My photograph Low country is featuring in Light Headed and will be available to purchase at the show. It is being produced by Gallery 320 as a framed and mounted 20″ x 16″ print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper, in an edition of 25.
Light Headed runs from 8 October to 3 November 2012 – click here to see full details on Gallery 320’s web site. I will be attending the private view evening on Thursday 11 October, from 6pm to 9:30pm. If you’d like to come along to the private view, please send an email to Sean and Lorraine at Gallery 320: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve barely picked up a camera in the last few weeks. Various personal and professional preoccupations have taken up my time. So when a free Sunday finally presented itself, I didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity.
I’ve spent many minutes staring at Google Maps, zooming in and around the places within range of my house, considering where to go. I have explored the Thames Estuary pretty extensively over the past decade. I like its open spaces, its coastal stretches, its mix of industrial and agricultural land use, and its unexpected tranquility. On Sunday, I realised that I had not visited Tilbury for some time so I readied a picnic and hit the road.
This excursion was primarily for exercise and relaxation, not photos. That in mind, I designed a circular walk beginning at Tilbury Fort, walking north-east towards Coalhouse Fort and returning along the coast, past Tilbury Power Station. 10 miles or so, in all (no Gordon GPS tracking service on this walk, unfortunately). The stretch out to Coalhouse Fort was along roads and, though traffic was sporadic, not especially enjoyable or interesting.
The weather was the archetypal mix of sunshine and showers, borne swiftly by a lively westerly. The sky was full of massive, dramatic cloud formations, dominating the horizontal landscape. A couple of sharp downpours demonstrated the utility and effectiveness of the thinkTANK Retrospective 5‘s waterproof cover.
Things got more interesting when I reached the coast at Coalhouse Fort. The outlook towards Grain is incredibly minimal, punctuated only by passing container ships. Such views are captured in early Mondrian landscapes, Fenland images and photographs such as (the now notorious) Rhein II by Andreas Gursky. These apparently featureless views, unimpeded by buildings, connect with us emotionally. Their sense of space, perhaps a relief and contrast from our urban lives – or echo of our pre-industrial existence – seems to induce contemplation.
The final leg of the walk, west towards Tilbury Power Station, was unremarkable. As I approached the power station itself, I recalled Gordon and I’s previous visit and anticipated an meaningless encounter with a private security guard at any moment. Happily, this didn’t occur – maybe the rain kept him inside his control room. This section of coastal path – with its mix of graffiti, lush vegetation and industrial buildings – is interesting photographically. It’s an ideal location to consult the excellent SunCalc or LightTrac when planning a shoot, and I plan to return to this area specifically with that in mind.
Click here to see a small gallery selection from the trip.
Welcome to a journal of my experiences shooting a Fujifilm X-Pro1. My comments below date from March to May 2012 and share my thoughts on shooting this camera, with an emphasis on practical handling and usability. Although I will not be adding to the journal, I will continue to update the list of my galleries, and useful online resources, given below.
I hope this page is helpful for prospective X-Pro1 purchasers and interested photographers. As of autumn 2012, with the release of the XE-1 and new X-mount lenses, Fujifilm continues to develop and refine this exciting camera system.
Please note that this is not a camera review (there are plenty of better qualified people out there) and I will not be analysing pixels at high ISOs or comparing this camera to the Nikon D800, Leica M9 et al.
Why the X-Pro1?
I bought the X-Pro1 because I was attracted by its promise of high image quality, portability and excellent prime lenses. My available time for photography is quite restricted just now, due to work and personal commitments, so I need the immediacy of feedback that a digital (rather than film) camera gives. I still enjoy shooting 120 and 35mm film – and will continue to do so – but the X-Pro1 replaces Nikon DLSRs as my first choice digital system.
Familiarity and method
It takes time to get used to a camera, especially if it’s a system that’s new to you, and the X-Pro1 is no exception. It’s essentially a new template, influenced by Fujifilm’s success with the X100 and X10 models. I’ve come from shooting Nikon DLSRs and medium format film for several years so the X-Pro1 is markedly lighter and smaller than what I’m used to. The camera body is compact, discreet and light. I bought the XF 18mm f/2 lens (27mm equivalent) and it’s almost pancake-like when mounted on the body. I have large hands and the X-Pro1 is the perfect size for me – anything smaller could be awkward to operate. Fujifilm’s official X-Pro1 grip looks interesting (if expensive) and I’ll be checking it out at UK stockists once it arrives.
Apart from form factor, there are settings options and button placements to get used to – it all takes time. The photographer at the scene needs to know instinctively how to alter the exposure or digital capture before the subject shifts or the light changes. My own preference is for simplicity: I tend to shoot in aperture priority mode, tweaking exposure compensation as required. The X-Pro1 scores well here because these key controls are prominent and manually adjustable as you shoot.
Fujifilm launched the X-Pro1 with three prime lenses with the X-Pro1 and published a roadmap of lenses to come. Gary Wolsthenholme has reviewed the current lenses, posting useful data from test conditions, and has appraised each lens positively. I tend to shoot wide to normal focal lengths so I bought the XF 18mm lens with the camera. This is equivalent to 27mm in 35mm terms, due to the crop factor of the sensor. I will probably buy the 35mm lens (51mm equivalent) in due course and I’m also interested in the planned 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens which is a great focal length for my photography.
In addition to Fujifilm’s own lenses, there is much interest and speculation about using Leica, Nikon and other manufacturers’ lenses with the X-Pro1. Indeed, third-party conversion mounts are on sale before Fujifilm has released its own. Though the practicality and wisdom of shooting non-native lenses on the X-Pro1 remains to be seen, it’s good to have options and it will certainly widen the appeal of the X-Pro1. It’s notable that Fujifilm, from the outset, stated their intention to produce a Leica mount; DP Review’s side by side comparison of the M9-P and X-Pro1 bodies says everything about Fujifilm’s aspirations you need to know.
