Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Fine-art Architectural Black and White photography has become very popular over the last few years. In 2014 Architect and Photographer Julia Anna Gospodarou and Joel Tjintjelaar wrote a great book on the subject titled Black and White Fine Art photography. I bought the 424 page ebook back then and have used parts of it in my Architectural photography. Click here for more info. 

Some people spend days on a single image, making tens of small selections in Photoshop, while playing with highlights and shadows. While I admire the work, it is something I've never been able to do as I personally like to go out and shoot rather than spend time editing. 

While testing the new Fujifilm XF16-80 f4 lens, I went to one of my favorite places to shoot long time exposures; below the Business Bay bridge in Dubai. One of the resulting images reminded me somewhat of the the above technique straight out of camera. After having spend about 15-20min in Lightroom to optimise some of the shadows and highlights I called it a day. Personally I'm pleased with the resulting image. Is it Fine-art? That is entirely up to the viewer to make that decision!

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF16-80mm f2 lens
  • ISO 160, f11, 1/2s, 16mm
  • Lightroom CC to develop RAW using Acros Red filter Camera Profile
  • Lightroom CC to accentuate some highlights and shadows
One of the newer Lightroom functions often overlooked is Range masking. It is a simple but powerful way of making Luminosity masks done in Photoshop. Is it exactly the same? No it isn't, but it is a good starting point. More about Lightroom Range masking can be found here.

Please check out my Fujifilm XF16-80 lens review which can be found on this blog.

Remember: "We build too many walls and not enough bridges" - Isaac Newton


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 38: DESERT TREE AERIAL - Mavic 2 Pro

When I first got my DJI Mavic 2 Pro 8 months ago, shooting desert aerials was high on the list of things to do with the drone! While dunes naturally have great shapes and patterns by themselves, including an oasis with some trees, makes it even more interesting. 

Such was the case in the image below, where a small bowl of trees was hit by perfect sunset light. I was partially attracted by the hard lines of the dune going from the top left to top right. Positioning the drone with this line diagonally across is so much easier than when shooting from an actual aircraft. Flying the real thing, is however still so much more fun...

Image details:
  • DJI Mavic 2 Pro 
  • ISO 100, f4, 1/200s
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development
  • Photoshop CC for clean-up of some small distractions
  • DxO Nik ColorEfex Pro4 for optimal contrast
I'm just about to send out some aerials shot with the Mavic 2 for printing on Dibond (metal print) and can't wait to see the result! 

My Aerial portfolio which now holds a few drone images as well, can be found here

Once again, if flying drones make sure to fly them responsibly and legally; only fly where you are allowed to and limit your altitude to the legal one! 

Remember: "Owning a drone does not automatically make you a pilot"


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 37: FILM IS NOT DEAD - first roll of film in 25 years

A while ago, a photographer friend challenged me to shoot a roll of film on his Leica M6 Rangefinder camera. I didn't need to think twice!

It was my first time using a Leica camera and more than 25 years since I last shot a roll of film. The M6 is a relatively "newer" film camera body; it has a light-meter, so no excuse for being off on the manually shot exposures. Like all Rangefinder Leica's it is of course all manual focus and manual exposure. How difficult can it be?

Getting the exposure right was something I got used to quickly as I'll sometimes doing the same on my digital Fuji's when the conditions are challenging. Obviously with analog photography, one is limited to the ISO (ASA) of the film installed in the camera; there is no, "The light is low, lets bump up the ISO"! My first roll was Ilford HP5 125, which was challenging for late afternoon shooting in the city, while the second, a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400, turned out to be much better for my Street Photography work. 

With the ISO 400 roll fitted, I went to one of my favorite Street Photography areas in Dubai; "Satwa", a perfect fit to shoot some more grungy black and white images. 

After having been spoiled with the manual focus peaking on the Fujifilm cameras, I was surprised to see how challenging manual focus is on these cameras in low light and quickly started shooting Hyper-focal distance only. I must say that it did give me even more admiration for the Masters of Street Photography in the mid 20th century! 

Image details:
  • Leica M6 with Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.2
  • Shot on Ilford HP5 Plus 400
  • EXIF data? No idea... as I forgot to write it down!
  • Negative scanned Photoshop CC for dust removal
I think most photographers will agree that holding (and shooting?) a Leica Rangefinder is indeed something special; the built quality and lack of function buttons, does make it a simple and solid camera. Using it as your Main Street Photography camera in a 21st century environment, might however be a little too simple for my own liking. Obviously opinions differ and I highly respect the people that do so. 

The person that borrowed me the camera, came to my place to develop the film together; something I had never done myself and which I really enjoyed! I've made a short 2 min video about the process, to give you a general idea. Check it out on Vimeo here

Of the 55 images I shot, there are a dozen images I'm happy with. These can be found in the FILM IS NOT DEAD gallery here.

