Location, Location, Location

Photographers tend to be rather territorial. Whether its returning to our favourite location for sunrise or sunset or wandering the streets of our favourite town or city. Returning to a familiar location time and time again seems to be commonplace among photographers. Building a familiarity with a location is a good and allows us to fully exploit our surroundings. It may be that the light on a certain street at a certain time of day works well or that the sun rises or sets in just the right place at a certain time of year. Knowledge of an area allows us to adapt easily to changing conditions and ensure that we don't miss out on opportunities to make standout images.

There are two locations that I return to on a regular basis and I'm still managing to find new compositions each time that I visit. One location in particular I visit more than most and that's a place known as Priddy Ponds on the Mendip Hills.

Priddy Pools is a 30 minute drive from my house. It's an easy drive with little traffic and the location itself is rarely busy. You may get the odd dog walker every now and then but apart from that its quiet. It can be eerily quiet at night and extremely dark so not a location to shoot on your own if you are of a slightly nervous disposition. There can be some strange noises in the dark up there and its easy to let your mind play tricks on you. The tree itself provides a great point of interest but there are many other areas to explore as well as the pond which provides great reflections on a clam day.

Another location that I return to on a regular basis is the very famous wooden lighthouse located on the beach at Burnham-On-Sea. This location is particularly special to me as I was fortunate enough to have the image below printed in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016. It also made it onto the back cover of the book. This is the one of the few times I have had recognition for my photography so I take every opportunity I can to shout about it.

Again, this location provides masses of opportunity for different compositions and I've yet to explore many of them. I want to shoot it at high tide with the water around the legs of the lighthouse but so far ever time I have had chance to visit the tide hasn't been right. At low tide there is great opportunity to capture the reflection of the lighthouse in the tidal pools. It can mean getting knee deep in the mud of the Bristol Channel but isn't that what landscape photography is all about?

The other reason that this photograph is special to me is that it was this photo that convinced me to ditch my DSLR and go full Fujifilm. This shot was made with incredible Fujifilm X-Pro1 and superb XF 16mm 1.4.

I will continue to visit both of these locations and if you have a favourite location I would encourage you to do the same. You could visit the same location for 20 years and one day get that once in a lifetime shot. The large collection of images will also look good put together in a book when you feel the location has finally run its course and every avenue (or street) has been explored.

Buy the Fujifilm GFx 50s from Wex
Buy the Fujifilm GFx 50s from Wex

My favourite tree is going to be the subject of a long term project so if you follow my work I'm sure you will be seeing a lot more of it. I intend to use the GFX 50s to photograph it at when conditions allow and I'm excited to see what results I can achieve with it. This will be the subject of a future blog so stay tuned for that one.




Portland Bill with the GFX 50s

2.30pm and I'm leaving my house in Weston Super Mare and heading to the Dorset Coast. Portland Bill is one of those locations that provides a multitude of options when it comes to subject and composition and so its a place that I have and will continue to return to.

The weather is less than perfect and there will only be 45 minutes to an hour of light left when I get there, but the plan is to grab a few shots and then stay over night so I can get up early and catch the sunrise. I love the light in the morning, its my favourite time to shoot and hopefully if predictions are right It could be a good one.

Upon arriving and parking up it looks like both me and the camera are going to get wet. It's high tide and the rain combined with the spray from the sea is going to be a challenge. I do try to photograph in all weathers, so this is just part of the fun and good practice. One thing that the weather has reminded me of is the need to purchase some clear filters for my lenses. I don't usually use filters but when conditions are rough and the salty spray is constantly hitting the front of the lens it pays to protect expensive equipment.

Shooting a nice sunrise or sunset can appeal to a lot of people and the light is always good during this time but I feel that I need to photograph the not so pretty things as well. We live in a less than perfect world so there isn't much point in trying to maintain a blinkered vision of perfection and beauty when it comes to shooting landscapes. I personally find a moody landscape far more powerful and evocative than a pretty sunrise or sunset.

I made a few exposures in the 30 minutes or so I had. This is my favourite of those. I feel it captures the mood nicely.

Well after a pretty crap nights sleep due to a spirited saxophone player its up at 6.30am and down the road to the Portland Bill car park. The postcode for this pay and display car park is DT5 2JT. If you pop this postcode in your SatNav it will take you straight there. Bring plenty of change if you plan to stay for a while. Winter charges are £1.50 for two hours up to £6 for 24 hours. Summer charges are around 50p per hour extra.

The wind has dropped off a lot from what is was last night but it is still far from calm. Where I am heading I should be able to get out of the wind behind the rocks and hopefully the spray from the sea will be minimal.

The main attraction for this particular location is the lighthouse. As with most of the places that I visit though, I intend to ignore the obvious and look for compositions in other places. It's not long before I spot a small cove that looks ideal and so I set up my tripod and wait for the light to be just right.