A note on image quality
The images you see here are 1200-pixel jpegs output from Lightroom so they are quite a small fraction of their native file size. Bar some cropping, rotation and highlights recovery, I have not post-produced the images at all. For now, jpegs are perfectly adequate whilst I get used to the camera.
Unless otherwise stated, all colour files posted here were shot in ‘Standard’ mode (analogous to Provia in Fuji’s film range) and the black and white shots used the ‘BW with yellow filter’ setting. All other settings in camera were left at default because I want to see where I’m starting from, before making any interventions for personal preference. In this regard, I’ve tried to learn lessons from Gordon’s experience with the shooting settings on his Leica M9.
In the field
After recent days of overcast weather in London, the sun finally appeared so it was time to head outside with the X-Pro1 for the first time. For practice purposes, I went down to the riverside industrial estates between Charlton and Woolwich Arsenal. I find that there are often good structures, colours and textures to shoot in such places. Bar the odd security guard and worker, industrial estates are generally quiet at the weekend too so you rarely get in anyone’s way.
The images from this trip (my first X-Pro1 gallery) are patchy. I’m a little rusty because I haven’t had time to shoot much lately and it shows, particularly in my inconsistent framing. I find that I need regular photographic practice to improve my visualisation and practical camera skills (e.g. not accidentally shooting with inappropriate white balance or ISO settings).
Sight test: the optical viewfinder (OVF) and electronic viewfinder (EVF) in use
It’s remarkable how many cameras make it difficult for you to see the scene in front of you. Being able to immediately and comfortably examine your subject is, of course, fundamental to photography. Not having used a Fuji X-series camera before I ordered the X-Pro1 from the East, I was taking a gamble on what I’d read about its viewfinders.
I am impressed with the size and clarity of the optical viewfinder (OVF). However, its frame lines (which adjust automatically as different lenses are mounted) significantly under-represent the area photographed, as Nick Devlin has confirmed in his ongoing review. Perhaps this can be improved in a future firmware release. On the positive side, the OVF is fully customisable so that one can tailor what information is displayed when shooting.
I used the live EVF (displayed on the rear LCD) extensively when shooting with a tripod for the Thames Barrier Underpass gallery. This method is very useful to determine precise framing and review exposures with the histogram. I’m really impressed with this option.
Having made several hundred exposures with the camera, it seems prone to over-exposing scenes with difficult or mixed lighting by two thirds to a stop. I will therefore keep this mind in the field and adjust the exposure compensation dial accordingly.
For my second Sunday outing with the camera, I visited two locations. First, Broadgate Tower near Liverpool Street in central London. I’d been past it many times but never ventured in, and a quiet Sunday morning seemed the ideal opportunity. It’s dominated by glass and steel with strong lines and very reflective surfaces, throwing light all around. As it’s open to the elements, I imagine that the light changes dramatically depending on the weather. On my visit, it was a hazy morning, with the sun just starting to breaking up the cloud cover.
Several of the first photographs taken were blown out in the highlights (as mentioned above) so I adjusted the exposure compensation dial. The jpegs seem to have good dynamic range which is promising for the moment when Adobe RAW support arrives. I shot everything hand-held as, although I had a tripod in my car, I did not want to appear too conspicuous on a commercial property. Sample images can be seen in my Broadgate Tower gallery.
As the local area became busier with tourists and shoppers, I headed south of the river to revisit the Thames Barrier. I wanted specifically to re-shooting a casual photograph I shot last weekend of the underpass. My plan was to improve on the first effort and to see what other possibilities might be there. This time, I took the tripod out of the boot (ironically, I was later quizzed by a security guard, but without an issue developing!). Here’s the first shot:
Here is the same shot revisited:
In the first version, I found the intersection of the pillar with the strip light, and the visibility of the passageway, distracting. I added a little contrast (in Lightroom) to the second image. You can see more camera positions of this space in my Thames Barrier Underpass gallery.
On the beach
The past fortnight has seen plenty of dry weather in southeast England and I spent a few days out on the coast. With the sun shining, I especially wanted to shoot some colour with the X-Pro1. So I switched the camera to ‘Standard’ mode which is equivalent to Fujifilm’s Provia film.
Click here to see a gallery of images from the Southwold trip.
Last Saturday’s weather was fantastic – sunshine all day – so I picked up Gordon early and headed east to the Thames Estuary.
En route via the A13, we formed a rough plan of action: start at Tilbury then work west along the north side of the Thames to Grays and Rainham. Access to the shore itself is hindered in several places by private industrial sites with no public right of way. Nonetheless, when you can reach the riverside, there’s an interesting blend of footpaths, detritus and nature at the water’s edge.
Walking the Thames on an east-west axis, I often shoot things frontally. I like the stacking effect this creates with walls, buildings and the sky: factories loom up and wall graffiti are mounted on a facing plane. There’s often a pleasing simplicity and symmetry to these compositions.
The Tilbury river wall graffiti are a mixture of mod culture references and melancholy (and often enigmatic) statements, plus the usual less imaginative tagging. Such is the current paranoia of fossil fuel companies, our wanderings attracted the attention of security staff from Tilbury Power Station who thought it necessary to check that we were not a) environmentalists, or b) terrorists. They went away disappointed but probably relieved to briefly escape the CCTV monitors for some fresh air.
Technical notes: these pictures were shot on Fuji Velvia 100 and Provia 400, scanned on an Epson V700. Most were taken hand held using a Mamiya 6.