Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 50: AT THE CAMEL RACES, DUBAI

When an outsider thinks about the Arabian peninsula, one of the first things that probably comes to mind, are camels often called the ships of the desert. Over my 17 years in Dubai, I've photographed quite a bit at the Al Marmoom Camel race track on the outskirts of Dubai. Hundreds of camel farms can be found around the track, making it perfect for travel/people photography. It is best explored with your own transport (4x4 preferred) as it is a very large area  and not entirely "walkable". 

Camel racing is a national sport and a long time tradition in the UAE. Races are held on different days from October to March and vary from 4km for the young camels to 10km for the larger ones.

Until about 20 years ago, the jockeys were small boys from Pakistan and Bangladesh, which were secured to the saddles with velcro. For obvious reasons human rights stopped this practice and since about two decades remote controlled robots are used instead. 


Last week, while attending one of the morning races, I spend some time at the post-race resting place for the camels. In the frame below I was attracted by a camel head, its shadow and the official Dubai Racing Club symbol on the wall. 




Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-Pro 2 with XF35mm f1.4 lens
  • ISO 160, f5.6, 1/1500s
  • SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) jpeg using:
    • Classic Negative
    • Highlights -1, Shadows +1, Sharpness +2, Noise -1\
More info about upcoming races can be found at Dubai Racing Club website. Unfortunately it is not always kept up to date.

An entire gallery with images shot at the Camel Racing grounds can be found here

Remember: "A camel is a horse designed by a committee" 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 49: OSAKA CASTLE - Fujifilm X-Pro 3 Classic Negative

Over the last few weeks, I've been pretty much exclusively shooting the new Fujifilm X-Pro 3 camera; likely the most controversial released camera of 2019! 

In order to spend some intensive time with the new camera, I elected to last week take it on a 3 day trip to Osaka and Kyoto, Japan; the place where it was born. I intend to blog about my experience with the X-Pro 3 before year end but meanwhile wanted to share a few images of the trip in my Pic(k) of the week section.

The first one is one from Osaka Castle, one of the most touristy and overshot places in Japan. The impressive 5 story building which originally dates back to the 16th century has been rebuilt several times; from several  lightning strikes and resulting fires in the mid 17th century to extensive bombing raids at the end of World War II. 

Rather than shooting the building in a pure Architectural way, I wanted to frame it with in a bit of a different way; after all this piece of architecture has been shot to dead! I used a powerful tree as a main frame for the image to show its majesty and used the new Classic Negative Film simulation to make the image. 

Shooting up from a low perspective, yes I used the tilt screen, allowed me to illuminate the thousands of people present at the site. 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-Pro 3 with XF23mm f2
  • ISO 320, 1/680s, f13
  • SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) using the following settings:
    • Classic Negative Film Simulation
    • Highlights -2, Shadows +1, Color 0, Nose reduction -1
    • Color Chrome FX Blue, Strong, Clarity +3 
Using the new Clarity setting in the X-Pro3, does slow down the image processing a bit. I therefore only apply it when I see an image that can benefit from it and do it post-shooting in camera. I pretty much exclusively shot Classic Negative on my Japan trip; love the "film look" of this new Film simulation, especially in a place like Japan where one tends to find some real life pretty strange colors to start with!

Remember: "Tell your customers what they need, well before they realize it themselves" - Steve Jobs

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 48: A380 and AL FURSAN FORMATION - Dubai Airshow

The Dubai Airshow, the regions largest Aviation trade-show has just come to an end again. The five day event is a held every two years (odd years) at the DWC, also known as Al Maktoum airport outside Dubai.

This year, 1288 exhibitors were present, with 161 aircraft in static display while the show attracted more than 84000 trade visitors; the shows busiest to date. The order book on site reached 54.5 Billion USD by close of business on the last day.

As a yearly tradition there was a formation of aircraft to open the show on day 1; but what a formation... With more than 25 aircraft, the flypast started with pairs of three different military helicopters, followed by an Emirates A380 in formation with the UAE military formation team Al Fursan. Thereafter was a UAE Airbus A330 MRT (Multi Role Tanker) with some F-16's and a C-17 with Mirage 2000's. Impressive to see all pass overhead in the span of a couple of minutes. 

While I attended the show as part of the Aviation media, I also shot some images on day 0; the rehearsal day just before the show. The image below of the A380 with Al Fursan, I particularly like, as it looks like it is shot in an air to air shoot. Needless to say that the dramatic clouds in the background made for an interesting add-on. 

