Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pic(k) of the week 21: Lost in Casa - Street Photography with the XF23mm f2

Sometimes I end up going to a city with low expectations and come home with a good number of keeper images. Such was the case on my last visit to Casa (short for Casablanca) in Morocco.

When I first went to Casablanca 15 years ago, I had this pre-conceived idea that I would find a beautiful and exciting North African city; saying I came home a bit disappointed is probably an understatement. Beside the Hassan II Mosque, the worlds second largest mosque, on first sight there is not that much to see in Casablanca. No surprise that most tourists prefer Marrakesh before Moroccos nr.1 Commercial center.

After a 5 year absence, I finally went back to Casa last week with the plan of doing some Colour Street Photography. Diving deep into old Medina, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a complete different Casablanca! A vibrant and lively place which kind of felt like an ancient city of few centuries ago. An exciting place!

Some neighbouring areas however were clearly much poorer and at times looked more like a warzone with beaten down cars and buildings rather than a residential area. A much rougher feel but therefore not less interesting to document. 



Image details: 
  • Fujifilm X-T2 with the XF23mm f2 lens
  • ISO 500, f 9.0, 1/250s
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC using Classic Chrome Camera Profile
The series of images shot in Casa last week, can be found here.

To quote one of my favourite street photographers, Alex Webb, "I like pictures that ask questions, not provide answers!". Is the little girl really lost or is her mum just out of the frame? I want the viewer to answer these questions...

More of my Colour Street Photography can be found here.

Lastly, I've been interviewed by US based French Street Photographer Valerie Jardin for here very popular "Hit the Streets" podcast about the past 24 hour project held on April 1st 2017. To check out the 40' podcast together with my partner in crime from Finland Meri Kuakavaara;  click here!


BJORN






Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Pic(k) of the week 20: PLAYING WITH THE SUN

Sometimes as photographers we go out there with great expectations and then the weather or some other exterior circumstance, turns for the worst. Such was the case last weekend, when I wanted to shoot the Burj al Arab with the mysterious "foundation pillars" on the beach.

Well, on my way there it became clear that the visibility was quickly becoming worse and that the shoot would probably be useless. Although I initially hesitated to turn back, I instead decided to just go for a walk on the beach and scout for some possible future photographs. 

Along the Jumeirah beach front just to the East of the Burj al Arab, I spotted a metal life-size sign of a person running. While the sun was still obscured behind a big blanket of clouds, I could envision the ball of the sun turning the runner into a football player. And yes, about 30 mins later the sun eventually became visible at the Western horizon. 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T2 with the XF 50-140 f2.8 lens
  • ISO 320, f8, 1/250s, 140mm (210mm full frame equivalent)
  • Lightroom CC for RAW file development
The experience above proved me once again the following;
  • be flexible and don't give up when the initial plan is falling apart
  • look for alternative images even if the conditions are not 100% right
  • be patient and give the weather the chance to change 
Although there is no human element in the image, I still look at this image as a "Street Photograph". More of my best Color Street Photography can be found  here

Remember; "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera" - Dorothea Lange 



Monday, May 15, 2017

PLANES OF FAME AIRSHOW 2017 - Fujifilm Airshow photography

As promised in my Pic(k) of the week 19 blogpost, this is an overview of my visit to the PLANES OF FAME 2017 airshow in Chino, California. It was my first airshow of this years season and one that is very close to my heart!


Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

The largest warbird show in the US, almost got cancelled last minuted because of legal action against the show organizers by another Aircraft museum (no, I won't name you and give you credit!) based in Chino. While another court hearing is scheduled for September, I sincerely hope this wasn't the last show at the Chino Municipal airport! 

For me the show started before sunrise on Sunday May 7 as I had purchased a "sunrise pass", allowing access to the airshow grounds at 05.30am. Unfortunately grey skies with some occasional drizzle dominated the first few hours of the morning making the 90,-USD pass not that valuable this year; but this is obviously nothing the organizers have control over! 

