Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pic(k) of the week 50: DUBAI SKYLINE - NEVER BORING

The Dubai skyline is never a boring photo subject! Ever changing with new high-rises appearing on a constant basis, it remains one of these things I tend to come back to every winter; when the weather is more suitable to landscape/cityscape photography!

Beside trying to document the changes in the skyline, I'm always on the lookout for new angles. Such was the case when I found the view below from a relatively new man-made island.  

I used to live in one of the apartment buildings in the middle of the shot when I first got to Dubai in 2002. Hard to believe that more than 2/3rd of the high-rise buildings in the frame below, where physically not there 15 years ago! 


Image details:
  • Fujfilm X-T2 with the XF10-24 f4 lens
  • ISO200, f14, 17mm, 27sec
  • RAW file development in Lightroom CC Classic
  • Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 with gradient and Pro Contrast filter
More Dubai Sklyline images can be found here.

I'm planning to shoot an exciting Dubai cityscape with the Fujifilm GFX Medium Format camera, in a few days... Let's see if the plan will come together!

Remember: " A good photograph is knowing where to stand " - Ansel Adams

BJORN

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pic(k) of the week 49: SUPERMOON RISE OVER THE GHAF TREES

As a Landscape photographer I tend to take note of every Full Moonrise date in my personal calendar. Surprisingly a lot of outdoor photographers are not really aware about the fact that whenever we have a full moon, the moonrise more or less coincides with the sunset; perfect to shoot the moonrise during the blue hour, my preferred timing for Landscape photography!  

Once in a while, we have a "Supermoon"; not even an official astronomical term, but lets have a brief simplified look what it actually is...

Since the moon orbit is not circular, the distance to the earth varies. Perigee is whenever the moon is the closest to the earth, but this does rarely happen when we have a full moon. Whenever it does, its time for a Supermoon!   

Such was the case on December 3rd, when the full moon disc was 7% larger and about 15% brighter than normal. 

Needless to say December 3rd was on my calendar when I went out into the desert just East of Dubai, in order to find a good spot to photograph the brightest moonrise of the year. Since it almost coincided with the UAE National Day (December 2nd), I wanted to give it a UAE flavor!

Although the UAE is not known for having huge forests, they actually do have a "National tree"; the Ghaf tree, officially called the Prosopis cineraria, is one of the only trees which is able to survive in the harsh desert climate. 

To highlight the size of the moon, it works best when one frames it with a foreground object. 



Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T2 with the XF100-400 lens
  • ISO 1600, f8, 1/10s, 300mm (450mm full frame equivalent)
  • RAW development in Iridient Developer 3.2 
  • Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 with Neutral density and Pro Contrast filter
Some might wonder, why I choose to frame the shot at such a high ISO, although I obviously used a tripod? Well especially at a high focal length (300mm) the moon moves relatively fast. 1/10s was about the best I could do without compromising the sharpness of the moon too much. 

On top of that there was some wind, making it difficult to keep the sharpness in the tree branches. I could have made several exposures with some exposure blending, but wanted to challenge myself and do it all in a single frame.

As often is the case, Landscape photography is all about being prepared. While scouting for the best place to photograph the moonrise, I always use PhotoPills. The app allows me to visualize where the moon will rise with great precision as can be seen in the image below.





There is a little bit of a learning curve when you first use it, but I find it very beneficial for my Landscape work. And, no I'm not paid to say this!

Lastly, just over a year ago, I photographed the largest Supermoon of the 21st century (yet) in an urban environment. Click here to check out the Pic(k) of the week of last year.


Remember, "Everybody is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody" - Mark Twain


BJORN



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

REVIEW: AF SHOOT - LENS HOOD REVIEW / CAMERA STRAP

Over the years I've been doing plenty of camera and lens reviews on this blog; granted it is mostly Fujfilm gear as this is what I'm using every day, but there have been some software and camera accessories as well. 

Typically I only review items which I'm actually using. When people send me gear to test and review, I have a policy to only write about the item(s) if I either use it already or if I could see me doing so in the near future. If it doesn't qualify for the above, I tend not to blog about it, but will provide the company with feedback.   


A while ago I ordered a few lens hoods from a small company called, AF Shoot, an online store based in Lisbon, Portugal. I've been using their lens hoods and camera straps for a while now and have always been impressed with their customer service. I guess that is exactly why I returned and bought a new lens hood for my XF16mm lens! 

