Thursday, May 23, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 21: THE POWER OF NATURE - Using Fujifilm X-T3 PRE-SHOT

Sometimes I hear photographers say, "gear doesn't matter, it is the photographer that makes the image". Although there is some truth to this, there are circumstances where gear does however matter.

A great example is when one wants to shoot night images of a thunderstorm when sitting in the back of an airliner at 35000ft. Yes one can shoot lightning using  a tripod on the ground, but from an airliner which is moving close to 1000km/h this becomes a different story... 

The Fujifilm X-T3 (and X-T30) has a new feature called "Pre-shot ES". I'm sure we have all been there, where we realize that we just missed the shot in high action photography; a fraction of a second too late. Like magic, it allows to get those shots that otherwise would be missed. How does it work? 

First the function is part of the high speed burst (CH) mode and only works with the Electronic Shutter (ES). In Pre-shot ES and when half pressing the camera continually stores the last 20 images in the buffer (not on the SD card). The moment one sees the image, the shutter is pressed full down as normal. The last 20 images, just before the shutter was pressed fully down, are then written to the SD card as well as those frames that are captured while pressing the shutter down. In selecting the final image, one can then use the image that just captured the right moment. 

This is exactly how I captured the image below of an active thunderstorm with the lightning bolt. I particularly like how the yellow of the city in the right side of the image, plays off the deep night blue sky lit by the lightning.


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF35mm f2 lens
  • ISO 6400, 1.8s, f 2.0, Manual focus
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development 
  • DxO ColorEfex pro 4 for optimal contrast 
When trying to capture "The decisive moment", the Pre-Shot ES function is really opening all kind of doors!

Both my Portfolio and my Galleries have a dedicated Aerial section. Please check them out by clicking on the links. 

Remember: "Stop trying to calm the storm. Calm yourself and the storm will pass" - Timber Hawkeye

BJORN



Thursday, May 16, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 20: SUNRISE OVER THE MEDITERRANEAN

Making images pretty much on a daily basis, occasionally a portfolio worthy image slips through the nets. Such was the case with an image I shot in Nice, Côte d'Azur almost three months back... 

While on a 24hr layover in Nice, I woke up to an amazing sunrise in my hotel along the Promenade des Anglais. Just enough time to grab my camera and frame a few shots as the sun disk starting peeking about the horizon.


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T30 with the XF18-135 lens
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC
  • DxO ColorEfex pro with Graduated Neutral density filter and Pro Contrast
I took the opportunity to rework my Nice, France gallery and replaced some of the older work with newer ones. Please check out the gallery here.

The image was shot with the new Fujifilm X-T30 with the XF18-135 lens; a great travel combo! Check out my review of the X-T30 here

Remember: "Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long you will miss them" - William Arthur Ward



Sunday, May 12, 2019

FIRST LOOK REVIEW: FUJIFILM XF16mm f2.8 R WR LENS

It was almost a year ago that Fujifilm put the new XF 16mm f2.8 lens on the "lens road map". Fujifilm is to my knowledge, one of the only camera and lens manufactures that keeps an online list of lenses (lens road map) that are planned, still in development but not formally launched. Generally new lenses start appearing about 12 to 18 months ahead of the official launch on the lens road map.


On Valentine's day 2019, Fujifilm announced the XF 16 f2.8 R WR lens, a brand-new weather sealed, compact wide angle prime.

The fine guys of Fujifilm Middle East were once again nice enough to lend me a production copy about three weeks back, for a "First Look review". Since then it didn't leave my XT-3 body and was used extensively in Bangkok, Hamburg, Madrid and of course in and around Dubai!

QUALITY / SIZE / WEIGHT / DESIGN
Great built quality is what one has come to expect from any Fujifilm XF lens and you will not be disappointed. Made in the Philippines versus Japan for the the 23mm, 35mm and 50mm f2.0 primes, I do not see or feel any difference between them. 


Built entirely out of metal it has an aperture ring (R in the lens name), which has the right amount of resistance. I would have liked to see a little bit of  a harder detent when it goes past f22 into A mode, but this is of course not a show stopper. 

