Philip Sutton Photography: Blog https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog en-us (C)philipsuttonphotography.com 2011-2021 suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) Tue, 05 Jan 2021 02:21:00 GMT Tue, 05 Jan 2021 02:21:00 GMT https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/img/s/v-12/u116232612-o297120973-50.jpg Philip Sutton Photography: Blog https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog 109 120 Street Photography – the Missing Link Revealed (with Fuji's 16mm 1.4) https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2021/1/street-photography-the-missing-link-revealed Street Vendor, Scarborough Beach Market, Western Australia, Christmas 2020.  Fuji X-T3, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.

I’m probably as bewildered as readers, to the fact that I am writing another blog so soon after my recent submission.  It was only a few weeks ago I penned how the Fuji XF90mm F2 lens helped to cement my place into the Fuji system, and how that lens and the wonderful 16-55 were all I use and all I need for the foreseeable future.  I was finally done and dusted and ready to head off into the future prepared for any photographic challenges that may come my way.

However, all changed about 3 weeks ago - I spied an add on ‘fleabay’ for a mint Fuji 16mm 1.4.  I have always read only wonderful things about this lens, and 24mm happens to be my favourite field of view.  When I look at the images shot on my 16-55 zoom, over 50% of them are always taken at the wide end.  Unfortunately, the 1.4 lens is very expensive in Australia and is currently selling for around 1,500 AUD.  For this reason, I had never seriously considered buying it.  The add I saw on ‘Fleabay’ had ‘offers’, so I put in a ridiculous offer of just over 800AUD (600USD).  The guy must have wanted an early Christmas present because he accepted.

Holding Destiny in my hand

Bubble Girl, Yagan Square Wonderland, Perth CBD, WA, Christmas 2020.  Fuji X-T3, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.

After many sleepless nights waiting for the Postie to arrive, I finally held an absolute mint 16mm 1.4 in my grimy mitts.  It was so much lighter than the 16-55 and I was blown away by how close I could focus.  I did the brick wall thing and followed my hapless wife around photographing her eyes (eyes are the best thing to tell if a lens is sharp).  I could care less about the edges, because I NEVER shoot landscapes or scenery – only people.  The centre was tack sharp at 1.4 and that is all that I cared (I only ever shoot wide open).  I shot one small event before everything closed for Christmas, and I was pleased with the images from my new acquisition.  Little did I know what this lens was truly capable of producing!

The annual trip

Two-Up gambling, Western Australia, 2020.   Fuji X-H1, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.
 

With all the craziness this year with COVID 19, this is the first end of year holidays in 11 years, that my wife and I have not travelled overseas.  Being a school teacher I get 6 weeks paid leave at the end of each year.  I always go to Asia for an extended trip, and she normally spends time with her folks in Vietnam.  I normally duck off to Cambodia, or Thailand, Taiwan, Myanmar or somewhere, to pursue my passion for street photography.  I was not looking forward to this trip at all.  We were stuck in Australia and were going to have about ten days in an Air B/B in the city of Perth (we live in country WA). 

I’m not sounding ungrateful, because we are doing a whole lot better than a lot of folk around the world.  However, I didn’t know how I was going to approach my photography, because street photography is very hard in Australia.  Over the years I’ve been grabbed by security, yelled at, abused, chased, I had a lunatic try to grab my gear and smash it and I’ve even had the police called on me.  Believe me – street photography in Australia is not for the faint hearted!  I had actually given up on street photography here, and I have not pursued it for a long time.  There is so much suspicion here toward a guy ‘festooned’ in cameras, and wandering around the streets.  Add in the fact that there may be children present, and man you will have hell to pay.  That is why I shoot events here at home, and travel each year to Asia, because street photography there is so wonderful.

The magical 16mm 1.4

The 'Class Clown',  Scarborough Beach Market, Western Australia, Christmas 2020.   Fuji X-T3, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.
 

I can report that all of the positive stuff I have read about the 1.4 lens is accurate.  When we got to Perth and I started shooting on the streets (more on that shortly), I was blown away by the results.  The thing is that my 16-55 is equally as sharp wide open, but of course that is only 2.8.  The 1.4 gives two extra stops of light, and if you are shooting in the evenings like I do, or dark places, that is invaluable.  The other thing I discovered, is that if I put a person’s face near the edge of the frame, the 16-55 distorts the shape of their head (@ 16mm).  The 1.4 lens does not (maybe only slightly but not noticeably).  I am free now to place my subjects in the frame where necessary.  The 16mm seems to have an unusual way of rendering the images – quite unique really.  Even though it is sharp wide open in the centre, it is not the same kind of razor sharpness I get from the 16-55 or the 90mm F2.  However, it does not detract from the image, and pictures taken on this lens have a beautiful, dreamy, 3d quality to them.

I was able to get in real close, and have my subject fill the frame, but at the same time get a lot of the background out of focus.  This is impossible on my zoom lens.  I think Bruce Gilden would feel quite at home with this lens!

Other changes

'Crazy' Italian Chef, Burns Beach Markets, Western Australia, Christmas 2020.  Fuji X-H1, Fuji XF 50mm F2 @ F2.

I had to re-think my kit.  Now that I had left the 16-55 at home, there was too big a focal length gap between the 16mm and my 90mm F2 (that’s 24mm-135mm).  The zoom and the 90mm are the only two lenses I have used for several years now.  I needed something more medium tele to carry on my second body – something a bit closer to 24mm - not long tele like my 90mm is.  Fortunately, the camera store in Perth had a ‘Boxing Day Sale’ and I picked up the lovely little 50mm F2 lens, for a very reasonable price.  The 24mm focal length and the equivalent 75mm, seem to cover all my needs for street.  My kit is quite light and the pictures from the 50mm lens are also very sharp and beautiful. 

All was not well

'Dr Flex' Street DJ, Scarborough Beach Market, Western Australia, Christmas 2020.  Fuji X-T3, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.
 

The 50mm F2 lens performed very well on the second X-H1, and the autofocus was fast enough.  Just that small lens on the H1, is a great combination and a real joy to use.  After lugging two heavy lenses around for a few years, this was a breath of fresh air.  The big problem I had – and it was quite a shock – was the slow autofocus on the older 1.4 lens.  I shoot a lot of events with people moving – the autofocus on the X-H1, could not keep up with the focus needs of the older lens.  I tried every adjustment, I even tried ‘back button focus’, but I was missing many shots.  I was very disappointed and was not sure how to handle the problem.  Fortunately, Fuji is running a sale at the moment on the X-T3, and the camera store also had their ‘Boxing Day Sale’.  I picked up a new X-T3 for $600 off the normal price.  Still - I was very cranky that I had to spend more money and sad that my wonderful X-H1 could not ‘cut the mustard’ in the autofocus department.

Fuji’s X-T3


Fairy Floss Lady, Yagan Square Wonderland, Perth CBD, WA, Christmas 2020.  Fuji X-T3, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.

This blog is not about the X-T3, so I don’t want to say too much.  However, with the version 4 firmware, it does focus much faster than the older X-H1.  I can track and focus now properly with my 16mm 1.4, and I’m not missing any shots.  I’m very disappointed I have to use the T3 now – and only one of my X-H1’s.  I really don’t like the X-T3 (I’m used to the handling on the bigger H’1 bodies), and I’m having trouble getting the look that I’m used on Capture One.  It obviously has a different sensor, and all of the ‘styles’ and ‘presets’ that I have developed, don’t like this new sensor.  Anyway – that is only a matter of time and I will have that sorted.  I just wanted to say though that I’m purely only using the X-T3 for the autofocus – in every other way I love my X-H1’s much better.

Antidote to the ‘street’ problem in Australia

Shy Girl,  Yagan Square Wonderland, Perth CBD, WA, Christmas 2020.  Fuji X-T3, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.
 

I can honestly say that what I’m about to share with you is truly unique.  I kind of stumbled upon it out of desperation.  I have read literally dozens of articles over the years on how to tackle street photography.  Some say to ask permission, some say to act discreet and take a small camera, some say to never make eye contact etc.  However, I venture to say that what I will tell you is truly unique – I have never read this before or heard of anybody doing what I discovered.  Having already outlined above, the troubles of shooting ‘street’ in a Western culture, I decided to do something a bit different, when I packed for this trip.  I shoot events and shows and sports in my hometown here in Western Australia.  In order to shoot these events, I have a media pass.  It is on a lanyard that hangs around my neck.  In big bold letters it says ‘MEDIA’, then in fine print it has a list of the various ‘bodies’ that it supports.  I stuffed this in my bag when we left for Perth. 

Hey Presto – the secret sauce to street photography!

Street contortionist, NYE celebrations, Perth CBD, Western Australia, 2020.  Fuji X-T3, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.

Oh my goodness!  The difference when I started shooting street with my media pass around my neck was unbelievable.  I took over 2,500 images from the 9 days we were away.  I was never once harassed, there were no angry faces, no looks of suspicion - It was like shooting in a different world and on a different planet at a different time, with a different set of rules!  I stuffed my camera into people’s faces, parents ‘wheeled’ out their kids to get a picture.  I photographed shop keepers, street markets, NY Eve’s celebrations, the homeless, kids in gangs and politicians.  I was only twice asked what I was doing with the images.  I just told the truth – I am freelance and getting images for a book on street life in Perth, WA.  Once people heard that – they were happy. 

What made the difference?

Street DJ, Scarborough Beach Market, Western Australia, Christmas 2020.  Fuji X-H1, FX 50mm F2 @F2.
 

Thinking it through, now that I have had time to reflect, I think I may have the answer to why my media pass made such a difference.  Unfortunately, here in Australia, we are one of the most regulated, taxed, controlled and sanctioned nations on planet earth.  If you park your car in the wrong spot, you’ll get a fine, if you put up a shed on your land without a permit, you’ll get a fine.  If you sell food without a permit – you’ll get a fine, if you turn up your music loud in your house – you’ll get a fine.  I think because everything is so regulated and we need permission or a permit to do anything, people are just used to having everything done officially.  I guess when they see a middle-aged man, wandering around the streets, festooned in cameras – he is not official, he is a nobody – therefore, viewed with suspicion.  When that same man wears a media pass, he is now suddenly official.  Being ‘official’ removes the suspicion, and now that person can be trusted.

This may not work for everybody!

Whistle Girl, Scarborough Beach Market, Western Australia, Christmas 2020.  Fuji X-T3, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.
 

For me at least, I am so happy that I have opened up an avenue to pursue ‘street’ again in my own culture.  This is really exciting, because it means that I can now travel to events in other places and I can photograph parades or other exciting cultural events.  It takes the urgency out of waiting for COVID to lift, so I can get back to Asia to pursue ‘street’.  I do hope that I have shared a secret here that may help other photographers like me.  However, it may not work for other people.  The rules of your country may be different, or you may not have access to a media pass.  You may be too scared to try this in case it fails.  Whatever the reason, I do hope that people can look beyond their fears of street photography, because there is a fantastic world awaiting that will reward the bold with memorable images.

Pursue what works for you

The 'onlooker'.  Yagan Square Wonderland, Perth CBD, WA, Christmas 2020.  Fuji X-T3, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.
 

Even the brave and mighty David, could not fight Goliath in Saul’s armour.  We each have a different personality and different things will work for some folk, but not for others.  Choose what works for you, and go out there and create fascinating images.  I guess if nothing else, what I want folk to take from this is don’t give up.  If things are not easy, or if there are changes happening that are out of your control - adapt.  I couldn’t travel this year as normal, so I was forced to modify my techniques to the situation that I was handed.  In the end it did not matter, because I have some really memorable and fascinating images that I can use and share with the people that I photographed.  Yes, I often take people’s contacts and I will send them a free copy of their photograph.  They were lovely enough to let me photograph them, the least I can do is pay it forward.  I wish everybody a great 2021, and get out there and get those images happening!

Little Girl chasing bubbles. NYE celebrations, Perth CBD, Western Australia, 2020.  Fuji X-T3, FX 16mm 1.4 @1.4.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) A new way for street photography Fuji XF 16mm 1.4 fuji x-T3 Street photography in Perth WA successful street photography https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2021/1/street-photography-the-missing-link-revealed Mon, 04 Jan 2021 11:39:09 GMT
The lens that 'salvaged' my Fuji Escapades! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2020/12/the-lens-that-salvaged-my-fuji-experience CleansingCleansingChild being washed for Thaipusam Ceremony, Batu Caves, Malaysia, 2019 'Cleansing' - Child being washed for Thaipusam Ceremony, Batu Caves, Malaysia, 2019.  Fuji X-T2, Fuji XF 90mm @ F2.
I was watching a YouTube clip recently, and they made mention about choosing one’s favourite Fuji lens.  It got me thinking seriously, and wondering if I had to make the same choice, what would I decide.  After much rumination, I resoundingly came to the conclusion it would have to be Fuji’s 90mm F2.  Saying ‘favourite’ is not the same as the most useful, or the most used, because that is much different.  The lens that is most prolific and takes the majority of my images is of course my 16-55 zoom.  When I go overseas on an extended trip, or shoot an event back home here, I always come away with about 1/3rd of images from the 90mm and the other 2/3rds from the 16-55.

Also, if I had to choose only one lens on a paid shoot or to travel the world for a year, of course it would the irreplaceable 16-55.  You can read all my other blogs about this lens, but it is truly a once in a lifetime hunk of glass.  It is equally as sharp as my 90mm, and with better contrast and sharper than most of my ‘FujiCrons’.  However, that is another story for another day.  I chose the 90mm as my favourite lens, because Fuji only have one lens (for me), that can do what this lens does, and it does it so well it blows all other lenses away and they have to line up for second place!  In other words, it is so unique and special, that if I couldn’t use this lens, then there would be a gaping hole in my arsenal and I would have ‘baled’ from Fuji long ago.

Golden GirlGolden GirlStreet market vendor selling jewellery, streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2020 Golden Girl - Street market vendor selling jewellery, streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2020.  Fuji X-H1, Fuji XF 90mm @ F2.
A brief Recap

I don’t want to ‘flog a dead horse’ here, and go back over what I have written at length about in my other blogs.  However, very briefly, I swapped over to Fuji mirrorless about 5 or 6 years ago now.  I have less than zero interest in shooting scenery/landscapes/macro/still life – my absolute passion, and bordering on obsession, is photographing people.  I think that’s why I’m a school teacher - I just love being around other human beings.  The thought of camping alone in a forest for a week to get a photo of the Red Rumped Kingfisher, or the Frosted Tit, would drive me nuts. 

With my Nikon D3X system I photographed Asia for years.  The full-frame system suited me perfectly.  As I only ever shoot my lenses wide open (to blur the background and make my subject stand out), I revelled in the lack of depth of field and it was a veritable breeze to get my subjects with a ‘creamy’ background.  All was well in my little warm fuzzy photographic world, until I started getting a sore back from lugging around huge amounts of Nikon full frame lenses and cameras that could double as self-defence weapons.   After research, I started with a Fuji X100, then slowly eased into a full Fuji system, where all of my Nikon gear was finally sold off.  However, little did I know I had a huge shock waiting for me!

Temple BeautyTemple BeautyEarly morning worshipper, Thien Hau Temple, District 5, HCMC, Vietnam, 2020 Temple Beauty - Early morning worshipper, Thien Hau Temple, District 5, HCMC, Vietnam, 2020.  Fuji X-H1, Fuji XF 90mm @ F2.
A major crop sensor flaw!

I had read and was vaguely aware that one of the negative aspects of crop sensor cameras, is that they give you better depth of field than a comparative lens on a full-frame camera.  However, I didn’t give it much thought and I sunk my funds from the Nikons into buying Fuji lenses that would suit my style of photography – street/travel/environmental portraits and events.

It wasn’t too long and I was starting to struggle in getting the look that I so easily achieved with my Nikon full-frame system.  The first contender was Fuji’s kit lens.  I have written about this at length so I won’t re-state what I really think of this ‘apparition’.  Suffice to say, after 3 different samples and months of experimentation, I finally realised that it was a cheap and nasty kit lens and that’s all it was ever was going to be.  I then purchased the 55-200, with the hope that I could start to blur my backgrounds a little better.

I’ve also written about this at length – I didn’t like the 55-200 lens much at all.  It is an extremely sharp lens, with beautiful images, but I just couldn’t live with its other downfalls (read my other blogs).  At that time, I had a long trip coming up in Asia so I was looking for a lens to fill in the increasing gaping hole in my camera bag.  After much research, I got the 18-135.  This was not as sharp as the 55-200, but the other things about the lens were much easier to abide.  However, this is not a constant aperture lens.  When I zoomed out past about 90mm, it would suddenly now become a 5.6 lens – which is basically useless for getting ‘creamy’ backgrounds and isolating subjects.  Having said that, I did get some gorgeous shots on this lens - from Bali and Myanmar.  These images grace my website now and they are pictures that I will always love.  However, in the situations that I needed to get a subject isolated from the background, this lens could not ‘cut the mustard’.

I was fast running out of options.  By this time, I had discovered the truly marvellous 16-55 lens, and this was certainly rocking my boat for all my wide-angle and mid-range shots.  The pictures were beautiful and they never disappointed.  However – and remember it’s not the job of a 2.8 zoom lens to do this – but it just couldn’t get those blurry, creamy backgrounds that I was used to in full-frame.

That Which Was LostThat Which Was LostMusicians, Temples of Angkor, Cambodia, 2018

Loss - Musicians, Temples of Angkor, Cambodia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, Fuji XF90mm @ F2.

Do I jump ship again?

This may sound very extreme, but for somebody like me who eats, breaths and lives photography, I was so disappointed that I couldn’t get the look that I was used to getting.  Some of my pictures didn’t look as good, and I had exhausted all avenues for Fuji lenses. They had the 55-140, but there was no way I was ‘strapping’ that huge contraption on my ‘T’ cameras and carrying around a giant ‘brick’ again.  I was actually thinking of baling out, selling my gear off and going to another system.  Believe me I wasn’t hankering - I was satisfied with my Fuji gear, except for that one thing.  I certainly didn’t have GAS, and my wife would have ‘killed’ me if I had to spend all of that money again.  What to do?

Smoke and PrayersSmoke and PrayersThien Hau Temple, District 5, HCMC, Vietnam, 2020 Smoke and Prayers - Thien Hau Temple, District 5, HCMC, Vietnam, 2020.  Fuji X-H1, Fuji XF 90mm @ F2.
Help Arrives

It was actually on one of my other blogs that somebody made a comment that I should try Fuji’s 90mm lens.  I had vaguely considered it before, but only for a few moments.  I knew that this lens is a 135mm equivalent (and unlike my other zooms, had no OIS) – which in my book is a telephoto lens.  Telephoto lenses can only be held in fairly bright light, and anything less they need a tripod.  I don’t even own a tripod and could not stand lumping one around.  I shoot in a lot of dark monasteries and places in Asia, and a telephoto lens would be hard to hand hold there in that dim lighting.  I was using two Fuji X-T2’s at this stage, and we all know that they do not have IBIS – neither is the 90mm blessed with OIS.  However, out of desperation, I decided to give the 90mm lens a try.  They are very expensive in Australia (1,400 AUD), and we have no return policy in our country, like you folk in the States do – once we walk out that shop door, it’s ours whether we like it or not.  With this in mind I tentatively ordered my new 90mm lens, and held my breath!! 

Holy GroomingHoly GroomingApprentice Monk brushing dog with a toothbrush, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018 Holy Grooming - Apprentice Monk brushing dog with a toothbrush, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, Fuji XF 90mm @ F2.
A sublime lens!

You will see from some of my samples that I have posted here, that this lens produces simply stunning images. Right out of the starting blocks, I knew I had a keeper.  Beautiful sharp faces and eyes, crisp colours and incredible clarity, definition and contrast in the images in spades.  However, and more importantly, I was able to easily isolate my subjects from the background and produce beautiful creamy bokeh.  Coupled with the 16-55 ‘strapped’ onto my other X-T2, I had a fantastic kit for travel, street and events.  However, all was not perfect.  I was finding that anything under about 1/200th second, my images were not quite sharp and a little bit of motion blur was being introduced.

The WaitingThe WaitingPlaying two-up, Goldfields, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 2018 The Wait - Playing two-up gambling, Goldfields, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, Fuji XF 90mm @ F2.
Enter the Fuji X-H1

Around this time Fuji introduced the X-H1.  I tried it at a camera shop and didn’t like it too much – I thought it was a little heavy.  However, I ended up selling one of my X-T2’s and swapped it out for a X-H1.  That camera went straight onto my 90mm lens.  The difference was remarkable and I got used to the X-H1 so quickly, that I soon sold off the last X-T2 and ended up with a brace of X-H1’s – now no more blurry images.  When I’m shooting these days, I have my 16-55 around my neck on one of those neoprene straps.  They are truly great and because they are stretchy, it makes it feel as if you are holding half the weight.  I also have the ‘Think Tank’ belt around my waist with a couple of their small bags attached.  I sit the camera and lens with the 16-55 on top of the bag where my belt buckle is (balanced with the strap around my neck).  This way I can walk all day long with the full weight of the camera and lens supported by that small bag and there is zero weight around my neck.  The second body with the 90mm F2 is over my shoulder on a Black Rapid.  It just hangs by my side, but can be grabbed and deployed in a split second.  I love this setup and I can walk all day long and I have all my focal lengths covered, and having such top-quality glass attached – I normally come home with the ‘bacon in the bag’.

Tree HuggerTree HuggerLunar New Year preparations, District 1, HCMC, Vietnam, 2020 The 'Tree' Hugger - Lunar New Year preparations, District 1, HCMC, Vietnam, 2020.  Fuji X-H1, Fuji XF 90mm @ F2.
All is not perfect

Like I tell my kids at school, we should not expect perfection in anything, or we are setting ourselves up for a big fat disappointing life.  The weather is not perfect, our health is usually not perfect, our friends and relationships are never 100% perfect, and neither usually are our jobs or colleagues.  In other words – just about everything in life is about compromise.  Finding out what has the least number of cons, and accepting that as your “close to perfect” is about the best you’ll ever get.  It really is about adjusting our expectations.  So too with the 90mm F2 lens.  Yes, the images are usually flawless and second to none (I think they can even match Leica), and the lens is beautifully made and a joy to handle. 

However, there is one issue I still struggle with and seem to have no answer for.  It’s only ever in bright outdoor light when I’m usually shooting a crowd or a moving event.  Wide open and in any autofocus mode, it sometimes has issues locking onto the person I’m pointing my green square at (whether ‘zone’ or ‘single’ or AFS and AFC).  It will then do its little ‘death march’ – grind back and forth for the full throw of the autofocus range.  This is so frustrating and I do miss some shots this way.  It’s really bazaar because it never does it in dull light, only ever in full bright light.  I have no answers for this and I just put up with it because it doesn’t do it too often.  I even sent my lens to Fuji for them to check and calibrate.  It also does it on both of my X-H1’s, so it’s not a camera issue.  I always laugh when so many people write that the Fuji 90mm F2, is Fuji’s fastest focusing lens – oh no it’s not.  For me it is my 16-55 or perhaps one of the little Fuji ‘Crons’.

Mr Hot ShotMr Hot ShotKid playing pool, Brick factory, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018 'Mr' Hot-Shot - Kid playing pool, Brick factory, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, Fuji XF 90mm @ F2.
Conclusion

Perhaps the only change I may make in the future is to try out the X-H2 – if it ever arrives.  If the focus was better, then perhaps it could fix the issue with my 90mm trying to grab focus in bright light on moving ‘targets’.  The X-T4 with that useless selfie screen would only be a misery for me.  Also, in Australia they are over $2,600.  There is no way I’m going to spend that kind of coin on something that has the same sensor as the X-T3 - and I do zero video. 

Because I shoot 60/70% of all of my photos from the hip, I need a camera with the simple flip out screen.  It is much more discreet for my street photography and I’m not poking a camera in people’s faces.  We are quite blessed with Fuji.  They give us lovely small little cameras, with beautiful image quality and a choice of lenses, that even the most discriminating photographer should be able to choose a ‘brace’ of lenses from.  I’m just grateful that this small piece of glass and metal, ‘saved’ my photographic hide.  If it were not for the 90mm F2, I would have baled from Fuji long ago, and would have regretted losing such a small and powerful quality image making system that is a joy to use – and horror of horrors, I may have even ended up with a Sony! 

Cheeky SmileCheeky SmileIndian boy during preparations for Thaipusam, Batu Caves, Malaysia, 2019 Initiation - Indian boy during preparations for Thaipusam, Batu Caves, Malaysia, 2019.  Fuji X-T2, Fuji XF 90mm @ F2.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) environmental portraites events photography Fuji Film Fuji lens for street photography Fuji Xf 90mm f2 Fuji's best lens Fuji's sharpest lens street photography https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2020/12/the-lens-that-salvaged-my-fuji-experience Sat, 12 Dec 2020 10:49:23 GMT
Street and Travel Photography - the Mad, the Holy and the Incongruous! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2020/2/street-and-travel-photography---the-mad-the-holy-and-the-incongruous Smoke and Prayers - worshipper at Ba Thien Hau Pagoda, District 5, HCMC Vietnam, 2020.  Fuji X-H1, Godox TTL fill flash, 16-55 @ F2.8, 16mm, ISO 400, 1/420th.

I recently arrived back from my annual, end of year holidays.  I travelled most of the journey with my wife, but also spent part of the time alone in Cambodia.  I ended up in three countries and had a wonderful time exploring with my cameras.  I have been travelling now for over 14 years photographing parts of this wonderful planet.  I have been to Cambodia 13 times and countless times to other parts of Asia.  I think after slowly honing my skills and my equipment this was the first time in my life where I returned not being frustrated with some part of my gear or wanting to change anything.  Consequently, I missed a lot less opportunities because of being very familiar with my equipment, having the two best lenses on the planet (for me), and the new X-H1’s with the IBIS just lifted my photography to the next level.  This all combined to make this trip unforgettable.

For this blog I want to concentrate less on the cameras and gear (though I will touch on it briefly for those who may be interested) – most of my other blogs have always be gear centric.  However, this time I really noticed the grace and kindness of people, allowing me to photograph them in their natural environment and different cultures.  I am so blessed to be able to do this often and I was humbled by some of my experiences.  This time I will talk more about the actual act of photographing people, and the hilarious, sad, irreverent and holy sights that one witnesses along the way.

Golden Girl - street market, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2020.  Fuji X-H1 & XF 90 @F2, ISO 400, 1/120th.

Where did I go?

My wife had been pestering me all year to go to China.  She had spent the last six months muttering away in the lounge room every night learning Chinese (or so she told me).  I reluctantly went, because even though I really had no interest in China, my wife graciously goes where I want to most years so it was my turn.  We spent about a week in the old city of Lijiang, and then about four nights in the ancient city of Shangri La.  I had just experienced a week straight of over 40deg Celsius in the Western Australian desert town where I abide.  You can imagine the shock I got on the first morning in Shiangri La, when I awoke to thick snow and -15°.  We really loved China - the people were awesome, the place was spotlessly clean, and everything ran like clockwork.  This is the antithesis to most of the rest of Asia.  I read recently where Steve McCurry said that China is the easiest place in the world to take photos – methinks he is correct!

My wife is Vietnamese so we spend a lot of time there.  Vietnam is lovely and the people beautiful but it is absolute chaos there!  The motorbikes rule the road, the footpath, they run red lights, drive up the wrong way.  I never saw one traffic infringement the whole time in China.  I also had many different types of photographic opportunities in China that were different from the rest of Asia.  Mainly the snow shots, the way people dressed, the bikes and vehicles they drove and the way they reacted to my cameras.   

The 'Holy Thief' - Catholic Church, streets of Quy, Nhon, Vietnam, 2020.  Fuji X-H1 & XF 16-55 @ 2.8, 16mm, ISO 800, 1/100th.

Why Asia

As mentioned, I do live in a Western country, and it has almost become impossible to point your camera at random folk in the street (in spite what people tell you, it is not illegal to do so).  I came back from this almost 6 week trip with nearly 15K images.  If I had taken that many photos here in Australia I would probably have been arrested by now, beaten up or had my camera wrecked.  I took a photo on the street here in my hometown just at the end of last year (2019) - the maniac I pointed my camera at objected, so he thought he had every right to grab my beautiful X-H1 and 16-55 and try to wrench it from me.  I held on for my dear life as he tried to twist, break and smash my camera.  I’ve had experiences like this here before and have just about given up doing street stuff around home.  In traveling Asia for nearly 15 years now, having taken hundreds of thousands of images, I’ve only ever had one bad experience for that whole time.  It was in Vietnam years ago, and my wife explained to me after it happened that gambling is illegal there.  I tried to photograph a bunch of guys playing a gambling board game on the road.  They picked up rocks and chased me out of there quick smart.  Now that I’ve been enlightened I never point my camera at them.

Don’t even mention taking photos in the West around children.  I’ve had security called on me many times, just because I happened to be festooned in cameras, near some place where kids were - people thought I was a menace (I never point my camera at kids in the West).  It is the total opposite in Asia.  If folk see me anywhere around kids, they ‘wheel’ them out for me to photograph.  I’m a teacher so I’m very at home working around kids.  In the nearly 15K images I took on this trip I never had anybody objecting to me photographing near or around children/families.  There were only a handful of other times where folk just put up their hand if they did not wish to be photographed - of course I always respect that.  I think you can see now why I love so much to photograph in Asia.

Holy Consternation - me distracting little girls at church service, Quy Nhan, Vietnam, 2020.  Fuji X-H1 & XF 16-55 @ 2.8, 55mm, ISO 800, 1/60th.

The holy the mad and the serendipitous

It became very obvious to me on this trip the rare insights that one gleans into humanity, when intimately photographing people in their own space.  I absolutely love the photo I took of the guy ‘running off' with Mary – from the scene in the manger.  He almost looks like a ‘Holy’ thief!  I was struck by the incongruity of it all – the Holy scene being disrupted, the church clerk scampering off when he saw me with the camera.  The Divine and the mundane meeting somewhere in that church yard in Vietnam.  The young Monk descaling Buddha with household detergent – as I happened along.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune and that serendipitous moment has now been captured forever.