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

While the Planes of Fame airshow is a "warbird" show it is not your typical airshow with military jet teams and aerobatic acts. Pretty much the only modern equipment on the site were two brand-new F-35 Lightning II jets from the USAF. The largest number of warbirds were from the World War II era, but also Korea and Vietnam had a good representation. 

If you are in the LA area and interested in warbirds, make sure to visit the Planes of Fame museum at the Chino airport all year round, as this year is its 60th anniversary. Click here to visit my museum gallery. 

Unfortunately, this year was the first time its founder Ed Maloney wasn't present at the announcers stand as he passed away just after last years show and was celebrated in a very nice way, during opening of the flying display.

Just like other years, there were at least a handful of the "only flying examples of the type in the world", at the event. 

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

To name just three; above is the only flying Zero A6M with the original Japanese engine; also check out Pic(k) of the week 19: Zero reflection.

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

Another one-of-a-kind is the museums Northrop N-9M Flying Wing, which unfortunately now carries some "sponsorship decals"; something that doesn't belong on a warbird if you ask my opinion!


Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

The third one is the Seversky 2PA, also called the AT-12 Guardsman it is the only flying example in the world! 



Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

Before the flying part of the show started at 10.40am, all visitors were allowed to freely wonder around the static display of the aircraft parked on the ramp. When photographing aircraft like this, it is always a challenge to exclude barriers and other visual pollution. 



Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA




Although I didn't bring a full size tripod, I did use a Platypod for those low angle shots. 



Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

Another one-of-a-kind was this P-26 Peashooter from the early nineteen thirties. Focussing on details such as the chrome pitot tube here, always makes for more appealing photographs.


Most flying displays, have multiple aircraft featured; always along a certain theme; Naval Aviation, Vietnam area, etc... At any given time there is always at least one aircraft passing by. 

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

The rain that threatened the area most of the day on Sunday, started to eventually come down for the last flight display. The show ended with a heritage flight; a formation of old and new with this time the brand-new F-35 from the USAF in formation with the P-38 Lightning and F-86 Sabre. What a sight!

CAMERA GEAR


My present airshow kit consists of the following:

  • Fujifilm X-T2 with Power booster grip (X-T1 as a backup)
  • XF16mm f1.4 for low light and wide angle photography
  • XF-18-135 lens for static and wider shots
  • XF-100-400 lens for airborne shots 
  • 1.4X TC (Teleconverter)
  • Platypod for low angle shots
  • plenty of batteries; I normally take 6 for a full 12 hour shoot

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

CAMERA SETTINGS (for airborne shots)

Just before the show, I had updated my X-T2 to the new 2.0 firmware and was keen to see how it would perform. For my l airborne shots, I had 
the 1.4X TC on the body with the XF100-400 most of the time. When photographing large formations, the 140mm (100x1.4) focal length might not be wide enough, so make sure to plan ahead of time. 

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA



My settings for the action stuff with the long glass, were as follows:

  • Performance Boost mode ON
  • Use 325 AF points
  • Manual ISO 
  • Manual Exposure (choosing aperture and shutter speed manually)
  • AF Mode ZONE, use mid or largest zone
  • Continuous autofocus mode (C) 
  • Continuous High (CH) at 8fps (with Power Booster grip)
  • AF-C Custom setting > SET 6 CUSTOM >
    • Tracking sensitivity 2
    • Speed tracking sensitivity 0
    • Zone Area switching AUTO
These are the settings, I used the majority of the time. I've also had relatively good succes with AF-C Custom setting SET 2 Ignore obstacles and continue to track subject. Overall, I'm happy with the firmware 2 update but would like to do some more testing at the Paris airshow next month... 

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

Meanwhile I would like to stress that shooting in Manual mode is essential in order to have consistent exposures. Although I'll shoot aperture priority mode for 95% of my "other" photography, this is different! 

Lastly, something I've written about before, when shooting propellor aircraft, make sure to limit your shutter speed to 1/160s, preferably even 1/125s. This will allow for some prop blur and a realistic image. There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a prop plane with the propellor stopped due to using a too high shutter speed. I know it is hard, but it is the only way. 