Image details:

  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF100-400 lens
  • ISO 2000, f11, 1/400s, 183mm
  • RAW development in Lightroom Classic
  • DxO Color efex Pro 4 for optimal contrast
  • DxO Define for minimal noise reduction
The image was added to my Aviation Portfolio, a small collection of my best Aviation work which can be found here

More of the Dubai Airshow 2019 work can be found in its dedicated gallery. here

For those that are wondering, what gear I took to the show; I used my Fujifilm X-T3 (with battery grip) with the XF100-400 and an X-Pro3 with the XF18-135. This combo proved to be perfect for the job while keeping the weight down. 


"When everything is going against you, remember that aircraft take-off against the wind, not with it" - Henry Ford



Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 47: SUNSET OVER DUBAI CREEK HARBOUR

As a natural harbour, the Dubai Creek was historically a busy regional hub for trade, fishing and pearling. This is where it all began...  

The end of the Creek is the location of one of Dubai's latest large scale developments, called "Dubai Creek Harbour"; a residential area overlooking the Creek and the neighboring Ras al Khor Wildlife sanctuary, known for its flamingos. It is also the place where the worlds highest "tower" (non-residential)  designed by Spanish architect Calatrava will be built; supposed to surpass the 820m Burj Khalifa.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the part that is open to the public as of now. The art work of three flamingos against the Dubai skyline in the west, begs to be photographed. I shot quite a few different frames and allowed people to vote on social media for this weeks Pic(k) of the week!


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF50-140 f2.8
  • ISO 1600, f13, 1/120s, 63mm (handheld)
  • RAW development in Lightroom using Velvia Camera profile
  • Photoshop 2020 for minor clean up of disturbing subjects
Check out my Instagram account for more shots at Dubai Creek Harbour.  


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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 46: AFHAN BAKERY - FIRST IMPRESSIONS - FUJIFILM X-PRO 3

The launch of the new Fujfilm X-Pro 3 has been controversial with quite a few people being very opinionated about the new "hidden LCD" screen at the back of the X-Pro 3. I personally always refrain from commenting on new camera gear until I've had hands-on experience!

I shot the new X-Pro 3 for a week but unfortunately had to return it earlier than expected to the fine guys of Fujifilm Middle-East. I do however a second copy in the coming days and will eventually blog about my experience with the new camera somewhere in December. Meanwhile a few words below as part of this weeks Pic(k) of the week. 



I've never been a full time X-Pro user, but have always enjoyed using the Range Finder like X-series. The newer Processor and sensor brings image quality and autofocus in line with the present X-T3; in some aspects even better, but there is much more. When it comes to "developing the in-camera jpegs" there are new options to fine-tune the image and then there is the new "Classic Negative" Film simulation which works great for Colour Street photography. If you like Classic Chrome, you'll love this one! Not sure why Fujifilm just didn't call it Superia, since it clearly simulates this type of film. A good explanation by Fujifilm about Classic Negative, can be found here.

And then there is the LCD screen or the lack of it should I say. In to avoid  "chimping" (looking at the images you took on the LCD), Fujifilm has decided to flip the screen around facing the back of the camera. According to Fujifilm in the interest of going back to "pure photography" and in order to avoid "chimping" (slang for reviewing images on the LCD straight after shooting). There is a mini display at the back displaying the common cameras settings or the selected Film Simulation.

If you want do some more involved menu changes or can't resist reviewing the  images, the LCD does however hinge at the bottom displaying the LCD below the camera. The flip down LCD screen also works great for shooting from the hip, something I often do for my candid photography in more sensitive areas.

Back to my Pic(k) of the week, shot while hunting the streets of Deira, in the old part of Dubai. Yes, I know. I do have a sweet spot for those Afghani bakeries. Maybe because I'm the son of a baker myself? 



Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-Pro 3 with XF23mm f2 lens
  • ISO 6400, 1/100s, f 9
  • Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC) using the new Classic Negative film simulation
Two other things stood out while using the X-Pro 3 for the first time. The X-Pro 3 EVF (Electronic View Finder) is a lot better than its predecessor X-Pro 2. 

Secondly the Custom settings of this camera now store all of the menu settings like it should have been since day one on all X-series. While before Custom settings were limited to IQ (image Quality) settings only, one can now save all of the AF/MF settings, Shooting settings and some of the Set up menus like screen set-up etc... A great addition which is hopefully going to come to the other cameras like the X-T3, X-T30!

The new X-Pro 3 is clearly not for everybody, nor is it meant to be. Don't forget that there are plenty of other great Fujifilm (and other brands) cameras around. Pick what you like best and most importantly, make some great images!