Lets first have a quick look what kind of company AF Shoot is? The company name has nothing to do with Autofocus (AF), but comes from the owner initials; "Angelo Fernandes"; a Portuguese Wedding/Street photographer who like myself is an avid Fujifilm user. I like one man companies that were formed out of the need for items that are hard to find! Such is definitively the case for AF Shoot.

While he does sell other items, the two main categories in the AF Shoot online shop consists of Lens Hoods and Camera Straps. Lets have a look at the items I've been using over the last few weeks...

LENSHOODS

While all of the Fujifilm lenses are pretty much top notch, I'm generally not a big fan of the lens hoods they provide. The hard plastic feel of the hoods, often stand in contrast to the high quality of the metal lenses. Beside some of them are larger than what I would like. After all I switched to Fujifilm to have a smaller form factor! 

Granted, Fujifilm does have accessory metal lens hoods for some of their lenses which look and work great. Unfortunately they often come with quite a hefty price tag and are sometimes not directly available in camera stores. An alternative one often tends to look at, are the third party eBay lens hoods one can find for a fraction of the price. 



As always, you get what you pay for and I've regularly come across cheap lens hoods that will vignet or don't fit as well as they should. This is exactly where AF Shoot comes in handy; they have lens hoods for virtually all lenses (except the very wide ones like XF10-24), which are high quality and work perfectly! All of them are screwed onto the filter thread. So if you plan on using circulars filters with them, it might not be what you want. As I never use any type of filter for my Street Photography, it is especially those lenses that are now hooded by AF Shoot! Lets look at the two I use the most;

XF23 f2 and XF35 f2


Both lenses share the same 43mm lens hood so they are fully interchangeable. Not sure what it is, but I definitively have weak spot for the "vented" lens hoods. Although they are a little longer that the original plastic one they look much cooler. I've noticed no vignetting, even when shooting wide open on both lenses and are available in both black and silver. 

XF16 f1.4



My favorite lens for Night Street Photography is the 16mm prime lens; "The King of the night"! I recently bought the one Angelo had in store and really like its shape, smaller size and quality. 



As I rarely use filters on my 16mm lens, this hood will likely stay on there permanently. Again, no noticeable vignetting. When using the lens with the Optical Viewfinder of the X-Pro1/2, the field of view is slightly less obscured than when using the classic lens hood as it is quite bit smaller. 

CAMERA STRAPS
As photographers, we can never have too many cameras bags and camera straps! Especially for my own Street Photography, I'm a big fan of wrist straps sometimes also called hand straps. Before, I've been a user of the DeadCamera straps; beautifully crafted in hard leather, they need quite some time to loosen up and become more flexible.

While AF shoot also sells DeadCamera straps, Angelo developed his own "handcrafted" brand of straps called, "Muflon". In case you are wondering, the Muflon name comes from the Mouflon animal, a strong wild sheep which is a great climber and a beautiful animal; a hint to the climbing rope some of the straps are made off!  

I tried two different Muflon straps during my week of shooting at the Xposure Street Photo festival in Sharjah; actually quite a few people approached me asking for more details about the straps I was using. So lets have a look what they are like!


A nice vintage look, tan leather colored, strap which is very light (2mm thick leather, 15mm wide) and flexible out of the box... or bag I should say as all Muflon straps come in a nice textured bag!


One can choose between tan and red colour for the small stitching; a nice little detail. It comes with two (one spare) large metal rings to connect it to your camera and a small round leather patch to protect your camera. A small slider allows you to tighten the strap as you require. 


This is my favorite wrist strap I used so far; something I mainly use on the smaller bodies like the X-T20.

Using a wrist strap on the larger camera bodies, especially with longer lenses can become tiring; exactly where a classic camera strap comes in handy! 


I choose the Yellowstone strap; made out of 10mm climbing rope and finished with nice leather endings, this strap comes with 4 (2 spare) 16mm rings to connect it to your camera as well as two black leather discs to protect your camera from being scratched. 

On my X-T2, I had absolutely no problem opening the right hand memory card door with the leather disc installed, while the left one (microphone jack, HDMI, etc...) was slightly harder to open but still manageable.


When ordering you have to stipulate the required length of the strap as it is not adjustable. I recommend adjusting an existing strap and then measuring it before committing to a certain length. I personally like to wear my camera straps across my body rather than just over my shoulder. This makes for a little longer required length; mine was 125cm which works great. If you are not sure, suggest you contact Angelo as he always seems to be ready to give you good advice where needed.