The manual focus ring is small, especially for medium sized male hands; needless to say, this is needed to keep the form factor that small. Personally I don't see myself using manual focus much on this lens, as the Autofocus is one of the best (if not "the" best) of all Fujifilm lenses. More later.


Yes, this lens is indeed tiny. Compared to the XF 16 f1.4 lens, it is about half as tall and half as wide, making it a real compact wide-angle option. Size wise it really fits in well with the other compact f2.0 primes. 

It weighs in at only 155g, which is feather-light compared to 375g for the XF16 1.4. Available in black and silver, it should be available from the date this post goes live. 


Since the lens front element doesn't rotate on focussing, using a circular polarizer  or graduated Neutral Density (ND) filter on the 49mm filter treat, works well. 

Last but not least, the lens is weather sealed (WR - Weather Resistant) which allows you to shoot in the rain, snow, dust or sand as long as the camera body you use it on, is weather resistant as well; X-T1, X-T2, X-T3, X-Pro2, X-H1 all are.

LENSHOOD
The lens comes with a nice little petal shaped lens hood, made out of hard plastic which for me is the best looking and most functional lens hood provided with all of the Fujifilm lenses. Like the lens itself, its size is nice and small, keeping the form factor compact. It can be inverted for installation, but I never felt the need to do so.

AUTOFOCUS (AF)
Especially on the newer camera bodies, all of the recent Fujifilm lenses are blazingly fast when it comes to autofocus and this one might be the winner of them all... Given its small size, there is of course a limited amount of glass to be moved which always helps with AF. Beside the speed, the AF is also dead-on with absolutely no AF hunting (tested on X-T3 with 3.0 firmware). Like the other f2.0 lenses, autofocus is quiet and can barely be noticed. 

The lens focusses quite close at 17cm (compared to the 15cm on the f1.4 version).


IMAGE QUIALITY
First of all, my "First look reviews" are not meant to be a pixel peeping exercise; there are other blogs that do this much better. I'll limit myself to a quick look at overall sharpness, lens flare and chromatic aberration. 

Being small and nimble, the XF16 f2.8 does certainly not disappoint when it comes to image quality (IQ). It's much larger brother, XF16 f1.4, is often referred to as one of Fujfilm's best and sharpest lenses, so a direct comparison is not really fair. After all we are talking about a completely different price point for both lenses.

When stopped down all the way to f2.8, the corners are a little softer but start being sharp from f4 onwards. 

Below is the same image shot on a tripod, under the same light conditions and camera settings at f5.6. The XF16 f1.4 is on the left while the new f2.8 lens is on the right. The first one is the overall view, second left bottom corner at 100% zoom and the last one the center section at 100%. Click on the image for a full size view. The corner sharpness is still a little softer with the f2.8 lens while the center focus is identical for both lenses at f5.6. 




A lot of people don't realize that on a modern camera system, even when shooting RAW, the lens is digitally corrected in-camera for distortion and lens flaws. The distortion visible in both jpeg and RAW files is minimal for this wide-angle lens.

Lens flare is kept very well under control and was hard to trigger with the lens hood attached.   


When the conditions are right for it, and especially at close focus distance, you'll find some chromatic aberration (CA) at wide-open or close to apertures (f2.8-3.2). This can of course be easily removed in editing software like Lightroom. 

Below is an illustration of this with a shot at f2.8 on the left and one at f4 where the effect is gone on the right. This is common for most wide-angle lenses under these conditions and even the XF16 f1.4 suffers from a little bit of CA at f1.4. Lastly, I want to highlight that this CA is only visible under some very specific conditions; it is not something I personally worry about!

   

Finally... below are some real life images I shot over the last three weeks. All shot handheld on the X-T3, with the majority being shot in jpeg.

 SAMPLE IMAGES

1/320, f11, ISO160

1/320, f8, ISO1250

1/640, f8, ISO200

1/320, f2.8, ISO2500

1/320, f6.4, ISO200

1/320, f6.4, ISO6400

1/150, f8, ISO6400

1/320, f8, ISO2000

1/320, f5.6, ISO1250

1/320, f11, ISO160

1/320, f5.6, ISO4000

1/18, f2.8, ISO800

1/700, f9, ISO160

1/500, f8, ISO160

1/320, f5.6, ISO1250

1/320, f8, ISO160

1/320, f8, ISO200
1/320, f11, ISO320
CONCLUSIONS
Blog-readers will know that I like to shoot Street/Travel photography with the XF23mm f2.0 compact prime. At times, I feel like shooting wider and then typically will take the XF16 f1.4 with me. It is however a much heavier and more conspicuous lens than the smaller lenses. 