Lastly, remember: "Less is more" - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe



Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 45: ON THE STREETS OF CUSCO, PERU

This weeks Pic(k) of the week, will be the fourth and last one from my recent photo-adventure to Peru last month. In case you missed it, check out the earlier posts, Paraglider take-off in Lima, Maras Salt Mines and Machu Picchu

When traveling I always try and do some Street Photography along the way. The  old capital of Peru, Cusco was great for this. With its narrow streets and colorful people it was heaven for street work. 

While acclimatizing to the higher elevations in a park in Cusco, I saw an older lady sitting at a bus station. The combination of the old with the new advertising posters immediately resonated with me as it is a good illustration how a single frame can sometimes tell a story...


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF16-80 f4 lens
  • ISO 1000, f8, 1/500s, 52mm
  • Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC) using the Classic Chrome Film Simulation (-1 Highlights, +1 Shadows, +2 Sharpness, -1 Noise Reduction) 
One might notice that I shot this image with a zoom lens; something that is quite unusual for my street photography as I'm a strong advocate for shooting prime lenses for this genre of photography. This is typically where the 50mm f2 lens would have worked perfectly. I often refer to this lens (my review) as my "across the street" type of street photography lens which literary was the case above. 

I've added this image to my "Best Colour Street photo work", check it out here

I'm presently testing a new camera for Fujifilm Middle East which is "made for Street Photography"; the brand-new Fujifilm X-Pro 3. There will be an in the field review later in the month, however if you would like to follow the process be sure to follow me on Instagram here.

Remember: "The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find on the street" - Robert Doisneau




Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 44: Machu Picchu - The lost city of the Inca

Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, has been on my bucket list for quite some time. I’m clearly not alone as it is the number one reason people visit Peru. Having said so, this great South-American country has of course much more to offer. 

Most archeologists believe Machu Picchu was built as an estate for Inca emperor Pachacuti in the middle of the 15th century; more than 550 years ago! It was eventually abandoned about 100 years later at the the time of the Spanish conquest. While known locally, the Spanish didn’t know about Machu Picchu and it was American historian Hiram Bingham who (re)discovered the place in 1911. 

Since the Inca didn’t have any written language, people don’t always agree what the main purpose of Machu Picchu was. Most tends to think along the lines of a Royal refuge. National Geographic who first wrote about the place after Bingham discovered it, list 5 different possible purposes in a interesting read here.

Today, one can hike the Inca trail to Manchu Picchu from a few difference place; the longest taking 4 to 6 days. Alternatively one can take a train from Ollyantambo (about 1h30 outside Cusco) to Aguas Calientes to then catch a bus up the mountain to Machu Picchu. Tickets for train and entry to the site need to be purchased before the travel dates are numbers are limited. High season JUL-SEP, tickets often sell out months in advance. 

It doesn’t matter how one travels to Machu Picchu, the first sight remains something very special! 

The image below, is one of the first images I made of the Lost city of the Incas just after opening time at 6am at the sun started hitting the city.



Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF16-80 f4 lens
  • ISO 800, f16, 1/250s, 21mm
  • RAW file development in Lightroom CC
  • DxO ColorEfex Pro 4 for optimal contrast using Pro Contrast filter
More images of my latest Peru trip can be found here.

Remember: "To Travel is to live". 








Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 43: VIEW FROM ABOVE - MARAS SALT MINES, PERU

During our latest photo-adventure to Peru, there were 3 main places I really wanted to photograph. The number one of course being, Machu Picchu; shooting some of the Andean Condors with their 3m wingspan and last but not least, the Maras Salt mines in the Sacred valley a couple of hours outside Cusco.

These salt pools date back to the Wari civilization (500-1000 AD), more than 1000 years ago, but it was especially the Inca's in the 14th century that took the salt exploitation to the next level. There are several thousand salt pools at Maras, placed delicately on a mountain slope. Most (if not all) belong to families living in the two neighboring villages; the number of pools being carefully shared based on the size of the family. Once harvested, the salt is sold on site as well as in local markets and is known for its high nutrition quality. 

Normally salt pools are found in coastal plains. Placed at 3400 m in the Andes mountains far away from the sea, this side is of course very different. A natural spring feeds a salt rich stream that flows into the pools which are opened and dammed by the owners of the individual pools. Once the pool is filled, the water is closed off and allowed to evaporate. A few weeks later the salt is then being scraped off. All of it is done with manual hard labour; mostly early morning or just before sunset. 

Until last summer, tourists were allowed to walk along the top ridge of the pools. As some of the salt was being contaminated, this is no longer allowed. A shame on the tourists again!

