Finding peace at the water’s edge

Life is an amazing journey:  We experience epic highs, crushing lows and of course all things in between.  Life moves so fast, and it is important to hit the pause button every now and then so we can celebrate successes and contemplate those times when we need to adjust course.

When I need to hit pause, I almost always gravitate to the water’s edge.  There is something so peaceful about sitting or walking along the edge of a river or ocean, camera in hand, completely alone in my thoughts.  Sometimes I am taking the time to quietly celebrate a success, sometimes I am taking the time to work through something that I am struggling with and other times, I am simply tweaking plans to continue working towards my goals.  Artistically, I have no photographic expectations when I am out along the water:  it isn’t a wedding, it isn’t a portrait session and it isn’t a day on the street.  Sometimes I get a photograph that I love and sometimes I don’t even click the shutter.  I always, however, benefit from taking the time to be alone with my thoughts.  To be honest, I think we can all benefit from doing this more often.

Over the years I have gathered hundreds of images while out along the water.  One day I’m sure I will edit them down into a cohesive series, but for now I’d just like to share a small handful of these images.

I hope you like them.

I would love to know what you do, or where you go, when you want to get away and think.  Please let me know in the comments below if you feel like sharing.

Until next time!

Ian

Fujifilm X100F Street Photography

dscf1629

This is the third article in my ongoing series on the new Fujifilm X100F.  If you haven’t read the previous articles yet I have a full review of the camera HERE, and a detailed article on how I set it up for shooting on the street HERE.  In this post I’m going to share a series of street images captured with my pre-production X100F, but first I’d like to quickly answer a question somebody asked me on email me a few days ago:

“What is it about street photography that you love so much?”

It is definitely true that out of all the genres of photography that I do, street photography is my favourite.  For me, it is the perfect harmony of experiencing life: meeting new people, seeing new places and most importantly, creating art purely for the sake of it.  It isn’t client driven, it isn’t for sale, it is just for me.  I love that.  There is also the truth that shooting on the streets makes me a better photographer in all of the other genres that I shoot.  I see light better.  I react quicker.  It is a fact that I am a better wedding photographer, for example, because of the amount of time I spend on the streets.

Beyond that is the fact that street photography matters.  Many of the historic photographs we treasure, like the Victory Kiss photograph from New York City at the end of World War 2, are street photographs when you think about it.  So are many of the beautiful photographs we look at to remind of us of what life was like in the fifties, sixties, seventies, etc.    We aren’t just making images, we are documenting life.  Who knows what these photos will mean in twenty or thirty years.  When was the last time you saw a payphone?

I think the best thing about street photography is that there is always time to shoot it.  Always.  Photography doesn’t need to be a big “thing” all the time; it can be done in little snippets here and there throughout the day.  Did you arrive 15 minutes early for an appointment?  Then walk around the block and shoot 15 minutes of street photography.  Are you waiting for a loved one in the car while they are out shopping?  Then shoot the light spilling into the parkade and play with the light and the shadows that it creates.  You become a better photographer by taking photos… it is a muscle that needs to be flexed and with street photography that can be done every day.

And, finally, there is the beautiful simplicity of the gear requirements for street photography:  One camera… one lens… done. The rest comes down to your own artistic vision.

So let’s take a look at some street images taken with the X100F over the last few months, my favourite “one camera, one lens”.  Many of these photographs were taken not when I was out for a purposeful day of shooting, but instead when I had a little bit of time between other appointments and I had the camera with me (there is always time to shoot, right?).   As my copy of the camera is a pre-production model these are all shot in jpeg, and some had minor adjustments in Lightroom afterwards (slight exposure or contrast adjustments, etc).  All colour images were shot in the Classic Chrome film simulation and all black and white images where shot using the Acros simulation.  I hope you like them.

dscf2114

dscf1725

dscf0385

dscf1605

dscf1704

dscf2335

dscf1622

dscf1397

dscf0578

dscf1032

dscf1923

dscf2606

dscf1776

dscf1133-edit

dscf0058

dscf1914

dscf2638

dscf2466

dscf2276

We are getting very close to the official release of the Fujifilm X100F and I know many of you have pre-ordered it.  I can’t wait to see the work that you all produce when you have this new camera in your hands and I truly hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

Now, as my good friend Valerie Jardin says, it is time to grab your camera and hit the streets!

Cheers,

Ian

p.s.  If you are interested in learning more about shooting street photography I have a few spaces left in my Vancouver and Toronto Street Photography Workshops this summer:

Setting up the Fujifilm X100F for Street Photography

dscf5214

I’ve had a lot of requests over the last few weeks to describe the camera settings I use when I am out shooting on the street, so I thought I would take a few minutes to walk through how I set up the new Fuji X100F.  When you work with pre-production cameras there are usually several firmware updates leading up to the camera’s official launch, and since November I have updated the Fuji X100F firmware 4 or 5 times.  This has given me the opportunity to really think about what works the best for me when I am out shooting street photography with this camera.

