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 


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 14: BRIDGE OF TOLERANCE - DUBAI CANAL

Since Dubai Water Canal opened in 2017, it also came with a few interesting new pedestrian bridges. The most attractive one  is the "Bridge of Tolerance" which frames the modern part of Dubai well in the background like can be seen in the image I shot more than a year ago, here

Unfortunately there are presently quite few cranes spoiling the view, which limits taking more detailed shots. While testing the new super wide angle XF 8-16 f2.8 lens, I shot the image below as the sun was just peaking along the bridge. A perfect opportunity to test the "sun burst" effect of the lens.  

Sun burst effect is best done when the sun borders a hard edge and shot at a wide aperture, minimum f16. 



Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF 8-16mm f2.8 WR LM lens
  • ISO 160, 1/320, f16, 12mm 
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC including use of Luminance range masking
My review of this great piece of glass can be found here.


Remember: "The highest result of education is tolerance" - Hellen Keller




Thursday, March 28, 2019

FIRST LOOK REVIEW: FUJIFILM XF 8-16mm f2.8 R LM WR

It seems like ages ago, but when I was still shooting the Nikon system pre-2012, my main three go to lenses were the Nikon 14-24 f2.8, 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8. Until recently, Fujifilm had us covered with the "red label" XF 16-50 f2.8 and XF 50-140 f2.8 for their 1.5 crop X-series camera bodies. 

One of the older Ultra wide angle lenses that has been available for a while is the  XF10-24 f4.0; but it wasn't a "red label" lens, which Fujifilm uses to distinguish their high end weather-sealed f2.8 pieces of glass. With the release of the brand-new XF 8-16 f2.8 (12-24mm full frame equivalent), earlier this year, this has now changed!


As an X-Photographer, the people of Fujifilm Middle East were kind enough to lend me a production copy of the new lens to test it in the field during a couple of weeks. 

QUALITY/SIZE/WEIGHT
Typical for all red label lenses this lest is of the highest built standard! Everything from the lens barrel, focus and aperture ring feels top quality with the rings moving smoothly and being very well damped. Gone are the days when some of the older Fujifilm lenses had an aperture ring that was too easy to change; the XF14 f2.8 comes to mind?


Needless to say that a constant aperture lens like this is, is larger than some of the smaller zooms; after all it has 20 glass elements in 13 groups; that is a lot of glass! Compared to the XF10-24 f4, it is about double the weight (805g versus 410g) and substantially larger but still not too bulky.

When mounted on a X-T3/T2/T1, X-Pro2/1 the lens is a little front heavy but is a joy to use.  Using it on smaller cameras like the X-E, X-T10/20/30 I would definitively recommend using one of the metal hand grip accessories for better handholding. 

The lens hood is fixed to the lens in order to protect the front glass element, which typically for a super wide angles is quite bulbous. While I normally never use the lens caps myself, this lens is an exception; even though the front element isn't exposed outside of the lens hood, one could damage it when not being careful. 




HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO THE XF 10-24 f4 LENS?
First of all I would like to stress that this is not a replacement lens for the above! What is below might help you decide which lens is best suited for you!

FOCAL LENGHT
Needless to say that the focal length between the two is different; at the wide end the difference between 8mm and 10mm does make a noticeable difference; it might only seem like 2mm but it can make the difference between getting a shot or not. On the other hand, the XF10-24 does zoom all the way to a "normal" focal length which makes it more flexible as a walk-around lens. 

In order to visualize the difference between 8 and 16mm focal length, I've shot the two below images; first one at 8mm, second at 16mm.



WEATHER SEALED
The older XF10-24 is not weather-sealed; if one is regularly shooting in rain/snow or other dusty environments, the weather sealing of the XF8-16 could become a major purchase decision factor between the two. I shot the new lens during a dust storm in Dubai and had absolutely not problems with it; even though it was pretty much covered in sand.


OPTICAL IMAGE STABILSATION (OIS)
When the XF 16-55 came out a couple of years ago, there was a lot of critique that the lens didn't have OIS; yes I was one of the photographers commenting on this as well! Fujifilm stated that for optimal image quality and to save some weight (cost?), OIS was left out. 

The same OIS is missing in the XF 8-16 f2.8, but making it a much wider lens, the lack of image stabilization is obviously less important, although it always comes in handy for video shooters! One can of course use the lens on a camera with IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) like the X-H1 in order to shoot handheld at slower shutter speeds. I'm kind of hopeful that we will eventually see more X-series equipped with IBIS.


The older XF 10-24 f4.0 lens does however have OIS; not the latest and greatest but practically speaking a few stops and worth having it. The older XF 10-24 is known to be a bit softer when shot wide open; I normally don't shoot it below f5.6 (f8 if possible), which together with its OIS makes it comparable to shooting the XF 8-16 f2.8, wide open when only looks at minimum handheld shutter speeds. When it comes to light gathering (aperture), the XF 8-16 obviously wins.

USE OF FILTERS
Like my old Nikor 14-24 f2.8 lens, the lens lacks a filter tread which makes mounting filters more difficult. Third party filter manufactures do have solutions to mount filters, which of course make the set-up more bulky and will set you back at least a few hundred dollars/euros. The XF 10-24 has a 72mm filter tread which makes mounting filters straight forward.

AUTOFOCUS 
In both lenses the autofocus is smooth and fast. While the XF8-16 has linear motors the XF10-24 has stepping motors. While the first one has a complete silent autofocus, the latter at times makes just a little bit of autofocus noise; nothing really distracting however.

VIDEO
The lack of an easy solution to mount ND (Neutral density) filters on the XF8-16, pretty much rules out this lens as a video lens. The zoom to an "almost" normal focal length (36mm full frame equivalent) on the XF10-24 makes it also more versatile for video.

