Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 28: PODERE BELVEDERE on a misty morning - Val D'Orcia, Italy

End of May, I spend a week on a landscape photo-adventure in Tuscany; a paradise for landscape photography. After some delay due to extensive other travels, I finally got around editing all of my keeper images! 

Likely one of the most photogenic places in Tuscany is the Podere Belvedere, a beautiful house on a small hilltop just outside San Quirico  in Val d'Orcia; probably the most photographed house in Italy . 

Going on a landscape photography trip when the days are the longest, means "early wake-up calls"; when I say early, I mean 04.30am the latest! Even though I'm not an morning person (prefer sunset shoots), I did consistently force myself to be at location before sunrise; rewarding it was!

While the Val d'Orcia region in Tuscany is known for its great foggy mornings, several people confirmed to me that end of May might be a bit late... Well I must have been extremely lucky as on two out of the three mornings the valley was filled with morning fog. 

The image below of the Podere Belvedere, was taken in the middle of a large field full of Tuscan poppies. Beside the great red flowers it was unfortunately also full of landscape photographers! So much for getting there early... With a bit of creative framing, I however was able to come up with a few interesting images. 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-H1 with the XF50-140 f2.8 lens
  • ISO 200, 59mm, 1/15s, f16
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC Classic
  • Photoshop CC for Focus stacking
I'm always amazed at the number of landscape photographers who will limit themselves to shooting only wide-angle shots. Especially for great vistas like the ones in Tuscany, I find that a telephoto lens works the best. I personally shot 90% of my landscape images with the XF50-140 of which quite a few were beyond 100mm.

The only challenge of shooting at larger telephoto focal lengths, is the fact that the depth of field will typically be a bit limited; even at f16! Typically I will shoot a series if images (normally about 3 to 5) at different focus points; at least one for the foreground, middle ground and background. I then blend the images together in Photoshop for optimal sharpness across the whole frame. 

To take the images, the latest firmware update of the Fujifilm X-T2 has an automatic focus stacking capability that will take different images at different focus points. It does however not blend the images together. As I was using the X-H1 (which did not have this at the time), so I had to revert to manually changing the focus point for each image. Not a problem as long as one works on a tripod.  

More of my images shot in Tuscany can be found here.

Remember: "Landscape photography is the supreme test and often the supreme disappointment" - Ansel Adams.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 27: IFE AERIALS - A new personal project is born

Sometimes a new photography project is born by experimentation or even out of boredom. Such was the case the other day when I was traveling in the passenger cabin of an airliner. Nowadays a lot of the modern airliners have great in-flight cameras installed on the nose and lower belly of the aircraft, so passengers can follow what is going on outside. 

While the tail camera on the Airbus A380 I fly for a living, is my personal favorite, I have mainly been disregarding the view directly below as being "not that interesting". Strange if you know that Aerial photography is one of my most favorite forms of photography! 

While watching the view below on the IFE (In-Flight-Entertainment) the other day flying into Brussels, I snapped a quick succesion of shots and was intrigued by the results. Given things pass by very fast (especially once low to the ground), one doesn't have an idea what is coming next. The surprise factor is what makes this type of photography interesting to me! 

While one image captured a cemetery (click here) before landing, I even found the ones taken on the ground intriguing; the yellow taxiway lines I follow every day as a pilot, all of sudden makes for a potential interesting image. 

The image below of the shadow of the airliner I was traveling on, being projected on the runway below, makes for another interesting perspective. 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T2 with XF18-135 lens 
  • ISO 3200, f4.7, 1/550s, 44mm
  • Lightroom CC Classic for RAW development using Classic Chrome film simulation
The project reminds me of a series called "TV shots" by Belgian Magnum photographer "Harry Gruyaert" who in the 1970's at the start of colour television, was photographing his TV screen.
More images of my new "IFE AERIALS" project can be found here.

Remember: "If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff" - Jim Richardson

Thursday, June 28, 2018


Yesterday I returned from a three day Aerial photography trip to the Wadden islands with my 1954 Piper Cub aircraft. The Wadden islands are a long chain of small islands in the Northern part of the Netherlands and Germany. 

Beside some interesting nature aerial work (upcoming Pic(k) of the week), I also used the opportunity to photograph some of the commercial ports, we passed on the way. Below is an image of a Dutch port facility run by Cobelfret at Vlissingen, where thousands of mainly right hand drive Ford cars/vans, are being collected, before being shipped on large RoRo (Roll-on/roll-off) ships to the UK. They come in from different central European car factories on river barges, trucks and trains.

A full parking lot like the one below is a joy to photograph, as it provides great patterns and colours; something that is the main focus point (no pun intended) in my aerial photography!