Even though, there are still some interesting viewpoints over the pools, including a wooden viewing point that is "close enough". I do recommend using a longer lens; around 200 mm full frame equivalent, for those higher impact photos.

I shot a few hundred images at the pools; making it the most photogenic place of our Peru Photo-adventure. The one below I particularly like as the three people working on the left hand side, gives it the extra bit of scale. 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF50-140mm f2.8 lens 
  • ISO 400, 1/500s, f11, 135mm
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC using Velvia Color Profile
  • DxO Nik ColorEfex Pro4 for optimal contrast
The above image is definitively one that will be printed large as part of my Aerial collection. More images shot at Maras as well as all over Peru can be found here

Remember: "Don't always thrust what you see. Even salt looks like sugar".






Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 42: PARAGLIDER TAKE-OFF, LIMA - PERU

As I’m writing this, our Peru photo-adventure has come to a close. The 12 day trip started and ended in the capital Lima; a city along the Pacific with close to 10 millions inhabitants (1/3 of the total population of Peru) .What it trip it has been! Great experiences, great food and some good photography. What else can a Travel photographer wish for?

During the Southern Hemisphere winter, Lima is known for its morning fog and generally overcast skies. This is due to the colder water of the Pacific in what is otherwise supposed to be a tropical climate. 

On our second afternoon there, there was a lot of paragliding going on in Miraflores, ones of the better neighborhoods in Lima. With the sun breaking through the overcast over the ocean, it was a great opportunity to shoot silhouettes. 

I decided to still leave a little bit of detail in the image below (especially on the parasail). While I experimented with black and white for the shot, the warm glow of the sun peaking through the clouds added quite a bit to the overal atmosphere. 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the new XF16-80 f4 lens
  • ISO 160, f5.6, 1/680s
  • Straight out of camera (SOOC) jpeg shot in Velvia Film Simulation mode
During the trip I only brought my 12 inch iPad Pro as I wanted to see how it can replace my MacBook laptop during my travels. Since the recently released iPadOS operating system, one can now connect external harddrives to the iPad which allows for a in the field photo back-up. As expected it is still a bot of a work in progress there were still a few bugs here and there.

I've just completed the editing process; images can be found in their dedicated Peru gallery here. One can of course expect to see some more Pic(k) of the weeks over the next few weeks.

Using the XF16-80 lens as my main travel lens has been great. I shot 90% of  the images on the lens and found it a great travel solution. In case you missed it, my XF16-80 lens review can be found here


Remember: "Those that fly solo, have the strongest wings” - anon


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 41: BLERIOT XI AT HAHNWEIDE - Homage to Mikael Carlson

It was in 2010 that I saw Mikael Carlson fly his 1909 Bleriot XI over the beautiful UAE desert dunes at the Al Ain for the first time. The event has left a great impression on me and today it is still my favorite airshow act. 

Three years later in 2013, I saw the Swedish pilot fly again at the Oldtimer Fliegertreffen (OTT) at Hahnweide near Stuttgart, Germany; Europes largest Vintage/Antique aircraft event! 


On September 13 this year, we flew our own 1954 Piper Super Cub for the second time to Hahnweide for the 19th edition of the OTT show; easily my favorite aviation event in Europe... 


There is something very special in camping under the wing of your vintage flyer with several hundred like minded people. Since space is limited, the event sold out about 3 months before; being one of the more than 400 participating aircraft was a blast!

Like most previous editions, Mikael was there again with two of his collection vintage planes; the early 20th century Bleriot XI and a World War I Fokker Dr.I Triplane. Especially on the first day of the show, when the crowd is still a little smaller, seeing him fly at sunset is pure magic. Clearly the highlight of going to Hahnweide!

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF100-400 lens
  • ISO 160, 1/3000s, f9, 400mm
  • RAW file development in Lightroom Mobile (on iPad Pro)


Carlson's personal Blériot IV story remains an amazing one... After a 10 year search he found an original Blériot in a small barn in Sweden in 1986. The aircraft was completely dismantled and stored in small boxes. After a lengthy work of love, dedication and rebuilding a lot of the parts, he managed to fly his bird for the first time in 1991.

He found a second Blériot XI in Sweden in the early Nineties. Some parts, including the engine, were missing and although he was able to copy parts from his first Blériot, it took him 10 years to find the engine. The restoration work was finished in October, 2004. He now has two flying Blériot's!

More images of my visit to the Oldtimer Fliegertreffen at Hahnweide, can be found here



Remember: "When fears are grounded, dreams take flight- Anon

BJORN