Midst the clamour and stench of the fish market I caught the lady staring into her makeup mirror giving herself a ‘touch up’, and totally oblivious to the incongruity of the whole grubby scene.  I could go on but suffice to say these are just snippets of numerous examples of humanity just getting on with things as best they can.  This is the part of photography I really love the most.  People ask me why I have zero interest in sunsets or scenery or landscapes.  It is humanity that truly intrigues me and I am so blessed to be able to not only witness these special moments, but record them so they can be shared and recalled at will.

The other amazing thing too is that not only are there serendipities that one can stumble upon, but often there are also other surprises awaiting when one checks out the images on the computer.  I took the photo of the little girls smiling at me during the church service.  I grabbed a quick shot but it wasn’t until later I discovered the nun scowling at me.  This turned a normal mundane photo into something very special.  My wife asked me to take a photo of her sitting at the table of an old historic house in LiJiang in China.  It wasn’t until I got home and looked, I saw the man staring down at her with the magnifying glass – again, a mundane image turned into something special.

I am truly grateful to all the wonderful, gracious and kind folk who allowed me to capture them in their personal space – often in not very flattering poses or circumstances.  If all of these gracious folk had shooed me away (my wife said she would if somebody poked a camera in her face) – I certainly would not have the beautiful collection of images that I now posses, to forever remind me of this wonderful journey that I have just completed.

Don't tell my wife she's in here, I'll be in trouble!  Ancient City, Lijiang, China, 2019.  Fuji X-H1 & XF 16-55 @ 2.8, 16mm, ISO 800, 1/80th.

Gear stuff

Man I really love this part.  My gear totally rocked this time and the few changes that I made, really made a difference.  I’ve photographed the last couple of years with my marvellous 16-55 and 90mm lenses.  They are so embedded in my M.O. that not even a crowbar would prise them off my cameras.  However, swapping over before I left for the two X-H’1s was a totally magic move.  The bigger grips, the faster handling, and the IBIS, all helped to put me in the zone and keep me there.  I shoot a lot in dim places, temples, markets and dark streets.  It was very obvious on this trip that I had so many more keepers because of being able to shoot in lower light and use lower ISO settings.  As I don’t even own a tripod this is a really big deal.  The 90mm lens was always hard to use on my X-T2, I had to try and keep the shutter speed up around the 250th sec but this was not always possible.  Except for people movement, I can now shoot way down to 1/15th sec now with the IBIS.  This really is a game changer.

I made a few other changes to settings and things that also made a big difference.  Up until this trip I have always shot in ‘matrix‘ metering, or whatever the Fuji equivalent is.  I used it on all of my Nikon cameras and it seemed to work satisfactorily.  However, when it came to post processing lots of my shots always seemed to have blown out highlights.  The last few years I started to try and use the minus compensation on overly bright images.  This helped a bit but was always a pain.  For this trip I shot everything on the average metering (the one with a pair of square brackets).  This was totally transforming.  Hardly any of my shots had blown out highlights, and I never had to use the + or -.   After starting to post process some of my images I can clearly see that they are metered more perfectly for the scene.  Of course the marvellous sensor in the H-1’s can easily handle the rest of the differences between shadows and highlights (if they are a little on the dark side).

De-scaling Buddha! - Wat Bo, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2020.  Fuji X'H1 & XF 16-55 @ 2.8, 22mm, ISO 800, 1/105th.

I also started experimenting a bit with ‘zone’ focus.  Man – it was really fantastic.  Up until recently I always used the small ‘single’ focus, but of course I had to frenetically move it around the frame using the D pad.  Sometimes I would be a bit slow and miss the focus.  This time I used the smallest ‘zone’ focus and had some really good results.  Of course the area it covers is much bigger than the ‘single’ zone, so one does not have to move it around too much.  I thought I would get a lot of out of focus shots because it may latch onto the wrong area to focus on – but not so.  I had very few images that were not perfectly in focus.  However there is one big proviso – do not use it with the 90mm at F2.  There is such a slim area of focus or depth of field at this focal length, that ‘zone’ is not precise enough.  If I pointed it at a face it may focus on the chin or forehead, but the eyes would be slightly out.  I found I could only use the 90mm with the ‘single’ focus mode.  However, the ‘zone’ was fantastic on the 16-55.  I mainly always shoot that at the wider end, and even at 2.8 there is enough depth of field in whatever focus point is chosen, for things to be perfectly sharp.  What I mean is if I point it at a face, no matter what part of the face it latches onto, the whole face will be in focus.  All of these things were small changes, but they all allowed me to work a bit faster, a bit smarter and helped me to achieve the results that I was after.

Another change I made was to always have my little TTL Godox flash attached to the H1 with my 16-55 on it.  I did not use it often but sometimes there were scenes where I was shooting into strong backlight and there was no way the camera could handle that dynamic range.  I would flip on the little flash and voila.  Some of my favourite photos from this trip would not exist if it were not for the flash.  The photo of the guy sweeping the snow, the girl in the temples with the smoking Buddha sticks around her and some of my images from the dark Siem Reap market were only possible because of daylight balanced fill flash.

I also did not bother taking a backup hard drive.  I just bought some extra cards and used the double slots in the H-1’s.  This allowed me – after the two cards were full – to ferret one away in my camera bag and the other in a different hiding place.  This gave peace of mind, because if I were ever robbed or lost a bag, I had another disk backed up somewhere else and I did not have to carry around a heavy hard drive.

Endurance - little girl getting hair ties, Dali, China, 2020.  Fuji X-H1 & XF 16-55 @2.8, Godox fill flash, 21mm, ISO 400, 1/250th
 

Capture One

However, I believe the best change of all that that I made was swapping over to Capture One.  I did this about six months ago because the Lightroom CC I was using, had ground down to a snail’s pace on my 27” iMac.  It was a total disaster to use and very frustrating.  However, it caused me much angst to even think about changing programs.  I had used LR for years and had hundreds of profiles saved away that I would go through when post processing.  Anyway, I was forced to make the change and it was the best thing I ever did.  Capture one works reasonably fast now on my fairly old computer.  However, the difference this time was in the post processing of all of my images from the trip and how quickly I was able to get the look I wanted.  In LR, the look of all of my images seemed to vary so much that I almost had to individually tweak or change each image. 

Though I did not really have any styles for C1, I used some of the default ones that came with the programme and over a period of a few months I developed some of my own.  Once I came to process the images from this trip I just went through my own ‘styles’ and found one that suited about 95% of all these shots.  This was fantastic.  I was able to attach that look to the images as I downloaded them and then all I had to do was slightly tweak each shot before uploading and using them.  I also find that C1 is magic when it comes to the default settings for clarity, sharpening, saturation.  With LR I had to fiddle so much with sharpening and clarity because some of the images looked terrible.  I find for nearly all of the images the default settings on C1 are absolutely brilliant - especially those for sharpening, clarity, dynamic range and saturation settings.  I found the settings were too critical on LR for the X files, but C1 is much more gentle and refined.  If an image needs a slight tweak from my standard ‘style’, it is so easy to get it correct in no time. 

Smoke Signals - homeless vagrant, streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2020.  Fuji X-H1 & XF 16-55 @ 2.8, 27mm, ISO 800, 1/75th.

Go where others dare not go

My closing thoughts would be to challenge each of you to be daring and get off the beaten path.  Steve McCurry alluded to this and it is also exactly what I do (get lost)!  Especially in Vietnam – I leave my motorbike stored with my wife’s parents – each time we go there I head off into the mayhem and literally get lost.  I just keep driving and stopping.  As soon as I see a factory, place of work, market, farm business or people doing anything, I stop my motorbike, festoon myself with cameras, and start poking around.  It is just the best feeling in the world.  I purposely never take a guide or ‘fixer’.  I’ve tried this and it’s a waste of time for me.  The fixer can speak their language and can often get told that you are not allowed in, or it will cost you this and that. 

Ignorance in bliss, so being a visitor (and obviously so because I’m a ‘White Man’), I am tolerated because it’s too difficult to have a discussion or conversation.  I am never rude though or assume anything.  I certainly do not want to offend or be precocious.  I usually point to my cameras, smile and wave, and over 90% of the time I am allowed to enter and poke around and take my images.  The photos here of the charcoal factory were taken by this M.O.  I was just driving around ‘lost’, I saw and heard the factories operating.  I stopped my bike, got all of my gear ready and just entered smiling and being friendly.  There is always a bit of a fuss at the beginning but people always get used to you, and after a while you are free to click away.

Carbon Man - Charcoal factory, Ben Tre, Mekong Delta, Vietnam, 2020.  Fuji X-H1 & XF 16-55 @ 2.8, 38mm, ISO 800, 1/125th.

I have travelled so much over the years now and I always avoid tourist destinations or on the beaten track.  I always take off and get ‘lost’ – and these are the times that the real magic will happen for you.  I always carry my google map (smart phone), and a card from the hotel or wherever, so if I am truly lost, I can easily find my way back.  In Siem Reap, Westerners are not allowed to hire a motorbike (so that the tourist trade can benefit the local Tuk Tuk drivers).  I just hired an ebike and was still able to head off by myself and find the magic sights.  I even spent a day up at the Temples of Angkor, but I was still able to keep away from the thousands of tourists, get off the beaten track and find those magic moments.

Even if you can’t travel to these foreign climes, still get away by yourself.  Wander around and get lost.  Be a bit cheeky and poke your nose in where you would not normally go.  The worst that can happen is that you may get a ‘no’ and you can just move on to the next destination.  I challenge you for this year to get outside your comfort zone and start finding those ‘magic’ shots.

Snow Man - Streets of LiJiang, China, 2019.  Fuji X-H1, Godox TTL Fill Flash, XF 16-55 @ F4, 16mm, ISO 400, 1/500th.
 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) 16-55 90mm Cambodia carbon charcoal China environmental F2 factory Fuji Holy La Lijiang Mary Penh Phnom photography portraits Reap Shangri Siem stealing street Thief Vietnam XF X-H1 https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2020/2/street-and-travel-photography---the-mad-the-holy-and-the-incongruous Thu, 06 Feb 2020 13:47:44 GMT
Fuji XF 16-55 F2.8 Zoom - A Long Term Perspective! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2019/12/fuji-xf-16-55-f2-8-zoom---a-long-term-perspective A lesson from the ‘little ones’!

The WaitingThe WaitingPlaying two-up, Goldfields, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 2018 The Waiting - two-up gambling, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2018.  Fuji X-H1, XF 90mm @ 2.8, ISO 200

I have to chuckle sometimes, watching the children I teach at school coming to grips with some of the concepts of life that we adults often take for granted.  I have to remind them that nothing in life lasts forever or is even the same for very long.  Our moods change, the weather fluctuates, their friends are ‘mean’ to them one day and kind the next.  However, what I seem to be reminding them the most is that nothing in life is perfect - our families, our jobs, our health, our friends, the weather, the towns or even the counties that we live in, and most of all our governments.  However, as adults we can learn that lots of things can be well askew of perfect, but we can still function as fully happy and fulfilled human beings. 

That is why I am aghast sometimes when I read blogs, where many photographers think and expect to find the perfect camera and lens setup.  They seem shocked like my little kids that their new acquisition has left them disappointed in some department.  Just like I tell the kids – “perfect doesn’t exist”.  Knowing full well than no camera system would be perfect, I slowly transitioned into the Fujifilm mirrorless system way back in 2011.  I’ve written in detail about this long journey in many of my other blogs, so I won’t repeat the details here.  However, after many changes and a bucket-load of money, I ended up with two X-H1’s - a 16-55 permanently ‘strapped’ onto one of them and a 90mm F2 ‘glued’ onto the other (I hate changing lenses, and since I got over this bad habit, I have never had to clean a sensor).

Moments - Jockeys between races, Kalgoorlie Boulder Raceway, Western Australia, 2019. Fuji X-H1, XF 16-55 @ 55, 2.8, ISO 400

The benefits of hindsight!

'Chewy''Chewy'On of Kalgoorlie's characters, slugging down a 'cold one'. Goldfields, Western Australia, 2019 'Chewy' - one of Kalgoorlie's characters, slurping down a 'cold one'.  Goldfields, Western Australia, 2019.  Fuji X-H1, FX 16-55 @ 16mm, F2.8, ISO 800

For this article, I’d like to hone in on the 16-55 and talk about my observations and why I think it is the closest lens to perfect I have used in over 35 years of photography.   This is not a review – I’m not qualified to do that kind of stuff – just thoughts and insights from a happy Fuji customer.  I am not sure what ‘magic sauce’ Fuji used when they made this lens, but I know that they really got things right.  I was out shooting an event today, and some of the images on here are taken from that shoot.  Sometimes I’m still gobsmacked when I see the sharpness, rendering, colours, lack of nasties, that this lens produces – and all from a zoom!!  Even though I have sold off all my other lenses (and I’ll discuss those here shortly), I would always test a new lens for sharpness, rendering, clarity etc, against this zoom.  That sounds ridiculous because many of them were primes – but that’s just how it is.

The last prime I have left, and it will go on ‘fleabay’ shortly, is the 23mm F2.  I can honestly say that the 16-55 is noticeably sharper, crisper, punchier at that focal length, and wide open – when compared to this prime (particularly when the 23mm is shot up close)!  I much prefer the pictures from the zoom than from that small ‘Fujichron’.   

However, for me the thing that really makes this zoom stand out is the sheer usefulness of it, and the joy in the whole process of using this lens.  In a perfect world, of course I would love to have the extra speed of the primes (the F2 or better still the 1.4).  I only ever shoot people/travel/street/portraits and have zero interest in landscape or scenery.  I therefore mostly always shoot my lenses wide open – I’m constantly searching to isolate my subject from the background and make them stand out.  Coming from a full-frame Nikon kit I took a huge hit in this department when I swapped over to APSC.  I’ve written about this in detail, but that is why I got rid of the zooms like the 18-135, Fuji’s 55-200 and the kit lens.  I needed the faster aperture of 2.8 that the 16-55 was offering, so I could at least be part way trying to make up for the deficit in lost subject isolation that I was lumbered with when swapping over to mirrorless.  However, even more than that, the 16-55 was even in a different world to the primes. 

Primes – all is not well!

'Madame' 2'Madame' 2Child having her face painted, pre Christmas celebrations, Goldfields, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 2018 Face painting - Spring Festival, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55 @ 51mm, 2.8, ISO 1,000

Yes as we’ve discussed, primes offer a lighter package, faster aperture and are usually optically better than zooms – but they have their trade-offs was well.  The fact that I usually shoot fast and quick on the street, I found on too many occasions that I was missing photos. There was always that bit of consternation as I headed off – ‘do I have the right lens on my camera’?  Often I would not, and by the time I fumbled around, put on the appropriate lens and reached for the moment – it had well and truly disappeared.  In fact I had usually let a bunch of crud onto my sensor (where I shoot in Asia it is often dusty and filthy), had missed the shot and still ended up with the less than perfect focal length on my camera.

I know we are all different, but for me and how I shoot, I just love the overall usefulness and lack of complication, shooting a quality zoom.  Many people knock the 16-55 for its weight and size.  Yes it is not light and it is much bigger than the cheaper Fuji zooms and certainly so when compared to primes.  However, what they forget to add is what the 16-55 replaces.  When I travel on my trips overseas, to get the equivalent of what I have now with the 16-55, I had to lug around the 16mm 1.4, the 23mm F2, the 35mm F2, and the 50mm F2.  That is four lenses, and if you add the weight of them all, they are around 1kg – nearly twice the weight of the 16-55.  My one zoom has now replaced those four lenses, and I do not have to miss shots fuddling around trying to get the correct focal length on my camera, whilst my moment is lost to eternity. 

However, some folk can get away with just the two primes – say the 23mm and the 35mm or the 50mm - in this case, and if they don’t mind swapping lenses out – it could be better for them to go with primes.  Everything on here I say is what suites me, but as we are each different, I know other folk will have a different take on things.  I need the 24mm equivalent for the wide angle – so I can fit broader scenes into my frame, and I’m always using the 55mm end for portraits and close-ups.  That’s why just two small primes don’t work for me!

The ‘fifth’ lens!

Kids having fun - St Barbara's Festival, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2019.  Fuji X-H1, XF 16-55 @ 55, 2.8, ISO 400  

I stated above that the 16-55 had replaced four lenses for me.  I got rid of the 16mm, the 23mm is on its way, the 35mm went last year and the 50mm is gone.  It is such a breath of fresh air not to have to lug all those primes around.  However – though the 16-55 is great, there is one thing it cannot do.  As I only ever shoot people, I usually always need to separate them from the background.  Mostly on the 16-55, the amount of background I include in my images, revolves around which focal length I’m shooting.  If I’m wide open (16mm), then of course I want the background included to give some context to my image.  If I’m at the longer end then of course I still have some slightly out of focus background, which is usually always fine.  However, there are times when I really want to just isolate one person from the crowd and have them stand out with some lovely bokeh in the background. 

I mentioned above this was one thing I really missed from full frame.  With a 2.8 70-200 zoom you can do this all day long on full frame.  However, this was almost impossible with the 55-200 zoom (even though it is a very nice, sharp zoom).  At the longer focal lengths it was nearly on F5, which was harder to obtain clean backgrounds.  Same story with my 18-135 – in fact even worse, because after 90mm that baby is on F5.6.  It was on one of the forums (I think ‘DPR’), where somebody suggested the 90mm after me discussing my options to this problem.  I bit the bullet and from day one this lens has never disappointed.  I always shoot it at F2, and the results never cease to please me.  You will read now, what really was the next game changer that crystallised this lens as a permanent fixture in my kit!

The X-H1 – a whole different ‘ball game’!

Aboriginal Cultural Dancers - St Barbara's Festival, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2019.  Fuji X-H1, XF 16-55 @ 55, 2.8 ISO 400

I really liked both of my X-T2’s and the images from them still stun me sometimes with their detail and clarity.  Of course I used the 16-55 and 90mm on both of my X-T2’s, so the only difference to my current kit is the cameras.  Early this year I sold both of my T2’s on ‘fleabay’ and bought two X-H1’s because they were such a great deal here in Australia.  My brand new T2’s a few years ago cost me $2,500 each.  I got one of my H-1’s for $1,800 and the other was only $1,500 (both brand new).  That may not be good for you folks in the States, but for our low Australian dollar, that is very cheap. 

I wrote about this in my previous blogs saying I did not need IBIS or any stabilisation in my lenses – particularly the 90mm.  However, I am prepared to eat humble pie now and say that I was wrong.  On the X-T2 I had to keep the lowest shutter speed to around 1/350th to get really sharp images on the 90mm, and around 1/125th on the zoom.  It wasn’t until I started shooting with the H-1’s that I fully realised how much sharper my images were, and even way down to around 1/15th second. 

The other extra bonus to shooting with the H-1’s is now I’ve come down a whole stop value in high ISO.  I always use auto ISO, and have found on all of the different Fuji cameras I’ve had that it works beautifully (married along with aperture priority that I always use).  However, in the past I had to mostly use 1600 or 3200 ISO to keep that shutter speed up to that 1/350th sec.  Now that I can shoot way down in my socks as far as slow shutter speeds, the maximum I ever set my auto ISO on is now 800 ISO.  The results are obvious and I’m really enjoying those crisper, cleaner images.

An all round package

Army Cadet - St Barbara's Festival, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2019.  Fuji X-H1, XF 90mm @ F2.2, ISO 400

There is so much I like about this lens.  My other Fuji zooms – the 55-200, 18-135 and the kit lens, were always a bit wobbly and loose on the mount.  I could get the lens and wobble it back and forth.  Often when I got to the end of the zoom range and gave that little turn, I could feel some loose play where the lens met the mount.  There is no such movement with my 16-55.  I always carry camera number two over my shoulder on a Black Rapid.  When I did this with the 55-200, and the 18-135, they would annoyingly gradually creep out to the full extend of the focal length.  This meant that the lens was fully extended and sticking way out – this made it much more vulnerable to being hit or damaged as it swung by my side.  There is no such movement on my 16-55.  I always carry it around at 16mm (it’s shortest length), and it has never extended by itself and ended up hanging out.  The beautiful firm zoom action, weather resistance, lovely firm clicks for each stop – this is an amazing piece of quality kit.

However, none of these things would be much point if it wasn’t optically up to it.  I can honestly say after using both of these lenses now as my main and only ‘glass’ - they go with my everywhere, the images from my 16-55 are every bit as sharp (corner to corner and wide open), as the Fuji 90mm F2 and all the other primes I sold off.  That is really saying something, because many folk say that the 90mm is the sharpest FX lens that Fuji make.  Some say too that the 90mm is a very fast focusing lens.  I disagree, I still have trouble with it sometimes searching back and forth for focus in very bright or normal outdoor lighting.  There is never any issues like that with my 16-55 – it never misses focus and is faster than my 90mm.  I know people will disagree, because many reviewers say that the 16-55 is not that sharp wide open, and other negative stuff.  I have no answer for that or perhaps I got a great copy.  I am very discerning and fussy with my images, so if it were not so, it would have ended up on ‘fleabay’, with Fuji's other lenses that I sold off! 

The search for ‘perfect’ is over

suttoman@hotmail.com 0404495004 Boys will be boys - skate park, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2019.  Fuji X-H1, XF 16-55 @ 45mm, 2.8, ISO 400

Having started this blog with an analogy to illustrate my point about the search for perfect, I also want to end there.  I have booked my annual trip this year and head off shortly for four weeks to Vietnam, China then Cambodia.  I will only have two cameras and two lenses with me.  One really small bag and a couple of cameras – that’s all I need to capture all the beautiful images that will be on offer.   No points for guessing which two lenses those will be!

I did state that nothing in this life for us is ever really perfect, and I still stand by that.  However, if I come to the point in my travels where I could only take one lens and one camera, you know which one it would be.  Perhaps the 16-55 is not perfect, but I must say after using dozens of different cameras and lens combos over 35 years, spanning many different makes and models, the Fuji XF 16-55 2.8 zoom, is so close to perfect that perhaps in this instant we could make an exception!

Man - now that's what I call a truck!! St Barbaras Festival, The Goldfields, Western Australia, 2019.  Fuji X-H1, XF 16-55 @ 16mm, 2.8. ISO 400

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) 16-55mm 90mm Aboriginal Australia Australian environmental F2 Fuji Goldfields indigenous kalgoorlie mining photography portraits street western xf X-H1 https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2019/12/fuji-xf-16-55-f2-8-zoom---a-long-term-perspective Wed, 04 Dec 2019 13:46:34 GMT
Nearly a Decade with Fuji - Looking Back! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2019/6/nearly-a-decade-with-fuji---looking-back Monkey see, Monkey doMonkey see, Monkey doHoly Spring Water Temple, Bali, Indonesia Monkey See, Monkey Do - Street seller, Holy Spring water Temple, Bali, Indonesia, 2019 - Fuji X-T2 & 16-55 2.8 zoom

I recently watched a vlog from a top Nat. Geo. Editor – she was giving advice on how to set up ones photographic website.  She discussed everything from layout, colour schemes, font sizes and punchy images.  I implemented a lot of what she suggested and I now believe my 9 year old website has never looked so good!  However, one thing that stuck in my memory was what she said about ‘favourite images’.  She was discussing in particular what to call various ‘folders’ or ‘collections’ on the website and what images not to include.  I was a bit horrified when she said “….. do not name or include a folder called my favourites” – oh boy!!  She said it did not look or sound professional and nobody cares about what your favourites are!! Guess who had a folder on his website called ‘my favourites’?  It is therefore somewhat with ‘tongue in cheek’ that I pen this, my latest blog.

It’s been a marvellous and exiting journey over the last 9 odd years as I fully transitioned from a Nikon full-frame system to a Fuji mirrorless kit.  Though the road was often spattered with periods of frustration, disappointment and financial tension (buying and selling digital cameras and changing systems is very expensive), I would not have had it any other way.

Man on a MissionMan on a MissionStreets of Malacca, Malaysia, 2019 Man on a Mission - streets of Malacca, Malaysia, 2019 - Fuji X-T2 & 16-55 zoom

From my first blurry, overexposed images on the X100 (the stuck shutter blade issue), to my current setup, there have been many beautiful images that have graced my portfolio.  Images that I would venture to add may never have been taken if I was still shackled to my Nikon full-frame kit.  More specifically because I now shoot mostly from the hip (using the flip-out screen), and the smaller more discreet cameras and lenses, allows me to take images totally unnoticed as I pursue the genre of ‘street’ and ‘travel’ photography.  Add to this the very quiet shutter that my X-T1 then X-T2’s had, and now the gorgeous near silent shutter of my X-H1’s – I can click off images now that people are never aware of (compared to Nikon’s loud clunky shutters).

However the most wonderful aspect that has bolstered my photography is the enjoyment of using such great equipment.  Though I am very passionate about photography itself – the places in the world that it takes me to, the people I meet and the lovely images I record – over 50% of my enjoyment is actually using great quality equipment.  Though my X-T2’s were good, now that I have recently swapped over to two X-H1’s (last few weeks), my love and enjoyment of using these cameras has gone off the scale!  The XH1 is such a beautiful camera - it reeks of quality and really has that ‘made in Japan’ feel.  From its new IBIS to the thicker body and extra weather sealing, I feel I could go to hell and back and this baby would still emerge with crisp, sharp images!

Perhaps the question I am asked the most by friends and people who visit my website is ‘did your photography suffer by swapping over to mirrorless’, and ‘what are your favourite images from your Fuji years’?  I thought it timely then to write a post that includes some of my favourite images from this period.  I will give a brief explanation of each image, why I like it and the camera and lenses used.  Folk can then decide for themselves if they think my sojourn into Fuji land has been fruitful or should I have stuck to Nikon!

Green FingersGreen FingersPeasant planting rice, Bali, Indonesia, 2019

Bali 2018

I had a short holiday with my wife in Bali over Christmas last year (2018/19).  As usual we hired a motorbike as our means of transport.  Early one morning we were riding up out of the hills from Legian and we came across some farmers planting rice.  My wife patiently waited whilst I approached the farmers.  After some pointing, smiling and waving I got the nod to go ahead.  I ended up on my knees in the mud, but thanks to the flippy screen on the X-T2 I could get very low without getting wet.  I wanted this low perspective with the farmer’s hands in the water and the towering sky.  I like this image because of the very closeness that is portrays, which makes one feel as if you are actually right there in the mud too. Taken with the Fuji X-T2 and the brilliant XF 16-55 zoom. 

'Siri''Siri'Child at play, recycling slum, Bali, Indonesia, 2019

Bali 2019

This was taken on the same trip as the farmer planting rice.  My wife had to return home for work, but I stayed on in Bali for another week.  Then I went on to photograph Malaysia for a whole month (see my separate blog on this wonderful trip).  I stumbled upon a recycle slum just out of Kuta in Bali.  There was a whole community of people living there in very poor, squalid conditions.  I went back several times and took gifts to the children.  This little girl was called Siri and I gave her a ‘beauty’ kit for girls.  It had combs, hair clips and ties, a mirror and such.  I snapped this spontaneous picture as she delightfully played with her new toys.  I love this image because of the delight that a cheap $4 gift can bring to a poor child.  Taken on the Fuji X-T2 and the 16-55 zoom.  An insanely sharp image that has no right to be taken with a zoom!!

Tough GuysTough GuysRecycling Slum, Bali, Indonesia, 2018

Bali 2019

From the same trip again - these are some of the recycle workers at the slum.  These were really tough and rough guys and I would not have liked to have crossed them.  They were kind to me though and smiled and shared their doughnuts with me.  They let me take my time and get the right shots.  This may not be the best reportage image in the world, but it is one of my favourites, because of the story that it tells.  I love the interplay between these tough, hard- working men and the pretty actress smiling down upon them.  They had a bird-cage covering the picture of the girl, but they even allowed me to remove it so it did not spoil my picture.  Once again, Fuji X-T2 with the 16-55 zoom.

"What about Me"?"What about Me"?Boy and Dog, early morning, Hsipaw, Myanmar, 2017

Myanmar 2017

This is one of my all time favourite images - just so simple, yet so powerful and mood invoking.  I had a few days in Hsipaw in Myanmar.  I would get up before dawn each day and cycle up to a place called ‘Little Bagan’.  It has some old temple ruins there and a monastery with monks.  I took some nice images in the early morning light.  I was going back to my hotel one morning around 7:30 when I noticed this little boy eating breakfast with his dog mournfully watching.  This was taken in the days before I had ‘seen the light’ and bought the 16-55, so at this time I was using the 18-135 Fuji Zoom.  Also taken on the X-T2.

The DockingThe DockingFishing Village, early morning Hoi An, Vietnam, 2016

Vietnam 2017

I have a very special place in my heart for Vietnam.  I lived and worked there for a year in 2011 and met my wife, so we go back often to visit her family.  We were staying at the old city in Hoi An.  The light and colour on the buildings gives some of the best photographic opportunities anywhere.  I got up very early one morning and found my way to this little fishing village.  I was able to grab this image as the boatman disembarked from his craft.  I like the low perspective (flippy screen on the X-T1), the action invoked by the fisherman and the light in the sky.  The ironic thing about this photo is that it’s the only photo I have kept from my traumatic days of trialling Fuji’s 18-55 kit lens.  I tried 3 copies of this lens over as many years – trying to find a decent, useable copy, but never did.  I want to forget about this wretched lens, but I can’t because I like this image so much!  Taken on the Fuji X-T1 and 18-55 kit lens.

A Nation's CultureA Nation's CultureIndigenous Woman, Goldfields, Western Australia. 2018

Australia 2018

I like this shot a lot – not because it may be the best image on the planet (it’s not), but because of what it means to be able to have taken this image.  I live and work in a rough, tough, gold-mining town in the Western Australian desert.  We have a  lot of Indigenous Aborigines living in and around the town.  There are many social issues revolving around alcoholism, family violence, crime and unemployment.  It may be hard to imagine but it is almost impossible for the non-indigenous person (me), to photograph them.  They think we may use the photos in a negative way, or record them at their worst, or even by taking the picture we may be seen as racist. 