When shooting street with a wide-angle (24mm full frame equivalent), one typically will be much closer to the main subject; the main reason where the  smaller lens comes in handy. 


Personally I would have loved to see a second version of the older 18mm f2 before this lens, but after having shot it exclusively for 3 weeks, I must say that there is really very little negative to write about this small compact wide-angle. 

I can see two main reasons why one might pick the XF16 f1.4 instead of the f2.8 version of the lens; the first one is for those shooting a lot of close-up images with a shallow depth of field. The second one is for those that shoot a lot hand-held at night and who might need the extra two stops of light. 

Lastly, even though there are a few instances where the larger XF16 f1.4 will perform slightly better, the 400,-USD price point of the f2.8 is hard to beat! And who says, that one can't have both! 

The above review can be shared on Social media and Blogs without prior approval, as long as credit to Bjorn Moerman PHOTOGRAPHY (www.bjornmoerman.com) is given.  


BJORN








     

Monday, May 6, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 19: RAMADAN KAREEM - Sunset over Dubai mosque

Wishing all of my muslim friends a RAMADAN KAREEM! Today is the start of Ramadan; the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which is observed by most Muslims all over the world as a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. 

Living in Dubai, Ramadan is always a period which has great photographic opportunities. 

In a lot of ways, photography is being at the right place at the right time. Sometimes one notices a scene which has the potential for a great image at a different time of the day. Such was the case when I saw an interesting line up between a mosque and the Burj Khalifa in the background. A few days ago, I went back to the location to shoot some images around sunset time.


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF 100-400 lens
  • 1/1000s, f 6.4, ISO 160, 218mm
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development
  • DxO ColorEfex Pro for optimal contrast + Brilliance and Warm filter
For more Architectural images from Dubai click here; images shot during the last few months of Ramadan, can be found here.



BJORN



Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 18: BROKEN TRAIN - Hua Lamphong Railway station, Bangkok

A few years ago, I met Thai photographer, Rammy Narula, who was exhibiting his "Platform 10" work in a gallery in Bangkok. Rammy shot a great body of work during a six month period, at a single platform (nr10) at the Hua Lamphong Railway station. The work was also published in a great photo-book; click here for more info. 

Last week I got the chance to set out to the Hua Lamphong station again to do some more "street photography". A shame the station will likely disappear in about a year or two as they are presently building a new station somewhere else.

I strongly believe there is difference between being inspired by another photographer versus wanting to copy somebody else his/her work just merely for having similar images. While the first one can often be a boost for the photographers creativity, the second is mostly counter-productive and unfulfilling.

The inspiration might just be the push to go to the same place, but almost always opens new perspectives and viewpoints. The beauty of Street/Documentary photography, is that the scene and subject matter constantly changes.

Although relatively small, I ended up shooting in the station for just over 3 hours; yes, it is full of photographic opportunities! 

The image below of a Thai boy waiting for the train to arrive, is probably the best "story telling image" I shot that day. I love how he is deeply involved in the movie he is watching while a broken toy train sits just on the side. The train in the shadow background, gives the whole image a send of place.

Although I also made a Black and White version (click here ) of the image, I like the colour one below as well; his skin tone against the dark pastel blue of the table, work well together.


Image details: 
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF 16mm f2.8 lens
  • 1/320, f 5.6, ISO 1250
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC using Classic Chrome profile
  • Photoshop CC to remove some distracting elements in the top right
The shoot at the Bangkok Railway station must have been one of the most productive ones I've done in a while. Please check out the entire series here.

The entire series was shot with the new Fujifilm XF16 f.2.8 lens; a compact 24mm equivalent wide-angle which is great for environmental portraits. While I haven't shot that much Street photography with my much larger XF16 f1.4 lens, this much smaller lens will probably see more use for my Street Photography in the future! 

