Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 29: CORN FIELD AERIAL - DJI Mavic 2 Pro

Over the last few years, the whole drone business has been really taking off. One of the fields civilian drones are used for quite extensively is in agricultural. Where large fields used to be walked by farmers in order to check how plants were doing, this can now be done from the air. Check out the following link for an interesting video on the subject matter. 

From a photographic standpoint, I've always liked patterns and specific subject contrast in my aerial photography. The image below of a corn field shot with my DJI Mavic 2 Pro, is a good example of that!

Image details:
  • DJI Mavic 2 Pro 
  • 1/50s, f4.0, ISO 100
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC
  • DxO Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 for optimal contrast
More of my recent Aerial photography, can be found here. I strongly believe that there still is a place and time for both classic aircraft based aerial photography as well as using drones. 

As an airplane pilot myself it is my duty to remind all drone pilots to fly your drones legally. There are far too many incidents between drones and aircraft; a significant portion by people that are not aware of the danger of operating your drones close to aircraft. And no, I'm not talking about the risk of loosing your drone here!

Remember: "You have never seen a tree, until you have seen its shadow from the sky". Amelia Earhart

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 28: SPITFIRE SUNSET - MOORSELE FLY-IN 2019

Some of you might know that I spend most of my childhood at a small airfield in western Belgium, called Moorsele. The historic grass runway used to be a German World War II frontline airfield and also is the place where I did my first solo flight at age 16 back in 1987.

In the 1970's and 80's, I grew up with some great summer airshows and fly-ins at Moorsele. When a group of mostly young pilots and enthusiasts wanted to go back to these grassroots aviation events a few years back, they got all of my support! I therefore couldn't miss this years biannual event, held June 29 and 30.

Two iconic British fighters were the main attraction in Moorsele this year; the worlds only flying Hawker Hurricane Mark IV and a Supermarine Spitfire Mark XVI. The latter was built at the end of WWII and was the personal aircraft of Air Vice Marshal Sir James M. Robb with registration SL721. A nice historic write-up can be found here.  

Between volunteering as a marshaller and flying demo-flights in my 1954 Piper Super Cub, there was also the occasional opportunity to do some aviation photography during the event.

The image below of the iconic Spitfire bathing in beautiful post sunset light, is particularly close to my heart, as the silhouettes are two pilots I highly respect; the owner of this amazing warbird and the person responsible for its assembly last year and maintenance. 

Image details:

  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF18-135 lens
  • ISO 600, f9.0, 1/400s, 37mm
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development
  • DxO ColorEfex pro 4 for with Pro Contrast, Neutral density and Brilliance Warmth filter
More images shot during the two day event in Moorsele, can be found here

I've added the image above to my personal Aviation portfolio, a small group of my best Aviation images. 

The Spitfire depicted above presently carries D-Day invasion stripes in commemoration for the 75th anniversary of this life changing battle in Normandy, France. A place where I'll be attending the commemoration of Operation Cobra with my vintage Piper Cub, early August. More later.

Remember: "Volunteers don't get paid. Not because they are worthless but because they are priceless". Anon

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 27: DUBAI - CITY OF CONTRAST - Mohamed bin Rashid library

If there is one thing that makes Dubai interesting for me, it is the contrast one finds all over the city. Starting with the more than 150 different nationalities that call Dubai home, just the difference amongst these make for a very interesting mix. One can go shopping in some small street souk downtown Deira or spend the whole day in one of the worlds largest indoor shopping malls. Have dinner for 5,-USD or 500,-USD... You pick what you want! Contrast is everywhere! 

Such is also the case when looking at Architecture around the city. A while ago, I was passing by the yet to be opened Mohamed bin Rashid library, a nice piece of architecture in the form of a large book, which is meant to house 1.5million printed books. 

The wooden Dhow (traditional wooden vessel) in the foreground makes for an interresting contrast between old and new. Contrast in photography is not limited to light and shadow; there is so much more to it!

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF16 f2.8 lens
  • ISO 320, 1/320s, f10
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development
  • DxO Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 for optimal contrast including ND filter
More of my Architectural photography work shot in Dubai can be found here.

Remember: "In Dubai we don't wait for things to happen. We make them happen". - H.H. Sheik Mohammed al Maktoum


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

PIc(k) of the week 26: DUBAI EXTREME SUMMER HEAT

It is hard to describe summer in the Gulf region... With temperatures frequently exceeding 45C (115F), it is mainly the high humidity that makes the summer so unbearable. Granted most people have air-conditioning at home and at work, but the outdoor life comes pretty much to a standstill. Not to mention all those people that work in the outdoors!

Looking around the environment one can often find things that show the power of extreme summer heat. 

Such was the case walking around Satwa when I bumped into a wall where there used to be an advertising sticker placed; showing the left-over silhouette of 4 ladies in local abaya dress. I was particularly attracted to the texture of the cracked surface. 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with 1/320s, f5.6, ISO 800
  • XF 16 f2.8 lens
  • RAW file developed in Lightroom CC
One might not agree that this is hardcore Street Photography... but for me it definitively is so. I therefore added the image to my "Best Color work Street Photography" gallery. 

Remember: "If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back".


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 25: ONE THE ROAD IN CHINA - Black and White Street photography

Over the years, I've shot quite a bit on the streets in China; mostly Beijing and Shanghai; the latter one being my favorite mega-city in China. 