It’s so ironic – I can photograph people all over the world in their culture and I’m never viewed with suspicion or ever questioned, but it is so hard to photograph the people in my own back yard.  Being a teacher I know a lot of the children of these families and over the years I have built up some trust.  I often photograph them and take a framed copy back a few weeks later and present it to them.  By doing this I’ve broken some of the barriers down and I have many beautiful images of these friendly people.  Fuji X-T2 and 16-55 zoom.

Slow BusinessSlow BusinessLottery salesman, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018

Thailand 2018

I really love this shot because it perfectly illustrates the vicissitudes and frailties of timing.  I was in ‘Little India’ in Bangkok looking for a vegetarian meal (not hard in India).  I walked past this lonely street merchant selling his raffle tickets.  He looked rather sad and dejected as he gazed down upon all of his unsold tickets.  I snapped off a few shots from the hip as I do (as usual he had no idea a photo had been taken), and kept going.  It wasn’t until later when I got back home to process the images, that I noticed the bus.  Oh my goodness, it zoomed past so quickly I hadn’t noticed – perfect timing.  I love the juxtaposition between the poor street merchant and the successful business people in the signage, staring down at him.  Fuji X-T2 and 16-55 zoom.

The fish-wives!The fish-wives!Fish Market at Hoi An (Ancient Town), Vietnam, 2012

Vietnam 2014

I like this photo a lot because it illustrates that if we have one of the elements of a good image (subject, lighting, composition and moment) – present, it can actually fill in for the other missing elements and still make a very acceptable image.  I shot this at a small fish market in Nha Trang.  I just lifted the camera above my head and ‘shot’ the ladies below.  I couldn’t even see because this camera never had a flippy screen – I just guessed.  This photo isn’t perfectly sharp and not the best lighting, but it works because of the strong composition.  The human eye loves symmetry.  Our eyes will always find the leading lines and follow them in and out of the frame.  Our eyes follow through the triangle formed by the hats, the bowls of fish and the ladies’ hands.  Fuji X100s.

Just in closing – perhaps the main message from this post is that it doesn’t really matter which camera or lens combo you use.  The Fuji X series cameras (and there are many of them), all produce beautiful, memorable images.  Just remember, don’t be so busy pursuing photography (writing blogs, searching the internet, buying new gear, reading test reviews), that you forget to actually get out there and make some beautiful, lasting and powerful images.

The Little FishermanThe Little FishermanYoung boy playing near the Holy Spring Water, Istana Tampak Siring, Bali Indonesia, 2016 The Little 'Fisherman' - Holy Spring Water Temple, Bali, Indonesia, 2016 - Fuji X-T2 & 18-135 zoom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) environmental portraits fuji fuji tilting screen Fuji X-T1 fuji x-t2 indigenous kalgoorlie street photography XF 1-55 zoom https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2019/6/nearly-a-decade-with-fuji---looking-back Sun, 30 Jun 2019 13:24:26 GMT
Fuji X-H1 - Fuji's Enigma! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2019/6/fuji-x-h1---fujis-enigma Fire Aftermath.  Fuji X-H1, 90mm @ F2, ISO 400

This is a short-ish blog with some musings about my latest acquisition – the Fuji X-H1.  I must have read and listened to just about every blog and VLog online, in relation to the purchase of a X-H1.  I heard/read everything from rave reviews to comments like ‘…..Fuji should never have released this camera’.  Many said Fuji should have waited and not released the X-T3 so close to the X-H1, or even the other way around.  All I know is that sales for this camera have waned to the extent that Fuji had to drastically reduce the current price – even though in theory it is still Fuji’s top of the line camera and a current model.

I ended up buying mine from Camera Electronic in Perth, WA.  They are a huge camera store and carry stock of everything – even very expensive Leica and other not so common models.  However, I bought the last X-H1 in stock and I see they have not replaced it – it is only available now by special order, WTH?? Hence the title of this Blog – this seems a very funny and obscure camera that seems to not fully fit in anywhere. 

Removing the 'patient' from wrecked car.  Fuji X-T2, 16-55 mm, 55 @ 2.8, ISO 3200

My system needed ‘tweaking’

For those who have followed my other blogs you will remember my journey with Fuji over the years.  I will not bore you by repeating it here, but suffice to say I ended up with two Fuji X-T2’s, one with a 16-55mm glued onto it and the gorgeous 90mm F2 glued onto the other.  I have my old X-T1 with a 23mm F2 glued onto that – it is my fun light camera that I take out when I’m not photographing anything too serious.  I have a real aversion to changing lenses, so that is why each of my cameras has a WR lens glued onto it that never comes off.  This way I’ve never had to clean a sensor and my sensors are still dust free after thousands of images. 

After thousands of wasted dollars and hours of trialling different camera/lens combinations over the years, I am truly delighted with the 90mm F2 and magical FX 16-55.  I only got grief and crappy images from the abysmal 18-55 Fuji kit lens, and even though the 18-135 was much better, not being of fixed aperture meant that by the time I got to around 90mm focal length, it was on 5.6.  At this aperture it was impossible to separate my subject from the background or get any type of nice bokeh in the distance.  That is where the 90mm came in and it has transformed my images.  Not only is it bitingly sharp, corner to corner and wide open, it is separating my subjects from backgrounds just like I could on my Nikon D3X system.  I only ever shoot people/street/travel and have zero interest in landscape or scenery - all of my images are shot wide open on maximum aperture.  That is why I am exceedingly critical of my lenses’ performance.  I have copped a lot of anger for criticising Fuji’s kit lens, but for what I do and needed it for, it fell far short of my expectations.

So if I am so happy now with my current choice of equipment, where is/was the problem?  I feel a bit hypocritical now because I wrote in one or two of my last posts (when the X-H1 and X-T3 were released) that people should be content with what gear they have and stop hankering over new equipment to try and improve their photography.  I still basically believe this but I think there is a time when a new piece of kit can improve your photography, and most importantly, your enjoyment of the process.  I also preached that IBIS was not necessary and my two lenses did not need it (oh boy). 

Removing gas mask.  Fuji X-T2, 16-55mm @ 30mm, F2.8, ISO 400

I spent over a month this year in Malaysia and photographed the marvellous celebrations at Batu Caves for the Thaipusam Ceremony in January.  There was close to a Million people there over the 3 days - it was one of my most memorable shoots.  However, because of the very low light and dark conditions (I shot through both of the nights to around 3am), many of the images on my 90mm were unusable.  The shots from the 16-55 were mostly OK, because hand holding a wide angle lens to medium telephoto is much more doable that a telephoto lens.  My 90mm is equal to around 135mm in 35 mm speak – so even at shutter speeds of around 250th sec, I was noticing a lot of my images were not pin sharp like they were on the 16-55.

After much reading and contemplating my alternatives, I came to the conclusion that I did need some kind of stabilisation for the 90mm.  The only real fix for this on the Fuji system is the X-H1 (IBIS).  Fortunately and miraculously (still not sure why), I got an excellent price for one of my X-T2’s on ‘Fleabay’.  This is the ridiculous situation here in Australia.  When I look on the website of my camera store in Perth a brand new (still sold as a current model) X-T2 body is $1,600 AUD, and the newer X-H1 is only $200 more expensive – WTH?.  I got $1,000 for my used X-T2 (with over two years of hard work on the clock), and it was not too much more to part out to get the new X-H1.

Rolling out the hose.  Fuji X-H1, 90mm @ F2.2, ISO 200

What do we have here?

It was more out of fear and trepidation than excitement, that I unboxed my new acquisition.  I had read so many negative things about the X-H1, I really wasn’t sure what I had got myself into.  Many people said the shutter was too quiet, the buttons were in all the wrong places, the thing hogged batteries like they were going out of fashion, and had woeful autofocus.  Fortunately for me, the one thing that separated me from at least 50% of the pack, was that I have worse than zero interest in video - to the point where I literally would not even know how to turn it on with any of my cameras and could care less.  I am 100% a stills photographer.  This gave me some hope because many of the gripes I read were about its video performance (no mike jack – who cares). 

The first thing I noticed was the wonderful grip – oh what a lovely grip.  With my X-T2 and T1, I had to buy those expensive Fuji grips that screw on and give more beef to the handle and protect the bottom of the camera.  The wonderful thing is because I did not have to put one on the X-H1, but the X-T2’s copped the extra weight of the grip, it ended up that the X-H1 was around the same weight as my X-T2 was with the grip on.  This was a win straight up because I really didn’t want to lug any extra weight around.  I think the shutter is marvellous too and now it makes my X-T1 sound very horrible.  The autofocus is heaps fast enough for what I shoot and even the loss of the +_ dial that everybody complained about, has now turned out a bonus for me.  I just programmed the rear wheel to push in to turn +_ on, rotate to the setting you need, and push to turn off.  I can do this in a second, without ever taking my eye out of the viewfinder – not something I can do with my X-T2.

I like the way the eye piece sticks out proud from the LCD, now my greasy nose marks are not spread all over the screen as on my X-T2.  I love the increased definition of the EVF – so clear and lovely to look through.

Probably the one thing I gleaned from all the threads I read about the X-H1, and something that was a common theme through all of them was that the X-H1 is a camera that is a stepping-stone to something better.  In other words this is the first iteration that was disappointing in many ways, but gave hints of brilliance that the X-H2 will surely fix - then we will have a magical camera that will be a game changer.  I am afraid that I don’t see it this way at all.

I believe that Fuji thought this camera through thoroughly before they released it.  It was only a very few short years before this that their head executives were saying it was impossible to fit an IBIS system into their small mirrorless cameras.  For the fact that they actually did this, and did it well means to me that this was a well-engineered piece of equipment.  I am not hankering or waiting for the next model before I can glory in the capabilities of this camera.  For me and for what I do it is absolutely fantastic.  Of course if I were a videographer or a motor sport shooter, then things may be different.  However, I only ever shoot people in street settings, in the studio and of course travel images of people.  The autofocus system, the handling and the images are absolutely brilliant.

Dragging accident 'victim' to safety.  Fuji X-H1, 90mm @ F2, ISO 400

A definite Winner

At the beginning of my post I said I had not used this camera a lot.  However I was able to shoot some pictures in ‘anger’ on the weekend and truly put the X-H1 through its paces.  I live and work in a gold mining town deep in the Western Australian desert.  We have the biggest open-cut gold mine in the world – it is called the Super Pit (look it up).  It is so big that small aircraft cannot fly low over it, because the pit creates its own weather system or vortex and can suck little planes in.  Everything in this town revolves around gold mining!! 

Notwithstanding the Super Pit we also have many other small and large underground gold mines in the surrounding desert.  Each year my town has a large competition where people come from all over Western Australia to compete.  It is called the Surface Mine Emergency Response Competition.  Thousands of dollars of expensive equipment and highly trained experts converge on our town to battle it out in the rescue wars.  This was a fantastic opportunity to put my gear through its paces.  I was able to get access to the areas close to the dangerous action – areas where the general public were not allowed. 

I am very happy to say that for me the X-H1 was a true game changer.  In some of the more dangerous situations I was unable to get really close so I used the 90mm.  Some of the mock accidents were held indoors, in a huge warehouse type building.  This situation simulated a car crash at night, so the lighting was only a few spot lights that the rescuers set up.  I was shooting with the 90mm down as low as 1/15 sec.  Even the best and brightest shots were taken at only 1/100th sec or something.   All of these shots would have been impossible were it not for the IBIS.  I was OK with my X-T2 and the 16-55.  I was able to hold that steady enough or lean it on something to get my shots.  I can resoundingly say that without the X-H1 I would certainly have never got some of the brilliant images that I did.  I actually found too that even out in the bright light at say around 1/200th or 1/350th that my images were sharper than they would have been on my X-T2.  It was so good on the X-H1 that I just kept IBIS on all of the time.

Coming in from 'Battle'.  Fuji X-H1, 90mm @ F2, ISO 400

What now for the X-T2

Does this now mean that my X-T2 is about to meet its demise on ‘Fleabay’ as did its other sibling?  I’m happy to say no.  To me the X-T2 is still a great camera and it performs side by side with my X-H1.  As mentioned, I don’t need the IBIS with the X-T2 setup, so to have to sell another camera then part out more hard earned dollars, it’s not really necessary.  Comparing the images, naturally I really can’t tell any difference in them.  This is to be expected because the engine in both cameras and the sensors apparently are identical.  However, the X-H1 stands alone in Fuji’s line-up as the one camera that can give you stabilised images, no matter which lens you are using.

Plan of attack.  Fuji X-H1, 90mm @ F2, ISO 1,600

Things should just get better

I recently read a very interesting blog about an Australian photographer who shoots advertising and editorial stills for the film industry for over 30yrs (John Platt).  I know it’s not Hollywood, but Australia does have quite an active and competitive movie and TV series industry.  He has to keep up with the frantic schedule of directors, crappy changing lighting and Prima Dona actors (my words).  John said in his article that he uses an X-H1 and the latest Fuji X-T3.  You can read the article because I will put the link below.  He makes some comparisons between the two cameras in his blog.  I wrote a comment at the bottom and a few days later John got back to me.  It was very interesting because he said he has now sold his X-T3 and bought another X-H1.  The two X-H1’s are now his main stable of cameras.  That spoke volumes, because here is somebody who would use the very best tools for this demanding job (he makes his livelihood and feeds his family by selling these images), and he has chosen the X-H1, above the newer model with supposedly better autofocus and image quality.

Why do I mention this?  Perhaps to say that the X-H1 may not have received the accolades from camera-phobes and reviewers alike, and I know that the unit sales for this model have been very disappointing for Fuji.  However, for those of us who need a camera that is extremely well made, weather sealed to the hilt, has a very comfortable grip and quiet shutter, produces beautiful images and all of our lenses can now be stabilised – the X-H1 is your camera.  Fuji has slotted into a niche that perhaps not many other mirrorless camera manufacturers have dared to tread.  I do hope that Fuji will continue with this beautiful camera and release new variants in the future.

Finding the pulse.  Fuji X-T2, 90mm @ F2, ISO 400

Addendum - I just wish to say at this juncture one word about my images here.  I am not totally happy with the look of any of the images on this blog. This is not because there is something lacking with the new camera or anything.  It is in relation to the software used for post processing.  I have spent over 12 years learning and using Lightroom. I have hundreds of my own presets that I could grab, and in a flash I would get the look that I was after in a few minutes.  All I would then do is tweak.  However, after many hours of pondering what to do, I recently, and sadly had to drop using Lightroom.  Their prohibitive new pricing structure and the abysmal speed that CC now operates with on my Imac - it has become totally unusable.  I ended up settling on and buying Capture One.  My initial thoughts are that I think straight out of the gate the images are better than on L/R.  However the learning curve is brutal.  I have spent days and days on these images and still can't really get the look that I want.  There seems to be no decent presets around for CO, or anything without having to spend hundreds of dollars. I will hang in there because I think one day it will all gel for me.  I just wanted to mention this because some may wonder why the different look to my images, or even think they could perhaps be disappointing.

Hauling the hose.  Fuji X-H1, 90mm @ F2, ISO 200

 

https://shotkit.com/fujifilm-x-h1-review/
 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) 16-55mm 90mm Australia Competition Emergency environmental F2 Fuji Mine photography portraits Response street Surface Western XF X-H1 X-T2 https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2019/6/fuji-x-h1---fujis-enigma Wed, 05 Jun 2019 10:54:21 GMT
Fuji X-T2 Explores Malaysia - a Very Reluctant Journey! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/fuji-x-t2-explores-malaysia---a-very-reluctant-journey RevivalRevivalPilgrims climbing the steps to Batu Caves, Thaipusam, Malaysia, 2019

The Reviving - Pilgrim near the top of Batu Caves, Thaipusam Ceremony, Malaysia, 2019 - Fuji X-T2 & 16-55, 16mm @ 2.8, ISO 5,000

A Different Destination

I’ve just returned recently from my annual sojourn with my Fuji’s – exploring this wonderful planet.  As a teacher in Australia, I get six weeks holiday at Christmas each year, so I was very excited to start another journey.  However, this year it was to be a bit different.  My wife only had about ten days leave, so it was decided she would come with me for those days, then she would fly back home and I would carry on alone for another month.

To make a very long story short she talked me into going to Malaysia (after our ten days together in Bali).  She had been there two years ago with her sister and really liked it.  However, I am very aware that my wife’s holiday ideal is different to mine – so I was very suspicious.  I want to see no ‘White Man’ (even though I am one of them), no tourists and definitely no Western style countries.  She wants fancy hotels, sleeping in until 10am, laying by the pool, and eating lots of food.  I wanted to go to Vietnam and stay with her folks in HCMC, get my motorbike out of cobwebs (I used to live and teach in Vietnam) and head off by myself.  Anyway, as usual my wife won and after ten days in Bali together, I was winging my way to Malaysia. 

I had planned a few days in the big city of K/L, just to settle in, then off to Kuantan for a few nights, then up to Penang for about six nights, then down do Malacca for about a week, then back to K/L for the remainder. 

My holiday had started off very well in Bali.  Even though it is a party island (we don’t drink alcohol), I was able to avoid the bars and too many ‘White Men’, and keep my wife happy at the same time – some undertaking believe me.  As usual I hired a motorbike there and was able to go wherever I wanted with the help of Mr Google.  I stumbled upon a recycling/rubbish dump where people lived and made their homes out of scrap.  I went there several times over the 10 days taking gifts back for the children.  I had a wonderful time and kind of became friends with some of the folk there.  They let me into their homes and I was able to capture some brilliant images.  It was with this expectation and aspiration that I landed in Malaysia.

Tough Guys - Garbage Tip/Recycling Slum, Bali, Indonesia, 2019 - Fuji XT2 & 16-55mm @ 16mm, F4, ISO 400

Off to Malaysia

After the few days in K/L I headed off to Kuantan.  Oh my goodness – it was here that I realised I had made a big mistake.  The lady in the hotel looked at me as if I had asked for a flight to the moon - when I asked to hire a motorbike.  That was impossible, so I was kind of stuck with expensive ‘Grab’ Taxis.  After the first miserable day there it started to dawn on me the magnitude of my plight.  Everywhere I looked there was nice homes surrounded by fences, lots of cars and highways (but mercifully, no tourists in Kuantan).  When I got to Penang a few days later, it only reinforced my conclusions from Kuantan.  Though I was able to hire a motorbike, I could not do my usual ‘thing’ or operate under my MO – as I do in the rest of Asia (plus there were thousands of ‘White Men’).  In Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar etc, I can usually get to where the ‘normal’ people live, by just getting a few kilometres out of the city or town.  I can wander in places of work, schools, brick factories etc, and with a smile and wave and pointing at my camera, I am able to stick around and get my shots.

Taking AimTaking AimPlaying Sepak Takraw, streets of Penang, Malaysia, 2019 Focus - Playing Sepak Takraw, Streets of Penang, Malaysia, 2019 - Fuji X-T2 & 16-55, @ 55mm 2.8, ISO 1600

A Big Mistake?

There was no way any of this was going to happen in Malaysia!  All of the things I tried to leave behind in Australia – boom gates, guards, rules, regulations, six lane highways and even council workers writing parking tickets - were all waiting for me there.  Please don’t get me wrong, the people there are amazing, I felt safer than I do in Australia and I was treated accordingly.  However, I did not realise that it is just a big Western, First World country like here at home.  I was unable to wander into anywhere to take my pictures.  Guards and security chased me off industries, work-sites, streets, and just about everywhere. Even driving all over the place on my motorbike in Penang, and then later on in Malacca, I could not find anywhere that I could get spontaneous images like I can in Cambodia and Myanmar.

By the end of the first week I was sitting in my hotel feeling very dejected.  Other than my Bali shots, I didn’t have too many nice images in the ‘bag’.  Had I blown my big trip for 2018/19?  Would I have to wait another twelve months to get away to somewhere decent to get the people images I so crave to create?

I decided I had to be positive and just get out each day and take what images presented themselves.  Shortly after arriving in Malacca – I realised I had booked there for too long.  Even on my motorbike I couldn’t find anywhere that was off the track from city traffic or fenced in houses.  You can only walk around Jonker St for so many times photographing the busloads of Chinese taking ‘selfies’ at the fountain!!  I tried to be creative and get up early, stay up late etc, but the images I was seeking alluded me. 

Green Fingers - Peasant planting rice, Bali, Indonesia, 2019 - Fuji X-T2 & 16-55, @ 16mm F2.8, ISO 200

Thaipusam

Then I remembered that on the flight from Penang to Malacca, I had read something in the flight magazine about Thaipusam.  Thaipusam is the annual Hindu Festival where they pierce their faces and body parts, prostrate themselves and carry their burdens to the place of worship.  I also read that the biggest place of celebration for this festival – on the planet – was Batu Caves in K/L.  I checked the dates and could not believe how lucky I was.  It was starting in two days, on the 21st of January.  I happily cancelled two days off my hotel in Malacca and headed off two days earlier to K/L.

I was told there would be well over 500-600 thousand people crowded into the area of Batu Caves - worshippers from all over the world.  Though I was getting very excited, I had not prepared myself for the visual feast that awaited me.  Really, if you have not been to one of these festivals, nothing can prepare you for the sights, sounds, smells and sheer sensory overload that beckons.  The traffic and ability to get out there and back was a sheer nightmare.  The day I arrived in K/L, I just unloaded my bags in my room and headed straight out to Batu Caves.  That was the 20th and eve of their celebrations.   Though they had started, this was a mere warm-up for the next day.  I left the caves at about 9pm and got to my hotel by midnight.   I had three hours sleep and got up at 3am, and went straight back out for the big day.

Near the TopNear the TopPilgrim ascending steps to Batu Caves, Thaipusam, Malaysia, 2019 The Pilgrim - Climbing the steps to Batu Caves, Thaipusam Celebrations, Indonesia, 2019 - Fuji X-T2 & 16-55 @ 55mm, 2.8, ISO 400

The Gear

Were my over two year old cameras and gear able to keep up with the swift movement of people, the dim light (no OIS), and the dust and water everywhere?  I was photographing like a man possessed - both of my Fuji’s were working so hard that they got quite hot.  I went through five batteries and thousands of images.  I had my magic - off the planet 16-55 glued onto one camera, and the beautiful 90mm F2 glued onto the other X-T2.  This is my setup that I have written a lot about in my other blogs.  It has taken me seven years of experimentation and lots of money and wasted purchases to arrive at this glorious equipment.  Both cameras and lenses performed perfectly in the incredible heat, water and choking dust.  I never ever change lenses and I am glad I did not have to there.  Even in the dim light and darkness of the early morning on the second day, I did not long for any OIS or camera stabilisation – I just cranked those babies up to ISO 6,400 and kept cranking out the shots. 

The worshippers start their flagellations down at the river.  They work themselves into a trance, where the steel rods and hooks are pierced into their flesh.  When their burden is loaded upon them, they start the long journey to the steps of Batu Caves.  The highlight of my trip was being squeezed up the steps to Batu Caves, as thousands upon thousands of worshippers pressed up the stairs, to their final destination – the actual caves themselves.  I was able to turn around on several occasions and shoot back down the steps, capturing the pilgrims in the foreground, and the disappearing mass of humanity in the distance.

Just as an aside, I noticed one very obvious thing now that I have started to wade through a few of my images on Lightroom.  Prior to my two trips last year (Taiwan/Cambodia and then Thailand), I had always used the 18-55 lens, and then a bit later on the 18-135 zoom.  I think this trip brought home to me the grave importance of getting the best glass you can carry.  Yes my 16-55 is a big lens and some folk think it is a bit too heavy.  So is the 90mm F2 – you certainly know at the end of the day that you have carried these two around for 8 hours.  However, the difference when looking on Lightroom now is chalk and cheese -  particularly this trip and these images of Thaipusam.  The dim light, the fast movement, the high ISO rates – all contribute to bringing out any softness or weaknesses in your lenses.  I could not help but notice just how wonderfully sharp and beautifully rendered all of my images were from this trip – using those two magical Fuji lenses.  There is no way on earth I would go back to shooting crumby, second rate glass, like I did before.  I encourage you to put up with the bit extra weight, pay the extra money – you will be greatly rewarded!

Cheeky SmileCheeky SmileIndian boy during preparations for Thaipusam, Batu Caves, Malaysia, 2019 Cheeky Smile - Thaipsuam Celebrations, Batu Caves, Malaysia, 2019 - fuji X-T2 & 90 mm, F2 @ ISO 200

A Blessing in Disguise

It wasn’t until I finally staggered back to my hotel a day later, and was able to take a peek at a few of my images, that I realised the blessing in disguise.  I have always wanted to go to India.  Steve McCurry is my hero and I just love the images he has taken there.  He once said he has been there over 80 times.  Though I have been to Cambodia now 14 times, and all over Asia now for 15 years photographing this amazing planet – I have never been to India.  I just love Indian people, their food (I’m a vegetarian), their hard working ethic and just so many things.  I have a few Indian students at a couple of the schools where I teach and they are so hard working and studious – (puts the majority of the lazy Aussie kids to shame).  It dawned on me then that though I had never even landed on the shores of India - I now have the most amazing images in my portfolio.  Many Indians told me that even if I had been in India, there is no greater celebration for Thaipusam than what I witnessed at Batu Caves in Malaysia.

Steering the 'Cow'Steering the 'Cow'Boy in street celebrations for Galungan Ceremony, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, 2019 Steering the 'Cow' - Boy in Street Celebrations for Galungan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, 2019 - Fuji X-T2 & 90mm, F2, ISO 400

Ode to my Wifie!

I am never one to admit it to my wife, but she has the uncanny and annoying knack of usually always being right.  She insisted that if I went to Malaysia I would not regret it and could get some different but great shots.  She actually turned out correct again.  If I had my own way I would have got to Vietnam again then over the border to Cambodia.  I would have got some great images for sure, but nothing like I did from this trip.  Even the shots I got in Malaysia of the street art, buskers, funny stuff that tourists do etc, were all a breath of fresh-air and quite different to what I would normally have taken.

BeautyBeautySmall child at garbage recycling slum, Bali,
Indonesia, 2019
Beauty - Small Child at Garbage/Recycling Slum, Bali, Indonesia, 2019 - fuji X-T2 & 16-55 @ 50mm, F4, ISO 640

Would I Change Anything?

As mentioned above, if you have read any of my other blogs you will have followed the slow progression of experimentation and equipment changes to arrive at where I am today.  Both of my Fuji X-T2’s I have had now for over two years apiece.  Many of my friends and folk who know I am a very keen photographer, have asked me when I am updating.   I tell them not for a very long time.  I can honestly say that my two cameras with their lenses attached were absolutely marvellous.  I shot in the rain, the dust and dirt and heat every day.  The shots that I took of the people in the showers (Batu Caves – down by the river), I was actually half in the shower with them and my cameras got soaked.  I just wiped the lens filter with my hanky, and kept cranking out the shots.  My gear never missed a beat and even checked out fine when I got home.  Many of the images I took in the very early hours of the second day were taken at very high ISO settings.  I was surprised at just how great most of the images look. 

I could easily hanker and buy two X-T3’s, but I see absolutely no need.  I never shoot video (would not even know how to turn it on), and the autofocus on my two cameras never missed any shots because of hunting or being too slow.  Many of the shots were taken of people spinning and dancing and moving very fast – my cameras froze the action and had an over 90% hit rate.

I am going to use the money that I would have to spend to update my gear on more travel to see this magic planet.  My wife wants to go to Japan this year, so I am getting very excited now to book and plan that trip.  I’m already starting to polish my gear and get it all ready for the next magic moments that my Fuji’s will enthral us with.

Oh, and by the way, next time your wife suggests a destination, you had better listen!!

Milk GirlMilk GirlYoung child climbing the steps to Batu Caves, Thaipusam, Malaysia, 2019 Milk Girl - Pilgrims ascending the steps to Batu Caves, Malaysia, 2019 - Fuji X-T2 & 16-55 @ 40mm, F3.2, ISO 1600

PS - Be sure to check out my website.  These pictures are just a tiny sample of the many wonderful images I took on this trip.  I still have thousands to wade through in L/R, but check my site from time to time and more will be going up in the next few weeks.

Cheers

Philip

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) Bali" Batu Caves environmental portraits fuji 16-55mm fuji 90mm fuji x-t2 Malaysia street photography Thaipusam https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/fuji-x-t2-explores-malaysia---a-very-reluctant-journey Fri, 01 Feb 2019 09:37:44 GMT
Fuji Xf 23mm F2 and Xf 18-55 – the Woeful and the Sublime! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/fuji-xf-23mm-f2-and-xf-18-55-the-woeful-and-the-sublime 'Madame' 2'Madame' 2Child having her face painted, pre Christmas celebrations, Goldfields, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 2018 The Fairy - street face painting, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2018 - Fuji X-T2, 16-55, 51mm @ 2.8

Perfecting the system

Those of you who have followed my previous blogs will realise my journey with Fuji has evolved over many years.  My recent blogs have reflected the fact that I have settled into a great system and have finally honed my choice of lenses and cameras.  I now have two Fuji X-T2’s with a 90mm F2 permanently ‘glued’ onto one and the ‘off the scale’ 16-55 ‘glued’ onto the other.  I am extremely happy with this choice and am getting fantastic images and sheer joy from using this combination.  It is great to feel so settled during this time of camera madness.

Every time I switch on my YouTube, there is another video of some new ‘floozey’ - supposedly better and more fantastic than its predecessor, and we are compelled to sell all our gear and ‘update’.  I will tell you now that I did look very closely at – and tried and tested the X-T3 and X-H1 – and resoundingly came to the conclusion that my X-T2’s are just as good (for the type of photography that I do).  Particularly that nearly every test tells me there is really no discernible difference in image quality between any of them!  Therefore, if I am so settled and everything is rosy in my little photographic world, why this latest blog?

Piano Boy - street celebrations, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2018 - Fuji X-T2, 23mm F2 @ F2

As an Australian teacher, I have six weeks break coming up over this Christmas/NY.  I have a couple of weeks in Bali together with my wife, then she has to return to Australia for work.  I go on alone for another month, to photograph unknown non-tourist places in Indonesia and Malaysia.  Here is where the perfecting of my system comes in.  I usually get up each day at 5am and hit the streets running with my two X-T2’s on board.  I will shoot until around 10-11am – then return to my hotel for refreshments and a rest.  Then around 3-4pm, I will go out into the warming light and get some wonderful images as people on the streets and workers finish off their day.  Then I go back to my hotel and shower and head back out for dinner and to wander the streets in the evening with my camera. 

