Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 14: Dubai creek crossing by Abra

To me it is incomprehensible that first time visitors to Dubai, return back home without having been to the area around Dubai Creek... It is the heart of old Dubai, where it all started in the 19th century when the Bani Yas tribe first settled here. Living of the pearl industry, the creek quickly became the trading centre with boats coming from as far as India and East Africa. Even though the pearl fishing has now come to an end, the place still has an old feel to it.

Historically the creek has always divided the city in two parts, Deira to the North and Bur Dubai to the South. There are a total of 4 bridges over and one tunnel under the creek, but by far the most authentic way of crossing the creek, is by Abra; a small wooden boat which takes about 20 passengers for 1 dirham (1/4 EUR or USD) per person.

The hustle and bustle of tens of Abra's crisscrossing the creek is something that can't be missed! Tourists typically come to the area for the Spice, Gold and textile souq. But there is much more; definitively don't miss the loading and unloading the many Dhows along the Deira side of the creek. These medium size wooden ships still take goods to and from Iran, India and Pakistan on a daily basis. 

The image below was shot during an Abra ride, on my way to the Dhow wharfage in Deira.

Dubai Creek crossing by Abra

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the 23mm f1.4 lens
ISO 320, 23mm (35mm full frame equivalent), f8, 1/400s
RAW file developed in Lightroom 5.7 using the Fujifilm Classic Chrome Camera Profile

Since Fujifilm has introduced the Classic Chrome film style, I've  become a great fan of it for my documentary photography work. As Zach Arias wrote in his X-100T post, it looks so William Eggleston like!

More similar images of mine can be found in a dedicated gallery called, "Life at the Creek". 

Remember, "The more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future". - Theodore Roosevelt


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Geotag Photos Workflow - How do I Geotag my Fujifilm photos?

One of my little pet peeves, is the fact that most DSLR and mirrorless cameras still don't have a proper built in GPS chip for Geotagging. For those, not familiar, Geotagging, it is the process of adding geographical identification to the metadata of a photo or video. Simply said, GPS coordinates (lat/long) are added to the image so that software can later use it. 

A camera which does have excellent geotagging functionality, is the iPhone (and most other smartphones), as GPS coordinates are automatically added to each and every photo.

Over the last year or so, I've had quite a few people asking whether I do geotag my images shot with the Fujifilm X-series camera through the built in Wifi functionality or whether I use an external application...

First, what kind of "geotagging" do the newer Fujifilm X cameras provide? One can indeed connect a phone or tablet to the camera and then send a "geotag" update which includes the position. Problem is this is a one time position update which will not keep track of the photographer moving around. Briefly, great to take a single geotag snapshot position, but not really useable to geotag all of the images shot during a photoshoot where one continuously moves around.

As an alternative, there are a number of third parties apps available for smartphones which record a GPS track of wherever the photographer is at a certain time. As the GPS track contains exact time information and each image has a time stamp stored in the META data, image editing software like Lightroom can then synchronise both. 

A third party application I have used for several years now, is "Geotag photos". They have a free desktop version and a 3.99 USD iPhone/iPad and Android app.

The workflow might look a bit daunting initially, but once you've done it a few times, the process takes less than 2 mins! Let's have a look...


What's below is based on using an iPhone 5S running IOS8 and Lightroom 5.7 on a Mac running OS X. Functionality when using Android smartphones is similar but not necessary identical. Here we go...

Step 1Open the Geotag Photos Pro app and click on New trip. Give it a name as below and click REC when ready to start shooting.

My Accuracy settings in the settings tab are as follows:

Step 2Once done shooting, click STOP. After importing your images into Lightroom, go to the MAP tab. Click on the symbol, right of the lock at the bottom toolbar. For a better view on the screenshot below, please click on the image.

I personally setup my iPhone app to upload automatically into my Dropbox folder. After clicking "Load Tracklog", choose the GPX file with the name you allocated in step 1.

After the tracklog loads, you will see the track on the Lightroom map. If you don't have an active internet connection, the map won't load but geotagging of the images is still available.

Step 3Next, click on "Time zone off-set" in Lightroom. I personally always set my cameras to GMT time. As the GPS track is always based on Local time, I need to off-set the time zone; e.g. whenever I shoot in the UAE I need to select -4 hours.