For Street Photography, I always find it amazing how one city is more of a color city while others are clearly Black and White. It probably happens in my subconscious mind but Bangkok (Thailand) and Varanasi (India) are two examples that clearly need to be seen in colour. Paris and Istanbul on the other side are pure Black and White cities for me!

Likely influenced by some of the legendary Photographers like Henri Cartier Bresson, it makes me see certain cities only in Black and White...

Bresson has done a lot of his early work while traveling through China, making it another place which I almost exclusively see in Black and White. 

While walking the streets of Shanghai a few weeks ago, I bumped into a proud dad taking his daughter for an after work walk; a great moment with an interesting gesture and even better emotional expression! 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF23 f1.4
  • ISO 4000, 1/250s, f7.1
  • SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) jpeg using Acros Y with +1 Warm
  • No editing
More of the China work can be found in my "One the road in China" gallery. 

Remember: "Life is not Black and White. There is a gray nuance to it" - Pilou Asbaek


Monday, June 10, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 24: THREE TREES

It doesn't always have to be dramatic landscapes or spectacular skylines to make for an interesting landscape image...  Such was the case when I past three lonely trees in the desert close to the Al Qudra lakes in Dubai. 

Plenty has been written about the power of three and how an odd number of subjects often works better than even numbers. Lastly I like how the bird flying through the frame adds visual content to what is basically a very simple image. 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF50-140 f2.8 lens
  • ISO 160, f5.6, 1/1400s, 75mm 
  • Lightroom CC for RAW file development
  • Photoshop CC for small clean-up of distractions in the foreground
More of my "Nature of the UAE" images can be found here

Remember, "The axe always forgets. The tree always remembers." Paulo Coelho


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 23: IFTAR AERIAL - EID MUBARAK

Eid Al Fitr is a key date in the calendar for Muslims all over the world; it Ramadan, the month where Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset. Traditionally a "moon sighting committee" gets together at the end of Ramadan in search for a glimpse of the new crescent moon. Once the sighting is confirmed it marks the first day of Eid AL Fitr, "The festival of the breaking of the fast". In the UAE this started on the evening of June 3th this year...

Over the last few years, I've been trying the document Ramadan and more specifically Iftar, the daily breaking of the fast after sunset in a series of images. On one of the last days of Ramadan, I joined a photowalk, organized by Instagram poster "everydaydxb". Thanks for organizing!

The below image was shot from a 4 or 5th floor rooftop, while the daily Iftar meal was being set-up. Typically all over Dubai, a free Iftar meal is offered to anybody who wants to attend; attracting thousands of people; a very social activity which is great for Street/Documentary photography. As long as one shoots respectfully most people do not mind being photographed and will often even pose. 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF50 f2 lens
  • ISO 5000, 1/250s, f9
  • SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) Jpeg using Classic Chrome Film simulation 
  • In camera settings: Highlights -1, Shadows +1, Sharpness +2, Noise 0
The entire Ramadan collection can be found here

To all Muslims celebrating, "Eid Mubarak"! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 22: BIG WAVES WITH MAVIC 2 PRO - Long exposure aerials

Longtime blog readers will know that I've been an avid Aerial photographer for a number of years. My 1954 yellow Piper Super Cub aircraft in Belgium has played a big role in my more recent aerial photography.

I've been watching aerial drone photography from the side lines for a number of years and finally bit the bullet end of 2018 when I bought a DJI Mavic 2 Pro.

While for me there is clearly a place for using an actual airplane, there is also a place for using a drone (also called UAV, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), for some other shots. Aircraft can be allowed to enter airspace where drones or not allowed. 

On the other hand, a Long exposure image like the one below is virtually impossible to take from a moving aircraft. Even from a helicopter this is not easy as your helicopter pilot will rarely be hovering at altitude but rather be moving at a slow speed. 

The stability of modern small drones like the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is pretty impressive; as long the winds are not too strong one can quite easily shoot at shutter speeds of 1s or even slightly longer. Waves hitting the shoreline are a perfect subject for "Long Exposure" drone photography. 

Image details:
  • DJI Mavic 2 Pro with PolarPro ND1000 filter
  • ISO 100, f5.6, 1 sec
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC
  • DxO ColorEfex pro4 for optimal contrast
Although PolorPro is not a sponsor of the blog, but I've really happy with my PolarPro ND filter set, including the 10-stop ND1000 filter I used for the shot above. 

The fact that the Mavic 2 Pro is one of the first prosumer drones that has a variable aperture lens, makes it perfect to fine-tune the perfect long exposure time while in-flight under variable light conditions. 

More of my Aerial photography can be found here

Lastly, as an aircraft pilot myself, I would like to stress to fly drones responsibly. We still see far too many people that think they can fly wherever and as high as they like to. The sky is not only yours! Make sure to check local regulation and only fly certificated if that is what is needed.

Remember: "You can't stop the waves. But you can learn to surf" - Jon Kabt-Zinn


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


Thursday, May 16, 2019


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


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!

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.

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.

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).

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 Spherical Aberration at wide-open or close to apertures (f2.8-3.2). 

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 Abberation at f1.4. Lastly, I want to highlight that this 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.


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
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.