(Note:  This is a gear post, through and through.  In part two of this series, however, we will look at some new Fuji X100F street photography I’ve shot recently in Seattle and Vancouver using the set up described in this post).

As we get started I think it is important to discuss my approach to shooting on the streets, which differs from other work that I do.   When I am shooting cityscapes and landscapes, I always shoot in manual mode, as I do when I am shooting portraiture.  In these settings I am not in a rush.  My sunrise / sunset / blue hour shots are taken locked down on a tripod, and I usually use off camera lighting when shooting portraits (which means my camera settings rarely change once they are dialled in).

The street is different though:  for me it is about the experience of immersing myself in an environment, constantly observing and then reacting quickly when a moment happens.  Barring a quick adjustment here and there, I don’t want to think about my camera at all when I am shooting on the street… I want to be focused on capturing the moment and trust my camera to do its thing.

With this in mind, here are some basic needs that guide how I set up my Fuji X100F for street photography:

  1. On the street, I shoot in Aperture Priority Mode and use Auto ISO (I trust the camera to determine proper exposure).  I tend to keep my aperture between f/5.6 to f/11, depending on how much light is available in the environment I am shooting in.
  2. If I do need to make adjustments to compensate for the light, there is a 99% chance that the adjustment will be made with the Exposure Compensation dial.  It is very quick and easy for me to observe a scene, decide what I want to do with the light and adjust the compensation with my right thumb as I am bringing the camera up to my eye.  Once you understand how your camera sees a scene, this is very simple to do.
  3. I use Auto-Focus about 80% of the time.   The remaining 20% of the time I will drop into manual focus to either pre-focus on a spot that a subject will be walking through, or, pre-focus to a given distance if I am working in tight in crowds.
  4. I shoot in RAW plus Fine jpeg.  I also love to visualize my images before and while I am taking them, so I switch back and forth a lot between Acros and Classic Chrome while I am shooting.
  5. I back button focus a lot.
  6. I usually shoot in single shot mode, but I’m not afraid to use burst mode and select the best frame if the situation calls for it.
  7. I want to keep the camera set up to be able to quickly access the Digital Tele-Converter.  I will not use this feature if I can shoot without it (as I do notice a very small amount of image degradation), but it is a nice option to have in a pinch.  In order to do this I need to be able to quickly switch my drive mode to single and also to switch to shooting Fine jpeg only (because the Digital Tele-Converter won’t work in RAW or burst mode).
  8. I occasionally use the two conversion lenses (WCL and TCL – the original versions), so I need to be able to tell the camera that they are on (or off) without diving into the menus.
  9. I usually wifi photos to my phone at some point through the day, either to mail to someone or to review and edit while I’m sitting down for lunch.

So, those are my basic needs when I am out shooting on the street.  Here is how I set up the X100F to be able to easily and quickly accomplish those tasks:

On the front

front

There are two main things here:

  1. There is now a function button embedded in the OVF/EVF Lever, which I have set to Wifi.  This is my least used function when shooting on the street, but it keeps it easily accessible at the same time.
  2. There is now the new front Command Dial.  This can be set up to control the ISO, the Exposure Compensation, or both.  On the street, however, I use Auto-ISO and prefer controlling the Exposure Compensation with the physical dial, so I actually don’t use the front Command Dial for anything.

On the top

top

This, right here, is why I love these cameras so much.  You have the entire exposure triangle, plus Exposure Compensation, completely at your fingertips with tactile knobs.  After all these years I honestly don’t know if I could go back to using a camera that doesn’t operate this way.

Let’s take a look at the top:

  1. As previously mentioned I set the Aperture to f/5.6 to f/11, depending on the amount of light I have.
  2. I have my Shutter Speed dial set to A.
  3. I have my ISO dial set to A also.  This configuration lets me choose my Aperture, then the camera maintains the exposure by adjusting the shutter speed and the ISO as needed.
  4. I ride the Exposure Compensation dial a lot when shooting, often to underexpose a scene when the light is harsh or when I want to create more shadow in an image.  This means I always need to check in between scenes to ensure I reset it to zero… something I have forgotten to do many times.  🙂
  5. I have the conversion lens selection assigned to this function button, so I can quickly tell the camera when the WCL or TCL lenses are being used.  This won’t be an issue for those of you who use the new versions of these lenses as they now auto-detect on the X100F, but with the older ones this is still a necessity.
  6. Finally, there is the Control Ring, which I have assigned to control the Digital Tele-Converter when I am in auto-focus mode.  When I want to use this feature, I drop into jpeg only and single shot mode (if needed… this is usually my default), then I can turn the Control Ring to select between 35mm, 50mm, and 70mm fields of view.  This is probably my least used function (tied with Wifi), but it is nice to have it quickly accessible.