Then select all the images you want to geotag from the lower Lightroom filmstrip. Once done click on Auto-tag .... Selected Photos

Once done you will see, yellow icons along the track with a number. These are the number of photos that were taken at this specific position

On all of the geotagged images, you will now see a new icon in the bottom right corner of the thumbnail; it looks a bit like a thumbtack and means the image now has the GPS coordinates written into the metadata. 

If one has "reverse geocoding" enabled in Lightroom, the Metadata boxes that contain location details like city, country, etc... will be automatically filled in. For this to work, one does need to be online. To activate the reverse geocoding function go to Lightroom > Catalog settings > Metadata.

The main advantage of geotagging your images is the fact that finding specific ones becomes much easier. Even if the image is not (or limited) key worded, I can do a quick search by using the Lightroom Map function or by searching for all images shot in a certain city/area. I also sometimes get the question of clients or fellow photographers where the image was shot exactly. 

Whenever, I don't want to share the geotag info, I just make sure that I tick the "Remove location info" box in the Lightroom export box. 

Hope this clears up some of the geotag questions you might have as a photographer! 


DISCLAIMER: "I'm not affiliated with Geotag Photos and did not receive any form of compensation to promote their product".

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 13: Dubai contrast

Contrast in photography is often one of the most important reasons why a specific image stands out! It can be the contrast between black and white, between complimentary colours, between sharpness and out of focus areas or just between shadows and highlights.

Beside the physical contrast, it can also be a contrast between subject matter; and that is how I feel about the image below.

3 Key elements of Dubai

To me the four main elements in the image all complement each other; the biggest contrast is probably the older Mosque against the ultra modern Burj Khalifa, the worlds largest building. The UAE flag links the two together and gives it a sense of place, while the fishing cages make for an interesting and authentic foreground.

In photography the rule of thirds is generally well understood, however another rule which is less known, is "the rule of odds"; an odd number of main subjects often looks more pleasing than an even number. This is just how our brain is wired I guess. I also like how the trio of the mosque, Burj Khalifa and UAE flag all have different sizes and play of each other.

Lastly, I envisioned the image as a square and therefore cropped it that way in post-processing.

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF 50-140 f2.8 lens
ISO 200, 106mm (159mm full frame equivalent), f8, 1/420s
RAW file developed in Lightroom 5.7

More of my Architectural images shot in Dubai can be found here.

Remember, with regard to rules in photography, "Rules are there to be broken"!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fujifilm XF23mm f1.4 goes Architectural - Box Park Dubai

Dubai is known for its ambitious Architectural projects; the latest one is a "shopping street" based around containers called "Box Park" in Jumeirah which opened earlier this week.

Time to take the 23mm f1.4 prime lens, I have on loan from Fujifilm Middle East for a spin. No, I know that Architectural photography is not really what one would thinks about when shooting with a lens which has a 35mm equivalent full frame focal lens! 

The advantage however of a "normal" lens is that there is very little distortion accross the frame; something which is great for Architectural work.

Box Park, Dubai

Back to the Box Park in Dubai; the project is likely inspired by the "Container Mall" in Christchurch, New Zealand, where after a strong earthquake in February 2011, people started opening shops in shipping containers because all of their shops were damaged beyond repair.

Box Park, Dubai

The Box Park project in Dubai however, wasn't created because of an extreme natural disaster and consists of a mix of classic concrete structures and containers.

Box Park, Dubai

All of the images are shot with the Fujifilm X-T1, handheld (not using a tripod), at ISO's varying from 1600 to 6400 (mostly 3200) using the Auto ISO function! 

Box Park, Dubai

Box Park, Dubai

Box Park, Dubai

As an Architectural photographer, I'm always excited to see new projects pop up and this one is definitively one to take note of! 

Box Park, Dubai

Box Park, Dubai

To check out how the Fujifilm XF 23mm 1.4 lens shines for street photography, click here.

Remember, "Architecture begins where engineering ends" - Walther Gropius


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 12: Air to Air with a sister-ship Piper Super Cub

As a pilot/photographer, Air to Air photography, is obviously one of my favourite kinds of Aviation photography.

Photographing other aircraft in flight, is very dynamic; something that needs to be planned ahead of time and that needs a high discipline of all pilots and photographers involved. In a close formation flight, aircraft often fly closer than 5m (15ft) from each other, which requires high concentration of especially the pilot joining up on the wing of the lead-aircraft.

The image below was shot from the 1954 Piper Super Cub I co-own in Belgium, while its sister-ship, an almost identical 40 year younger Piper Super Cub, is the main photo-subject. Lower in the frame, is a Flight Design CT2K microlight, who joined the formation on the way back from Brasschaat in the Northern part of Belgium.