Not surprisingly the most popular colours are black and red. As I like to blend in as much as possible while shooting, I went for a grey one. Other colors beside black, red and grey are green and orange. 


Occasionally when using a full strap I'll wrapp it around my hand, which is easy to do with the Yellowstone strap as it is very flexible.  

CLOSING THOUGHTS
Shipment to Dubai from the store in Portugal took just over a week; something that is very good compared to other shipments I regularly receive. 



To make it clear, the vast majority of the AF Shoot items I use were all bought by myself. A few of the latest straps were send as review copies, but as I've written at the start of this post, this does not make a difference in the objectivity of the review as I will not praise a product if I don't actually see myself using/liking it. For the record, I have send back items where this wasn't the case.

Anyway, make sure to check out Angelo's AF Shoot store here, but also follow his page on Facebook as he regularly posts discounts vouchers. With the holidays approaching quickly, this might be a perfect opportunity to buy yourself or loved one a nice camera accessory from Portugal!

Last but not least, Angelo is a great Street Photographer in his own right; some of his work can be found here


BJORN








  



Friday, December 1, 2017

Pic(k) of the week 48: LOUVRE Abu Dhabi - Where East meets West

Over the last decennia, the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, has been promoting itself as the cultural center of the region. Saadiyat island which initially had several large museums planned, is meant to be the center of this. It is unclear which museums will eventually take place as most projects seems to be put on long term hold. I guess time will tell. 

What is fact however, is that the Louvre Abu Dhabi is now officially open to the public. The museum, which is the largest Art museum on the Arabian peninsular, was officially inaugurated on November 8, 2017. It looks like, Abu Dhabi paid 525 million USD to the French government for a 30 year usage of the Louvre name. 

Back to the Architecture.... the building was designed by French Architect Jean Nouvel and consists of a large 180 meter diameter perforated dome which provides a "rain of light"; as the Architect likes to call it himself.

I invite all readers to check out this time-lapse about the construction of the Louvre Museum! 

The museum "photography policy", allows unlimited photography (without tripods) in and around the museum which is great to see and hopefully an inspiration for many others!

The image below was framed in the middle section of the museum, where one can see the great combination of water and the amazing dome. 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T20 with the XF18-55 lens
  • ISO 3200, 1/250s, 20mm (35mm full frame equivalent), f11
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC Classic
  • Nik Silver Efex Pro2 for Black and White conversion
I personally find The Louvre a perfect setting for Black and White Architectural photography; like to hear what the readers think! Even if you are not a great Art lover, the museum is definitively worth a visit only for its Architecture itself. 

More of my own Architectural photography from Abu Dhabi can be found here.

"I like to play with Architecture, it is my favorite game" - Jean Nouvel, Architectect Louvre Abu Dhabi

Tomorrow, December 2nd, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is celebrating its 46th birthday, exactly as old as myself... Happy National Day UAE!



BJORN

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Pic(k) of the week 47: RARE AIRLINER FORMATION, DUBAI AIRSHOW

For several decennia there has been a rivalry between the two largest airliner manufacturers of the world; Airbus and Boeing! 

To my knowledge there has never been a formation flight of both a Boeing and Airbus wide-body airliner in a single formation. 

Last week the Dubai Airshow took place, at the new Dubai World Central (often referred to as the Al Maktoum International airport). This two yearly event,  (largest in the region), is an Aviation and Aerospace trade show, which also has a daily flying display where both military and civil manufactures show off there airplanes. 

On opening day, Emirates Airline flew both a brand-new Boeing B777-300ER and an Airbus A380 in formation. As this was not enough, the UAE military jet team Al Fursan joined the formation for an even more spectacular event. A great sight that couldn't breathe missed as my Pic(k) of the week! Both airliners were painted in a special livery to celebrate 100 years since the birth of the founding father of the UAE; HH Sheikh Zayed. 

Dubai Airshow 2017
      

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T2 with the XF100-400 lens
  • ISO 400, f9, 1/2400s, 261mm (391mm full frame equivalent)
  • RAW file edited in Iridient Developer
  • Nik ColorEfex Pro for optimal contrast, including a neutral density filter

What has now become my standard airshow photography gear, proved once again perfect for the job:
Click on the links above to check out the reviews I blogged about before.
An entire gallery of images shot during the show, can be found here.

BJORN