Here is where I want to make a change.  Even though my setup is fantastic and much lighter than my Nikon ‘bricks’ that I struggled with over many years, I need a lighter kit for my evening wanders.  After carrying the two cameras with rather large lenses around all day, in the evening I just want to wander lightly and feel the joy of a small prime.  I would love the X100F, but it is totally useless to me, because Fuji killed that series off by not adding a flippy screen.  Once you get used to the stealth of shooting street from the hip (read my blog here -  https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/4/street-and-travel-photography-a-new-method-to-consider) it’s like dating the Prom Queen – you can never go back.

Water Blaster girl - street celebrations, Goldfields, Western Australia - Fuji X-T2, 23mm F2 @ F2

Sir Winston Churchill

With Fuji’s current ongoing sales, I recently traded in my 35mm F2 for the 23mm F2 lens.  I have had the 35mm lens for over two years now and have used it only a handful of times.  It falls into a photographic ‘no-man’s-land’.  Better still – as Sir Winston Churchill was quoted to have said of Sir Alfred Bossom, “Bossom, Bossom, what an extraordinary name – neither one thing nor the other”!  The 35mm F2 fell into that category for me – it was neither one thing nor the other.  It was far too ‘tele’ to be of any use for street photography, but of course too ‘wide’ to be used for portraiture or close-up work.  I was very relieved to be able to trade it in on the smaller brother 23mm F2.  This was an impulse purchase, because I really knew nothing about this diminutive little lens.  I did purchase it though thinking it may fill the gap for the evening walk around lens I mentioned above.

The 'Martian' - mine rescue safety equipment, street celebrations, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2018 - Fuji X-T2, 23mm F2 @ F2

Let the testing begin!

In the weeks after my impulse purchase, I furiously devoured everything I could read about the 23mm F2.  I soon came to realise that this lens polarised people into two groups.  People like the Angry, profane guy on Youtube (who is a Fuji fan-boy), raved about how marvellous this lens was.  Others fell into the group of concluding that it was a mediocre lens at best, and others in that group said it was unusable.  I photographed the proverbial brick walls and trees, but as I have found, you can never tell the quality of a lens until you start photographing people.  The skin tones, the sharpness of eyebrows and eyelashes, hair, the subtle tones and falloff in background areas of the image - I was hanging out until I could fire off some shots in ‘anger’ and point it at some people.

Recently we had our annual street parade in my small gold-mining town here in Western Australia.  This event is an annual big deal.  The huge gold mining trucks and equipment parade down the main street with lots of colour, people in weird costumes, and everybody in a jolly mood not caring who points a camera at them.   Being one of the local teachers here I know half the people in town.  I was able to photograph with ease and get shots that perhaps strangers could not.  I rushed off home with my images in tow to see for myself why all the divisive opinions on this little lens.  I have included a few images here for you to see for yourself and make up your own conclusions.  Non of these images are going to win any awards – and not up to my usual standard – but as this is the only time I have used this lens so far, they should serve the purpose seeing what kind of images one can expect.

Aboriginal Street Dancers - street celebrations, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2018 - Fuji X-T2, 23mm F2 @ F2

Test for yourself!

Just before I give my thoughts on the 23mm, I want to say a little about lenses in general.  You can read all the stuff you want – until your eyes go blurry (like mine did), but you really have to test these things for yourself because our opinions and expectations all vary as much as there is equipment out there.  Take the Fuji kit lens for example  - the XF18-55.  So many people rave about this lens and say it is the best thing since sliced bread.  To me this is more mysterious than the Egyptian Pyramids – how could this be so??  It was these reviews that kept me hanging in there over the years as I bought and sold off three copies of this miserable lens – each time trying to get a ‘good one’.  It cost me a lot of money, hours and hours of anguish and disappointment, and many crappy images – until I reached my own conclusion that this lens is a total dud.  Probably one of Fuji’s worst lenses (half a step behind the 18mm)!  In Australia we don’t have a return policy like you guys do in the States, so each time I bought my ‘dud’, I would have to sell if off and buy another one – in my search for a ‘good’ copy.  If I hadn’t taken so much notice of everything that had been written on this lens – and believed what my eyes were telling me – I would have saved myself a load of money, hours of grief and crumby images, and would have realised that this thing was a pile of mediocrity.  Sorry folks for those who have this lens and like it – but for me I really hate this lens.  I’ll say it again – test these things for yourself!!

Bubble Girl - street celebrations, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2018 - Fuji X-T2, 90mm F2 @ F2

All is revealed!

When I shot the street parade I would normally have had my 16-55 and the 90mm.  I replaced the 16-55 with the 23mm and took that and the 90mm lens.  I did that on purpose to see if I took a lighter kit in my evening wanderings in my upcoming holiday in Asia, could the 23mm fill some of the big shoes of the 16-55?  I will save you the anticipation.  To say I am happy is the understatement of the year – I was totally blown away by the performance of the 23mm F2.  Nearly all of the reviews I watched or read said that at wide open and close up it was so soft that it was unusable.  I shot people and kids at what I would think was close – a person and their face filling the frame – and oh my goodness, this thing was tack sharp wide open.  I did not want to believe this and I was expecting rather mediocre results – but I am extremely happy.  I need a lens to be sharp wide open.  As a street photographer/travel photographer, I only ever shoot wide open.  I’m always looking to isolate my subject from the background.  If a lens is not sharp wide open, or I have to stop it down to get useable results – then it’s useless to me.  Not only is it sharp, but the images have a beautiful, almost 3d look to them.  They are very punchy and I find I am getting that very contrasty look that I love in ‘Classic Chrome’.

Girls up to no good - street celebrations, goldfields, Western Australia, 2018 - Fuji X-T2, 23mm F2 @ F2

I am very happy to say that I have plugged the last remaining gap in my kit line-up.  This little lens is now permanently married to my old X-T1.  To me changing lenses is a no no.  I have one lens attached to one camera and it is never changed.  That is why I have never had to clean a sensor (particularly now that all of my lenses are WR), or have gotten any crud in my camera.  I shoot in too many filthy places in Asia, where changing a lens outside may well be the end of your sensor, and the total demise of your camera!  I will now have my day kit (the 16-55 and 90mm) each attached to an X-T2, and my lovely little 23mm attached to an X-T1, as my evening walk-around kit.

Don’t get too perplexed if you haven’t ironed all of the wrinkles out of your photographic kit.  I have been shooting now for over 35 years and it has taken me a very long time to get to where I am.  I may seem very dogmatic in my opinions, (and yes, I do offend some folk), but after shooting for so many years and wasting so much money on needless crap, I am very intolerant of gear that does not do its job, or does not perform when we are told that it will.  I know exactly what I want and need from my kit, and the Fuji components that I have chosen fill this niche for me in a wonderful fashion.  Not only can I look at my beautiful images for hours on end, I get such joy out of using quality equipment.  Like the story I told in one of my other blogs about Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits fame), kissing his guitar out of sheer love for his art.  I am still known to give my X-T2 a quick kiss now and then - when my wife is not looking!!  Enjoy your gear, enjoy your art and most of all enjoy your images.  Life is too short to stress over pixel peeping or this lens or that.  Get something that works well for you and spend your money on travel, and seeing the most of this wonderful planet.

Old Timer - divining for water, street celebrations, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2018 - Fuji X-T2, 90mm F2 @ F2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) Aboriginal environmental portraits fuji fuji xf 16-55mm Fuji XF 23mm F2 fuji x-t2 indigenous indigenous Australian kalgoorlie mining western Australia https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/fuji-xf-23mm-f2-and-xf-18-55-the-woeful-and-the-sublime Sat, 08 Dec 2018 06:23:47 GMT
Hua Lamphong (Bangkok Railway) – and who said I need a X-T3? https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/hua-lamphong-bangkok-railway-and-who-said-i-need-a-x-t3 StopStopStation Master, Hua Lamphong, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 Station Master controlling the train, Hua Lamphong, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 (Fuji X-T2 and XF 90mm @ F2)

Where

We recently had school holidays in Western Australia so my wife and I escaped our claustrophobic, desert, gold-mining town and headed to Thailand for two weeks.  My highlight was the final five or six days in Bangkok, because my wife had a business course to attend that would keep her office-bound from 8am till 5pm (he he), and I could escape and pursue my passion of photographing people totally unimpeded!

I hired a fixer for a day and got him to take me deep into Khlong Toei – Bangkok’s biggest slum.  My goodness - what a marvelous experience and the images were just as striking.  I will be writing a separate blog on that in the future.  However, today I want to talk about my time at Bangkok’s main Railway Station.  This wonderful place and its resilient people stole my heart - it was that fantastic.  Over the period of that final week I went there 4 times.  Hua Lamphong is well over 100 years old and its main structure is an Italian Neo-Renaissance-style building.  The trains terminate and start their journeys here to go all over rural Thailand. 

The part that really made it special - it was like going back in time 50yrs.  In Australia, if I walk onto a railway track at the train station I will be arrested.  In Hua Lamphong, I was able to amble among the trains and cross from platform to platform between the trains.  As each train arrived from its long country journey, sleepy-eyed passengers disembarked and hastily made their way onto their desired destination.  People were waving goodbye, hugging, weeping or just sleepily relaxing on the hard wooden benches.  It is a street photographers dream.  The place is covered in by this huge structure that is the Neo-Renaissance roof – this makes for perfect filtered light any time of the day.

The 'Free Loader'The 'Free Loader'Worker with kid, Hua Lamphong, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 The 'Stowaway' - Hua Lamphong , Bangkok, Thailand 2018 (Fuji X-T2 and XF16-55 mm @ F2.8)

Some will know from my other blogs that my speciality is brick factories.  Whether I am in Myanmar, Vietnam, Loas or wherever, I always head for the nearest brick factory.  I have been kicked out of every brick factory within hundreds of miles from where I live in Australia, but in Asia I can usually always get access.  The orange light reflecting off the brick ochres, the workers covered in soot from the kiln, the shafts of light filtering through distant cracks – these places are a photographer’s dream.  However, I think that Hua Lamphong has just become one of my favourite Asian destinations.

On Fridays they give free haircuts, so they bring out the plastic chairs and line them along the platform.  Folk line up for their free cut and amidst much giggling and mirth, they emerge looking more trimmed and swish than when they arrived.  I just loved the way that life flowed so naturally and the people were free to wander about, not shackled by all the sanctions, rules and regulations that we have in the West.  I was able to wander about and photograph to my heart’s content, and all I saw were smiles and giggles and no objections.  I have just about completely given up pointing my camera at anybody in my country.  The first time you get a black look, the second time you get yelled at, and the third time (if there are kids about), you will get confronted by police or security (I am only talking about photographing in public places).   I have had too many confrontations here at home - you can see why I travel so much to destinations where I am able to pursue my passion with relative ease and safety.

Bathed in  BlueBathed in BlueLady sweeping construction site, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 Bathed in Blue - Construction site on the way to Hua Lamphong, Bangkok, Thailand (Fuji X-T2 and XF 16-55mm @ F2.8)

Equipment

I have written at great length about my long journey with Fuji, so you can catch up with all of the details on my other blogs.  Suffice to say that nothing has changed here and will not for a long time.  As far as I am concerned when the Fuji X-T2 came out, I knew I had a camera that was good enough to be future-proof.  All this mumbo-jumbo of late about the new cameras coming out is very distracting.  I played with a X-T3 and yes it was faster, but I see no reason at all for me to waste 5K (I have two bodies and they are over $2K each in Australia) on new gear.  I have already booked 5 weeks at Xmas/NewYear around Indonesia and Malaysia – a much better investment for my money and I have full confidence that my two X-T2’s will match the latest models any day, particularly for the kind of photography that I do (not sports photography where milliseconds matter).  Also, the beautiful images I took on this trip with my X-T2, I seriously doubt they would have looked any better or different had they been taken on a X-T3 or the X-H1!

Track-side BarberTrack-side BarberFree haircut Friday, Hua Lamphong (Bangkok Train Station), Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 Track-side Barber - Free Haircut Friday, Hua Lamphong, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 (Fuji XT-2 and XF 16-55 @ F2.8)

My gear is very minimalistic and simple.  I carry no tripod and never have, because I have zero interest in scenery or landscapes.  I don’t even care that my lenses or cameras have no stabilisation – have never used that and have no need for it.  I have two small bags attached to the Think Tank strap, they each contain one of my X-T2’s.  One has the magical 16-55 glued on and the other has the beautiful 90mm permanently attached.  My only small liberty is a tiny Godox flash that is HSS and TTL.  I occasionally use this for daylight fill flash.  The camera with the 16-55 hangs around my neck and the other over my shoulder on a Black Rapid strap.  I can literally walk all day and never tire with this setup – much different to the huge Nikon ‘bricks’ that I used to lug around.

I am happy to say that the images from my Fuji FX16-55 zoom are more sharp and crisp than from my prime FX23mm F2 lens.  I never thought I would ever say that a zoom was sharper and nicer than a prime, but in this case very much so!

StyleStyleFree haircut day, Hua Lamphong (Bangkok Train Station), Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 Mr Smooth - Free Haircut Friday, Hua Lamphong, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 (Fuji X-T2 and XF 90mm @ F2)

My Modus Operandi
Just like my equipment, nothing has changed here.  I wrote a very long blog this year talking about the new method I have developed for photographing people (except in my own country).  I will not labour it here much more because you can read about it on my blog.  However, I will touch very briefly on it again.  It was the same deal as always and nothing was different for me photographing at the train station than anywhere else.  I always adhered to my second most important precept  – no eye contact.  I never looked at anybody.  I just kind of shuffled along looking like somebody who was totally disinterested in my surroundings.  That way you do not draw attention to yourself or make people suspicious because you are looking at them.  I wore my usual strange attire.  I had my bandana around my face, my black leather gloves, my black cap on and a face with no smile on it.  I am a very happy personable fellow normally, but when I am photographing I am on a serious mission.  If you look too friendly people will want to interact with you – and that is the last thing you need.

It is not to be snobby or appear arrogant, it is solely for the reason that you do not want to interfere with what is going on around you and stop the ‘moment’.  I only ever want to be a passer bye and not to ever get involved with what is happening.  That way people will ignore you and life will carry on as usual and you will get the magical, spontaneous moments without interfering with them.

The Long WalkThe Long WalkHua Lamphong train station, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 The Long Walk - Tunnel connecting Hua Lamphong to the underground train, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 (Fuji X-T2 and XF 16-55 @ F2.8)

As mentioned you can read all about this in detail on my other blogs, however, I want to touch on the most important detail of all.  Never lift the camera up to your eye.  I have written about this at length – people have a built-in radar, the second you lift a camera to your eye, whammo - everything changes.  People stop what they are doing, they look at you, say no, any one of dozens of things.  Whilst photographing Hua Lamphong nearly all of my photos were shot from the hip.  I just shuffled along appearing to be totally disinterested in what was going on, and just looking like I was fiddling with my camera controls.  All the while I was looking down into the flippy screen on the back of my Fuji X-T2.  I viewed my whole world through my camera lens.  I zoomed in and out and framed my world as I wished it to be recorded.  In my peripheral vision I always looked for my subject or my next shot.  Once I saw a possible image I shuffle over in that general direction – of course all along NEVER making any eye contact, never looking up and of course never smiling.  As I shuffled past (with my shutter in silent mode), I rattled off as many images as I needed.  Once I came out the other side, nobody was ever aware that I had taken any pictures and my special moment was usually in the bag.

This is a brilliant method of street photography that I have developed over 30 odd years of traveling and photographing this planet.  No matter what anybody tells you, you will never be a success at this if you listen to what they say on many of the well-meaning YouTube channels.  “Ask permission first”, they say, “smile and wave at people”, “appear friendly and interested in what they are doing”.  This is very lovely if you want to make friends and get some snap-shots, but you will never make life- changing images this way.  Why??  Why, because you have now become part of the scenery or the interactions and as an intruder you have changed everything.  All of your images from now on will be ‘canned’ and contrived.  People will be smiling or giving the happy finger up sign, or posing for you.  If you are happy with that, then go for it.  If you want real images that truly reflect what you witnessed, then try my method.

Z ManZ ManFree haircut Friday, Hua Lamphong (Bangkok Train Station), Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 Z Man - Free Haircut Friday, Hua Lamphong, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 (Fuji X-T2 and XF 16-55 @ F5.6)

Fun

Oh my goodness, it is hard to say how much fun I had here - just the sheer joy of wandering around in a friendly environment, where I was not an intruder and I did not interfere with or change any of the human activities around me.  The bonus of course was that I could fiddle with and use my lovely cameras.  I left most days with beautiful images and I have shared just a few of them here today.  Photography is a real joy to me and since I have developed my new method of street photography and honed my modus operandi down to a fine art, I no longer find it stressful like I used to.  I used to wake up thinking that I had to face people, ask them for permission to photograph them and recall all of the negative experiences I had in the past.  Everything changed a few years ago when I bought my first Fuji X-T1 camera and it had the flip-out screen.  Out of frustration more than anything, I started experimenting with not looking at people and not lifting the camera to my eye – just shooting from waist level like many of the old-timers did with the Rolleiflex cameras (Vivian Maier etc).  Hey Presto – I began to realise that my pictures had improved ten fold and my negative experiences and confrontations had totally disappeared.  No wonder I eat, sleep and breath photography now because it has become such a joy.

'Dolly Babe''Dolly Babe'Hua Lamphong, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 Miss 'Fancy-pants' - passenger on the platform, Hua Lamphong, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 (Fuji X-T2 and XF 90mm @ F2)

Where to from here?

I fully believe that we must have a focus, and a planned strategy and goals of operation in order to keep our passion for photography strong and alive.  I fear today that many ‘photographers’ are just gear collectors.  They often bounce from one new model of camera to the next, spending a fortune along the way and wondering why their photography never improves.  Get one good camera that fulfils all of your needs (or two like me if need be), learn how to use it so well that you can adjust and take photos in your sleep.  Then spend your time, money and effort planning exciting places to visit and other cultures to record.  If you are not in a position yet to afford overseas travel, then plan some interesting events, happenings or seasonal activities in your own area.  Usually I am fortunate enough to go on two major overseas trips a year (usually at least one with my wife and one alone), however, adding these together it only amounts to a couple of months a year at best.  What do I do for the rest of the time?

I live in a very isolated gold-mining town in the middle of the West Australian desert.  We are more that 600km drive from a major centre (Perth).  This town is very small (only 30,00 inhabitants) and everything revolves around gold mining.  We have the biggest open-cut gold mine in the world.  However, after you have photographed that a couple of times there is really nothing else.  I had to get creative so that I did not fall into a depressed photographic hole, whilst waiting for my next trip overseas.

A Big KidA Big KidHua Lamphong (Bangkok Train Station), Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 The 'Big Kid' - passenger on the platform, Hua Lamphong, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018 - (Fuji X-T2 and XF 16-55 @ F2.8)

I decided to document and record the local Aboriginal people.  One of my photos that I took this year ended up on the front cover of an online magazine where thousands of people were able to see it.  If I had sat around complaining that there was nothing to photograph here then I would have never taken that photo.  I also got permission to go to the local Men’s Shed.  We have these in Australia where old retired guys donate their time to teach woodwork and mechanics to unemployed people, enhancing their skills to gain employment.  I also go out to the Two-Up shed where they have gambling a few times a year.  I encourage all of you to set goals, ask many questions and find places where you can get in to get unique photographs.  I am planning to document the sheep shearers.  We have many who travel the rural and remote places of Australia sheering sheep on isolated stations.  The light and action will be magic and I can only image the beautiful images awaiting me there.  I encourage you all to get out, get active with what gear you have and make images that will not only fascinate people, and inspire others, but your photographic journey will start to become a real joy!

Here is a quick snap-shot of my gear.  Man I love working with this equipment, so light, fast and easy to use and producing incredible images.  There's my goofy gloves, bandana and hat included!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) Bangkok environmental portraits fuji fuji tilting screen Fuji xf 16-55 lens Fuji xf 90mm f2 lens Hua Lamphong Bangkok Railway Station more powerful images street photography Thailand travel photography https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/hua-lamphong-bangkok-railway-and-who-said-i-need-a-x-t3 Thu, 25 Oct 2018 08:58:41 GMT
Powerful Travel and Street Images - My Settings! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/6/more-powerful-travel-and-street-images---my-settings A Nation's CultureA Nation's CultureIndigenous Woman, Goldfields, Western Australia. 2018  A Nation's Culture - Aboriginal Woman, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF16-55, ISO320, F2.8, 120th sec, 16mm         

Kissing Grandma

Notwithstanding the wonderful memories of my childhood growing up in New Zealand, there was one annual ritual that I am sure has left me emotionally and psychologically scarred for life.  Come each Christmas, all of the relatives would arrive for the family get-together.  There would be wonderful gifts, cakes, sweets and of course Christmas pudding.  However, I knew in my small mind that there would be none of this for me, until I was subjected to the most terrible of ordeals.  As the aunties and grandmas arrived, we all had to go out and greet them.   My mum would grab me and hold me up at face level, for all the grannies to kiss.  I could see them coming with their whiskery chins and slobbering lips - I would cringe and shut my eyes, praying at the same time that the ordeal would not last too long.  However, that was only half of it - to double the purgatory, they would then stick their chins in my face, and I had to kiss them#$%&&!!

Of course once this ritual was over all was forgotten, and I could then tuck into the presents and food with reckless abandon.  However, my mum had everything covered.  I once tried to hide from the ordeal and she went and found me and said it was very rude not to kiss all the grandmas.  She said “no kissing the grandmas – no Christmas” – you could not have one without the other.

This post is akin to getting kissed by grandma – you have to read the parts you will not agree with, in order to get to the bits that will be very helpful.  I give a few of Fuji’s most hallowed lenses a good and thorough ‘basting’ and I know most will not agree.  However, from my childhood experience I urge you to push on, hold your breath, and pray it won’t last too long!!

BeautyBeautyYoung Girl, brick factory, rural Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018 Beauty - Young Girl, Brick factory, Rural Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF16-55, ISO 1600, F2.8, 180th sec, 55mm

A request

Since my last blog (Street and Travel Photography – A New Approach with Fujifilm), I have had several enquiries regarding my camera settings.  In that blog I detailed very precisely my new style or MO for street photography - incorporating the flip screen on Fuji cameras.  I now use this style with great success capturing daily life at home and in my travels throughout South East Asia.  However, because that blog was rather long and detailed, I purposely did not mention any camera settings or how I actually take the picture and then post-process it.  Therefore in this post I want to discuss in some detail the setup of my Fuji X-T2’s, and the actual picture taking process.

Lenses

I have written at great length about this on my other blogs – particularly my seven year journey with Fuji and what lenses were bought and sold, and what I actually shoot with today.  To save you rummaging around and having to read all my old blogs, I’ll recap here.  It is vitally important that you shoot with the lenses that suit your style of photography and lenses that you actually enjoy using and looking at the final images created by them.  I didn’t have a very good relationship with Fuji’s kit lens, the 18-55.  So many people rave on about this lens and I just don’t get it.  Some things in life we will never know the answers to – like how did Malcolm Turnbull ever become Prime Minister of Australia, how people can eat trifle, why do people still believe we landed on the moon, and why do folk rave about Fuji’s kit lens?

It kind of did my head in over the years thinking it was OK one moment, but then being bitterly disappointed by images from it the next.  I ended up buying and selling off 3 different copies of that lens – each time thinking I had a dud.  I finally came to the conclusion that this lens was not for me.  I tried the 55-200 and wrote a whole blog about that lens.  Suffice to say that I recently sold that on ‘fleabay’.

I even extensively used the 18-135, which really was quite a lovely lens and much better than the kit lens.  I have many wonderful images on my website taken with this lens and many happy memories using it.  However, just very recently it also met its demise on ‘fleabay’.  I have now finally settled on two magical lenses that are permanently glued onto my two X-T2’s.  That is the marvelous, magical 90mm F2, and the even better 16-55 F2.8.  These two lenses are out of this world and perfect for me!  I say for me because many people say the 16-55 is too heavy, and the 90mm needs OIS, and this and that.  I haven’t found that at all and to me both of these lenses are perfect.  I’m glad that 90mm has no OIS, because it would be too heavy and more expensive, and probably not as sharp.

The lens I use about 80% of the time is my 16-55.  What a perfect lens this is.  It is razor sharp wide open, still small and light enough to take everywhere, and weather sealed as well, and certainly does not need OIS.  People talk about the freedom and nostalgia of using small prime lenses.   Yes they may be a bit lighter, but to me they are a real pain.  I move fast and need to have all of my most used focal lengths rolled into one.  That is the 16-55.  I have my 24mm wide angle, I have my 80mm for portraits and close-ups and I have everything in between.  Can you imagine the pain of having to change every time you wanted a different focal length?  You can’t say to the people in the street parade “hey just stop and hold it there for a second – I need to make a lens change” – of course your shot is long gone.  Also, you let all the crud and dust onto your sensor.  I get into some very dusty and dirty places where I shoot, and because I NEVER ever change a lens, I have never had to clean a sensor and they are as clean as the day I bought my cameras.

People say the primes are sharper – for me this is not so.  I sold off all of my other Fuji lenses - but besides my two main ones mentioned, I also kept the 35mm F2.  This is a beautiful little lens and takes razor sharp images, it is also light and a joy to use.  Guess what – my 16-55 is every bit as sharp and I cannot tell the difference in images taken from either (other than the 35mm setting on the 16-55 has slightly more depth of field being a stop slower).  Consequently I never use the 35mm and it too will probably end up on ‘fleabay’. 

Choose your lenses well, get something that works for you and stick with that.  Use a good quality zoom and you will not have to carry a bagful of useless gear around that will probably never be used.  Get a weather-sealed lens that will not let crud onto your sensor, ‘glue’ it on your camera and leave it there.  You can then spend your time and energy on making better images, instead of wasting time like I did buying and testing every lens in sundry, wasting thousands of dollars to only end up back where you started!

Smoke and Ochre - Aboriginal Dancers, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF 90mm, ISO 200, F2, 1/7000th sec

Make Life Easy For Yourself

I greatly admire those who want to soak up some nostalgia and use their camera in a very basic way, in order to have total and absolute control over the final result.  This usually requires shooting the camera in full manual, and often using a non-proprietary lens (which on the Fuji you end up with manual focus only).  To me this seems to be counter-productive.  I personally want to use every ounce of my wits and energy concentrating on finding and executing my shot.  When I see my moment I only want to swing my camera into position, and hit the button.  To me the camera should and will take care of everything else.  If I had to fidget around manual focusing, then take a meter reading and set the aperture and then the shutter speed and ISO – my moment would be long gone.  My advice here is to make life easy for yourself.  I set my camera onto aperture priority.  To me it is essential that I control my depth of field.  That is paramount because I only ever shoot people, so I need to control how much of their face and the ensuing background are in focus.  This usually always means I lock my aperture wide open (to the smallest number – which is F2 and F2.8 respectively), and then I will get the least amount of background in focus as possible.  The camera then takes care of the shutter speed.  As long as it is not too slow to create blur – I really don’t care what that is!

'Pyrotechnics''Pyrotechnics'Kids and candles, New Year Celebrations, Mahamuni Pagoda, Mandalay, Myanmar, 2017

'Pyrotechnics' -  Kids and candles, New Year Celebrations, Mahamuni Pagoda, Mandalay, Myanmar, 2017.  Fuji X-T1, XF 35mm, ISO 1,600, F2, 1/45 sec

Protect your Highlights

This is very important and I have only recently begun to realise the significance of this.  I must be a slow learner because I have been in this photography business now for over 35 years, and I am really only now making a big deal about this!!  Everything I say here will relate specifically to my Fuji X-T2 cameras.  If you shoot another brand it may be different.  If I go back and find some old images shot with my Nikon D3X and have to post process them, the process is much different to what I do with my Fuji X files. 

By protecting the highlights I mean that I meter now for the brightest part of the image (even if it is only a tiny little window in the background).  I have many beautiful images in my files that I cannot use because there is some blown-out highlight somewhere in the background that is ruining my photo.  I obviously just took the shot and trusted the meter reading (I always use the evaluative metering on the X-T2), but because the camera averaged things out, it has lifted up the exposure at the expense of blowing the highlights.

What I do now is always leave my X-T2 on -2/3rd of a stop.  I find that my Fuji files are always slightly over exposed anyway, so by shooting everything slightly under exposed, I am leaning more toward making the whole image slightly darker instead of slightly too bright.  This will automatically bring my highlights down slightly and make them a bit darker.  This is for every shot and my camera is always on -2/3rd of a stop (I use the plus/minus knob).  This works fine – it tends to saturate the colours nicely and makes the image a bit more punchy.  Further, I now treat every image individually to make sure I am not blowing out highlights.  I have the flashing highlight option set on my camera so when I half press the shutter, anything that is overexposed will flash black.  This is great and it gives me a general indication of where the brightest part of the frame is.  I have done this so many thousands of times now that I can usually look and just guess what amount of compensation I need to dial in without having to take a test shot.  Often I need to go down as low as -2 or -3 stops or something like that.

Going HomeGoing HomeAboriginal women, Goldfields, Western Australia Going Home - Aboriginal Woman, Goldfields, Western Australia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, ISO 200, F2.8, 1/250th sec. 16mm

What about my Shadows?

This is a very obvious question and you are probably thinking that I’m being reckless and ruining all of my pictures.  Obviously if you underexpose by several stops for the highlights, of course the already dark shadows are going to get even darker.  You’ll be happy to know that the Fuji X sensor has great dynamic range and I find that the highlights usually always take care of themselves.  I can be several stops under and I’m always able to pull up the details in Lightroom.  It is far better to have a photo that is too underexposed than too bright.  If you have totally blown out highlights, there is really nothing you can do to recover those.  Just concentrate on the actual highlights and get those correct and let the shadows take care of themselves.  