The GFX 50s Is capable of capturing stunning levels of detail. For this shot I used the GF 45mm f/2.8 lens with a LEE 0.6 very hard grad filter to darken the clouds a little. The detail and tones captured in the rocks is superb and far superior to any camera that I have used before. It will be interesting to see how this translates into a large finished print. The end goal is always the print. A photograph isn't a photograph until it has been printed so If you haven't already got a dedicated photo printer or don't regularly order lab prints of your work make, it a priority to change this.

After taking this shot I climbed back up the rocks and headed towards Pulpit Rock. Another well known photographic location. I won't be making the rock the subject of my photo though. I simply want to get up a bit higher and capture the view out to sea and the white tops of the waves in the distance. This will be a very simple composition that I hope conveys the vastness and wild nature of the sea.

This was taken using the GFX 50s combined with my favourite lens at the moment, the GF 110mm f/2. I used a LEE ProGlass IRND Little Stopper (6 Stops) to give me just the right shutter speed to capture movement in the sea. The LEE ProGlass filters are superb, they are colour neutral so no colour correction is needed in post processing and the reduction in transmitted light is accurate. If it's a 6 stop filter it will reduce the transmitted light by 6 stops, 10 stop by 10 etc. Both of these features are particularly handy when shooting film as calculating the correct exposure and not introducing a colour cast is critical to getting good results. I will be doing a short review on the ProGlass range of filters in the not so distant future.

Although only a quick trip, is was great to get out with the camera. The GFX is continuing to wow me each time that I use it and with the promise of some exciting new features such as focus stacking in the March 2018 firmware update, things can only get better.



Some thoughts on the Fujifilm 16mm 1.4 WR

A modern masterpiece.

I'm just gonna come right out and say it. This lens is a modern masterpiece. I adore this lens and would probably go so far as to say it's my favourite of all the Fujifilm lenses. I won't go into technical figures and talk about the way the lens is constructed blah blah blah because the only thing I'm ever interested in is the final image there are plenty of sites where you can look at this type of information if that's what floats your boat. I've used this lens primarily for landscape photography but it has also saved my ass a few times when I've shot portraits and had very little space and light to work with. All the images featured in this blog were shot using the Fujifilm 16mm 1.4.

This shot in particular was  for a local musician who wanted some shots for her album cover. It was literally a case of turn up to a venue and do the best that I could. The first venue let us down and we didn't even get through the door. I think the person who was supposed to be letting us in got drunk the night before and couldn't get out of bed. Then we had to make our way across Bristol to the second venue but the girls manager managed to lose his ticket for the car park. That delayed us for an hour until we could get hold of somebody to pay the fine for losing the ticket and lift the barrier. Arriving at the venue it was clear that I had my work cut out and only an hour and 30 minutes until we lost the use of the room. It was tiny and poorly lit so the 16mm 1.4 was my only option. It didn't let me down and this shot was used for the album cover.

When I shot with a full frame system, I always favoured the 24mm focal length and the lens I always turned to was the Nikon 24mm 1.4. One of my main concerns when changing to the Fujifilm system was being able to replace this lens. When I got my hands on the 16mm 1.4 all those concerns vanished and I quickly fell in love with the sheer perfection of this lens.

What makes this lens great?

It's super, super sharp, focuses super close and has the least amount of visible distortion of any wide angle lens that I have used. Add to that an aperture of f1.4 that produces super creamy bokeh and allows you to shoot in very low light and it makes for a hard lens to beat at any price. I use it for portraits, street photography and landscape photography and never fail to be impressed with the way in which it performs. It's weather sealed as well so shooting in wet or dusty conditions isn't a problem either.

I first used this lens with my X-Pro1 and made this photo. It's still one of my favourite photos made with this lens and what started my love affair with it. It also cemented my decision to sell my Full Frame gear and move to the X-series cameras. I could even go as far as to say that if Fujifilm didn't make this lens, I may not have made the switch.

The 16mm 1.4 performs really well in low light. I don't use flash and prefer to use available light. This means pushing the ISO up so the larger the aperture that I have to work with the better. The shot below was made at the 2017 Bristol Balloon fiesta and was shot wide open at f1.4 at an ISO of 6400. The only available light was that from the balloons and the torch light from a phone behind me that lit up the young boys face.

Portrait photography is traditionally shot using a longer focal length like the 56mm 1.2 or 90mm f2. This isn't to say you can't use this lens for portrait photography though. Due to the lack of distortion it can make a great environmental portrait lens as proven above and as you can see in the example below if you get in really close you can get creative as well.

If you have been thinking about buying the 16mm 1.4 I would simply say stop thinking about it and buy it. This lens that will be sure to put a smile on your face when it is attached to your camera and may just be the most versatile lens that you ever buy.