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

Photographing jets on the other hand is much easier; shoot at minimum 1/1000s or even 1/2000s for sharp images; here there is no danger of freezing a prop in the middle of the action, as it doesn't have one!

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

CLOSING THOUGHTS
The weather was not great this year, but it was still a good show, even with a few visiting aircraft not being able to make it to Chino. I'm really hoping that common sense will prevail and that the final court case will be won; we need to see the Planes of Fame airshow to continue for many years to come!

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

Hope to see you again at next years Planes of Fame airshow!


BJORN









Friday, May 12, 2017

Pic(k) of the week 19: ZERO REFLECTION - Planes of Fame Airshow 2017

My first airshow of the 2017 season is in the can and it was a pretty special one! Last weekend was the 25th edition of the Planes of Fame airshow at the Chino airport close to LA, California. 

The airshow was threatened not to be held this year, because of a courtcase held against the organizers; luckily common sense prevailed and it did take place! I will be dedication an entire blogpost to the show and my Fujifilm Airshow set-up in the near future! 

Meanwhile, the image below of the worlds only A6M Zero still flying with the original Japanese engine, was shot early morning using a water puddle reflection. I used a "Platypod" to stabilize the camera close to the ground. 

Planes of Fame airshow 2017, Chino, CA

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T2 with the XF 18-135 lens
  • ISO 200, f9, 18mm
  • three shot exposure bracketing between 1/30s and 1/640s
  • Merge to 32 bit HDR in Lightroom CC
  • Nik Software ColorEfex Pro for optimal contrast
While waiting for the dedicated post about the Planes of Fame airshow, some of the images can be found here





Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Pic(k) of the week 18: ABU DHABI MOSQUE DURING BLUE HOUR - FUJIFILM GFX 50S

Over the years, the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, has become "the main" landmark of the nations capital! It was therefore normal that I went there while test shooting the new medium format Fujifilm GFX 50S camera.

I've praised how good the Fujifilm GFX 50S is for Architectural photography in previous Pic(k) of the weeks; if you missed it, make sure to check out "Looking up at Business Bay Bridge"and "Roof topping with the GFX 50S". 

While I've been photographing the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque on multiple occasions but had never really shot it from a distance. As one of the largest mosques in the world, it is a magnificent piece of architecture which really shines just before sunrise or after sunset; what photographers call "the blue hour". 

The image below was made from the relatively new Wahat al Karama monument; a tribute to UAE soldiers and other brave nationals that made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country. While the pool often provides a nice reflection of the Mosque, I wasn't that lucky as there was a very strong wind the evening I was there. A good reason to return and shoot some more images one day! 



Image details:
  • Fujifilm GFX 50S with the GF 32-64mm f4 R LM WR lens
  • ISO 100, 43mm (full frame equivalent 34mm), f16
  • 3 different exposures: 3sec, 10sec and 30sec 
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development
  • Merge to 32bit HDR file in Photoshop CC
  • Nik Software for optimal contrast and colour
  • Photoshop CC to clean up some disturbing light posts, etc...

I can't wait to test out the new wide-angle GF 23mm F4 lens, which is supposed to be great for Architectural photography as well. 

More images of this great piece of architecture can be found here






Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pic(k) of the week 17: LOOKING UP AT BUSINESS BAY BRIDGE - FUJIFILM GFX50S for Architectural work

The Business Bay bridge is the most recent bridge over the Dubai Creek. The 13 lanes Business Bay crossing opened 10 years ago... yes that is right, seems like yesterday!

Over the last 10 years I made quite a few images from below the bridge (on the Deira side - new part of Dubai); a popular spot for architectural photography, especially during the blue hour. Click here to see some of these images.

But what I haven't done it shoot up on the bridge! Well, until a few days ago, I hadn't even looked up... While testing the new Fujifilm GFX 50S Medium format camera, I did for the first time

The image below shows what that view looks like! I was especially attracted to the complementary colours of the evening sky with the warm yellow of the fully lit bridge. 