The nuclear electrical power station of Doel, North of Antwerp (Belgium) makes for an interesting background.

PA-18 Piper Cub in formation with CT Flightdesign

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the Fujinon XF50-140 f2.8 lens
ISO200, 50mm, f4, 1/250s
RAW file developed in Lightroom 5.7
Nik ColorEfex for optimum contrast

In order to avoid a "stopped" prop which looks very strange, the shutter speed needs to be relatively slow; 1/250s is the about the fastest one should shoot in order to have some prop-blur with most propellor aircraft. Ideally I would have preferred to shoot at double the speed (1/125s) to have a fuller prop-disk. This was unfortunately hard to do, given the air wasn't 100% smooth.

More of my Air to Air photography can be found here while images of my own and some other Piper Cubs can be found here.

Remember: "Flying might not all be plain sailing, but the fun in it, is worth the price" - Amelia Earhart 


Monday, March 16, 2015


New York remains my nr 1 “Street Photography paradise”. Even more pronounced than Paris, the opportunities for a street photographer in this mega-hub are endless! 

Ny gifts

Whenever I go to the Big Apple, I try to do at least a few hours of hardcore street-photography, preferably shooting Black and White with a prime lens. For you non-photographers out there, a prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal lens; the opposite of a zoom. As an example, your iPhone or Android phones all have prime lenses. 

Last week, I got a Fujinon XF 23mm f1.4 lens on loan from Fujifilm Middle East, which I took to New York. I do own the 27mm pancake lens (right in the image above), but have been hesitating to purchase the 27mm (left in image above) for a while.

What is below, is not going to be a full on review, but rather a practical look on how I used the lens for my street photography in New York city.

So why a 23mm prime?
Depending on who you speak to, scientists claim that humans see around a 24 to 35mm focal length. Given I shot the lens on a 1.5 cropped sensor, i.e. Fujifilm X-T1; the 23mm becomes a 35mm full frame equivalent.

Waiting for the subway

The advantage of using a prime lens for street photography, is that one quickly learns to see in a specific focal length and after a while will know exactly where to stand to frame a perfect shot; this even without looking through the viewfinder. 

Like your trousers

As it has the same focal length, the lens is often compared to the Fujifilm X-100 series, of which I tested and reviewed its latest iteration in a blogpost called; "Two weeks on the road with the X-100T".

Obviously the size and weight of the X-100T are considerably less than the 23mm lens mounted on an X-T1. Image quality wise, I found that the latter is a little bit better; but only ever so slightly. It is very sharp all over the frame, even at large apertures; unlike the 27mm I own which is a remarkable lens for its size in the center of the frame, but not so much on the edges.
What are you waiting for?

There are very little things I don’t like about this lens, but the size of the lens-hood is one of them. The 23mm is not exactly very small to start with, but the huge lens-hood which is included is clearly overkill! Online research, reveals that I’m clearly not alone; some photographers have bought a cheap metal hood which screws on the 62mm filter thread. These mostly seem to fit well, causing no or minimal vignetting.

The second one being the aperture ring, which is a little too loose for my liking. On more than one occasion I changed to aperture without knowing; not a showstopper but something to be aware about!
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Overall I'm very impressed with the XF 23mm f1.4 lens. The metal lens feels top quality and creates outstanding image quality. It has the same "pull for manual focus" ring of the 14mm f2.8, which I'm a fan of! When pulling the ring backwards, a hyperlocal focus scale is exposed, something which is especially useful for street photography.

I had been playing with the idea of picking up an X-100T for my street photography, but this 23mm prime might do the same job

One of the main advantages of the X-100 series, was the fact that one can shoot 100% silent. After the latest X-T1 firmware update, I can now do the same with the electronic shutter and this is exactly how I shot in New York!

Grafitti in Manhattan

Other settings I commonly use for Street photography are, black and white with the yellow filter, RAW or RAW+jpeg, Face detection ON, Auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed of 1/250s and a max ISO of 3200. 

I used to shoot a lot in manual focus using the hyper-focal technique, but given the face detection auto-focus has become so good, I almost have completely given up on it!

My favourite time to shoot in Manhattan is when the sun sits low on the horizon. As the light bounces of the buildings it makes for some dramatic images.

Cool guys

My preferred way of shooting candid street photography is by shooting “from the hip”; I often pretend fiddling around with my camera settings while taking shots. 