The Vendor's DaughterThe Vendor's DaughterYoung girl on the streets of Yangon, helping her mum to sell their wares. Yangon, Myanmar, 2017 The Vendor's Daughter - Girl on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.  Fuji X-T1, XF35mm, ISO 200, F2.8, 1/850th sec

Use Your Auto ISO

To me this is one of the greatest inventions of modern photography.  Of course years ago when I shot film, we did not and could not have anything like this available.  I set the minimum shutter speed that I am willing to go down to (around 250 on the 16-55 and 320 on the 90mm).  I suggest not to go any lower, because even though you could certainly hand hold at a lower speed, and get a sharp image, you have to allow for the fact that shooting people they are usually moving.  It is better to have faster than 250, but I find I can usually freeze normal human movement at that speed.  If people are running or doing something faster, then I go up to around 500th sec.  Then I set my lowest ISO, and then my highest ISO that I want to go to.  That is usually always 200 and 1600 respectively.  I only ever go higher than 1600 if there is no other option.  To me my pictures don’t look too good after 1600, so that is why I choose that highest ISO. 

Then when I am shooting, my camera does all of the magic, and I can forget about making changes.  I just shoot away knowing that as the light changes, my camera will keep my shutter speed at 250/320 sec - unless of course the light drops way down, but then I am aware of that and take charge and change my settings accordingly. 

Red and BlueRed and BlueChinese Street Dragons, Western Australia Day celebrations, Fremantle, Perth, Australia, 2018 Red and Blue - Chinese Street Dragons, Western Australia Day Celebrations, Fremantle, Perth, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, ISO 200, F2.8, 1/3,500th sec, 16mm

What Format?

I am different to most photographers in that I never ever shoot in the portrait format, or vertically.  This is unusual for the fact that I also never shoot landscapes, or sceneries – I only ever shoot people/portraits and environmental portraits/street photography.  You would think in there somewhere I would need an image of my subject in the vertical situation.  Yes I do often, but I still always shoot in landscape.  I do this for several reasons.  By shooting landscape I always have the biggest area of frame that my camera offers.  Of course if I need my subject in the portrait format, I just crop in at 2x3/4x6 (vertical) and there it is!  However, if I were to shoot that same subject/image in portrait and later decided I needed a more full image (landscape), I would not be able to do that, because I only have available the limited view of portrait. 

It took me ages to figure this out, but it really works for me and has transformed the possibilities I can glean from one given shot.  Sometimes people will write back and ask me if I have the same image available in landscape – of course I do because even though the client was presented with an image in portrait, I actually shot it originally in landscape.  Now I just jump back into Lightroom, change the format to landscape, and whammo there is a ‘new’ image.  Had that image only ever been shot in portrait format, then that is all that you would have. 

I also suggest that you always shoot your subject/images with lots of space around them and do not zoom in too close.  Many magazines and publishers wish to put text in the space surrounding your subject (on the actual image), if you have cropped in so close you will be unable to do so.  I also tend to crop a lot when post-processing, just to get the image to look exactly how I like it.  On my super sharp lenses and the 24mp of the X-T2, I can zoom in a real lot and the image holds up well.

I am finding I am using the aspect ratio of 16X9 (or Cinemascope) a lot.  I always wondered why, when I watched a movie in that aspect ratio it just looked so much more powerful and dramatic.  I find that 16X9 fits the slide show on my website very well, and photos in that aspect just look so much more dramatic and punchy that when I keep them in the default 4X6.  Of course this does not work for every image and that is why I do not shoot them in camera on 16X9.  However, when I shoot now I keep in mind my perfect aspect ratio that I am aiming for and leave lots of space, so it is possible to convert it during post-processing.

RAW/JPEG

This is an old one, but to me it is very easy to decide – I always shoot RAW.  I accidentaly bumped my settings, and I shot an event last Saturday (the one above with the Aboriginal Dancer with body paint) with one of my X-T2’s (the one with the 90mm), set on JPEG.  I haven’t processed a JPEG image in years – what a disaster.  I couldn’t get my usual ‘look’, even with my presets – because JPEG’s don’t have all of the information that is stored in a RAW file.  I really encourage you to always shoot in RAW.  I actually shoot in lossless compressed and that makes my files smaller, but with almost the same information as a full size RAW file.

MomentsMomentsBrick Factory workers - mother and child, Siem Reap, Cambodia,2018 Moments - Brick Factory workers, mother and child, Rural Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF90mm, ISO 320, F2, 1/320th sec

Conclusion

These are all just suggestions and in photography nothing is really locked in concrete.  These things that work for me, may be a disaster for you.  Experiment and have fun.  I read on some of the photographic forums and ‘see’ people who are bogged down arguing over this pixel and that and splitting this hair against that one.  They are stressing themselves and everybody else.  The main thing in photography is to have fun.  I live/eat/sleep/breath photography.  Other than my Faith and my lovely wife, nothing else like photography makes me get out of bed each day with a spring in my stride.  It fills my every waking moment with dreams of places to visit, people to meet and impossible experiences to enjoy with my camera in hand - this is what helps to keep me sane in the madness of this crazy world.  It is as if I am breathing my air from some other place, and when necessary, I can rise above the miasma of my life’s dailiness - on the thoughts and dreams of my images.

The LegsThe LegsStreet Dancing, Western Australia Day celebrations, Fremantle, Perth, Australia, 2018 Legs - Dancing in the park, Western Australia Day Celebrations, Fremantle, Perth, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, ISO 200, F 2.8, 1/4000th sec. 16mm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) environmental portraits fuji fuji tilting screen more powerful images street photography travel photography xf 16-55 lens xf 90mm f2 lens https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/6/more-powerful-travel-and-street-images---my-settings Wed, 13 Jun 2018 12:00:04 GMT
Street and Travel Photography – A New Approach with Fujifilm https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/4/street-and-travel-photography-a-new-method-to-consider Fergal McCleary

'Completion''Completion'Worshiper bathing in the Holy Spring Water Temple, Istana Tampak Siring, Bali, Indonesia, 2016 'Completion' - Worshiper bathing in the Holy Spring Water Temple, Istana Tampak Siring, Bali, Indonesia, 2016.  Fuji X-T1, XF 18-135mm lens.

I have too many years under my belt now to dare count them all.  However, one thing that never fades with the decades is the memory of my wonderful childhood growing up in New Zealand.  We were as poor as church mice, but my dad worked two jobs, so my sisters and I could have a wonderful upbringing.  Aside from the trips to the lakes and wilderness areas of such a pristine land, the thing that burned deeply into the memory of my childhood, were the hours spent exploring and ‘plinking’ with my dubious friends on dad’s small hobby-farm.  We would spend hours making wooden tree houses, collecting wild bird eggs and looking for rabbits and other critters.  The one character in all of these escapades - who stood head and shoulders above the rest of us (not literally, but in legend status) - was Fergal McCleary.

Notwithstanding the many legendary stories surrounding Fergal – the one thing where he truly excelled, and made us all sick with envy - was his ability to ‘shoot from the hip’.  We used to carry slingshots for our ‘plinking’ trips and target practice.  We could shoot steel ball bearings straight through thick pieces of fibro cladding – like it wasn’t even there.  We would practice for hours shooting tin cans and other targets in readiness to unleash ourselves upon the poor hapless critter population.  No matter how much we practiced – nobody could ever beat Fergal McCleary.  We mortal plebs had to hold the contraption up near our face or eyes to aim, but so often we would miss.  Fergal had the uncanny knack of being able to hit almost anything – and very seldom ever miss – by shooting from the hip.  He would just pull back at waist level and let the ball bearing fly – nine times out of ten he would hit the target. 

On one occasion we disobeyed dad’s instructions, and went into the neighbour’s property.  My dad had warned us to never go there, because the neighbour was well known for his unfriendly dogs.  Like most things I never listened to my dad.  In one adventure we ended up jumping over the neighbour’s fence, when suddenly we heard the deep, terrifying growl of an angry dog.   By the time we turned to face the noise, here was a furious mongrel charging in our direction.  We stood there riveted to the ground in fear, but not Fergal McCleary.  In an instant he flicked up his wrist from waist level and ‘let fly’ with his slingshot.  The steel ball found its mark, and the dog beat a hasty retreat.  Fergal’s fame grew throughout the school yard, and nobody ever dared to get on the wrong side of Fearless Fergal McCleary.  In fact, as the years grew and we moved on to high school some of the stories had become rather embellished.  If Fergal is around somewhere - still telling his stories, I am sure the dog has grown into a rhinoceros and the rest of us were dwarfs and midgets!!  

I am sure by now you are well and truly wondering what on earth I am on about, and what if any vague reference Fergal McCleary has to a photographic blog?  In those dark and distant times, I was never able to challenge or even approach the prowess of Fergal McCleary, when it came to shooting from the hip.  Well I want it to be known at this juncture, that by the time I have completed this blog, I will be known as the Fergal McCleary of the photographic world - oh yes - He who shoots from the hip!!

Where it all began

Incense and HopesIncense and HopesThien Hau Temple, District 5, HCMC, Vietnam, 2017 Incense and Hope - Thien Hau Temple, District 5, HCMC, Vietnam, 2017.  Fuji X-T2, XF 90 F2mm lens.

I cut my teeth in photography during the film era shooting stock for a stock library called Astral International (now Austral Press).  Unlike today, where you may only get a few cents for an image, there was very good money to be made in stock photography.  Moreover, film was a lot more demanding and cameras were still quite expensive.  Not everybody had a camera, and even less were vying to be published or recognised, or even more to the point – had the skills to do so.  I am so glad that I learned the basics of the industry by shooting film.  For various reasons, I had a long sabbatical from photography for over 10yrs.  When I finally returned to the ‘fold’, things were well and truly cemented in the digital arena, and oh how things had changed in the commercial world.  I tried breaking back into stock and realised that one hundred thousand people had already beaten me to it!  

The stock that had been very successful for me prior was agricultural photography.  Many of my images were used for school text-books (Geography), and advertising brochures.  The images that were most successful were a serious of images I had taken of sugarcane harvesting in Queensland.  The lovely green sugarcane, contrasted against the deep blue skies – all shot on Fujichrome - these were very presentable images.  I also noticed that images with people were usually more likely to be purchased, than the images that were purely landscapes or sceneries.  My portfolio included two old timers cutting sugarcane by hand.  I had the wide-angle lens up close, almost in their faces, with the blurred swish of the cane-knife, contrasted with the rich green cane and blue skies behind them.  They had the black from the charcoal all over their faces (they burn the cane before they harvest it), and their hardened, shirtless bodies were bathed in sweat.  These images were hugely successful and kept me in ‘pocket money’ for a very long time (I still worked as a teacher – the ‘stock’ was only a hobby). 

Therefore, when I got back into photography in the new Millennium and found that ‘stock’ was not as lucrative and now a very hard nut to ‘crack’ I naturally moved toward photographing people through the genre of ‘street’ and environmental portraiture.  I couldn’t be bothered with all the hoops I had to previously jump through with ‘stock’, I just wanted to get out and shoot the random ‘dailiness’ of life for the pure artistic joy of it all.   However, I instantly realised I had a very big problem.   The thing with stock photography was that my shoots were usually organised and setup before hand.  Permission was asked and models or friends were happy to be photographed and to sign a model release.  The difference now was that the people I was pointing my camera at, were random folk on the street, all going about their ‘dailiness’ and completely unaware that they now needed to be photographed!!  No permissions had been asked, no model releases signed and they were certainly not aware of what I was doing. I had not been used to this in the stock world.  Even though I really enjoyed some of the images I was getting, it was rather harrowing having to point my big camera at the poor hapless crowd in the street.

The beginnings of a new way to ‘see’

"..... He Hath His Reward""..... He Hath His Reward"Asking for Alms, streets of Chau Doc, Vietnam, 2016 The Rich Man and the Beggar - Asking of Alms, streets of Chau Doc, Vietnam, 2016.  Fuji X-T1, XF 18-55 lens.

I would get a lot of frowns, funny looks, people wondering what on earth I was doing and lots and lots of “no”!  I found that I was going out less and less with my big Nikon DSLR and huge 70-200mm, or wide angle zoom lens.  It also happened at the same time that the weight of this system was starting to drag me down on my long, hot trips to Asia.  This is all discussed in detail in my blog ‘Fujifilm - my journey from frustration to competency’, but suffice to say, I started swapping over to a smaller, lighter system and ended up settling on Fuji Mirror-less.  I remember the first day I went out with my new X-T1, and having decided to try this fiddly looking flippy screen on the back – I had stumbled upon something magic.  I did not have to lift my camera up to my eye to take a photo.  I could look down and shoot at waist level.  Moreover, I started to notice that people paid far less attention to me – I was basically ignored as I apparently fiddled with my camera controls, looking down and not at or into people’s eyes.  This was truly one of those ‘eureka moments’ that we read about. 

These were the seeds of the new MO (modus operandi) that I developed, and it has grown and evolved into how I operate now and how I get the images that I do.  The most important thing I noticed was that I was no longer an imposter in people’s worlds.  Humans have an incredible built-in radar, that subconsciously knows each time a camera is pointed at them.  I have tried this over and over again.  You can stand quietly on the street, or in an industrial area where I often shoot people working, and watch somebody working or doing what they do – for a very long time.   They will usually just ignore you and carry on with what they are doing.  However, as soon as you lift a camera up to your eye, and point it at them – whammo – they know in an instant, and they have you ‘nailed’.  This was the one thing that always made me feel like an imposter – and I hated it.  I loved taking my street photos, I loved the images I took, but I wrestled long over the fact that I was an imposter in people’s worlds, and I disturbed the equilibrium of the community, or street or wherever I was.

This all changed when I adapted my new style of shooting using Fuji Mirrorless, and implementing the flippy screen on the back of the camera.  It slowly morphed over the last few years, until I now have a totally different style and approach to what I had with the Nikon cameras, and I feel so much more comfortable, and much less an intruder into people’s lives. 

My Modus Operandi!

 

Wax BoyWax BoyKid removing the excess wax from the place of worship at Angkor Wat Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia Wax Boy - Kid cleaning excess wax, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55mm lens.

The first thing to remember is to be relaxed.  People pick up on vibes, so I always appear friendly and approachable, and I just kind of ‘mooch’ slowly along.  Clothing is very important too.  You can’t wear a white or brightly coloured shirt at all.  On a sunny bright day, when you are looking down at the screen (waist level), the white from your shirt reflects straight into the screen and you can't see a wretched thing (I found this out the hard way).  I usually wear my favourite jeans and a cool, long-sleeve shirt (keeps the sun off my arms).  I always wear black leather gloves - they keep my sweaty paws from destroying the imitation leather on the cameras (it really works), and the blazing sun off the back of my hands.  I wear a brightly coloured bandana around my head – this keeps the sun off my face and keeps the sweat away on a hot day (it's always hot in Asia – he he).  I kind of stick out like the ‘proverbial’ you know what, but I think that is a good thing.  The places I usually shoot in, I’m mostly always the only white man there (except when I shoot in my own country), so I figured no matter how I dress, I will always be ‘pinged’ long before I take any photos.  My style of dress makes me unique and I often get a few laughs from people and it works for me.  It’s not the clothing we wear or don’t wear that makes us conspicuous when we are shooting, it is the style of photography that we adapt, and I’m about to get very specific about this now.

It is at this point I want to emphasise the one major change that you will need to make for this style to be successful for you.  It is counter-intuitive and goes against everything we have ever been taught or told about street photography.  I have read countless blogs and seen many videos on YouTube all regarding the different styles and means that we can adapt to become successful street and environmental photographers.  Many of them tell you to ask permission – oh my goodness that is the worst thing to do if you want to catch that special moment and avoid getting a ‘canned’ shot.  Yes people are usually very lovely and gracious – if you ask permission you will probably get it – but say goodbye to the world of special ‘moments’ and say hello to the world of record shots.  I will allude to this further under my heading ‘Never lower your standards’ and explain that like everything there is the odd exception to this rule.  However, if you really want to catch that magic moment – never ask for permission.

Never to be Forgotten

The ScribeThe ScribeMan practicing Calligraphy, Presidential Palace, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2017 The Scribe - Man practicing Calligraphy, Presidential Palace, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2017.  Fuji X-T2, XF 90mm F2 lens.

Furthermore I have never read one blog or listened to one video where they have made this point – (here it comes – never forget it), no matter what you do Never Ever make eye contact.  If you make eye contact you have already ruined nearly all of your chances to get the ‘moment’.  They now know that you know that they know.  In other words, once they know that you have zeroed in on them with your eyes, they are aware that you have singled them out – stalking them for a shot perhaps?  They will now watch you very closely and every move you make - the fact that you know that they now know – just changes the balance in the whole scenario.  You have just basically lost all your chances of pulling off that magic ‘moment’.  If you now attempt to lift the camera to your eye or take a photo, they fully have you ‘pinged’!  This is not idle talk.  I have been traveling and taking street/candids/environmentportraits abroad and at home now for well over 12 years.  I have tried this dozens of times.  When you make eye contact with a person you kind of make an unwritten contract – you have seen them, they have registered the fact that you have seen them – now the next move is on you.  What are you going to do next?? 

Remember when you were a kid??   I grew up in a pretty rough part of New Zealand.  I have always been skinny and scrawny (the 7 stone weakling – ha ha) – no matter what age I was or at what stage of life I choose to remember, I was always the one who was going to be picked on or bullied.  A lot of my peers and contemporaries (and close friends) at school were Maori and Polynesian.  These boys are huge and most of them were twice my size (have a look at the New Zealand All blacks Rugby Team)!!  I had to walk through an isolated farming area to get to and from high school.  I learnt the hard way back then that if you looked at some of the big kids on the way home, then you were in big trouble – yes, just simply looked at them!!  The cry would go out “…. what the hell are you looking at Pakeha” (‘Pakeha’ is the Maori word for White Man)??  Then you would have lots of explaining to do in order not to have your butt whipped (back then it was called getting your ‘beans’).  Conversely, if I kept myself to myself and looked at the ground and made no eye contact, then I usually avoided getting my 'beans'!  Taking photos is no different – no eye contact means you don’t owe anybody any explanation and there is no focus of attention on you and people will not be wondering what will you be doing next – period!!

This ‘battle’ of who is going to do what next all changed the day I experimented and made my photos with NO eye contact at all.  Whammo – it changed the whole scenario.  If you don’t make eye contact then you have not even made the first step that would normally be taken in obtaining a photo.  You have not registered the fact that you are even remotely interested in them.  You are just somebody in the crowd or somebody wandering past.

The Local Thug - Kids at play, Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.  Fuji X-T1, XF35mm F2 lens.

Now here comes the second most important part to what I have been alluding to all along.  My references to the ‘flippy screen’, my childhood tales of Fergal McCleary shooting from the hip – here is where it all comes together.  These two magic halves of the equation – no eye contact, and shooting from the hip – combine to morph this new style into something quite magic and spectacular.  Here now is how it all works - I just ‘mooch’ slowly along totally minding my own business.  I don’t look at anybody or make eye contact.  The flippy screen is pulled out horizontally on my X-T2 (or was my X-T1 prior to this).  I am generally gazing around the scenery looking for my shot or a potential moment.  Once I have spotted a potential shot, I start to move in that general direction.  Remember – still no eye contact and never lift the camera to your eye.  I am now honing in closer and shuffling over in that general direction.  Usually always, because I have made no eye contact and I appear to just be gazing around, people are very relaxed and have no idea of what I am doing.  Once I am close enough, I pay all of my attention into my flippy screen.  I am now viewing my whole world through my flippy screen.  Unless I am way back or honing in for a close-up portrait, I am always using my camera that has the magical 16-55 XF Fuji attached (oh boy – did I say I love this lens)?  I can now zoom in a little bit or a little out to fill the frame of my shot.  If I am very close and the sound of my shutter would give me away – I hit the magic ‘Q’ button and whack it onto Electronic Shutter – now I am totally silent.  Remember importantly – still no eye contact has been made and to all the world I am just some idiot who is dressed really silly, shuffling along fiddling with his camera controls.  By the time I have shuffled past, I could have taken 10-15 pictures - my ‘moment’ is in the bag and 95% of the time nobody even realises a picture has been taken. 

The pictures I have chosen for this blog have all been shot from the hip with either my Fuji X-T1 or one of my current X-T2’s.  I have also chosen these pictures because without this new style of shooting, none of these images would exist!! These were all situations that I had limited time to grab that special moment - then it was gone.  Also, in most of these situations if I had even lifted the camera to my eye, the people would have frozen up and stopped what they were doing.  Moreover, because I made no eye with anybody, the people paid no attention to me, and these beautiful images now exist to delight us all.  Just as an aside - it is tragic that Fuji shot us all in the foot by releasing the new X-100F with no flippy screen – oh boy what on earth were they thinking of?  This was totally idiotic because they market this camera as their main ‘street’ camera – WTH???  In other words if you are like me and you have one (X-100s for me) – leave it at home – it is useless!

Plan B

'Adjustments''Adjustments'Young girl adjusting makeup, Taipei train, Taiwan, 2017 Final Adjustments - Young girl fiddling with her makeup, Metro, Taipei, Taiwan, 2017.  Fuji X-T2, Xf 16-55mm lens.

Oh my goodness – here is where I really get excited - I really love this part!!  It's like the part in the movie when all the plotting and plans of the good guy are discovered.  He’s now in cuffs, shackled to the bomb in the basement, and it's about to go off.  Everybody thinks he is doomed and about to be turned into road-kill.  Aaahh – but they all forgot about the plan B.  Plan B means that unbeknown to everybody else, he had a secret up his sleeve.  He put money in the bank when nobody was watching – he had his butt covered. 

There are the odd times that my above method does not work.  Not so much overtly so – but I just get a feeling that it is not appropriate to use that style.  It is often when nobody else is around and I am the only one – then all of the attention is on me.  My focus of interest is usually set up busking or doing something really interesting and I want to capture that ‘moment’.  The problem is that even though I made no eye contact, or I have not lifted the camera to my eye – they still have me ‘nailed’.  I can see out of my peripheral vision that if I look down and shoot from the hip, they will know and my moment will cease.  If this happens – here is where plan B comes in.  Without making any eye contact still, I just shuffle over and stand straight in front of the person or people or wherever I want to take my shot from.  I now look above them and start 'photographing' something above and behind them (there is usually a tree or building or something I can point my camera at).  They then avert their attention from me and usually have a quick look behind them to see what I am photographing.  I use the camera at eye level now because I want it to be obvious that I am taking a shot.

What I do next is where the magic comes in.  After I have taken my phoney shot, I now make it obvious that I am going to ‘chimp’.  Everybody chimps these days so the person/people think you are just checking out the photo you took behind them.  However, what I am actually doing is taking the real photo that I want.  I hold the camera to eye level and look at the back of the screen apparently ‘chimping’ – but of course the camera is pointed at them.  You only have to do this a couple of times and they ignore you, settle back into what they were doing best, and all those magic moments are there for the taking.  Oh the magic of plan B.  I actually use this method a lot and it really never fails.  There are quite a few scenarios when my shooting from the hip is not appropriate, or I’m about to get 'nailed'.  I just swap over to plan B, and invariably the shot ends up in the ‘bag’!

Never lower your Standards

Public Nostril 'Adjustments'Public Nostril 'Adjustments'Streets of District 1, HCMC, Vietnam, 2018 Public Nostril 'Adjustments' - District 1, HCMC, Vietnam, 2017.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55mm lens.

Here is where I can feel the temperature rising and now is the time to address it.  Over the course of writing my blogs over the years – and alluding to this new style of shooting – I have had several people write to me and accuse me of being dishonest or being ‘sneaky’ and ‘stealing’ photos from people when they were unaware.   I have actually read well on this subject and I know that in my country (I’m talking legally here – not morally), that it is legal to take photos of groups of people on the street or individuals in public areas.  Of course where I shoot is usually always in a public area (unless I go into the brick factories or industry where I shoot in Asia – and permission has always been granted), and people are going about their general business.  I know that the Asian countries I shoot in have the same precepts as here in Australia – in regards to taking photos in the street.  However, they are extremely sensitive there around police stations, prisons and places where military families or Royalty may be present.  Always exercise extreme caution in these circumstances.  I have been in big trouble before and have had to extricate myself from some ‘hairy’ situations.  These will be written about in detail in an upcoming blog.

You may notice I said ‘legally’!  There are many times where it is legal to take a photo but not morally so.  Here is where I want to emphasise that we need to set our moral standards high and never deviate from that.  There have been lots of situations where I could have, but will never take a photo.  I have seen some terrible accidents in Asia over the years – people half naked and groaning on the road in pain.  Their countrymen usually always just stand around, often offer no assistance and take photos on their mobiles.  I think this is disgusting to take photos of people’s extreme discomfort and pain, and like some voyeur, record it for whatever reason.  I often see very unfortunate people with medical maladies on the street – things hanging off them, or shuffling along on their hands because their legs have been blown off.  I never take photos of these people.  Sometimes workmen or people on the street see me and they drag out their hapless friends – almost kicking and squealing – and hold them there for me to photograph.  I will never take a photo of somebody’s discomfort or misfortune.  My final screening method for shots of people that I put up on my website is “would I like to be photographed in that situation and have the whole world looking”?  If I can say yes, then I use the picture, if I say no I would not like that, then the image is never put on public display.  I think if you have a peek at the images on my website, you will see there are no pictures of people being humiliated or placed in compromising positions.  If you are a decent person you will know where and when is the right time to take a photograph and use it.  Disobey your own internal rules to your own demise!

I alluded to this above - there are also the odd times that asking permission is the best thing to do.  When I am in a new town in Asia, I always track down the local brick factory, and head straight out there.  Oh my goodness – there is nothing like a brick factory in Asia to get the best photos on earth.  Smoke from the kiln, workers’ dirty faces, orange light from the clay reflecting everywhere – total magic.  I have long ago been ejected from every brick factory here in my local area (don’t you hate all the silly rules we have here in the West), but I usually always get access to brick factories in Asia!  However, you must be polite and ask for permission.  It is a dangerous industrial site and you can’t go sneaking around hoping not to be seen.  I’m sure there are other scenarios – if so, do the right thing and ask for permission!

Postlude

The SelfieThe SelfieThien Hau Temple, District 5, HCMC, Vietnam, 2017 The Selfie - Thien Hau Temple, District 5, HCMC, Vietnam, 2017.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55mm lens.

I am hoping that this has not been too longwinded or verbose for anyone – this was not my intention.  However, I feel that this is an exact ‘science’ that I have been studying for many years.  My hope is that I can impart this information to others and that this missive has been helpful and will open up an amazing adventure for you - to photograph the beautiful people of this world.  Finally, if during the course of one of your adventures you find yourself out on the street and you spy a middle aged guy who is wearing black leather gloves, has a bandana pulled over his head, is looking downward apparently fiddling with something and is toting more cameras than a Texan tourist – you might want to sidle up to him and whisper “did you ever know Fergal Mccleary”?

The DockingThe DockingFishing Village, early morning Hoi An, Vietnam, 2016 The Docking - Fishing Village, Ancient City Hoi An, Vietnam, 2016.  Fuji X-T1, XF 18-55mm lens.

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) fuji fuji tilting screen fuji xf 16-55 fuji xf 18-135 fuji xf 18-55 fuji x-t1 fuji x-t2 street photography https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/4/street-and-travel-photography-a-new-method-to-consider Thu, 19 Apr 2018 08:11:14 GMT
Fujinon XF16-55 f2.8 – Dating the Prom Queen!! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/3/fujinon-xf16-55-f2-8-dating-the-prom-queen 'Stella' - candid street portrait, Western Australia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, 16mm @F2.8

I have written a lot about my different lenses over the years, and I even mentioned the 16-55 lens on my last blog relating to my seven year journey with Fujifilm.  I am currently halfway through writing my most recent blog regarding the new style of street photography that I have implemented using the flip out screens on my X-T2’s.  However, I have been so excited recently about my 16-55 lens that I have momentarily dropped all other projects, so I can write a long-term review on this wonderful lens.

My Quest

Stepping Out - candid street portrait, Western Australia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, 16mm @ F2.8

This will not be very technical – there are lots of other tech-heads out there doing a much better job of that than me.  This will just be my observations and photos from using this lens for over a year now.  I am not paid by Fuji nor do I have any affiliate links – methinks that I am not even a ‘fanboy’ – just practical observations from a contented user.  Also – unlike any of my other blogs I will not use any of my travel pictures as illustrations for this blog.  I have been working on a long-term project for over a year now - documenting the unenviable lives of the beautiful Aboriginal or Indigenous people who were the original land owners of this desert gold-mining wilderness that I call home.  It is in these last weeks especially – and in my own back-yard - that I have seen the true worth of my 16-55 really come to the fore.  It is my hope that perhaps some of these images will portray what I am actually trying to illustrate or where my bumbling words fail – the images will speak for themselves!

Request for Advice

I often get emails from people asking advice on Fuji’s lenses – based on my comments and observations from my blogs.  I have had two such enquiries just today.  I mentioned to the gentleman in my reply that what I have gone through is akin to the guy who is dating the girl next door.  She is a lovely girl, nice looking - faithful and sweet, they get on fine and he believes that he is perfectly happy.  Then through a set of circumstances he ends up going on a one-off date to accompany the local Prom Queen – then things will never be the same for him again!

The Point of No Return

Darcy and Wife - candid portrait - streets of my town, Western Australia, 2017.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, 34mm @ F4

I came back this time last year with an awesome set of images from my 5 weeks in Myanmar – all shot predominantly on my Fuji 18-135mm lens.  Those images still grace my website and I get many positive comments and enquiries for the use of those images – all great stuff.  That lens was wonderful to use and to the most part, fulfilled all of my expectations on what a good travel lens should be.  However – since that time I have embraced the 16-55 and 90mm F2 Fuji lenses – I have dated the Prom Queen and things will never be the same for me again!!

Even though most of the images from the 18-135mm were fine - at the 18mm length it was sometimes not quite wide enough.  I came from a background of cutting my teeth on a Nikon 24mm wide angle (shooting ‘Stock’ for years) - of course I longed for that slightly wider look.  Also, at the longer end – say over about 100mm – the 135 was quite soft.  Remember, when I talk about my lenses and how I shoot – I always shoot wide open.  I have zero interest in scenery or landscapes, so of course shooting people I want to isolate them from the background so I predominantly shoot all my lenses wide open.  If you shoot landscapes and always use an aperture of f8 or f11 – then these comments may not be applicable to you.