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T2 with the XF18-135 lens
  • ISO 500, 1/1250s, f8.0, 62mm
  • Lightroom CC Classic for RAW development
While more of my aerial photography from the latest trip to the Netherlands/Germany will be uploaded over the next few days, I meanwhile invite you to have a look at my previous work here.

Remember: "A good photograph is knowing where to stand" - Ansel Adams

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


As stated in my last Pic(k), I had a great time touring around Tuscany on photography tour end of May. While I did a fair bit of classic Travel and Street photography (with the Fujifilm X-T100, review here), the main purpose of the trip was shooting some fresh Landscape work; something Tuscany is renown for!

My Landscape camera for the trip was the X-H1, Fujifilm's largest camera in the X-series line. Given I was mainly shooting close to my car, the larger size of the X-H1 did not really bother me. Had this not been the case, I would definitively used my trusty X-T2 instead. 

One of the challenges of going on a Landcape photograph trip in June is that the days in the Northern hemisphere are the longest; this means getting up before 5am to be in time for a sunrise shoot. As the trip was also a family vacation, I elected to mainly shoot landscapes in the morning and reserve sunset to be spent with my wife over great Tuscan food and wine. 

Just when we wanted to go out for dinner one night in Val d'Orcia, a huge line of thunderstorms was approaching giving the sky a very dramatic look. Needless to say, dinner was delayed a bit that night...

The below image shows that drama quite well. I was particularly attracted by how the wheat fields in the foreground were nicely lit while the dark sky above was turning purple. A car approaching with headlights on in the center frame, give it that nice little touch. This is an image that will be printed...

The image was shot handheld on the side of the road. Those of you questioning why I did not shoot at a lower ISO given the X-H1 has IBIS (In Body Image stabilization), it is as simple as allowing AUTO ISO to do the job. Yes I could have easily shot at ISO 800, resulting in a 1/80s but given the moment was over in a blink of an eye, I elected play safe and use AUTO ISO instead. Beside shooting at ISO 2500 is no problem on all on the newer X-series cameras.

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-H1 with the XF50-140 lens
  • ISO 2500, 1/320s, 69mm, f13
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development, including use of a gradient filter
  • Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 for optimal contrast
I've noticed that a lot of photographers new to Landscape photography, tend to use lenses in the 24-70mm full frame equivalent range. Especially when shooting vast open fields like the ones found in Val d'Orcia, I do recommend shooting longer glass; the XF50-140 turned out to be a great lens for that. Occasionally I would even use the XF1.4 TC (Teleconverter) when 140mm on a cropped body would not be enough. 

While I occasionally have people comment on one of my Landscape images, "It looks like a painting", this one definitively does! I'll take it as a complement next time I hear this, I guess...

At least one or two other images from Tuscany will become a Pic(k) of the week. For the ones that can't wait, check out the Tuscany gallery here

Remember: "Not everybody trusts paintings but everybody believes photographs" - Ansel Adams

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 24: PALAZZO PUBBLICO, SIENA - FUJIFILM X-T100

When I decided to take the brand new Fujifilm X-T100 with me on a weeklong Travel photography trip to Italy, I supposed it would be used as my general walk around and Street Photography camera and not as my main camera. A Fujifilm X-H1, which comes in at the complete other spectrum of the X-series (largest and most expensive X-series), was to take the large majority of  the Landscape photography work. More on that in a future Pic(k) of the week...

The small, entry level X-T100 did however perform very well on the trip; even on some of the Architectural/Travel work. Unfortunately Lightroom and Camera RAW were not able to convert X-T100 RAW files at the time I was traveling. Therefore all of the X-T100 images were in camera jpegs; the main reason I did not want to use it as my main camera for the trip. I expect Lightroom to release the X-T100 RAW converter anytime soon now.  

For the ones interested that missed it, my First Look review of the X-T100 can be found here.

The image below of the 102m Torre del Mangia in Siena, consists of 3 jpeg exposures blended together in Lightroom, using the HDR function. Although I'm a big fan of Fujifilm jpegs for my Street Photography, I rarely edit them. While this was clearly pushing my comfort zone, I am quite happy with the resulting image below!

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T100 with the XF14 f2.8 lens
  • ISO 200, f11, shutter speeds between 1/200s and 1/1500s
  • Lightroom CC to blend the 3 images
  • Nik ColorEfex Pro for optimal contrast
More images shot in Tuscany can be found here

Although the X-T100 and X-H1 are two very different cameras, it was remarkable how I could easily switch from one to the other without hindering the creative process. The Tuscany gallery has images from both and I must say that I personally struggle to see the difference in image quality on most (if no all)!

Remember: "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to look without a camera" - Dorothea Lange