Using filters for creative control

I remember discovering filters for the first time. I'd read a couple of articles online that sparked my interest so after a quick look on eBay I picked up a couple of cheap screw in neutral density filters and headed to the coast (Seaton in Devon to be exact). After experimenting for a while I got the hang of using them and I really enjoyed the creative possibilities that they opened up for me. Fast forward a few years and I don't leave home without a full set of filters as they are an essential part of my workflow for landscape photography for both film and digital.

I don't use screw in filters any more, they don't provide me with enough control and just aren't very practical. I decided very quickly that a set of square filters and filter holder were what suited my needs best so after a bit of research I decided upon the LEE 100mm Filter System. As you can see in the photo below there are two types of filter that I use. These are neutral density filters and graduated neutral density filters. ND filters are used to reduce the amount of light that enters the lens across the whole of the frame reducing exposure equally and graduated neutral density filters are used to reduce the amount of light entering the lens over a specific area of the frame such as a bright sky during sunset. The sunset photo at the top of this page wouldn't have been possible without a graduated filter or series of exposures combined in post processing without the loss of detail in the sky due to blown highlights.

A selection of the LEE filters that I currently use (filter holder not shown). Notice the difference in gradation and density from left to right. The two completely black filters at the bottom are the LEE Little Stopper and Big Stopper used for increasing exposure time. These filters can create a really dramatic effect.

I've stuck with LEE filters since first purchasing a foundation kit and have slowly built up the kit that I have today. I have always been more than happy with the results the system has given me . I can't compare them to any rival brands because I haven't used anything else but I haven't felt the need to try another brand. As the old saying goes 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

Some people decide not to use filters, deciding instead to use multiple exposures (bracketing) and then combining these when post processing. This is a sound technique and sometimes essential for certain situations, but it's not the way that I choose to work if I can help it. I actually enjoy using filters, it enhances the photographic experience for me, from choosing the right filter and insuring the exposure is correct to seeing the image for the first time after a long exposure, it all adds to the fun. It also means I am capturing a single moment rather than multiple moments. This may be the photography snob in me speaking but doing things this way makes things feel more.....pure.

This was a 30 second exposure shot on the Fujifilm XT-2 with 16mm 1.4. I used the LEE Big Stopper combined with a 0.6 soft grad filter to create the shot that I was after.

I enjoy long exposure photography using both the LEE Little Stopper (this reduces the light entering the lens by 6 stops) or the LEE Big Stopper (10 stops). They also make a Super Stopper which I haven't tried yet, that reduces the light entering the lens by a massive 15 stops! This would mean if your shutter speed without a filter is 1/100 sec you would be looking at an exposure time of 5 minutes and 20 seconds with the Super Stopper. This allows you to be creative and capture surreal landscapes that show the movement of clouds or smooth the movement of water to give a sense of calm even on days when the weather is less than perfect.

I used the LEE Little Stopper here to maintain a feeling of movement in the waves and a 0.6 very hard grad to darken the clouds. Shot on the Fujifilm XT-2 with 35mm 1.4.

Another filter that I use on a regular basis is the circular polarising filter. The Circular Polariser is probably the filter that I use the most but it needs to be used with care and I tend not to use it on lenses wider than 16mm (24mm full frame equivalent) as this can lead to various issues such as vignetting or an uneven polarising effect across the frame. They can be used to darken blue sky, control reflections or reduce the glare on the surface of water. The polarising effect is strongest when used in bright sunshine at 90 degrees to the sun however I tend to use one on overcast days when shooting seascapes. This is definitely a filter that you want to invest in for your Landscape photography.

One thing to be wary of when choosing a filter system is the colour cast produced by some filter brands. Its worth doing your own research on this before deciding on which system to go for as the filter system you choose could stay in your camera bag for many years to come. I have had very few problems with colour cast using the LEE system. An old Big Stopper that I had used to give me a slight blue colour cast that was easily fixed in post process but after loosing it to the sea and replacing it with a new one this colour cast seems to have disappeared almost completely. LEE now make a ProGlass IRND range of filters that claim to offer even better performance than the standard filters and when finances allow I will be trying these out for myself. If shooting in black and white colour cast isn't really an issue.

1 second exposure using the LEE Little Stopper and Medium Grad Filter. Fujifilm XT-2 with 35mm 1.4.

As you can see from the photographs above, using filters can be great fun and produce excellent results when used correctly. Attention to detail and careful positioning of graduated filters is key to achieving good results but a bit of practice, patience and a keen eye is all it takes. Buy a decent set of filters and look after them and they are sure to hold a permanent place in your camera bag.