Taking the Plunge

'Prudence' - candid street portrait, Western Australia, 2017.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, 22mm @F4

Having discussed fully in my last blog the shortcomings of my other lenses - and after much enquiry and reading - around a year ago I purchased the Fuji 16-55 and 90mm f2 lenses.  My Fuji 18-135 was put into semi-retirement and I have almost solely used those two lenses for the last year or more.  The subject of my last blog (5 week trip to Cambodia), and the subsequent images – were all taken on the Fuji 16-55 and 90mm f2 lenses.  Even since I returned back home in January to a very busy teaching schedule at school, and other family stuff, I have still been able to get out each weekend and continue my quest of photographing the Indigenous Community.

When I first researched the 16-55, some people colloquially called it the ‘brick’.  This kind of hinted that it was a heavy hunk of metal – almost defeating the purpose of getting a lighter mirrorless system.  The other thing that was lamented often was the fact that it has no OIS.  I mentioned in the last blog that we here in Australia are not favoured with the generous return policy that you folks in the States have – we walk out the door of the shop (online store), and you are stuck with it – whether you like it or not.  So it was with great apprehension that I parted with my hard earned ‘shekels’ and bought these lenses online – without even having held or seen them in the ‘flesh’.  They are wretchedly expensive here too (except for my hapless relatives in New Zealand – they pay even more), the 16-55 cost me over 1,600 AUD.

As I have slowly and carefully got to use this lens more and more – both home and abroad - these are my observations.

The Total Package Dog and AllDog and AllStreet portrait, my local beat, Western Australia, 2018

Dog and All - street portrait, my local beat, Western Australia, 2017.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, 22mm @ F2.8

What I really like about this lens as compared to any of the other Fuji lenses I have spoken about in the past is that for me it is the total package.  Others would disagree because it has no OIS.  This was my original concern and I almost did not purchase the lens because of that.  However, after using it for over a year now, I can honestly say it is a non-issue and in fact I am very happy that it does not have OIS.  It would have been heavier and more expensive, and in some cases not as sharp.  I have taken thousands of images now over more than a year and I can say I have never wished that this lens had OIS.  You just adapt your style slightly, be very aware when you are getting down into the lower shutter speeds, and of course you can move your ISO up to suit.  My 90mm is a bit different.  I live with the fact that it does not have OIS, but I have still missed a few photos because of image blur. 

Also with a 135mm equivalent I really need to be using a shutter speed of at least 1/250 sec to secure sharp images – and this is not always possible.  However, with the 16-55 only having an 80mm long end, I can still seem to shoot at around 1/60th sec or even less and get sharp images.  However, most of the time I shoot that lens wide angle, so of course I can even go to 1/30th sec quite easily.  This lens is beautifully made, is weather resistant and of course extremely sharp wide open.  I also like it that once I choose an aperture it stays on that aperture, even when I zoom in and out.  That is what annoyed me about the 18-135, I would pick one aperture at one focal length, but of course as soon as I zoomed – that would all change.

What I also really appreciate is the build quality of this lens.  I am a bit accident prone and probably not the most forgiving photographer on my gear.  I do respect my gear, treasure it and look after it, but it must be robust and be able to last my gruelling trips each year to Asia.  The thing I detested about the 18-135 and 55-200 lenses when I carried them on my BlackRapid strap - by my side - after a while the lens would 'creep' down, and eventually the lens would always be hanging right out at the full length of its zoom.  This was so annoying and looked very amateur and the lens was also a lot more prone to knocks and bangs in this state.  I am very happy to report that I can walk all day with my 16-55 hanging down by my side - zoomed all the way in to 16mm - and it will stay like that all day.  Man I love that part and this is a really big deal to me.  For professional gear it must be good in every department - build, reliability, sharpness, weather sealed - the whole 'shebang'.  Little niggling compromises like that can eat out the joy of using the thing, and in the end you want to wrap it around a tree (not that I have sunken to that level yet - he he).  I can say wholeheartedly that this lens is a pro lens through and through and it will last a very long time.

Rendering - The Magic Sauce!

'Together'- friends offering support, streets of my town, Western Australia.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55 30mm @F2.8

This is very hard to equate or even put into words – let alone prove.  However, I think Fuji put some magic sauce in this lens that the others don’t have.  Even compared to my very sharp 35mm f2 lens, the images from the 16-55 have a beautiful depth and rendering to them that I don’t even see in my lovely 90mm - I just find when I take a portrait with this lens, it is something very special.  I have even been shooting some of my images with my Indigenous serious on my old X100s.  Sometimes I just need a little fill-flash, and of course we all know that magic leafshutter/builtinflash/NDfilter combo on that camera is second to none.  No matter what I do with fill-flash on my X-T2’s, I can never replicate that look.  Therefore my images come out great with the lighting on the X100s, but they do not have that magic sauce look that I get on the 16-55.  This is why I really believe it is the ideal portrait lens!

Being Satisfied

The 'Girls' - street candid, Western Australia, 2017.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, 22mm @F4

This is something that we do not talk about much but I really think this has to be addressed.  I am as guilty as most with this gear acquisition syndrome that is spoken of – I just call it old fashioned hankering.  I have bought and sold so much photographic gear over the last 35 odd years that I could probably have put a deposit on a second house.  I have noticed that as gear comes and goes you usually just end up with the one or two cameras and lenses attached, that seem to do the bulk of the work.  I am buying a lot less gear now that at any time of my life.  I think it also helps with the new equipment of late that it is actually obsolescence proof.  I mean the cameras and lenses in the initial decades of digital progress were all building upon the knowledge and steps of the prior model – all becoming better and better with each iteration, but still usually lacking in some areas.  It has come to the point now that the latest digital gear is really so good you can hold onto it now and you are not missing out on a real lot if you don’t change models.

It makes me laugh of late – so many people only a few months ago were saying how wonderful the Fuji X-T2 was and the best camera ever made etc etc (particularly one fairly loud, aggressive character on his YouTube channel) - but now that the new X-H1 has been released, the X-T2 is sold off or forgotten and cast aside and now the best thing since sliced bread is this new Fuji.   I think it is the same for lenses.  As mentioned above I bought the 90mm f2 about a year ago.  It is a lovely lens, but at the time it was the only offering from Fuji that was in that focal length and it has no OIS.  Shortly after they introduced the new 80mm macro lens, which I think is a stop slower, much sharper apparently and does have OIS.  So what does one do now?  Do we rush out and sell the 90mm for a pittance and buy the much more expensive 80mm variant?  Same thing with the X-H1 – it just never ends. 

HomeHomeYoung Aboriginal child at play, Western Australia, 2018 It's still Home - Aboriginal child at play, my local beat, Western Australia, 2018.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, 16mm @ F2.8

I can also see a lot of people falling into a big trap with this new X-H1.  You really don't have to be Einstein to work out what is going to happen.  We all know that Fuji is going to release their new X-T3 at the end of this year.  For all intense and purposes it should be available for sale in less than a year.  Folk don't realise they are being sucked into buying another interim camera (X-H1).  We also all know that the new T3 will have a new sensor.  Suddenly all those folk who at great expense shafted their perfectly good T2's to get the H1, will be thinking they are now stuck with a camera that has an 'old' sensor - and so the ridiculous cycle repeats itself again and again.   Folk don't realise that this is exactly what electronic manufacturers want us to do.  As far as sensors go too, I really think we are at a stage where we have enough.  As mentioned, I had the X-T1, and was perfectly happy with it, but it was the camera that got 'drowned' at Inle Lake last year, in Myanmar.  When I replaced it, insurance covered me for the equivalent latest model, so I was unable to get the T1, and had to replace it with the T2 - that is the only reason I now have two X-T2's. 

If you put a gun to my head (in most instances), I cannot tell which photo has been taken with which sensor.  Other than the 'magic sauce' thing I spoke about (which of course is the lens difference - not the sensor), the pictures from my X100s (same sensor as X-T1), are equally as beautiful and in some cases, even nicer than the ones from the latest sensor.  The 16-55 also falls into that category of not only being good enough, not only ‘future proof’, but it can be a wonderful tool and companion in the field for years to come.  I was never settled with the 18-55 or even the very sharp 55-200.  I spoke in my last blog about their shortcomings and why I sold them off. These, I always felt were lenses that Fuji made to just fill in a gap until something much better came along.  Well I feel that time has come.  For those of us who needed a workhorse lens that was bullet-proof, had a constant aperture, was weather resistant and tack sharp edge to edge wide open - please enter the Fuji XF 16-55 2.8.

I will not be looking for any other lens (or camera for that matter), for the long foreseeable future.  When I shot Stock for all of those years and used my trusty Nikons, I always had a 24 to 70 'something' zoom hanging off my camera.  That was the one focal length that you could do all things with.  The one lens if somebody said you can travel the world for a year but can only take one lens – it would be that focal length.  Until 3 or so years ago we only had the choice of the measly 18-55 or a few primes (60mm F2.4) to fill that gap.  Now after using this marvellous lens almost exclusively now for over a year, I can wholeheartedly say that Fuji has provided us with a worthy tool, to take amateurs and professionals alike boldly into whatever photographic genre we should choose.  Kudos Fuji!

'Mason 2' - Street portrait, Western Australia, 2017.  Fuji X-T2, XF 16-55, 45mm @ F2.8 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) aboriginal fuji fujix-t2 indigenous indigenousaustralian kalgoorlie westernaustralia xf16-55 https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/3/fujinon-xf16-55-f2-8-dating-the-prom-queen Wed, 14 Mar 2018 12:14:03 GMT
Fujifilm - My Journey From Frustration To Competency https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/1/fujifilm---my-journey-from-frustration-to-competency  A Quick Overview

Dreams AloftDreams AloftNew Year Wishes, Taiwan, 2018 Dreams Aloft - Sky Lantern Festival, Taiwan, 2017

If you have been following my blogs over the years you will have noticed that my ‘journey’ with Fuji has been quite a protracted learning curve.  Without going over old ground too much - (you can go back and read all of the various stories in full detail on my old blogs), I first dabbled with the original X100 in 2011.  I liked the concept, but the camera was lacking in so many ways - I put it in the cupboard and left it there.  The following year I bought the X-Pro1, and with high hopes I sold off most of my Nikon gear and dragged the X100 out of the cupboard again.  After one of my extended trips to Asia - I was very disappointed with the performance of those two Fuji cameras - I unceremoniously sold them off with disgust, bought a Nikon D3X and I was up and running again.  

I loved the Nikon D3X just so much.  It is an incredible piece of precise engineering, and it never ever let me down.  However, it always churned over in the back of my mind how light the Fuji cameras were to use and how liberating they were.  After one particularly arduous, hot and strenuous trip to Laos and Cambodia in 2014, I returned home with brilliant images, but rather fatigued at having to drag that huge DSLR around in the heat of Asia, with the very big 70-200, Nikkor attached.  

I decided sometime in late 2015, to cautiously stick my toes in the water and just dabble back into the Fuji World again.  In November of 2016, I took my wife for a surprise anniversary trip to Bali for a week.  The only camera I took along was a newly acquired X-T1 and a 35mm F2 and 18-55 kit lens.  I was very impressed with the X-T1 and even though it had some limitations, I began to think that perhaps FujiFilm was coming of age.  I kept using the Nikon gear for local photoshoots, but I began turning more and more to the lighter system.  The acid test was 12 months ago - I had a long planned trip of over 5 weeks to Myanmar - which system would I take? 

I bit the bullet and bought one of the first copies of the newly released X-T2, ‘strapped’ an 18-135 to it, put the 35mm F2 on the X-T1, and I was off to Myanmar.  You can read in detail on my blog discussing all of my findings on those cameras, the lens combinations I chose and lots of other interesting stuff.  Suffice to say though (other than a few minor quibbles and the limitations of the X-T1), I was rather happy with the results from that trip and the reliability of my expanding Fuji kit.

Biting the Bullet  

Starting Early - Brick factory Kids at Play, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018

I also had to make a very hard choice - what was I to do with my Nikon system that was now gathering dust?  Recently, I needed to finance another camera and two new lenses, so I made the very hard choice of having to sell off my beloved Nikon D3X and the last of the Nikon lenses - I was in boots and all now!  

My lens ‘Journey’

Shopping SpreeShopping SpreeOld Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2018 Shopping Spree - St Joseph's Cathedral, Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2017

This now brings us to the present moment.  After the trip a year ago in Myanmar, I planned my 14th trip to Cambodia at the end of 2017 to mid January 2018 – so here I am.  I had five weeks and this time I did a week in Taiwan with my wife and her sister (the Taiwanese are the most marvellous, friendly people I have met anywhere in my life), a week in Hanoi in the north of Vietnam with my wife, 10 days in Siem Reap, Cambodia (alone), photographing village folk, the Temples and other fun stuff, then I finished off the journey with my wife and her lovely folk in HCMC, Vietnam.

The big focus of this trip was perfecting my lens combination for my two X-T2’s.  I am a huge believer in never changing lenses.  I shoot in very dusty terrible places in Asia, and the last thing I want is to be fiddling around in dusty conditions, changing lenses and letting a load of crud into my sensor.  I have two cameras, a lens ‘glued’ on each one, and that is my full kit.  

Even though all of this is documented on my blog - I will recap here.  Over the years I have had 3 copies of the 18-55 kit lens.  I kept buying new copies because I thought the first one was a dud.  However, all the others were the same, so I came to the conclusion that this is a mediocre lens - at best.  I know others write glowing reviews about it (not sure why), but if you want to be really discerning regarding your images - you need the best glass and unfortunately this kit lens does not fall into that category. I sold off my last copy of this lens last year.  

I have written a complete blog documenting my thoughts on the 55-200 lens.  This was my love/hate lens.  This lens is just so unbelievably sharp.  Most people don’t realise that, and think that it is like the 18-55 - a cheaper kit lens.  This is not the case - this is an extremely sharp lens, and in some cases my copy was as good as the primes.  However, here is where the ‘hate’ part came in.  I have had two copies of this lens and both were identical.  The first thing that let me down was it is not a sealed lens.  Once again, my parameters (because of the dusty filthy conditions I shoot in Asia and often in the rain), I need a weather sealed lens (yes I knew this beforehand, so my fault).  The other thing I found niggling with this lens is that both of my copies were loose or kind of clunky on the lens mount.  When I zoomed to the longer end - the lens appeared to go very stiff (both copies), then it would grab a little and twist and clonk on the lens mount.  This did not feel good at all.  The third thing I disliked (like the 18-55), is that silly aperture selection ring that Fuji use on the cheaper lenses - it kind if just keeps turning around and around.  You can bump it and short of looking in the camera - you never really know what aperture you are in.  With all of that, I sold off my last copy of the 55-200.

I don’t need to say much about the 35mm F2.  It is a lovely little lens and though I don’t use it much - I will never sell it.  On the odd occasion I want to go light with one camera, it is a lovely small lens that is very sharp wide open.  The other lens I don’t use much now but will never sell is my 18-135.  I may sound contradictory here, but it is not especially sharp or wonderful at anything in particular.  I hate it that I can’t separate my subject from the background, because as soon as you go over about 55mm it goes to 5.6.  It is not fast enough to separate the subject like you can on a faster lens.  However, this is the lens I used mostly on my trip last year in Myanmar and I have some wonderful images from it.  Though I would never use it again as my main lens - and on paper it lacks in quite a few areas - it is one lens that I could never sell.  If you just want one lens for a day that is good enough, and can do lots of different things quite well - then this is your baby.  The fact that it is weather sealed allows me to keep it and then OIS is quite handy.  In case you are wondering – yes it is noticeably sharper at the 18 and 55mm focal lengths that any of my 3 copies of the 18-55!!

My Current position regarding lenses

Aquatic FairyAquatic FairyKids at play, HCMC, Vietnam, 2018 Aquatic Fairy - kids finding relief from the heat, Cong Vien Cay Xanh, HCMC, Vietnam, 2017 

Last year (2017), was the year when everything kind of gelled for me, as I prepared for this 5 week trip.  As I have just mentioned, you will see how I came to the conclusion that the lenses I had used in the past had to go or be retired, and I had some new decisions to make regarding what to bring on this current trip.  As I sat at my desk last year - with a camera cupboard almost completely depleted of Fujinon lenses, I started to research long regarding what to replace those lenses with.  Time and time I kept reading about something called ‘the brick’.  One particular character on DPReview, relentlessly bagged out this lens, and with a little ‘tongue/n/cheek’, stirred up the Fuji fraternity on that site.

I live in a small gold-mining town in the middle of the Australian desert.  There are no camera shops there, so I never have the luxury of trying a lens before I buy it.  My nearest shop is 600Kms away in Perth and we don’t go there often.  We have no return policy in Australia like you guys have the luxury of in the States.  When we buy something it is for keeps.  I needed a lens that was no compromise sharp, weather sealed, fast and went from wide angle to medium zoom, and preferably OIS.  The only lens that came close was fuji’s 16-55 F2.8 - yes ‘The Brick’.  The thing that put me off was the no OIS.  However, there were no alternatives so I bit the bullet and forked out my hard earned $1,600.  To cut a long story short - I love this lens. I love it so much I am seriously thinking of epoxy resin(ing) it to my X-T2 so it can never be taken off (joking of course).  It is a delight to use, equally as sharp as my 35mm F2, it handles just so beautifully - no clunking, no lens creep - just a magic magic lens.  Oh my goodness - when you compare a photo shot wide open on this lens, to one wide open on the 18-55 - they are poles apart.  Did I say it is tack sharp wide open.  

The one thing where I almost didn’t buy this lens - no OIS - matters not at all.  I have never once wished that I had it, have never got a blurry shot and I am actually glad now that it does not - it would have been even bigger and more expensive and probably not as sharp.  I have never ever thought it was a ‘brick’ or too heavy.  I carry it on a Neoprene strap around my neck and as they are springy and stretchy, they appear to make the camera weigh half the weight of what normal straps would do.

I always shoot with two cameras ‘deployed’, my main one being the wide angle to medium zoom (16-55), that is the one I use for most of my shots and it is always around my neck ready to be grabbed at a moment’s notice.  I now had one of my two lenses in the bag - which one for the second lens?  The second camera always hangs at my side on a BlackRapid strap.  I always have a telephoto or medium telephoto type lens on this camera, so I can zoom in on the subjects that are further away.  I don’t use this combo as much as the 16-55, but nevertheless it is a very important focal length – so I had decisions to make!  In Fujinon, there are not too many choices.  The 50-140 is way too huge and expensive, the 56mm lenses are too ‘short’.  The 90mm seemed about the closest fit.  Even when I had my Nikkor 70-200 – I very seldom ever used the 200mm length.  Around the 135-150mm, is about the longest I seem to need.  Without much deliberation, I purchased the 90mm F2.  Having looked at most of the photos now from my trip (I’m back home now), I have only missed a handful of shots, because of camera shake on lower light.  It would have been OK if it had OIS – but certainly not a deal breaker.  If you keep in mind that there is no OIS, and shoot accordingly, there is usually no problem.  This lens is very sharp and the images from it are beautiful.

Oh that Flippy Screen!!

That Which Was LostThat Which Was LostMusicians, Temples of Angkor, Cambodia, 2018 That Which Was Lost - Musicians, Angkor Temples, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018

In one foul swoop Fuji revolutionised the way I shoot, upped my keeper rate by ten-fold, and totally destroyed my favourite camera!!  I didn’t realise when I first bought my X-T1 that I was solving one of my worst dilemmas.  I almost 100% shoot street and people photography.  I have zero interest in animals, BIF, scenery, landscapes - the human race and all of their idiosyncrasies, is what really drives me.  The other morning at the sunrise over Angkor Wat, here were the myriads of people pressing in one giant throng, vying for the best position for their sunrise - I was over on the outskirts, photographing the human interactions - I had the place to myself.  

Therefore, with my Nikon system my greatest dilemma was trying to be discreet.  Every time I lifted my camera to my eye to get the shot, people would freeze, wave, smile, say no - whatever they did I had lost ‘the moment’.  When I got the flippy screen on the T1, I really knew I was onto something.  My keeper rate has gone up ten-fold now and my street shooting experience is sooo much more enjoyable.  This is how I operate now.  I dress kind of Goofy on purpose - to be a bit of a mystery.  I always wear black leather gloves - keeps my greasy/sweaty paws from destroying the nouveau leather on my cameras - believe me they last much longer.  I wear a bandana over my face.  I have two small ThinkTank bum packs around my waist - on their patented strap.  My X-T2 hangs over my shoulder with the 90mm on the Black Rapid strap, and the other T2 over my neck, resting lightly on top of the ThinkTank bum pack.  

I walk slowly along looking pleasant and friendly, but always scanning for my shot.  The flippy screen is opened out horizontally on the X-T2 with the 16-55.  Here is the kicker - I Never Ever make eye contact.  If you make eye contact you have already ruined most of your chances – because they now know that you know that they know.  In other words, once they know that you have zeroed in on them with your eyes, they are aware that you have singled them out – stalking them for a shot perhaps?  The fact that you know that they now know – just changes the balance in the whole scenario.

Back to my MO (Modus Operandi), when I see my shot I walk slowly toward that area - looking down now, into my screen.  I am watching everything now through my flippy screen - not looking at the people/person.  I always appear to everybody that I am just fiddling with my controls, looking down - but never directly at them.  I slowly swing the camera in their direction, when it is lined up, whammo - my shot is in the bag.

This is a magic system.  Over 90% of all my shots are done this way now.  I hardly ever lift the camera to my eye - I nearly always shoot from the hip.  Ninety odd percent of the time people never even know that they have been photographed.  I always get my moment, because I am just a stranger wandering by, I am not talking, interacting or even making eye contact.  They never stop what they are doing, the ‘moment’ never changes, and I am usually always able to record it without being an imposter, or altering their world.  It also has the added benefit of my photos being taken at a different perspective.  A much more pleasant shot from waist level rather than high up from the eye looking down on people (a bit like the old Rolleiflex).  

Take for example the photo above of the musicians.  I saw from a distance the photo I wanted.  I needed the guys to be serious - almost a little sad, and the man in front - I needed him looking down at his prosthetic leg.  However, I stood back and observed for a while.  As the other tourists went past and stopped - then lifted their camera to their eyes, the man in front would smile and wave, then he would pose with the two finger sign like they always do in Asia.  A great record shot but good for nothing else.  If that was the only photo I could get I would not have even bothered.  I then did my normal thing - I slowly wandered by, making no eye contact - just looking down and apparently fiddling with my camera controls.  I had the image I wanted before anybody had even realised I took a photo.  I did not disturb the musicians, they did not need to pose or interact with me - they just carried on as if nobody was there - and best of all, the image was already in the bag!!

It makes me laugh so much when I read so called experts on YouTube giving ‘advise’ on how to be a good street photographer.  They tell you to smile, interact, chat, and the worst thing of all - ask permission - oh my goodness!!  Yes, you will probably get your permission, but your moment is gone.  People will then be self-conscious, they will pose and smile -you’ll get a nice record shot - but that’s about all.  I am so excited about this new method of shooting that I’m going to dedicate a whole blog to the subject - stay tuned!

You can imagine how I was totally mortified and bewildered when Fuji introduced the new 100F WITHOUT a flippy screen - were they stark raving bonkers???  This is supposed to be their ‘street’ camera - why on earth in their infinite wisdom would they leave out the flippy screen?  I have the older 100s, and it has always been a favourite.  However, since I have developed my much more successful system for street photography, this camera is now totally obsolete.  I even tried to use it in Siem Reap recently, and I got ‘sprung’ every time, lifting the camera up to eye level.  They either waved me on, or put the two fingers up sign like they do in Asia (a friendly gesture), or froze or whatever they did, but my ‘moment’ was well and truly gone.  So I am very sad to announce that my favourite little camera is destined for ‘fleabay'!  What I mean is that I would have to sell it anyway and replace it with the X100F - but what's the point, it has no flippy screen!

Inle Lake

The GunThe GunChildren at Play, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018 The Gun - Kids at play,  Preay Ang Chek, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018

You would have read about this in my blog a year ago - in all its terrifying, horrific detail.  However, as this is one year on I really want to mention this again.  In the very early hours of the morning - almost in total darkness, I walked off the end of the jetty at Inle Lake in Myanmar.  I had my full camera kit strapped around my waist!!  My poor hapless boat driver was getting things ready, and it was so dark the water looked the same colour as the wooden jetty - and I unceremoniously walked straight off the end of the pier.  I went fully under, and like a drowned rat I popped back up.  The driver grabbed me by the scruff and hauled me - like a limp rag-doll - back onto the jetty.  My X-T1 was sitting in the bottom of my camera bag, with no lens on it.  As bad luck would have it I had lost the body cap, so the camera filled up with water and was ruined immediately.  You can see why now my policy is to ‘glue’ one lens on to each camera and leave it there.  

However, my X-T2 had the 18-135 attached, both of these items are weather resistant.  The ThinkTank with the T2 and lens attached was fully half filled with water by the time I got my camera out.  The camera and lens were totally soaked - water seemed to be pouring from every orifice.  To cut a very long story short - and this is now over 12 months later - I still have that very same X-T2 and the 18-135mm lens.   I am very happy to report that both are working perfectly.  They were never sent in for repairs, the lens never got any condensation inside and the camera works exactly the same as its new counterpart.  I am very happy to report that Fuji’s WR system really really works.  You can see why I will never use a lens or camera now that does not sport the WR insignia. 

Where to next?

Early DistractionsEarly DistractionsBoy Soldier during military demonstration, Royal Palace, Taipae, Taiwan, 2017 Early Distractions - Boy Soldier putting on a demonstration, National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, 2017

I am feeling very satisfied right now with my current setup.  I can honestly say that in over 35 years as a photographer, I am in the least ‘hankering’ mode for new gear, than I have ever been.  Even in the film days with my Nikon F3, f4, F5 etc, I was always longing for another motor-drive, a different lens or just something to ‘perfect’ my gear setup.  Having just been back a week now from my trip, and having waded through some of my 12,000 odd images, I can say I am very happy with my setup, and really need to change nothing for my next trip later this year.  My same two lenses will remain ‘glued’ to each of the X-T2’s, and the poor sad 18-135 and 35mm F2, will probably stay in the cupboard and be barely used.  This has been a long, sometimes frustrating journey, of over 7 years, but it is great to say that the current Fuji products are up there with the very best of today’s modern DSLR cameras, and just maybe – sometimes – even better!!

Just as one final point though, remember that newer does not necessarily mean better.  The only one piece of equipment that I really miss a lot is my X-T1 (the one that ‘drowned’ in Inle Lake).  This is hard to quantify, I really can’t tell you why or show you any examples – but there was something about the images from my X-T1, that I really miss and can’t seem to exactly reproduce in my X-T2’s.  These are not just my observations - there is a guy called Eric who posts on Youtube as 'Finding Middle Earth'.  He has both cameras and says in one of his latest videos that he prefers shooting with his X-T1!  I did miss some shots on the T-1, because the autofocus tracking was not as refined as it is in the newer model – but except for that one fact, I could just as readily go and shoot all day with an X-T1, as opposed to either of my X-T2’s.  There is something about the files from that 16mp sensor that just looked so beautiful and smooth.  This is not a criticism of my current cameras, only an observation.  Many of the images I have brought home are amazing, and the T-2’s are great cameras – but newer does not necessarily mean better.

Kissing the Guitar

Temple BelleTemple BelleTa Prohm, Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018 Temple Belle - Ta Prohm, Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2018

I love to listen to quiet reflective music - music of good quality by some of our most iconic artists - two of whom are Mark Knopfler and Van Morrison (showing my age now).  I recently watched a fascinating documentary on YouTube of Mark Knopfler talking about six of his most iconic/famous guitars.  It was a wonderful story - talking about the first guitar his dad bought him for ‘fifty quid’, some of the iconic guitars from the Dire Straits days, and one or two of his most expensive, unique guitars.  The interviewer went on - after asking him about each of the five guitars - Knopfler picked up his favourite.  You could see that look in his eye.  He is in his mid-sixties now, but he was like a kid filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his craft and his passion for his equipment.  Then without warning and totally spontaneously - he kissed his guitar.  I instantly thought “whammo - that’s it, I’m not totally bonkers after all”!!  Back in my Nikon D3X days, I had sometimes been so filled with excitement and love and passion for my equipment and their images, that I would find myself spontaneously kissing my D3X - now of course not in the presence of my wife.  She thinks I am totally nuts about my photography (it gets me into lots of trouble) - if she caught me kissing my camera then she would have me clinically ‘Certified’.  However, I had never kissed my X-T2.  It (they), had never really given me the same experience as I had with my Nikon D3X.  However, I am very happy to report, that on this current trip - and may I add, more than once - I kissed my X-T2.  Oh Fuji - I think you may have finally arrived!

Temple LightTemple LightCleaner, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 2018 Moments - Cleaner taking a break, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 2018

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) cambodia fuji coming of age fuji x-t2 fujinon 16-55mm f2.8 fujinon 90mm f2 https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2018/1/fujifilm---my-journey-from-frustration-to-competency Sun, 21 Jan 2018 11:40:37 GMT
The Pleasure and Pain of Fujifilm Lenses! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2017/4/the-fuji-lens-dilemma                                               

Red 'Bulls...'Red 'Bulls...'Sad to see this r.. poison has hit the shores of beautiful Myanmar already. Stunned commuters, Yangon Circular Train, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017

Everybody - once in their lives - should ride the circular train in Yangon.  There is no experience like it! Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.  X-T1 and 35mm F2 lens!

When I harken back to the dim dark ages when I was a young wastrel, I can remember some of the silly old ‘good news, bad news’ jokes that were floating around at the time.  The prison warden stands aloft the exercise yard and castes his gaze toward the assembled throng of disheveled, motley prisoners.  “I have good news and bad news, he roars”, silence befalls the boisterous crowd as they await with bated breath – he continues – “The good news is that you will all get a change of underwear today ....”.  A gigantic roar erupts from the hapless throng – “…… the bad news is that group A will change with group B ............”.  A muffled silence envelopes the assemblage of miserable creatures. 