PRICE
Like its weight, the new lens is double the price as the XF10-24; the MSRP is 2000,-USD, although there currently seems to be a 500,-USD rebate/discount in some places at the time of publication. Is the new lens, double as good compared to the XF10-24? Of course it isn't, but this is the price we pay for having the best image quality!

IMAGE QUALITY
I won't be showing you any specific image sharpness comparisons but the little bit of testing I did do, shows that the XF 8-16 is noticeable sharper in the corners especially at the wider focal lengths, especially wide open; when stopping down the XF10-24 a little, the center sharpness becomes a much closer match to the newer lens. If you want the best image quality, the XF 8-16 f2.8 is definitively better, although I've never been disappointed with the XF10-24 neither. 

The XF 8-16 is a rectilinear, which makes for distortion free shooting, even at 8mm, as long as one holds the sensor parallel to the plane of the subject and perpendicular to the vertical lines. Needless to say that depending on the subject distance and placement, the wide-angle will show perspective distortion, but that is merely physics and not a lens flaw.


Lastly I'm particularly impressed by the sunstars the lens creates at smaller apertures. 


IMAGE SAMPLES
Check out the real life images I shot over the two week test period. As always, I'm a photographer and not a pixel peeping, so images are shot in RAW and edited. No distortion editing has been done on the images.

1/250s, f5.6, ISO 200, 13mm

1/600s, f11, ISO 250, 16mm

1/240s, f11, ISO 160, 15mm

1/340s, f16, ISO 160, 12mm

13s, f11, ISO 160, 11mm

1/250s, f16, ISO 320, 8mm

1/140s, f11, ISO 400, 11mm

1s, f2.8, ISO 12800, 16mm

1/1400s, f5.6, ISO 160, 12mm

1/240s, f10, ISO 160, 10mm

1/350s, f11, ISO 160, 16mm

1/350s, f9, ISO 250, 16mm

70min, f2.8, ISO800, 8mm


CONCLUSIONS



WHO IS THIS LENS FOR?
This is a question I often ask myself when reviewing gear... 

I personally see this lens as a great piece of glass for wedding, concert and other event photographers. 

Architectural photographers will also find good use in this lens for shooting exteriors and interiors. Although many are also waiting for a Fujifilm tilt shift lens to hit the X-series (and or GFX) lens road map. 

One might not think of the XF 8-16 f2.8 as being a "sport lens", but I definitively see a lot of potential where one can shoot close to the atlete/player; things like skateboarding, sailing, mountain biking, motorcross, etc... all come to mind!

Last but not least are of course landscape and astro photographers which often use ultra wide angle lenses! These will appreciate the wide f2.8 aperture of the lens, the good corner sharpness and of course the fact that the lens is weather sealed.

In summary the new XF 8-16 f2.8 lens is somewhat of a specialist list. As long as one knows how to use the wide angle perspective creatively, this lens will allow you to stand out with a unique look. As a red label lens it is not cheap, but worth every penny as long as you have a specific purpose for it!

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.  











Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 13: ABANDONED MOSQUE STAR TRAILS - Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f2.8 lens

Last week, I went out to my favorite abandoned village to test shoot the new Fujifilm XF 8-16 f2.8 lens and potentially add some images to my "When the desert take over" project. I photographed at the undisclosed location in the UAE for a few hours in the late afternoon, when I realized that I could stay till after dark and do some star trail photography... 

Although I didn't plan to do astrophotography that day, I had the tripod with me and testing the new lens for this type of photography was a good last minute challenge.

The moon was a few days short of being full, which means that it is already well above the eastern horizon just after dark. As one normally will shoot towards the North (Pole star-Polaris), the foreground subject will be nicely lit by the moonlight on the right (East/South-East) and this without having the moon in the frame. For a more simple image, I choose to photograph the empty Mosque, which sits at the border of the abandoned village.

There are several ways of shooting Star Trails, the easiest for me is to shoot a continuous series of images with a 30 sec exposure time; this during a few hours. The resulting images (2hr x 120=240) are then run through a dedicated program that provides you with a nice Star Trail image. I personally use StarStaX, which is freeware (donation appreciated!) and does a good job for me!

As I was underdressed and really started to feel cold, I wasn't able to complete the full 2 hours, which let to shorter star trails; total shots were 135. On top of that I made the rookie mistake of only exposing the images for 20s instead of 30s, which again leads to even shorter trails. By the way, StarStax will only accept jpeg or tiffs files.

On a dark night, I would normally shoot my 30s exposures around ISO 1600, but given the moon was providing plenty of light, ISO 800 was sufficient. 




Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF 8-16 f2.8 lens
  • ISO 800, f2.8, 20s (jpeg 135 images), 8mm (14mm full frame equivalent)
  • Photoshop CC to remove aircraft/satellites flying through some of the shots
  • StarStaX to blend the images together
I'm ok with the image, but it proved once again that good photography normally starts with good preparation; more careful planning would have resulted in an even better image. As I hadn't planned to do Star Trails shots, I should have taken more time to properly set up my in camera intervalometer and brought warmer clothes to shoot during at least two full hours... Lesson learnt! 

Careful viewers, might actually notice that I'm standing inside the Mosque, lit by my mobile phone. This adds an element of interest, but also allowed me stay a little warmer. And no, I didn't stay there for all of the 135 images; I used a single image to blend into the final image.

The First look review of the XF 8-16 f2.8 lens can be found here while more images of my "When the desert takes over" project, can be found here

Remember: "Only in the darkness can you see the stars" - Martin Luther King Jr


BJORN