On the back

back

There’s also a fair bit going on here:

  1. I have AF-L assigned to the Read Command Dial, so I can use it to back button focus.  For my hands this is a better position than using the actual AEL/AFL button.
  2. The X100F has the drive mode locked to the up button;  I use this to choose between single shot and burst mode depending on my needs (usually single shot).
  3. I have this function button set to cycle through the various film simulations.  I tend to “see” images in black and white or colour, so I will often quickly jump back and forth between Acros and Classic Chrome when I am out shooting.
  4. This function button is set to allow me to quickly choose RAW plus jpeg, or just Fine jpeg.  I normally wouldn’t assign this feature to a function button, but you have to be in jpeg only mode to use the Digital Teleconverter.
  5. I have this button set to cycle between the three Auto ISO modes, which I do often during the day.  More on this below.

How I use Auto ISO

img_9072-2(High tech cell phone photo)

My goal on the street is to have the camera maintain a shutter speed fast enough to freeze movement within a given scene, by letting Auto-ISO raise the ISO as much as needed to obtain a proper exposure.

This is situational, however.  A stationary subject may only require a shutter speed of 1/60th, whereas a fast moving subject might need 1/500th.

The way I achieve this is by assigning the ability to switch between the 3 saved ISO settings to a function button.  My 3 Auto-ISO settings are saved as follows:

  1. Minimum Shutter Speed of 1/60th, Maximum ISO of 3200.
  2. Minimum Shutter Speed of 1/125th, Maximum ISO of 3200.
  3. Minimum Shutter Speed of anywhere between 1/250th and 1/500th, Maximum ISO of 3200.

If I am shooting a static scene I may choose the first setting.  This maintains a minimum shutter speed of 1/60th, which helps keep the ISO down while still exposing the scene properly.

If I need faster shutter speeds to capture movement I select the 2nd or 3rd option based on how fast the subject is moving.  Depending on the amount of light the camera will select a higher ISO setting, but I will get an in focus image.

This is a quick and easy way of contextualizing Auto ISO to the scene I am in.

Performance and Battery Power

img_9075-2(High tech cell phone photo)

I’d rather let my camera perform to it’s highest level than worry about battery life, so I always keep my camera in High Performance mode.  I also almost always use the EVF or LCD when I am shooting.  These two things are guaranteed battery drains.

The thing is though, batteries are cheap.  And, on the X100F, I routinely average 500+ frames per battery.   With one or two extra batteries in the bag, or in a pocket, I am good to go.

POST PRODUCTION

Every scene is different:  in one I may want a lot of contrast, in another not so much, so I tend to keep my in camera settings flat (i.e. shadows 0, highlights 0, sharpening 0, etc) and use Lightroom to apply any simple changes I want.  My post production is minimal on street images though;  for example, here is a frame out of the camera, a jpeg shot in Classic Chrome:

dscf2300

And, here it is after less than 1 minute of processing which amounted to lifting the shadows, boosting the highlights a little, and some minor sharpening.

dscf2300

When you have the right light you really don’t need to do a lot of post.

Summary

There are so many ways to customize a camera like the Fuji X100F.  This is just my way, configured to quickly access the things I need when I am shooting on the street.  With the camera set up like this I don’t go into the menus at all.  I don’t even use the Q menu, as everything I need is assigned to a button or dial, ready to go.  It seems like a lot when it is all written out, but in the field it comes down to the occasional adjustment to Aperture, Exposure Compensation, or the Auto-ISO setting as needed for exposure control, occasionally switching back and forth between Classic Chrome and Acros depending on how I see a scene, and much more rarely using another feature like wifi or the Digital Tele-Converter.   This configuration works well for me and lets me keep my focus on everything happening around me on the street.

Next week, in part two of this series, we’ll look at a selection of street images captured recently with the Fuji X100F, using the above configuration.

Until then!

Ian

p.s.  Every time I post a photo, like the one at the top of this article, I get asked where I got the camera strap from.  It is a strap from my friends at Hyperion Camera Straps, you can find them on Facebook.  In a world of expensive camera accessories, they make a nice product at very cost effective pricing.  I am not paid or endorsed by them, but I think it’s nice to give a shout out to people who are supporting the photography community with good products and reasonable prices.