The news or announcement of a new Fuji lens is akin to this story.  A whisper or hint will come out on FR or some other website.  There is a big figurative cheer over the net as optimistic fanboys and others wait with bated breath.  Then as the technical data is finally released with the details of the lens, a blanket of silence spreads over the ether as fans realise here is another lens that could have been magical. 

Before I continue any further, I wish to add a small disclaimer in here.  These are only my thoughts and may not be reality for other Fuji users.  I am very very happy with my Fuji setup and these observations are in no way a complaint – in fact they are kind of a back-handed compliment because Fuji lenses are so good that there is a lot of ‘crossover’ between them and one is often confused as to which lens to use in which situation.  Please don’t berate me for being critical – I am hoping these thoughts may help others when spending their hard earned dollars on their next piece of glass.

 

My current setup       

I currently own 4 Fuji XF lenses – they are the 18-135, the 16-55, the 55-200 and the 35mm F2.  I have only recently purchased the 16-55, so that is still at the tail end of being evaluated.  However, I have taken several thousand photos with this lens so a clear picture (pardon the pun), is starting to form in my head.  I had thought about the 50-140, but only for a few seconds.  The 55-200 is so good and the weight of the 50-140 is actually more than the 70-200 F4 Nikkor that I recently got rid of because it was too heavy – I would be mad to jump back onto that bandwagon again.  Talking about Nikon – though my D3X was a marvel and I think there will never be a camera that will come close to the joy of using that thing, it was a mighty brick.  However, I did find that Nikon’s selection of lenses were more cut and dried than what Fuji offer.  I only ever used two Nikon lenses and they satisfied exactly my needs and I was never confused or perplexed as to what and when I would use a particular lens – not so with Fuji.

'The Child''The Child'Young child in the crowd of worshipers at Istana Tampak Siring Holy Spring Water Temple, Bali, Indonesia, 2016 XF 35mm F2 - oh what a gorgeous lens this is!

Thinning the herd!

Like most of us - somewhere along the line - I ended up with the ubiquitous 18-55 ‘kit lens’.  I used it off and on but was never particularly blown away by its performance.  I usually always only ever shoot wide open on all of my lenses, no matter exactly what I am photographing at the time.  I have no interest in nature photography, landscapes or scenery at all.  I must have lost some brain cells along the way that form that creative part of our brain.  I come from New Zealand originally, and it is the most beautiful, scenic and clean country I have ever been in.  However when we go back home each year to see folk, I always head out chasing people around with my camera and have no interest in the gorgeous scenery around me.  My Vietnamese wife thinks I am absolutely bonkers!

I am sure if I was more interested in photographing landscapes and scenery, half of the problems I am facing with my ‘Fuji Dilemma’ would disappear. Meaning I would not have to shoot my lenses wide open – I would mostly be shooting around the F8 – F16 – for the maximum depth of field that this genre requires – thus eliminating some of the issues that are present when shooting a lens wide open.  However, shooting people photography in all its different forms, I am always shooting wide open – getting the least amount of depth of field as possible to isolate my subject from the background.  Here is where the problem lay with the 18-55. It was quite soft wide open at the 18 and 55mm ends – where I used it most often.  Around the time that I was struggling with these issues, I planned to take my wife to Bali last November for our wedding anniversary.

I am very familiar with the rigors of travelling in Asia.  I have been on the road for the last 12 years (off and on), shooting images all throughout Asia for my website.  I know that I am always shooting in very dusty and dirty conditions.  On top of being disappointed with the quality of the 18-55, I did not want a lens on my new X-T2 that was dragging dust onto the sensor each time I zoomed.  I therefore started doing some research into the 18-135.  I wasn’t too excited about the slow aperture of 5.6 when at its longer zoom range, but it was a WR lens and it did have OIS.  I live in a small gold-mining town deep in the desert of Western Australia.  We are over 600kms from the nearest City Center with any kind of camera shop (Perth, WA).  I never have the privilege of being able to try before I buy.  So I had to bite the bullet and order the 18-135 online.  Once it arrived I set about doing some very in-depth comparisons between it and my much-maligned 18-55.  To cut a long story short, after thousands of images of real life shooting and much pixel peeping and eye straining, I came to the very resounding conclusion that the 18-135 (wide open), is significantly sharper and has better resolution, than the little sister.  Specifically, the biggest differences between the two were when they were shot at the 18mm focal length and the 55mm focal length.  In the type of photography that I do, I use those two focal lengths a lot.  I often shoot around the 18mm to get a bigger group of people into my image, and as I do a lot of environment portraiture, the 55 (85mm equivalent), is used often.  It was at these two focal lengths, and wide open that I found the 18-135 significantly superior to the little sister. 

The Circus 'Rigger'The Circus 'Rigger'I took this photo in my town. I'm a teacher and the kids at school talked all week about the Circus coming to town. I decided to tag along with my trusty Fuji's. I'm glad I did. I don't think anybody would want to mess with this lady. (Kalgoorlie Western Australia).

'The Circus Rigger' - Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 2017.  Oh that XF16-55 magic!

I particularly noticed this at the 55 end, when looking at eye brows and eye lashes – they were always much sharper and more defined from the big lens than the baby sister.  Added to this the fact that the 135 is really not that much heavier or bigger (I really didn’t notice too much difference when walking around with each lens on both of my X-T2s), and that it covers a much greater focal area, it was a very easy choice to quickly get rid of the 18-55 on ‘fleabay’.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief, because I had eliminated one of the variables in my lens ‘equation’.

In-field observations

I believe that we can sit at home and evaluate our lenses by poking them at our poor hapless wives and kids, or pointing them at brick walls until we become red in the face, but there is nothing like using them in real world situations - this clearly shows the men from the boys.  You can read my earlier blog on my website about our trip to Bali last year.  I only took the newly acquired 18-135, and my gorgeous 35mm F2 on that trip.  I came back from that trip singing the praises of the 18-135.  It had behaved beautifully and reeked of quality.  I was worried about buying a lens made in China, but I can see no difference in this lens to my other three that are built in Japan.  The lens handled nicely, kept out all of the salt-spray, rain and dust that nature could throw at it, and delivered some lovely images that went into my portfolio.  That trip was only the first trip as well that I took the 35mm lens on.  This lens is peerless and has to be one of the sharpest, fun lenses that I have ever used in over 35years of photography.  It is as pin and tack sharp as any of my Nikkor lenses were and it is so light on the Fuji cameras that it really makes using that setup a real joy.  The photos from this trip taken on the 18-135 were decent and infinitely useable, however, the images taken on the 35mm lens just leapt off the screen.  I ended up using the 35mm whenever I possibly could (around mid-range zoom length equivalent), and only using the 135 when I needed more reach or something wider.

'Onion Boy''Onion Boy'Flower/produce market, streets of Mandalay, Myanmar, 2017

"Onion Boy' - River flower market, Mandalay, 2017.  XF 35mm F2!

Some discontent creeping it!

I have to laugh so much when I see camera magazine people or online bloggers grab a lens or camera for the weekend and head out for an 'in-depth' evaluation of that particular piece of equipment.  There is no way that anybody can offer a very informed and unbiased written evaluation of that equipment when only taking a few hundred photos.  When we were in Bali I had to remember that it was our wedding anniversary and not my normal boot-camp photographic trips that I do alone (up at 5am every morning, and collapsing in my hotel at dark).  We men all know what the girls are like when it comes to feeling appreciated at anniversary time and special occasions – my darling is no exception.  I would have ruined the trip if I had been banging around our hotel at 5am and heading out alone to get those magic morning photos.  I had to make it look like it was her special occasion, but also managing to slip in as much photography as possible.  It was a bit of a balance but I think I pulled it off. 

For two years prior to that I had been planning my third trip to Myanmar in January of this year (alone – great stuff, boot-camp style).  I had been reasonably pleased with my two-camera setup and two lens setup for Bali, so I headed off to Myanmar with the two bodies and the 18-135 with the 35mm F2.  I have been traveling Asia and shooting its wonderful people for well over a decade, and as I am not 20yrs old anymore, any excess weight is really noticed.  I therefore only ever take two lenses and two bodies.  The filthy places I end up shooting in (often dirty work factories, farmers ploughing in the dust, monks sweeping dusty yards etc), I never want to be changing lenses on the run and letting rubbish onto my sensor.  That’s why the two lenses stay glued on the two bodies and that's it.

What I am saying then is that on the Bali trip because I was with my wife and I had to balance things, I think I only took about 1,300 images.  However, on my month this year in Myanmar I took over 13K images – ten times more than in Bali.  That is how you really evaluate your equipment (not the quicky weekend style) – and true to form some cracks started to show in my setup that hadn’t been apparent on the Bali trip.

Herein Lies the Dilemma!

When I was evaluating and processing some of the images taken in Bali on the 135, I began to notice two things.  Anything shot wide open much over about 100mm, did not have the definition and sharpness that the images had when shot around 55.  So much so, that after around 120mm, to me they were too soft to be useable.  I don't often shoot at the longer focal lengths, however when I have to, I need to know that my gear is going to give me usable images.  However, the biggest problem (and I was aware of this when I swapped over to mirrorless), was that it was very difficult to separate the subject from the background – even when shooting wide open.  More so on this lens because once I start getting around the 60-70mm, then it is on 5.6.  This still is a great lens and it really does all that it is supposed to do – be a general all-round lens, fairly small and light, weather resistant with very useable image quality, in most cases.  Was I expecting too much?

ContentmentContentmentCandid Street Portrait, streets of Western Australia  Candid street portrait, streets of Western Australia!  Now my favourite lens - the XF 16-55!

Enter the 16-55

I had never wanted to get this lens because I was aware of how expensive it was ($1,600 here in Australia), and I knew it was a huge brick – exactly what I was trying to get away from.  However, my wife and I have a trip later this year to Vietnam (up North in the beautiful Sapa), then a while with her folks in the South and then onto Taiwan.  The question was should I just bring the same setup as I did on my last two trips with mostly useable images, or try and tighten things up by experimenting with another lens?  I leapt out in faith and bought the 16-55.  I have taken several thousand images with this lens now and I am becoming more familiar with it.  It has quality that almost matches the magical 35F2, is extremely sharp wide open to the edges – all the way through the zoom range.  It has wonderful WR, so I can drag it around all of my disgusting factories and places of work in Asia.  The lack of OIS is becoming less of an issue as I am becoming more aware of the shutter speeds that I really can’t go below.  I was out shooting today in my local town – I was using the 18-135 and the 16-55 – I had an X-T2 attached to each.  I was just looking at them on LR, and they are kind of all mixed up in the thumbs on the screen.  I only have to look at the image (without checking any metadata), and I can immediately tell which has been taken on the 16-55 – they kind of leap from the screen.

Young ModelYoung ModelIn the studio The 55-200 in the studio.  This is a great studio lens!

What about the 55-200?

This lens is probably my greatest frustration of them all.  I really love this lens.   I think that it is the most underrated lens of all the lineup in Fuji’s glass.  It is absolutely tack sharp wide open – in fact it is ridiculously sharp.  It is as sharp at 55mm as my 16-55 is.  It is a reasonably fast lens so I don’t have too much problem (unlike the 18-135), in getting the subject to stand out from the background.  It is such a versatile lens that I use it in the studio.  Shooting portraits at around F8, the images are very sharp and render beautifully.  So what’s the problem – NO WR.  I don’t think this worries many people, but as mentioned above, because some of the places I shoot at in Asia are so dusty, I have to put on an industrial face mask just so I can breath (much to the amusement of the hapless locals).  Can you imagine zooming back and forth and sucking all that crud into your sensor?

ModelModelOutside shoot More of the 55-200 (wide open this time).  My poor longsuffering wifey playing model again!

The Equation

So here we have it – four fantastic lenses that in their own right are really great.  So what is the problem – I only need two lenses when I travel and not all four!  Surely I could choose two out of them that would be perfect for the job and satisfy all my needs.  Here is where I refer back to my title.  Fuji lenses really are a bit of a dilemma.  They each one almost make it, almost fulfill everything they are designed for, but Fuji very slightly missed the mark with each of them (except the 35mm – it does exactly what it is designed to do), which brings me back to my dilemma.

#35mmF2 – this lens does exactly what it is designed to do.  The only problem for me is that being a fixed focal length you are locked into that 50mm equivalent.  Of course there are no complaints here with Fuji – it is the same for any standard lens of any maker – it is a fixed 50mm and they usually do their job very well.  Just for me, because I only travel with 2 lenses – unless my other lens can properly cover the wide angle and tele end, then the 35mm is not able to make up the difference.

#18-135 – As already mentioned this is a great all-round lens and does exactly what it is designed to do.  However, for me it leaves me somewhat wanting for more – I need that sharpness at the tele end and a faster stop would help to define the subject from the background. For me to take it again as my main travel lens – I am not sure that now I can live with these failings.

#16-55 – This is a smashingly brilliant lens -  the biggest problem – it is a brick. Also - doesn't worry me particularly - but many folks say this lens should have had OIS.

#55-200 – This is Fuji’s most unsung lens – the best kept secret.  It is just very sharp, reasonably small and light, and has brilliant OIS.  For me to decide to use it on my next trip, I have to suck up the fact that I will be spreading grime throughout my camera and sensor.  Oh Fuji – why didn’t you put WR on this beauty?

'Cherub''Cherub'Small child having Thanaka paste applied, Mandalay Hill Temple, Mandalay, Myanmar, 2017  Another gorgeous rendering from the 35mm F2.  This was taken on my X-T1 - don't even bother buying the X-T2 (I have two of them), for the life of me I can't see any discernible difference between photos from the T1 or T2.  In fact if I had my time over again I should have got two X-T1s!

Conclusion

I am hoping this has not been too verbose and that I have actually said what I set out to do.  Nikon lenses seemed to be more cut and dried.  I had two that met all my photographic needs and there was nothing I had to be disappointed about or wish that it had.  However, with Fuji, that is not so.  I would love to take the 18-135 on my next trip, but not sure I can live with the slower aperture (too much depth of field), and the softer images at the tele end.  The 55-200 is magical in every aspect – but oh how I wish it were a sealed lens.  The 16-55 seems to only have one problem – it’s a brick.   That is really not its fault and I am aware enough to know that Fuji really could not have made it any other way.   It is brilliantly sharp wide open and to the edges, has a constant aperture all the way through – because it is a brick.  However, with each of these lenses Fuji did not get it quite right!

What will I take on the next trip?

Well I have a few more months to ruminate before we head off.  I am at least halfway there and have decided that notwithstanding the weight, I am going to lug around the ‘brick’.  It is just such a brilliant lens, I could not be satisfied with the images from a lesser lens in that focal length now.  The other half of my equation is not so easy.  I could sell the 18-135 and buy the 90.  That would give me f2 and would definitely give me subject isolation.   However, here again Fuji has created another masterpiece that almost was.   Why on earth does a lens of this focal length not have OIS?  I am not the steadiest of photographers, and for that focal length in lower light, I would definitely get fuzzy images with this lens.  That leaves me the two options – take the brilliant 55-200, and just have to get my camera serviced when I get back to get the dust removed, or take the 18-135 and only use it up to about 100mm (150 equivalent), where the images are just reasonable.  The court is out on this last part of the equation at the moment.  I find it fun experimenting and working on these problems, so I am sure when the time comes to fly out, I will be able to make some more Fuji magic with their beautiful lenses.

Last Minute 'Touch-up'Last Minute 'Touch-up'Model touching up her makeup, Songkran Festival celebrations, Hyde Park, Perth, Easter 2017.

One last image taken on the XF 16-55 - did I say I really love this lens?  Adjusting the makeup, celebrating the Thai Songkran Festival, Perth WA, 2017

Happy 'shooting'

Philip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) fuji xf lenses fujifilm which fujifilm lens xf 16-55 xf 18-135 xf 355 f2 xf 55-200 https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2017/4/the-fuji-lens-dilemma Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:10:56 GMT
Fuji XF 55-200 revisited, the 18-135, and Other Musings! https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2017/2/fuji-xf-55-200-revisited-the-18-135-and-other-musings As you would have read on my last two blogs, I had recently sold off all of my Nikon gear over the last year or so and replaced everything with Fuji equipment.  I have extensively used my 18-135 lens and the marvellous little 35mm f2.  The 18-55 I never liked (not sharp or very useful wide open at the 18 or 55 end), so that was sold recently on ebay.  However, the 55-200 kind of sat there in no-man’s land and never really got used.  I did a commercial shoot last year where I had to shoot over 25 models for our local TAFE (Technical and Further Education).  The girls were graduating from their Makeup and Beauty Course, and I was asked to photograph the models for their portfolios.  Of course the 55-200 was the perfect choice for that occasion.  The photos looked great and everybody was very pleased with the results.

After that - I kind of popped the lens back into the camera cupboard and forgot about it.  I had thought long and hard about the lenses I would take on the month trip to Myanmar at Christmas, but because the 55-200 lens was not sealed, it did not even get on the short list.  I ended up specifically purchasing the 18-135 because of the weather sealing.  I had been to Myanmar on two prior occasions and I remembered how unbelievably dusty and dirty it can be over there (especially Mandalay and Hsipaw).  I just took the 18-135 and the 35mm f2 – and they did their jobs well.  I never really hankered or wished for anything different whilst I was over there in Myanmar.  As it turned out (you can read in my blog on the trip to Myanmar), I ended up falling into Inlay Lake with all of my camera gear attached.  The only thing that got ruined was the X-T1 because it had no lens or body cap on at the time.  However, the 18-135 and the 35mm F2 and my X-T2 were and are still fine.  Just as well I opted for the sealed lenses!

Bridal ShootBridal ShootIn the studio One of the models photographed last year using the XF55-200 Fuji lens.

However, after being back home now for well over a month, and having had time to process a lot of my pictures, I am beginning to evaluate things a little bit differently.  My wife and I are planning our next trip now for later this year – we think it will be China.  I am thinking a lot about how I could improve on the lenses that I took and what I could do to make my images even more powerful!  The 18-135 really is a marvellous lens.  I have spent countless hours now on Lightroom gazing at images taken with it from my recent months trip to Myanmar.  From these hours of gazing and evaluating, here is my conclusion.  Before I start nothing I say is a criticism of this lens - it really is a great lens for what it is – but we can’t ask too much from it.  From wide angle up to about 80-100 (150mm equivalent), it is really very sharp wide open and quite useable.  The thing that swings in its favour is the great image stabilizing.  Many of the images I took would not have been possible without image stabilizing.  However, after that focal length and right out to its max of 135mm (200mm equivalent), it is really quite soft and disappointing.

For me this is the kicker.  I did a run down on the focal lengths of all the useable shots (so far), from my trip.  It turned out that 85% of them were all under 80 mm (120mm equivalent).  It was only that last 15% of shots taken at around 135mm (200 equivalent), that were not very good because of the softness issues of this lens.  So we have a marvellous little lens for most situations, but I am really unable to use it for the really longer shots.  What do I do now?  Remembering that I had shoved the 55-200 in the cupboard because it was not a WR lens, therefore not considered for the dusty Myanmar trip, I whacked it on one of my X-T2’s and headed off to the beach with my wife.  She is very photogenic, but gets quite bored with all of my “carry-on” about photography.  She is not interested in photography in any way at all.  However, with some sweet talking I managed to get her to pose as my model for the day (she is pretty and also comes free – ha ha), so I was able to take some meaningful shots with the 55-200 on the X-T2 so I could test out my theory. 

BriannaBriannaPortfolio shoot, 2017 A black and white photo from the same studio shoot using the Fuji XF 55-200 (it is actually an ideal studio lens).

When I got a chance to have a look at the images on L/R and process some of them, I was amazed at the sharpness of the 55-200, and the beautiful colour rendering – seems better than the 18-135.  It is blistering sharp (wide open), right out to about 180mm (270mm equivalent).  It is only the last bit that it loses some of its punch.  You will see there is a photo of my wife taken at 181mm and it is still very sharp.  There is another taken at full focal length (300mm equivalent), and you can just see some softness creeping in.  This is marvellous news because I shot with Nikon for over 30yrs and always used an 80-200 or a 70-200mm lens.  I never needed anything longer, so I am sure on the 55-200 I will be able to keep all of my shots under the 270mm to maintain maximum sharpness.

In the midst of all my pontificating over my lens setup and fine-tuning it for the upcoming trip, I purchased last week the 16-55 XF 2.8 lens.  This is a giant honking lens, but after all of my years of shooting heavy Nikon gear, it is still actually quite light on the X-T2 and infinitely useable.  However, the sad thing is I am unable to test it - to throw the results into the mix - to report about it on this blog.  I have the lens, but my Pro1 Hoya 77mm filter has not arrived from ‘fleabay’ yet, so I am unable to take the lens out and use it (I never use a lens without a protective filter up front).  I am assuming it will be very sharp wide open – hopefully much sharper than the 18-135 – up to 55mm.   

ModelModelOutside shoot A photo of my wife on the XF 55-200 wide open, at 180mm (270 equivalent).

Here is what I am hoping will be able to happen.  In normal shooting situations and for my travel trips to Asia, I am hoping to have the 16-55 glued on to one of my X-T2’s and the 55-200 glued onto the other.  Though the 16-55 has no stabilization, I am envisaging this to not be a problem.  I used the 35mm F2 lens extensively in Myanmar and never had a problem with camera shake or wished that it had stabilization.  For the 55mm end, if stabilization is needed, then of course I can pull out the 55-200 and use the 55 end for stabilization.  I am hoping the 16-55 will be just as sharp at 35mm as my 35mm F2 lens.  I only lose one stop (F2-F2.8), so if this is the case then this small lens may have become obsolete and will end up with the 18-55 on ‘fleabay’. 

I will definitely not ever sell the 18-135mm, it is still a marvellous little lens.  If the 16-55 had WR, and the 55-200 was sealed, then it would probably go.  However, for times when it is just too dusty to take out the 55-200, then that 18-135 will be used.  This coming weekend I am shooting our local Motocross Championship round.  We all know what dust is around at a motocross, so I will not be taking the 55-200.  I hope my filter will he here by then for the 16-55, and I will have the 18-135 on the other camera for longer shots.

When the filter arrives and I can use my 16-55, I will do another full test with it and compare it to the 18-135, 35mm F2 and the 55-100.  By everything I have read and heard it should stack up really well.  However, I am extremely surprised at just how sharp the 55-200 is.  I had the Nikon 80-200 IFED 2.8 lens, then later the new 70-200 AFSg F4 lens.  These were both extremely sharp lenses and just brilliant wide open.  I used them for years and still have many marvellous images shot on both of those lenses.  After comparing results, I can honestly say that my 55-200 is just as sharp as these wide open.  At the longer end (say 200 mm equivalent) it is just over F4 – so really loses nothing in speed to the F4 Nikon lens.  Even though the image stabilization was good my on Nikon F4 lens, I think OIS on the Fuji is even better.

ModelModelOutside shoot Another photo of my wife with the same lens but at max length (300 equivalent) - you can see a little softness creeping in.

These are really great times to be in photography.  Though it can be a little frustrating at times because we all want that one perfect lens (my 16-55 to have OIS and go up to 100mm), I really enjoy the experimenting and evaluating of my lenses to find what works best for me.  It really doesn’t cost too much - I always get back about 80% of what I paid for a lens from ‘fleabay’.  The bit that I lose I look at it as a ‘rental‘ for having the opportunity and ability to test the lens and compare them.  I am sure in the next few weeks I will work out exactly what my lens choice will be and keep the 3 or 4 lenses that will take my photography into the future.  I have a feeling at this stage it will be the 16-55 the 55-200 and the 18-135.  Though the little 35mm F2 lens is wonderful, if the 16-55 proves just as sharp at 35mm, then the F2 lens will be sold off and sacrificed on ‘fleabay’.  I hate lenses sitting around and only getting used once a year or something.  I would rather them go to a good home and I can put that extra money toward our travels.  Stay tuned for the next installment.  Please chime in and comment too – I would love to hear from others with the same lenses or having a similar re-shuffle to me.

 

Philip

 

  

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2017/2/fuji-xf-55-200-revisited-the-18-135-and-other-musings Mon, 27 Feb 2017 12:51:00 GMT
Fuji X-T1 and X-T2 - a new perspective on Myanmar in 2017 https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2017/1/fuji-x-t1-and-x-t2---a-new-perspective-on-myanmar-in-2017 'Chinlone''Chinlone'Apprentice Monks playing Chinlone - early morning, Hsipaw, Myanmar, 2017  Monks playing 'Chinlone', early morning, Hsipaw, Myanmar, 2017 (Fuji X-T2 and XF 18-135)

Myanmar Today

As I sit reflecting on my just completed photographic expedition, it’s been quite an amazing experience having spent a month photographing the wonders of Myanmar.   I think for me the huge difference has been (compared to when I was there last five years ago – or especially 12 years ago), everybody now has a device in their hand.  For weal or woe change is coming quickly to Myanmar.  The changes are obvious as people rush to catch up to the rest of the world.  It’s a shock to see everybody with a device in their hand – in a country where the average wage is only $2-$5 per day (sim cards and devices must be very cheap there).  I preferred it to how it was on my last two visits but nobody can blame them for wanting to catch up with the new millennium.  However, for now it’s still a very special place.  I am not sure how long that will last, but at least for now I leave with some very special memories and 6 times 64gig SD cards filled with the evidence of those experiences.

I have travelled Asia now extensively for over a decade shooting street and environmental portraits.  Even having been to Cambodia over 12 times, and countless times in Vietnam and other places, I can still say that Myanmar is the most special in all of Asia.  I think it’s the combination of the lovely friendly people, the gorgeous little kids running around with the Thanaka paste on their faces, the men spitting their disgusting beatle-nut everywhere, and the gorgeous light – oh that light.  It seems that every corner one walks around or every step one takes, another photo opportunity presents itself.  Where I live in Australia is like a moonscape (photographically speaking), compared with the photographic opportunities in Burma – no wonder my cameras stay locked in their cupboard for most of the year!

Do your own thing

I had planned this trip over 2 years ago and made sure that I did all I could to maximize my opportunities here.  With my wife’s holidays at her new job she was unable to come for a month, so I travelled alone.  Though I missed her I think it was a blessing.  My photographic holidays are really no holiday at all – they are boot-camp on steroids – especially for somebody like my darling who cares not a tittle for photography . 

Unless one is as focused on photography as I am I would have driven them nuts banging around in the hotel at 5am every day – horrors, aren’t holidays supposed to be for sleeping in?  In the month there I never had one sleep-in.  I really needed it after a year of teaching Western Brat teenagers, but how can you sleep in when so much photographic potential is waiting outside your hotel door.  I was up every morning by 5 or 5:30, and I’d hit the streets in the dark.  You have to maximize those magic moments at dawn.  I’d shoot till around 9-10 then back to my hotel to eat and charge batteries.  After lunch I’d head out again and shoot until dark.  As one famous photographer penned “… you aint gonna bag any magic shots laying on your back in the hotel room”.

Misty MonkMisty MonkElderly Monk heading off to gather food for the day, very early morning, streets of Myanmar, 2017 Monk setting out early for the day's collection of food, Hsipaw, Myanmar, 2017 (Fuji XT2 and XF 18-135)

No Tour Guides Please!

I always keep well away from the tourist destinations - those shots have all been done ten thousand times before.  You must get way out to catch the real pictures that the tourists miss.  I never hire a local guide or waste money on tour groups or package deals.  I always hire a motorbike from my hotel.  Don’t hire from down the road, because if something goes wrong the hire companies can be ruthless.  However, the hotel is more likely to look after you.  They want a good rating when you fill out your Booking.com survey – so they are not going to screw you thousands of dollars to buy a new bike if it got stolen (yes I’ve heard these horror stories from other travellers – their passport was held so they had no option).

I never worry about getting lost.  Take the card from the hotel and get the girl at the desk to write down in the local language where you want to go.  I just head out for the day and stop at villages or places that are not on the tourist route.  I can tell by the reactions from the locals on this trip that I was a rare commodity in that region.  The look from the kids was kind of like “look dad, the Martian has arrived”.  However, stick around until they get used to you a bit, then they will get back to the flow of whatever they were doing – then you will get your magic shot.  When it comes time to head home at the end of the day, I just stop and show folk my destination that is written down in their language – they just point in the given direction.  I drive a bit more then show somebody else.  I have always returned home to my hotel and have never been lost.  This works in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and everywhere else I travel. 

Twilight MeditationTwilight MeditationApprentice Monks, early morning, Hsipaw, Myanmar, 2017 Apprentice Monks, early morning worship, Hsipaw, Myanmar, 2017 (Fuji X-T2 and XF 18-135)

Believe it or not you actually get better shots being out as a stranger (without a tour guide), in places where they have never seen a Foreigner.  On the odd occasion over the years that I have taken a local as a tour guide, it has always backfired on me.  You can be communicated with through your guide and you can be told not to go there or not do this or that – then you miss your valuable shot.  When I go alone I just smile and point to the camera, and permission is usually always provided.  If you have to negotiate through an interpreter it will work against you.

I usually never pay money for my photos.  Though Steve McCurry is my hero, you can tell that a lot of his shots are posed and set up by the ‘fixers’ that he speaks so often about.  Over the years I have only ever paid the odd bit of money here or there if I think I have taken too much of somebody’s time.  I refuse to set up any of my shots – my whole modus operandi when I travel is to shoot the spontaneity of life.   I could easily pay a ‘fixer’ to get some local Monk boys and pose them in front of the temple twilight with 12 lit candles, holding their little umbrellas – but that is not life as it really happens.  I always rely on serendipity to let me to be at the right place at the right moment to snag that magic shot. 

Give Back

It was a bit of a pain to lug around, but I took over a huge bag of gifts this trip for the children.  I bought lots of little good quality model cars for the boys (all sealed up in an individual box), and hair bows and ribbons for the girls, bags of natural lollies (none of that sugar crap with artificial colour), and various other things.  The kids are always so delighted when you spontaneously pull something from your bag of tricks and hand it to them.  The adults are delighted too.  These people are so lovely and gracious, and the smallest thing (because they have so little), is always accepted with the greatest of enthusiasm.