I might be shooting an older Twin Reflex camera on the streets in the future... If I do, you'll hear it here!

Remember: "Film is not dead"



Friday, September 6, 2019

FUJIFILM XF16-80mm f4 REVIEW - Comparison with XF18-135

Fujifilm has been publishing "Lens road maps" for its X and GFX series for a while now. Basically it gives the user a general idea on what lenses are in the pipe-line or in other words, in development. The latest lens roadmap can be found here

The XF16-80mm f4 lens, first appeared more than a year ago and finally was formally announced in July 2019. Unfortunately, I didn't receive a test sample in time for the release date, so wasn't able to produce my usual "First Look review" at the moment of release. 

I was however given one for testing mid August and below are my findings form having shot the lens over a two week period.  

It comes with the usual disclaimers:

1/I'm an official Fujifilm X-photographer, which doesn't mean I work for the company. I'm not paid for this review nor have I been requested to say or hide anything specific. All of it is my own honest opinion. 

2/The lens is a sample unit. To me it looks like a production copy, but there could always be minor differences, especially in firmware once it becomes available end of September 2019. The lens firmware installed was 1.0.

3/I call myself a photographer and not a pixel peeper, so the images shared (except for the sharpness comparisons) are edited where needed.

Before going into the review itself, let's have a look at the zoom versus prime lens discussion, as I often get this question... For my own photography there is a place for both. 

I personally only shoot primes when doing Street Photography and when I'm after the ultimate image quality (IQ). It used to be the case that prime lenses were way ahead of zooms when it comes to image quality. Although there is undeniable still a difference in IQ, the gap is closing. Generally the smaller the focal range of a zoom lens, the less compromises need to be made from a lens manufacture standpoint; e.g. a 16-55 is going to be better than a 18-135. It is all about optimizing a lens for a specific focal length. 

Sometimes a zoom is however the best and possibly the only viable option; e.g. when doing Aerial photography from an open door aircraft or helicopter, I'm always avoiding to change lenses as it can be dangerous (objects falling out) and since doing so will guarantee for your sensor to be covered in dust.

My XF18-135 has been my favourite go to Travel and aerial photography lens for for more than 4 years now. Obviously when a new lens comes out with a similar although not identical focal range and aperture, it got my attention...

First lets have a look at the XF16-80 disadvantages versus the XF 18-135;

1/Less telephoto focal range; the most obvious difference; 80mm versus 135mm. If you already have the XF18-135, I suggest to look into your image catalog (Lightroom or other) and see what percentage of images are shot above 80mm when using the 18-135. Personally for me is less than 20%. Most of these could have been made with a shorter focal length by coming a bit closer; "Zoom with your feet".

2/The XF18-135 starts at f3.5 aperture, but given it already becomes minimum f4 from about 21mm onwards, the difference with the fixed f4 of the XF16-80 is negligible. Unlike popular believe, both lenses are able to throw the background out of focus at a wide open aperture. The difference with a f2.8 or even a faster lens, is that the distance between subject and background needs to be larger. As an illustration the image below is shot at f4 on the XF16-80. 

3/Sharpness at 80mm (max focal length for the XF16-80). Lets divide this one in two categories;

3.1/At a close focus distance, the XF18-135 is clearly sharper which is not completely unexpected since the XF18-135 lens is not yet at its max focal length of 135mm; this is where close up sharpness often tends to fall off a bit. The image below shows the sharper XF18-135 image at maximum focal length on the left.

3.2/Normal and far away focus: one can hardly see any noticeable difference between the two. Below is a screenshot where I compare both lenses at 80mm, zoomed in 1:1 in Lightroom. Shot on tripod, in camera jpeg with the same camera settings (f8). 

4/Magnification at maximum focal range: while the minimum focus distance of the XF16-80 is 35cm compared to 45cm for the XF-135, but the longer XF18-135mm focal length compensates with a slightly higher magnification factor 0.27x compared to 0.25x for the XF16-80. Again, difference is marginal as can be seen in the image below. 

So lets now see what the advantages are of the XF16-80 versus the older XF18-135. Notice that there are quite a few more!

1/Wider focal length; the extra 2mm on the wider end is definitively noticeable. 16mm on an X-series becomes a 24mm full frame field of view; a focal length which is often referred to as being perfect for landscape photography, although I personally enjoy shooting telephoto landscapes... 

2/Build quality; the lens feels more "Pro" than the older XF18-135. Although it is not a "red label" lens, which Fujifilm uses for its top of the line lenses, it definitively feels like it. The zoom and aperture ring have the perfect resistance. 

3/Aperture ring; being fixed focal length, the aperture ring has markings, unlike  the XF18-135. 