Image details:

  • Fujifilm GFX 50S with the GF 32-64mm f4 lens
  • ISO 100, f11, 2s, 32mm (25mm converted in full frame format)
  • RAW file development in Lightroom CC
  • Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 for optimal contrast
Although I personally prefer the overall handling of the smaller Fujifilm cameras like the X-T2, I do appreciate the image quality coming out of this new Medium Format mirrorless wonder from Japan! The files are very clean and have heaps of detail. Especially for somebody who is used to the X-series system, the learning curve is actually very shallow; you really feel right at home after a matter of minutes. 

I will be blogging more images shot with the GFX 50S over the coming weeks; rather than doing a full review, this will hopefully show people how the camera performs in the field! 

Remember: "We built not enough bridges and too many walls" - Vincente Fox


BJORN




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pic(k) of the week 16: ROOFTOPPING WITH THE FUJIFILM GFX 50S

Last week I finally got my hands on Fujifilm latest camera; the GFX 50S, a +50Mpx Medium Format camera, which got a lot of attention when it was announced at Photokina 2016!

Although the camera is much larger (and a bit heavier) than my X-T2, it remains "portable" and feels pretty much like carrying a Canon or Nikon full frame DSLR around. Obviously with the advantage of having a sensor which is 1.7 larger than full frame and with a higher resolution of most!

Even though the GFX is the start of a brand new lens system for Fujifilm, three lenses were available (two primes 63mm f2.8 and 120mm f4.0, one zoom 32-64mm f4.0) on the day the GFX 50S was available. More lenses will be released in the second part of 2017. 

Right now it looks like I won't be doing a "First Look review" on the camera, as I would rather like to concentrate on the Fujifilm X-series cameras instead; these by the way will continue to be developed with new lenses and bodies to be released in the future. 

The GFX Medium Format system would be great for my Architectural and Landscape photography; something I would like to explore during the 10 days I have the camera available.

One of the very first shots I took with the GFX 50S, was the rooftop shot below, made early morning in Dubai from one of the high-rise buildings along Sheik Zayed road. Special thanks to a Dubai photographer friend who organized the access to the spot. You'll know who you are! 

Although, I have mixed feelings about the large number of rooftop shots we get to see from Dubai on on almost daily basis, there is something magical about looking down on a city that wakes up...


IMAGE DETAILS:
  • Fujifilm GFX 50S with the 32-64mm f4 lens
  • ISO 100, f11, 15s, 32mm (equals 25mm if converted to full frame equivalent)
  • Lightroom CC to convert the RAW file
  • Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 for optimal contrast
Make sure to click on the image below to really appreciate the full resolution of the +50Mpx file. Although I'm not a pixel peeper, one can almost not resist to zoom in to 400% or so, and read road signs and other tiny details.  

Please check out the excellent GFX review done by fellow X-Photographer Jonas Rask here

More Architectural shots from Dubai can be found here

Lastly, the image above is my 1000th post on Instagram! Only been on it for two years, the follower ship has grown a lot organically (not by paying companies to get me followers!). Today it is by far my preferred Social Media network for my photography. If you don't do so already, make sure to follow me on Instagram here

Remember: "Wake up with determination, go to bed with satisfaction".



BJORN


Friday, April 14, 2017

FIRST LOOK REVIEW: FUJIFILM INSTAX SHARE SP-2

The Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2 printer, replaces it predecessor the SP-1. Although not brand-new (released June 2016), the first time I used this pocket Instax printer, was during the recent 24 hour project in Dubai on April 1st. 





With its portable size and weight, the Instax SP-2 is the perfect pocket printer to be taken on the road. If you want to make small credit card prints to give out at weddings, birthday parties or even on Street Photography walks, the SP-2 is what you are looking for! 

Before we go any further, you are not limited to using Fujifilm cameras in order to use this device. 

