.8/21 for the Contax G2 as that was my stock 21mm lens for years and is outstanding quality.
One of the first photographs I took with the Fuji 14mm lens is the one of Tower Bridge (above) which was taken with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera. Click on the images to enlarge (but please remember the sample images are copyright and shouldn’t be used without my permission). Photos of the lens are copyright Fujifilm.
The lens has a quality feel to it – all metal construction with a proper ring for adjusting the aperture. The aperture ring has end stops which is a very welcome change from the continuously turning aperture rings on the Fuji zoom lenses but there is no mechanical connection between this ring and the aperture so the ring feels a little loose and lacks the feel of a mechanical lens. There is a good innovation on the lens in that to switch to manual focus you simply pull on the focussing ring. It moves back towards the camera body with a satisfying ‘clunk’ and reveals proper distance markings that allow you to estimate the depth of focus when using manually although being an ultra wide-angle lens in practice this is not quite as useful as it seems.
The manual focussing ring really adds to the practicality of this lens from a user perspective – you can switch instantly from autofocus to manual focus and back again without taking your eye from the viewfinder. Optical quality aside this lens gets five stars for useability.
In use I have found the lens to be of outstanding quality – it is astonishingly clear, bright and sharp with no discernible distortion if used correctly although as for all ultra wide-angle lenses it will distort the image significantly if you fail to make sure that there is no tilt to the camera when you take the shot. This is a characteristic of all lenses in this class. You can see from the image below that even a small tilt of the lens upward will produce converging lines on your verticals. You can use this for creative effect but in use it is essential to think carefully about camera alignment before pressing the shutter when using a lens like this.
The lens has 58mm threads which is the same as the Fuji XF 18-55mm zoom lens and also takes the same lens hood. This is really useful as it allows you to only carry one hood when using these two lenses and filters (such as ND and polarising) are interchangeable. The lens accepts a polarising filter on top of a UV filter with no significant vignetting but if you then also add an ND filter it unsurprisingly does begin to impact on the lens. In use I have found that two filters is the maximum I can use without risking mild vignetting. This is perfectly fine for the vast majority of users and not at all surprising given the field of view. The filter ring does not rotate on focussing which is great when using a polarising filter.
The diaphragm on the lens is made up of seven rounded blades and will produce a starburst effect when stopped down as in the image below.
One very welcome aspect to this lens is the close focus distance of only 18cm (7 inches). While in no way a macro lens this does allow for some very close shots and an almost macro-like effect. To use this close focus you must activate macro on the camera body as the normal close focus distance without this activated is 30cm. The following photo was taken with the macro setting and illustrates the effect.
I have used the lens on both the X-Pro1 and the X-T1 and autofocus is significantly better when the lens is paired with the X-T1 – it is much faster and more precise than when using the X-Pro1 which does hunt slightly especially in low light or low contrast situations. However the autofocus even when used on the X-Pro1 is acceptable and the lens is capable of rendering some seriously impressive images in the right hands.
Overall this is an excellent lens and gets five stars for build, useability and optical quality. It is a must have lens for the Fuji X system and will outperform non-Fuji lenses in all respects when paired with the Fuji X-T1. It is not perfect (no lens is) but has no significant weaknesses. If I could make one change it would be to make the clicks on the aperture ring more distinctive and I would dampen the ring to prevent accidental turning but this is a minor point.
So is this better than my Zeiss Biogon? I think the answer is no but it is broadly comparable and that is high praise indeed.
I am not connected with Fujifilm in any way. Hope you found this review useful.
This is the technical specification of the lens from the Fujifilm website.
Sometimes it is great to have a little fun when post processing an image. I spotted this doll at a museum in Rochester and instantly saw the potential. There is something very creepy about Victorian dolls – why anyone would have given this to their child is beyond me. Imagine waking up in the darkness as a child to find her staring at you from the gloom!
To be honest she didn’t look all that bad as shot so I used post processing in Lightroom 5 and Color Efex Pro to create the doll from hell!
Here is what the doll looked like out of camera with no post processing:
She looked altogether too nice so the first thing I did was to use the Highlights tool to bring out the detail in the image – slid this completely to the left
Although this made her a little less appealing it still wasn’t quite the effect I was looking for so I decided to roll out the big guns and develop the image in Color Efex Pro. This is part of a suite of post processing software that is available from Nik and can be used as a plug in for Lightroom 5. I selected the preset called ‘Dark Contrasts’ and the processed image now looked like this – a lot closer to the effect I was looking for but still not quite there!
I saved the image into Lightroom 5 and then increased the contrast to darken the background and used the highlights tool to dirty the image somewhat but it was still lacking that creepy look so I decided to concentrate on the eyes for the final touch. I selected the colour adjustment tool in Lightroom 5 and used the hue setting and luminance tool to make the eyes a whole lot brighter before selectively darkening the right eye to add a little more weirdness.
Overall this only took about 5 minutes to do – the final image seems to be hated universally so I think it was a success! Try not to have any nightmares tonight…