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Another great tip to shoot candids is pretending to take a shot of for example the top of a facade and then eventually taking the actual frame while checking out the so called first image on the LCD. An example can be found below.

You are weird

The X-T1 tilt screen has also been a great help in getting different perspectives! 

Those shoes are not made for walking...

One should not discard shooting in and around the New York subway; it is full of great photo opportunities and security seems to be fine with it...

Subway driver

When shooting in the trains, I often try to frame interesting photos by using the background of some of the advertisements displayed.   

Those shoes are not made for walking...

It looks like another Fujinon lens, will join my lens arsenal soon!


Friday, March 13, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 11: Ready for boarding, Airbus A380 Zurich

The Airbus A380, the world largest passenger airliner has been in the news again lately. There seems to be one side of the story that speculates that the production of the Jumbo jet made in Toulouse, will end somewhere near the end of the decennia, while the other camp believes Airbus will develop a re-engined more economical version of the bird, called the NEO (New Engine Option). I personally believe it will be the latter...

As a pilot who flies these birds for a living, I can tell you that the A380 is probably the best Airbus product from a pilots perspective, although the new A350 might come in close! Passengers seem to all love it, as I've yet have to come across a passenger who doesn't!

Unlike what some people tend to think, the A380 does not need a longer runway than any of the other wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 747, 777 or Airbus A330/340/350. What is needed are wide enough taxiways and suitable boarding and disembarkation gates, although a few sets of standard passenger steps can do the job as well.

The image below of an A380, just before boarding, shows some of the ground equipment and preparations for a flight. Generally speaking, cargo and catering on modern airliners is being loaded on the right hand side, while passengers board from the left. Specific to the double deck configuration of the A380, special boarding gates in two levels are being used; most companies having First and Business class upstairs, with Economy on the lower floor. Something I wanted to highlight in the image below by using the photographic "leading lines" principle.

Refuelling is done by pumping fuel into one or both of the wing refuelling points; in this case the one on the left hand side (right side of the photo). A total of 320.000 liters or 84500 USG of Jet A(1) fuel can be loaded.

The ground handling phase can get pretty busy as can be seen in the image of an A380 preparing for boarding at Zurich, Switzerland below.

Ready for boarding, A380 Zurich

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF 10-24 f4 lens
IOS 200, F4.5, 18mm (27mm full frame equivalent), 1/1800s
RAW development in Lightroom 5.7
Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 for contrast adjustment
Nik SilverEfex 2 to convert into Black and White

Although not a fan of selective color, I decided to leave a fraction of color in the airline livery.

More of my images of the Airbus A380 can be found here

Orville Wright, the first pilot flying a powered aircraft once said: "No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris". How wrong was he!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 10: Cloudy sunset at Jumeirah Beach, Dubai

The Burj al Arab, the so called only "7 star hotel" in Dubai, remains one of the most photographed buildings in Dubai. Design work of the to the letter translated, "Tower the of the Arabs", was started in 1994 by a team of British Architects led by Thomas Willis. Five years later, this amazing building became the icon of Dubai!

Cloudy skies are rare in Dubai and whenever they do appear, it makes for great photo-opportunities. Such was the case the day after a large sandstorm (Shamal) hit Dubai last week. 

Of to the Jumeirah Beach with tripod and camera bag, I managed to create the following keeper image of the sun rays illuminating the Atlantis hotel on the top the Palm Jumeriah just before sunset. 

Although I carried neutral density filters to make a long exposure, I elected to go with a normal exposure where the waves remain visible. Another rarity in Dubai... 

Jumeriah Beach sunset, Dubai 

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF 10-24 f5.6
5 jpeg exposures with varying shutter speeds between 1/1000s and 1/25s
Exposure blending in Photoshop CC 2014
Nik ColorEfex for contrast adjustment

With multiple exposures, I more commonly blend them together through a 32bit conversion in Photoshop HDR Pro. This time however, I elected to use a more neutral manual image blending technique in Photoshop. 

One might ask, why I shot in jpeg format rather than RAW? The day before I had done some jpeg testing and did forget to reset the camera to RAW shooting. Only  towards the end of the shoot, I realised my mistake... Yes, one I'm not proud of, but I guess it proofs it happens to all of us! Anyway, still relatively happy with the final result.

An excellent pdf presentation of the construction of the Burj al Arab can be downloaded here, while more of my own images of this iconic building can be found here.

Remember, "We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us" - Winston Churchill.