4/Size and weight; the XF16-80 weighs 440g compared to 490g. Fully zoomed out the XF16-80 is about 27mm (just over 1 inch) smaller. 

5/Filter size; it uses the 72mm filter size, which is a bit more common amongst XF lenses compared to the 67mm of the XF18-135. Good if you have invested money in filter sets.

6/No OIS switch (Optical Image Stabilization) and better OIS. When there is no switch one can not forget to switch if ON/OFF. The XF16-80 OIS is clever enough to only work when needed; e.g. is doesn't when mounted on a tripod. Once can switch off the OIS in the camera menu if there would be a need for it. I've taken shots on a tripod with and without IOS and could not see any difference. 

When the XF18-135 came out, the 5 stop OIS was really impressive. Today it has become the norm; Fujifilm states having 6 stops OIS on the new piece of glass. The number of real life stops are never easy to test... I've shot a number of slow shutter speed shots with both lenses and can say that the XF16-80 is indeed slightly better. At 80mm (120mm full frame equivalent), a 6 stop slower shutter speed, brings it down to 1/2s; I shot a series of images on both lenses with these settings and on average had about two in three sharp images; and none on the XF18-135. So 6 real life stops? 5.5 for sure. Obviously good hand holding technique is critical here. 

7/Sharper at wide angle; the XF16-80 is noticeable sharper from 16mm to about mid range (40-50mm) both when focussing close by and further away. Especially corner sharpness is much better than the XF18-135 at 18mm. Below images are shot at f8, zoomed in at 100% on the top left. Shot on tripod, in camera jpeg; one at relative close focus distance and the second further down. XF16-80 once again on the right. Click on the images for a larger view.

8/Although the XF18-135 is not one of the slower Autofocus lenses, the XF16-80 takes it to next level and is really fast; especially on the newer cameras like the X-T3. No hunting even in lower light and as quiet as the XF18-135.

Let's have a look at some real life images I shot over the last few weeks. All of them are shot on a Fujifilm X-T3 using one of the Film Simulation modes. Images are slightly edited as per my normal workflow where needed.

1/700s, f8, ISO 160, 59mm 
1/500s, f11, ISO 160, 27mm 
1/120s, f10, ISO 160, 50mm 
1/320s, f11, ISO 640, 16mm 
1/45s, f11, ISO 160, 18mm 
1/170s, f10, ISO 160, 16mm 
30s (tripod), f8, ISO 160, 31mm 
20s (tripod), f22, ISO 160, 16mm 
1/80s, f13, ISO 320, 36mm 

1/170s, f4, ISO 160, 80mm 

1/100s, f11, ISO 200, 18mm 
1/200s, f11, ISO 500, 16mm 
2s, f11, ISO 160, 17mm 
My usual question at the end of a review..."Who is this lens for?For me the largest market is clearly the "travel photographer" who doesn't want (or can't) change lenses all the time. Don't forget that this lens is weather sealed; shooting in dust, sand, and rain is a non-issue. 

If he or she also takes a wider aperture lens like a XF 23 or XF35 f1.4 (or even the f2 versions) and/or plans to take a tripod for low light photography, the XF16-80 f4 is near perfect. 

It might also be a replacement lens for those that presently own the XF18-55 and/or XF18-135 lens(es). Personally I'm looking at replacing my XF18-135 with the XF16-80. A great test will be an upcoming travel photography adventure to Peru in October, where I need to travel as low-weight as possible. A second main purpose for my own photography is using the XF16-80 for my aerial photography. Yes, not all my aerial work is done with a drone...

The lens should be available somewhere end of September 2019 and retails for 799,-USD in the US and an equivalent in the UAE.

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


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 36: SHARJAH MOSQUE - FUJIFILM XF16-80 f4 lens

Five years in the making, the Sharjah Mosque which can hold up to 25000 worshippers, opened on the first Friday of Ramadan a few months ago and. Being outside the city of Sharjah it makes for a relatively clean background and as a cherry on the cake, the reflection pool faces west which make for some interesting sunset shots. 

When I was there a few days ago, the weather was perfect, as just before sunset some clouds started to drift in making for a great background. Even better a few minutes after sunset, at the start of what photographers call "Blue hour", the sky turned pink for about 5 minutes or so while the crescent moon was visible between both minarets. I couldn't ask for better conditions! 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF16-80mm f4 lens
  • ISO 160, 31mm, f11, 3sec
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development
  • DxO ColorEfex pro 4 for optimal contrast
I shot three images for possible image blending but given my master file was so close to what I had envisioned, I ended up using only a single file in the editing process. Proof for the dynamic range that can be extracted from a single X-T3 RAW file!

While I was there, I also shot a wider 17mm image of the same scene which can be found here.  

Fujifilm XF 16-80 lens comparison review to the XF18-135 can be found here

Remember: "Life is only a reflection of what we allow ourselves to see".