Quiet DignityQuiet DignityHomeless mother, streets of Yangon, Myanmar, 2017 'Dignity in the face of adversity' - I photographed this beautiful young mum, destitute, living on the edge of a dirty highway - yet she still had a peace and dignity about her that belied her surroundings.  Streets of Yangon, Myanmar, 2017 (Fuji X-T2 and XF 18-135)

Pigeon Poo and Feral dogs

Just as a warning, one of the most annoying things is the ubiquitous feral dogs that seem to plague Myanmar.  With obviously no way of stopping the breeding, the place is riddled with half starved, diseased, mangy looking mongrels – everywhere.  I can’t stand dogs at the best of times, so for me this was a bit of a pain.  Several times I counted up to 15 dogs in a group, wandering around making a nuisance of themselves.  Some of them were very territorial so I spent a large amount of time – most days – whacking at dogs nipping at my heels.  I was never bitten and I’m not scared of dogs, but just be prepared to always be  looking behind to see what is snapping at your heels.  The other perennial nuisance is the feral pigeons. 

For some strange reason they are encouraged (especially in Yangon).  They have feeding stations everywhere, where the locals buy a bowl of grain and feed the pigeons on the street.  There are literally tens of thousands of the brutes everywhere.  They poo on you from above and make it really smelly under their roosting spots.  This was an unusual sight for me and took a while to get used to.  In Australia – or at least the town where I live – we call them ‘rats of the air’ and shoot and exterminate them whenever we can.  They foul water tanks, bring disease and especially at the school where I teach, make a real mess around the children’s sitting areas.

However, this is not a complaint.  I wasn’t there to change the way they do things, and in a funny way the pigeons and dogs kind of added to the chaos of the place.  I just say this to be aware if you go there you will be greeted by lots of pigeons and dogs.

Hauling the load, young woman carrying heavy containers, Irrawaddy River bank, Mandalay, Myanmar, 2017 (Fuji X-T1 and XF 35mm F2)

Safety?

We are inundated on the news with lots of woeful things about the changes in Myanmar.  About the “emerging economy”, “long time civil unrest”, “brutal military regime”, “..democratic change”, “..cruelty to the Muslim minority Rohongya ..”etc.  I don’t know enough about the facts to comment too much on these things.  However, after spending many months in this country over a period of 12 years, I can say I have never felt more safe in a country.  My wife being Vietnamese – we spend many weeks of the year in her country.  I love Vietnam and I even own my own motorbike and keep it at her dad’s house.  I always head off into the ‘blue yonder’ to get my photos, each time we go there.  However, I am always very nervous about leaving my bike in isolated areas whilst photographing in Vietnam.  I even had a guy attempt to stone me in Vietnam when I wandered in an illegal gambling den.  I don’t always feel that safe in some of the isolated places that I go to.  The same in Cambodia and Laos etc – I’m always advised not to leave the motorbike unattended. 

However, I never got such a feeling in Myanmar.  I hired motorbikes extensively throughout this month’s trip and left them at every imaginable isolated destination – unlocked.  I wandered the streets of Yangon and Mandalay late into the night and in dark alleys.  I would NEVER do this in my so-called privileged country of Australia.  I feel very unsafe in the town where I live from drug addicts, junkies, the unemployed, robbers and local thugs.  No such deal in Myanmar.  The old joke there is if you see somebody running after you in a dark alley – it is to hand back the wallet that you just dropped!

I would have photographed hundreds and hundreds of people on this trip.  I think I got about maybe 3 or 4 ”no photo” – the rest were met with smiles and laughter.  It has gotten to the stage in my country that I only ever bring out my cameras onto the street on very special occasions.  I have been yelled at, sworn at, threatened and accused on many occasions.  It was such a wonderful experience to photograph such beautiful people in such a beautiful country.  I felt so safe and never once was I ever threatened or taken advantage of.  Take if from me as one who lives in the ‘advantaged West’, this is a marvelous thing and I hope it lasts.

Red 'Bulls...'Red 'Bulls...'Sad to see this r.. poison has hit the shores of beautiful Myanmar already. Stunned commuters, Yangon Circular Train, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017 'Red Bulls..t' Sad to see they sell this rubbish even in Myanmar.  I guess that's the price they pay for 'coming of age'.  Yangon Circular Train, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017 (Fuji XT-1 and XF 35mm F2)

The important part – how did Mr Fuji stack up?

I won’t ‘flog a dead horse’ here because I wrote a blog especially to deal with the new purchase last year into the Fuji system.  Check out the blog on my website – it’s called ‘Fuji X-T2/X-T1 – Recce in Bali’.  My wife and I went there for a week in November last year.  I trialed my two new cameras and tested everything in preparation for this trip to Burma.  I can tell you I was very nervous, after shooting with Nikon for over 30yrs - I felt very ‘underpowered’ with my two tiny little Fuji cameras and just two lenses.  However, you will read on there that the trip was very successful and it was with increased confidence I headed off to my month in Myanmar with the Fuji X-T2/1 and the XF 18-135 and the 35mm F2 lens – that was it.

I can now categorically say, after shooting over 13 thousand images on this trip, that I definitely have the right two lenses for my shooting needs and style.  If Fujifilm opened up their coffers to me for an hour and offered me to go in and select any two lenses from their range – I would stagger out clutching the 18-135 and the 35mm f2.  These lenses were brilliant – absolutely brilliant.  Dust sealed, water-proof (oh yes – more on this shortly), the 35mm – brilliantly sharp with gorgeous rendering, and the 135 – such a magic all-round lens.  Oh boy – did I say I love this lens? 

I had the 135 ‘glued’ on the T2 and the 35mm stayed on the T1 most of the time.  When I needed wide, tele, or very slow shutter speeds (brilliant stabilization), I used the 135mm.  For everything else – especially my close up shots of people – I used the gorgeous 35mm lens – always shot wide open on f2.  Believe me after lugging around the amounts of gear over the years that would make a Sherpa weary, it is so liberating to have two small cameras with two small lenses.  No fiddle fluffing around, no decisions on what lens to take or what to change to, no changing in the field with dust coming into the camera – this is the way it should be. 

I wrote about this on my Bali blog – but I have the two lenses mentioned and the 55-200 and the 18-55.  As mentioned on that blog (and now I’m even more convinced), that the 18-135 and the 35mm f2, can stand proud compared to the other two lenses.  My 55-200 is sharper at the longer end than the 135, but it is not weather sealed and has lots of play at the lens mount (wobbles and clonks sideways when I zoom), I hate this and it feels very junkie and does not reek of quality like the other two lenses.   The 18-55 is definitely not as sharp wide open at 55mm as the 18-135, and is even more lacking wide open.  In fact it is outstanding at just how much sharper and better the 18-135 is all around when compared to the baby sister.  I think baby sister was hiding behind the door when the quality stakes were being dished out!  I am afraid baby sister is destined to hit ‘fleabay’ in the not too distant future.

Hauling Cement bags, late evening, banks of the Irrawaddy River, Mandalay, Myanmar, 2017 (Fuji X-T2 and XF 18-155)

A ‘Dumping’ in Inle Lake

I can now say (unfortunately), that I have the final word and the last say on the weather sealing properties of these new cameras and lenses.  Nobody can argue the toss with me or try to say this or that about Fuji’s weather sealing properties – I know the real deal – categorically so.  There was some guy who recently wrote a thread on ‘that forum’, complaining how he got a sprinkle of dust on his T2 in the Grand Canyon or something.  Upon returning he sprinkled some water from his drink bottle over the top of the camera – and the thing ended up fried and into Fuji for extensive repairs.  Well, I wasn’t there so I can’t comment on that story, but it certainly does not inspire confidence in one regarding the weather sealing properties of our new cameras.  Well, not until I came onto the scene anyway!!

I had booked the boat very early next morning for my sunrise shots on Inle lake.  To cut a long story short, in the very dim dark twilight (whilst supposed to be boarding my little boat), I slipped off the end of the jetty and disappeared under the water (yes baby – we are talking total immersion).  As I re-surfaced the poor hapless boatman, grabbed me by the scruff and hauled me onto the jetty – before I went down the second time, perhaps never to be seen again.  I had my gear in two bags around my waist.  They were the two smaller bags in the ThinkTank system.  The Hubba Hiney and the next one down - a bit smaller.  I quickly took them off and unzipped both bags.  The cameras were dripping wet.  The X-T1 was ruined and will be up for an insurance replacement – but that was my fault because I had lost the body cap so the T1 was sitting flat and pointing up at the bottom of my bag – of course the water and mud just went straight into the lens opening. 

However, and here is the marvel – the X-T2 and 18-135 attached – a much different story.  Though they were in the wet bag only a matter of perhaps a minute or so, the T2 was sitting on its flat (screen down), with the lens poking up.  It of course was actually slopping around in about an inch of water at the bottom of my camera bag.  I honestly thought they were ruined.  I got back to my hotel like a drowned rat and toweled everything down.  I took off the lens and there was water around the lip of the lens mount (body and lens), but the rubber seals had done their job well – not a drop inside.  Though water was coming out all over the place around the screen – as I flipped it out – there was not a skerrick of moisture in the battery compartment, SD card department, or the other little door.  Water was coming out of the little wheel at the back of the camera – when I blew with my blower brush.  There was definitely nothing in the lens because I sat it in the warm sun and if there had been moisture inside, there would have been condensation inside the lens.

"What about Me"?"What about Me"?Boy and Dog, early morning, Hsipaw, Myanmar, 2017

Boy and Dog, early morning Hsipaw, Myanmar, 2017 (Fuji X-T2 and XF 18-135)

However, now writing this several weeks later and many thousands of shots later, I can say my T2 and 18-135 are completely normal.  I have been watching for the slightest change or glitch, because these were all insured and could be claimed on.  I am certain now that the seals all did their job very well and this is a marvelous testament to Fuji engineering.  I am not sure about our little friend with the drink bottle and his few splashes of water, but I make no exaggeration when I say the T2 with lens attached got a thorough drowning and was dripping wet all over when I pulled it from the camera bag

 

Some Glitches

Prior to the ‘drowning lessons’, the T2 and 135 did develop a problem that I am not very happy with.  For no reason, on any given occasion (when I turn the camera on after its little sleep, turn it on from off, or change back from ‘playback’), the LCD and EVF flash off and on and off and on.  It does this crazy little ‘dance’ and can do it up to 10-20 times before it will stop.  It was so damned annoying because I would see my shot, touch the button to turn on, and then the crazy little ‘dance’ would start.  I would have to stand there like an idiot until it finished before I could take my shot – alas, of course it was well gone by then.  I did lots of searching online, asked lots of questions and nobody could help me.  I reset the camera several times.  I tried shooting for a couple of days with the 35mm f2 lens on there and it was perfect.  As soon as I put the 18-135 back on the T2, the crazy little ‘dance’ would start again.  I am pretty mad that my new camera is doing this.  I obviously couldn’t do anything in Myanmar and just kept using it best I could whilst on the trip.  Now that I am back in Australia I will have to contact Fuji and try to sort this out.  However, this has nothing to do with the drowning in the lake – it was doing this long before I decided to take a pre-dawn swim.  Other than this my gear was great and I certainly have no regrets shooting Fuji.  They are lovely cameras, well made, inspire one with confidence (well, normally), and the images are delightful.

Conclusions

This may be my last great trip for a while. I missed my wifie too much to travel that long, alone, again.  We will go back to Vietnam this year to see her parents, and I’ll get out again on my old motorbike and head for the out-blocks where no Westerners go.  I think she then wants to go to Taiwan for a few weeks or something.  I’ll be happy to tag along and just make the most of the opportunities that come.  However, this was a special trip.  I was able to just concentrate on photography for a whole month.  Daylight till dark – boot-camp style.  Keep checking my website, because though I have a few new shots up now, there are well over 13,000 photos that I have to process and wade through.  I love this part – all the hard work is done, all those damned horrible early mornings are over, now time to relax over the next few months and play around on Lightroom with the lovely memories of Myanmar.

Philip

Check me out here – philipsuttonphotography.com and on instagram at fineartfoto

A real Cowboy - Gutsy little kid showing the cow who's boss, banks of the Irrawaddy River, Mandalay, Myanmar, 2017

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) environmental portraits fuji xf 18-135mm fuji xf 35mm f2 fuji x-t1 fuji x-t2 street photography https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2017/1/fuji-x-t1-and-x-t2---a-new-perspective-on-myanmar-in-2017 Sun, 22 Jan 2017 07:18:09 GMT
Fuji XT2/XT1 - Recce in Bali https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2016/11/fuji-xt2/xt1---recce-in-bali                                                                                        Fuji XT2/XT1 - Recce in Bali

 

A cataclysmic shift

I had a cataclysmic shift in my photographic equipment this year.  As many seem to be doing now (after dipping my toes in the waters over the last few years), I bit the bullet and sold my beloved Nikon D3X and lenses, and swapped fully over to Fuji.  I won’t bore you all with the minutia of the details - but suffice to say it was a very big emotional and financial endeavor.  I have been shooting Nikon for over 30 years now – starting with the Nikon F3 and worked my way up through all the models, ending with the D3X.  My wonderful Nikon F4 served me so well for many years of shooting ‘stock’ in the heyday (90’s).

However a few miles under the belt and a few creaky bones later, I was finding it increasingly difficult to lug my huge D3X and Nikkor 70-200 around in the tropical heat of Asia.  My wife and I live in a small gold-mining town in the Western Australian desert.  It is the most boring forsaken place on the face of God’s earth.  However, with stable paying jobs and other reasons we choose to live here at the moment.  However, because there is nothing to photograph here, my cameras sit locked in their little cupboard most of the year.  Fortunately travel to Asia from Perth airport (not counting the 8 hour drive to get there), is cheap and not many hours flight.  We go to Asia a lot and that is where I love to photograph. 

Cutting to the chase – having sold all my gear this year and switching over completely to Fuji, I was very keen to fire all my new gear in ‘anger’.  I have shot a few race days here (horse racing carnival) and a few other things, but I never consider my gear fully tested until it has done the rigors of the heat and dust and grime in Asia.  I always hire a motorbike and head off by myself.  The banging around on dusty roads on motorbikes is all part of the test my cameras must endure.  I have a 4 week trip booked next month, to go back to Myanmar for an extensive trip.  I was a bit anxious to head off there with my new acquisitions without having them properly tested first. 

New Horizons

 

The Little FishermanThe Little FishermanYoung boy playing near the Holy Spring Water, Istana Tampak Siring, Bali Indonesia, 2016

Suddenly I had a bright idea - it was my wife’s birthday in November so I told her I would take her to Bali for a week.  She loved the idea, so we headed off mid-November on our new quest.  My wife is Vietnamese, and we have been to Vietnam many times.  I have been to Cambodia 13 times now over the years, and not counting Laos, Thailand, and many other countries – Bali was a totally new experience for us both.

It really is the easiest way to taste Asia for people who don’t want to get too far out of their comfort zones.  The people are the most placid, lovely generous people in all of Asia – by far.  We had no confrontations over bills and other things like we often get in the rest of Asia.  The traffic if very calm and peaceful and I don’t feel like I am ‘running the gauntlet’ like I feel each time I get on my motorbike in Vietnam.  The photographic opportunities are marvelous and the place is very cheap to travel in compared to the rest of Asia.  Myanmar is very expensive so I am expecting a hefty bill there this Xmas.  However, Myanmar is the most awesome photographic experience in all of Asia and not to be missed. 

The Gear

After trying and testing lenses and reading everything I could, I decided on the Fuji XF 55-200 and the XF 18-55.  Having tested them on my new X-T1 and X-T2 around home and any local happenings – these were my conclusions.  To me (and only my opinion – you are welcome to disagree) the 55-200 is an extremely sharp and wonderful lens.  Particularly up close and to the mid-zoom range it is very sharp wide open.  It is actually a fairly fast lens and reasonably light considering it is basically an equivalent to a 70-200 (and beyond), in the 35mm arena.  I was a little disappointed with the 18-55.  It is reasonable up close, but I shoot a lot around the 55mm mark (80-90 portrait) and it is disappointing at that focal length wide open.  However they both have great image stabilization.

 

'The Blessing''The Blessing'Worshiper at Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

The big disappointment

The one major factor that started to dawn on me as I got closer to going to Myanmar was the fact that these lenses are not sealed.  It really started to get to me as I am very particular with my equipment.  The places I go to and particularly Mandalay, are the filthiest places one could imagine.  I will be there in January and that is the beginning of the dry season.  With the smoke from the burning and the dust from the many unsealed roads, visibility gets down to a few hundred meters sometimes.  I have to wear an industrial particle mask whilst on my motorbike just so I can breath.  However, it is the dust and filth that creates the amazing light that one can only find in Myanmar.  The thought of sucking all of this into my camera each time I zoomed, was not comforting.

New decisions

I started reading a lot about the 18-135 mm lens.  I loved the fact that it is sealed.  There was no way I wanted a lens that was as slow as 5.6, but I didn’t have much choice.  No way I wanted to lug that 1kg 50-140 monstrosity around.  That being the case I could have just kept the Nikon gear.  I bit the bullet and purchased the Fuji XF 18-135.  I already had the 35 f2 that I had hardly ever used.  With that being also sealed – it was an easy choice to choose the two lenses which were going to Bali – the precursor to my trip to Myanmar.  I ‘glued’ the 18-135 onto the T2 and the 35mm onto the T1, and with these in tow we headed off to Bali.

 

'Completion''Completion'Worshiper bathing in the Holy Spring Water Temple, Istana Tampak Siring, Bali, Indonesia, 2016

Bali

Right from the outset I loved the feel of my new equipment.  The T1 with the battery grip and 35mm lens is just magic to carry around.  The 18-135 endeared itself to me very quickly with its ease of use, lovely quality feel and small size.  The more I used it the more I thought this could be the answer for my dust problem in Myanmar.  I have two small bags from the ‘Thinktank’ system.  They live on the belt that comes with that system.  I carry them around my waist.  When I’m ready to shoot, the T1 goes around my neck on a strap.  It is so light I could carry it all day.  The T2 with the bigger lens is a bit heavier so it goes over my shoulder and dangles upside down on my ‘Black Rapid’.  Oh man – what a perfect system.  I can walk all day with this gear deployed for action, or tucked away in their bags around my waist.  Boy oh Boy – when I think of that heavy Nikon with the big 70-200 in its ‘Thinktank’ holster dangling from one side of my waist all day long.  It twisted my back and gave me pain and it was such a nuisance because it hung very low – and on the motorbike it used to bang and hit things.  The size and weight and feel of the Fuji gear has revolutionized the way I shoot and has given me such fresh enthusiasm and enlightenment for my photographic career.

 

The Three 'Entrepreneurs'The Three 'Entrepreneurs'Three little Hustlers - Boys at Bali Temple, Indonesia, 2016

‘A picture tells a thousand words’

I won’t bore you with all of the details about where we went and what I shot.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking.  It was a marvelous experience using the two Fujis.  The autofocus on the 18-135 never let me down and was so snappy and fast.  I even used that very silly, piddley little flash that comes with both cameras.  I stuck it on and used it for fill flash on many occasions and it was wonderful.  The gear felt so solid and reeked of quality.  I even used them in some light rain showers, near the ocean with salt spay splattering everywhere.  Each night I would clean them down in the hotel and they never missed a beat.

Crunch time

When I travel by myself (Myanmar), I always take the laptop and download my pictures in the hotel at night.  It was my wife’s birthday and I had to spend quality time with her.  I didn’t want to encroach on that by fiddling with pictures at night.  For the first time I took a handful of memory cards and no laptop.  I could only see the pictures on the back of my screen and I knew I would have to wait until I returned to Australia to really find out how things went.  Would the pictures shot from my favourite destination (Asia) come even close to the magic I used to get from my D3x?  When we finally got back and my images popped up on my big 27” Mac screen – I was blown away.  Oh boy – Fuji magic.  I also thought I may be disappointed with the older sensor from the T1, but I think it stands up admirably to its newer sibling.  To me, the images from the T1 still have that gorgeous look and there is still plenty of room there to pull up the shadows and crop.  Perhaps that was because I only used the magic 35mm f2 on that camera.  With all the dozens of Nikkor lenses I have used over the years, I can honestly say that lens is right up there with the very best and sharpest from Nikon.

The Big Question – how did the 18-135 perform?

 

The 'Class Clown'The 'Class Clown'There's one is every crowd!! Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, 2016

I can say with certainty (because I have taken many thousands of shots now to compare), that at all focal lengths – wide open – my 18-135 is noticeably sharper than my 18-55.  This is marvelous news.  The majority of my shooting is wide open wide angle (27mm equivalent) up to around portrait length (90mm equivalent).  This is where the 18-135 really shines.  It is still sharp wide open up to about 135mm (equivalent), but beyond that – right out to 200 mm (equivalent) it is not as sharp as the 55-200.  This is a little bit disappointing.  However, just like everything else in life like relationships, colleagues that we are forced to work with, the way we look - and our cameras – everything is a bit of a trade off.  We must decide what we can accept and what we can’t.  We filter the good and bad bits and hopefully are happy with what is left – what we can live with.  This is the 18-135mm.  I don’t shoot all that often out to its full telephoto length, so I can live with it not being as sharp there.  However, where it really counts – where I will use it the most – it is beautiful.  Happily it has rendered my 18-55 obsolete – the 18-135, being so much better, I really have no reason to use the smaller lens.   However, the 55-200 is much sharper than the 18-135, so I will explain a bit further on where I will be using that lens.

The Big Bad News (The kicker)!

It’s like the old good news bad news jokes.  The bad news is usually so terrible that the good news pails into insignificance.  Not so in this case, but there is one major minus I have inherited with this new Fuji system – compared to my Nikons, and I’m having trouble living with it.  The major lack of ability to isolate the subject from the background, has changed the way my images look.  I was well aware of this like everybody else.   We all know that full-frame isolates the subject better and has less depth of field at an equivalent focal length than does an APS-C sensor.  However, I didn’t realize to what extent.  With the 18-135 being a fairly slow lens – even shot wide open – I am usually around f4-f5.6.  At this aperture and the common focal lengths that I am using, I am not getting the beautiful soft blurred backgrounds that I am used to with my Nikons.  It is hard to imagine but even at only 50mm (the 35mm lens), I am getting more blur in those backgrounds with that lens at f2 than the bigger lens shot at around 135mm etc but on f5.6.  This is the only disappointment with my new system and I have no answers on how to fix it! 

In the studio

 

Bridal ShootBridal ShootIn the studio

Two days after arriving back from Bali I had a studio booked to shoot over 25 models.  Our local TAFE (Technical and Further Education Centre) has a Hairstyle and Beauty section.  The girls sitting their course have their annual assessment at this time of the year.  Each student has to provide three models and do a ‘beauty’, ‘bridal’ and third choice makeup on them.  Then they are shipped off to the hairstylist.  I was then asked to photograph each model – which will go on the student’s portfolio.  Of course I had each girl sign a model release, so I can use their photos at my discretion.  I was really hoping to have tried out the T2 in the studio before testing it on a professional paid shoot, but I said yes with confidence.  I could have used the T1, but some of the girls wanted B&W, and I was keen to use the new Acros simulation.  I certainly was not disappointed.

Of course no dust issues here so the 55-200 was perfect.  I shot it at around 100-120 mm equivalent and around F9.  As you can see from the samples the shots are beautifully sharp.  Consequently, my 18-55 will be sold off and I will be keeping the 35mm and 18-135 for travel and use the 55-200 for studio and other stuff locally.

I just found the T2 a real joy to work with in the studio.  I had so many models to shoot, it took from 9am till 5pm, with barely a break.  I took around 600 photos and used less than three batteries.  The lights in the studio had optical slaves on them, so (yes you guessed it), I triggered then with that pissy little geeky Fuji flash that comes with the cameras.  I placed it on ‘commander’ mode and it worked perfectly.  I love it that they take no batteries – you only have to use one set for camera and flash – well done Fuji.  The camera never got hot at any time or missed a beat. 

 

Creative ShootCreative ShootIn the studio

A Few Niggles

There are a few niggles that no firmware update in the world is going to fix.  When I did the studio shoot (and outside as well), the wretched aperture wheel on the 55-200 kept getting bumped.  It doesn’t matter outside so much because I always shoot automatic on ‘aperture priority’ – if it is bumped then it may effect the depth of field, but the camera will still meter correctly.  However, in the studio, because the camera is on manual – and I metered to the chosen aperture – when it is bumped, then of course it makes a difference.  I was aware of this but of course when you have to talk to the models and direct them, things can happen without one knowing.  I would suddenly notice it and adjust – but boy it was so frustrating.  I noticed now that I am post processing all of the photos in Lightroom, some are slightly out because of this.  That is why I love using the 35mm because it has a proper aperture ring with lovely clicks – it has never been bumped once.  Unfortunately the lens I will be using the most has that silly wobbly ring like the 55-200 (18-135).

My other bugbear (and this annoys me 10 times more than the first one) is the silly diopter switch on the T2 moves sooo easily.  I shoot with glasses so I need that thing cranked way the hang up there just so I can see properly.  It can be up to 5-10 times a day I have to stop and adjust the wretched thing – because everything has become blurry again.  In fact the one on the T2 is worse than the one of the T1 – Fuji actually went backwards on this!!@#!!  As I said, no amount of firmware updates can fix this.  Looks like I am stuck with this silly thing for a very long time.  The one on the D3X was an engineering marvel.  One had to flick it out with the fingernail and then adjust the diopter, then with a click it would return back in and lock.  With years of using that camera it never had to be altered.  ARE YOU LISTENING FUJI?

Final Word

In spite of my few niggles I mentioned on here, I am really stoked swapping over to Fuji.  Not that my photography was stagnant before or I was lacking inspiration, but my whole photographic experience has reached new vistas.  The small size of the cameras, their ease to travel with, their utterly gorgeous files, and the consistent updates from Fuji to make them even better - really makes for a marvelous all round experience.  Even though I doubted at the beginning, I now have no doubts whatsoever that I did the right thing swapping over to this new system.  The trip to Bali was a fantastic experience and when I see those new files on my website, it tells me that there will be many more to follow from the wonders of Myanmar.  

 

Philip

If you wish, check out more of my shots here - philipsuttonphotography.com or on instagram at fineartfoto

 

 

 

 

 

 

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) (sacred bali) bathing https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2016/11/fuji-xt2/xt1---recce-in-bali Sun, 27 Nov 2016 13:58:02 GMT
Which camera should I use? https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2015/9/which-camera I see a lot of talk these days about which camera to use.  I see guys turning themselves inside out on forums, discussing and arguing the minutiae of this camera versus that one.  Others buy and sell at the whim and vagaries of the digital market (which changes models almost as much as we change our underwear), and they wonder why they are nearly broke and their photography has not improved. 

The above photo is one of my favourites and was taken with my current camera - my Nikon D3X.  This is a marvelous high pixel camera that I like so much, and the results from it are so outstanding sometimes, it nearly blows my socks off.  Some say to never shoot it above ISO 400, but as you can see in this photo, which was taken at ISO 1600, the results are still very pleasing.

Here's another photo to illustrate a point.

HarmonyHarmonyWomen Monks, Sagaing Monastery, Mandalay, Myanmar, 2012 This I think is one of my all time favourite photos.  Not just for the look of it, but how I got it and the marvelous day I had exploring on my motorbike the wonderful sights of Sagaing, near Mandalay, Myanmar.  I stumbled across a Monastery for nuns or lady Monks.  They kindly showed me around and invited me upstairs to look around.  While my guide was trying to communicate with me in broken English, I noticed one of the ladies moving toward the window to join her friend.  As she approached I sensed something was going to happen, so I grabbed my Fuji X100, lifted it to my eye, and pressed the shutter - the rest is history. 

My point is this.  The Nikon D3X will blow the little Fuji out of the water, when it comes to resolution, colour fidelity, dynamic range, that 'hidden' factor of a beautiful image that words can't explain.   However - in this case - does any of that matter.  The fact was that the little Fuji was right there around my neck, it was so quick to grab it, lift it up and hit the shutter - all in the blink of an eye.   By the time I had reached for the Black Rapid, found my D3X dangling, and got it ready, the shot would have been missed.   More than this though.  If I had to choose the camera to take the perfect image with - the best resolution, the best dynamic range, colour rendition etc, of course I would choose the D3X over the Fuji X100.  However, at the end of the day when that magic image is on your wall, winning the photo contest, or bracing your website - does it really matter which camera it was taken on.

I have always been a bit of a gear nut as well, fixating on this or that model as the best, buying and selling until my wallet was fatigued, but my photos never improved.  Now I don't worry about that, I have two cameras which are really different, but both serve me well, and I just use them to harvest the images that best represent my style, passion and what I stand for.  Some of the nicest photos on my website, those that have had nice comments and people enjoy, invariably have been taken on my little Fuji.

I suggest just use what you have at hand.  Get out and use that camera to take pictures that surprise and delight, not worrying about its resolution or what other people think of it, or is it the latest model?  My hero in photography is Steve Mccurry.  I look at his stuff every single day to get more inspiration and to see what he is up to next.   If I had to be honest, I am even a bit jealous of his lifestyle.  However, one thing I notice in every interview or whatever way he is asked - he cares little for this model or that, or which is the current camera of the month.   He obviously has certain technical requirements in a camera, but after that is met, he cares not about models or this one or that.   In fact he won't be drawn into a discussion on which camera is best or focus attention on what he is using at the moment.  His whole MO is about his images.   That's all he cares - his images do the talking, not the camera.

Get out there guys and take that magic picture - using whatever camera you have.

Tell me what you think?

Cheers

Philip

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) Fuji X100 Nikon D3X my favorite picture which camera is best https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2015/9/which-camera Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:51:33 GMT
Pagan Promise https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2015/8/pagan-promise

Sunrise over ancient Temple, Bagan, Myanmar, 2012

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suttoman@hotmail.com (Philip Sutton Photography) https://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog/2015/8/pagan-promise Sat, 08 Aug 2015 14:38:15 GMT