Time permitting, I'll blog about the new lens somewhere early May! 


Remember: "If a train does not stop at your station, then it is not your train" - Marianne Williamson 

BJORN





Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 17: FLYING ABOVE THE CAMELS

About 15 minutes from my home is Dubai largest Camel race track, the "Al Marmoom camel race circuit, home of the Dubai Camel Racing club". Camel racing is one of the most popular sports amongst the local UAE population and has become much more regulated over the years. 

The biggest change happened almost 17 years ago when the UAE was the first country in the region to ban child camel jockeys as far too many fell off with sometimes fatal injuries. Since then, small remote controlled robotic whips have taken over.

Next to the Al Marmoom race track, one can find lots of small camel farms where camels are kept and being bred. Like horse racing there is often big money to be made in selling the best of the racing camels. The most expensive camel was sold for 2.72 million USD in Abu Dhabi.

While the main racing season is from October to April, there are always camels taken out on the track for a "walk" throughout the whole year; especially early morning and just before sunset. 

I've been looking to shoot aerial images of camels with their shadows for some time now and eventually managed to give it a try. The image below is my most favorite one of the shoot, which even made it into my AERIAL portfolio.


Image details:
  • DJI Mavic 2 Pro
  • 1/640s, f4.0, ISO 100
  • Lightroom CC for RAW file development

Remember: "You haven't seen a camel until you have seen its shadow from the sky" - Play of words on a famous quote by Amelia Earhart.

BJORN


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 16: BIRD SILHOUETTE - AL QUDRA LAKES, DUBAI

In my Pic(k) of the week 12: LOVE LAKE, DUBAI, I've blogged about my visit to the Al Qudra lakes area outside Dubai; part of the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve area, the lakes are great for bird watching! Although I wouldn't specially call myself a bird-watcher or birder, I do enjoy spending time amongst them; hopefully with a camera close-by. 

After having flown my Mavic 2 Pro drone around the area, I started looking to shoot the sunset from ground level before going home. As the sun was dipping below the horizon, I spotted what I believe was an Egyptian Goose on a large tree. The bird silhouette immediately stood out as a great photo opportunity. 

As long as one exposes for the background instead of for the subject, silhouettes are relatively easy to shoot. In the image below, I exposed for the sky in the background rather than the bird or tree. 

There are a few ways of achieving this; using aperture mode, one can use spot-metering and then lock the exposure before making the image. If this is too technical, use a good amount of negative exposure compensation to get the exposure one wants. The last one is shooting in full Manual mode and dialing in a specific aperture, shutter speed and ISO that gets the correct silhouette exposure. While it might take a little bit of time to first set it up, it has the advantage that different images will be consistent as long as the light doesn't change. 

In all cases, using a mirrorless camera where you can see immediately what you get, makes things significantly easier. 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF100-400 lens
  • ISO 400, 1/1900s, f7.1, 400mm
  • Lightroom CC for RAW file development
  • DxO Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 for optimal contrast
  • Photoshop CC with High Pass filter for some additional sharpening
More of my "Nature of the UAE" images can be found here

Remember: "In nature light creates the color. In the picture, color creates the light" - Hans Hofmann


BJORN


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 15: WHEN NATURE TAKES OVER

It must have been close to a year ago, when I first went to the abandoned village near Al Madam in the UAE. Reminding me of Kolmanskop in Namibia, it is a classic example that shows the power of Nature, yes written with a capital "N"!

I love how in some of the houses, the desert dunes have entered through open doors and windows and now come up all the way to the ceiling. While there are plenty of interesting photo opportunities from ground level, an aerial view like the one below, gives the series an extra dimension. Another example that shows how my Fujifilm gear plays well together with aerial footage from a Mavic 2 Pro.  



 Image details:
  • DJI Mavic 2 Pro 
  • 1/640s, f4.0, ISO 100
  • Lightroom CC for RAW file development
While the project is still ongoing, the work so far of "When the Desert takes over" can be found here

I've also edited a short 2 min short film about the project, where I've combined both images shot with the Fujifilm X-series cameras and the DJI drone. Check it out on Vimeo here


Remember: "What makes the desert beautiful, is that somewhere it hides a well" - Antoine de Saint-Exupery