The Wifi enabled small printer, comes in two colours (silver and gold) and is slightly smaller and lighter than an X-T1/2 camera body. It takes both the Fujifilm Instax mini film as well as the brand-new "Monochrome" Instant film, for better Black and White prints (see below Image quality). 


For the ones that are too young to know what polaroid cameras look like, there are no ink cartridges in the printer itself; the image is developed right on the paper!

Loading the film is dead easy; after unzipping the bag, just align the yellow dots and you are done. 







BUTTONS, LIGHTS and BATTERIES
There are only two buttons on the device; one power button and a "Reprint" button on the side. The second one is to be used if one wants to print the last image again. On a few occasions, I did press the button, which lead to an unnecessary print being made. In the future, the button could potentially be better guarded against accidental use or placed in the a different spot.

Next to the slot, where the photographs come out, there is a battery indicator light as well as a series of small white LED's, showing how many of the max 10 slides are still available in the installed film cartridge. 



Unlike its predecessor, the SP-1, which held two CR-2 batteries, which are not always easy to find, the new one uses a Fuji NP-45 battery, which is also used on some of its smaller compact cameras. One full charge will last about 100 prints, which is plenty for a device like this. If needed one can recharge the battery through USB (micro USB cable) or in a dedicated battery charger which is not provided in the package.  


HOW TO PRINT?
Your main interface to start printing is the "Instax Share" app available for iOS and Android phones and tablets. Once the image is on the phone or tablet, one can directly print from the application as long as the Wifi connection is established not the phone/tablet. I did find the wireless connection easy to set-up and very stable.




The app has some basic image editing sliders and allows you to print directly from Social media like Facebook and Instagram. Below is an image printed directly from Instagram.



On the app, one can also choose from a large variety of print templates, including some seasonal ones like a Happy Birthday, New Year and Valentines one. Not something I personally would use every day, but still fun nevertheless!

Another interesting one is the "split image"; it will print two photos of a single image split in two; creativity at its best! Just be careful that you still have a minimum of two useable slides left in the printer before starting the split image print.




Alternatively one can also print directly from one of the many Fujifilm Wifi enabled X-series cameras.  I haven't tested it, but I suppose even printing from the brand-new Medium Format Fujifilm GFX camera should be possible... it might however be a bit overkill!

It takes about 10s (compared to 16s for the SP-1) for an image to print and then another 5 mins before the image is fully developed. There is still something nostalgic about the wait for the image to appear! For the ones going back to the polaroid days, there is absolutely no need to shake or wave your Instax print, just let it sit for a few minutes and you are done!

IMAGE QUALITY
While the older SP-2 was limited to a resolution of 640x480px at 254dpi, the new model manages 800x600px at 320dpi. While the images of these small print might not be the sharpest you've seen, one is missing the point if that is your main priority! It is all about being able to share a moment with the people around you.



When printing Black and White photographs, I strongly recommend using the Fujifilm Instax Monochrome film. Using Color film often shows a bit of a warmer color cast as can be seen in the image below (left is printed on the standard (colour) film, right one on Monochrome film.




HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Today the SP-2 sells for about 160,-USD in the US and just under 200,-EUR in Europe; prices in the UAE seems to vary somewhere in between. 

The device does normally not come with Instax Film packs included. Standard price for a pack of 10 slides is about 10, USD, making it 1,-USD (1,-EUR) per image. However when shopping around, one can easily find larger combined packs which bring the price per image down to about 60 cents. 



WHO IS THE INSTAX SP-2 FOR
I doubt it the printer is aimed at only one type of photographer; any photographer who likes to share small printed images on the go, is potentially in the market for a pocket printer like the SP-2.  The retro feel of the instant image, is something that both young and old appreciate.  

Wedding and other event photographers are probably the largest group of potential buyers of the SP-2's, but I can also see some Street and/or Travel photographer wanting to bring one to a shoot. In any case, there is something to be said about the look on the face of whoever has never seen Instax film develop!



If you are in the market for a small on the go instax printer, look no further! 

After all, remember: "A picture is not a photograph until its printed"!

BJORN