A Fujiholics Story - Davie Hudson

I’m told by my mum that I've always had a camera in my hands, the visual image is so appealing to me that I couldn’t not take photos. I was quite late to digital photography and my first Digi was a Fuji S9600, and I loved that thing! It was around the same point I moved from product photography into landscape, I found a home both with landscapes and Digital. From there I moved to another Fuji , the S100FS and the film simulations were a GODSEND!! Read more

A Fujiholics Story - Dave Hepworth

Hi my name is Dave Hepworth and I am from Liverpool. I have liked photography since I was a wee lad. I always remember going to Crosby beach with my gran and grandad when I was a child. My grandad nearly always had two items with him, one being binoculars and the other being his Praktica BMS film camera. This camera has now been passed down to be by my father. I will get out and use it one day.

I bought my first camera (Canon 450d) around nine years ago and fell in love with it. I love getting out and going to different places with. I get a real buzz from editing and seeing the final results. I am far from professional but I believe I have improved so much over the years.

So, you’re a Fujiholic?

In 2015 I thought it was about time to try a new camera and see what was out there. After using other equipment, I was introduced to Fuji. I was given a change you use the X-T1 for a week to see how it handled. When I picked up the camera, I took it for a trial run in Wales and I have to say I fell in love with it with there and then. Then handling and usability of this camera blew me away. I guess at that point my mind was made up and I decided to make the change over to Fuji. I have only had the X-T1 a few months but it has to be the best camera I have used. I love how it make you think about what you are doing and what you want from your camera.

Which is your favourite lens? Why?

My favourite lens in my kit is currently the 10-24mm wide. The view and detail this lens produces is unbelievable. I like landscape photography and is perfect for what I want.

When you next go travelling, what gear will you take?

My next travel out (weather depending) will be the Iron men at Crosby beach. I have just purchased a 16 stopper to use on the 10-24mm. So I am looking forward to seeing the results this will achieve when paired up with this lens.

When out shooting, what are your settings? Why?

I don’t have a standard setting. I guess it depends on the subject I am shooting and the elements such as lighting, weather and what I want out of my shot. Most of the time I will use manual so I can have a play around until I get what I like.

What kind of tools do you use for post processing?

I mainly use Lightroom for my editing but I am still trying to get to grips with it.

What is your favourite Film Simulation? Why?

I have not yet used the film simulation as I am new to the x system.

What's next?

That is a good question.  Now that I have the X system, this has given me a massive boost in passion for photography. I plan to get out and travel a lot more and also attend meetups and training courses this year.

Contact info

NAME: Dave Hepworth

EMAIL:  hepworth.dave@yahoo.co.uk

A Fujiholics Story - Paul Sanders

Paul SandersI’ve been a professional photographer since the age of 19. My mind was made up for me at school hen the careers advisor told me I shouldn’t be a photographer - apparently it’s too competitive and I hadn’t got the right aptitude for it.

My career has been varied so far, I’ve shot glamour calendars, advertising work, wedding and hair fashion for a very well known hair stylist. But most of my photographic life has been spent as a news photographer or picture editor.

I started in news photography at a paid for weekly newspaper in Northampton and moved fairly swiftly to wards a career on Fleet Street, firstly with international wire service Reuters and by 2002 The Times. By 2004 I was made picture editor of The Times and took control of the visual content of the publication in all its various guises. I’d look through around 17-20,000 images everyday, assign photographers across the world covering everything from conflict to Royal weddings, weather features to business profiles.

By 2011 I got ill with stress related issues leading eventually to a breakdown, depression, insomnia and self harm, so by the end of 2011 I left the cut throat world of newspapers and set about shooting landscapes. I started using 5x4 Ebony cameras and 6 x 12 horseman as well as my DSLRs and to cut a long story struggled a lot, my illness didn’t help but the amount of kit I had bogged me down to the point that I pretty much stopped taking pictures.

By chance I went into the local camera shop and picked up an X-Pro1 with a 14mm lens. I decide dot get back my inspiration I’d only shoot with one camera and one lens for a bit. The joy of being free from the big bag of kit was like a breath of fresh air through my photography and my life.

So, You’re a Fujiholic?

Having used the X-Pro1 for a while, when Fuji released the X-T1 I was hooked from the moment I touched it - it reminded me of my Nikon FM2 - A camera I loved and still do, but here was this little camera that didn’t get in the way of my photography and had the looks and feel of a camera that got me started. I made the decision overnight pretty much to go Fuji. I started selling my Canon gear and acquiring Fuji lenses and some change!

Which is your favourite lens? Why?

I don’t really know because I go through phases of loving different lenses. When the 10-24 was launched I used nothing else for months. The lens I use a lot at the minute is the 50-140, but the lens that I have on my camera most is the 23mm.

The optics of all the Fuji lenses are stunning, so in truth the lens I have on the camera is my favourite.

What's next for me?

I'm trying to get gallery representation, and it’s not as easy as it might sound, so this year is about getting my work into as many fairs and exhibitions as possible.