Another Brown County Barn: Photos

Click on the Helmsburg Road barn to see a few more images.

Yesterday was proof that spring has (finally) arrived here in our Bloomington area. Sue and I headed off to Breeden Road to see if the abandoned house we enjoyed shooting a couple of weeks ago had gained any additional color. It hadn’t. I added one more shot of one of the doors, trying to emphasize its form, line and texture. As the weather warms we may see some green on the vines that are slowly enveloping the old homestead. Stand by.

Then we headed over to Brown County State Park, the site of our His Light Workshop this October. The park hasn’t blossomed yet; it still is brown and bare. Give it a couple of weeks and we will see what gives then. The same thing was true for neighboring Yellowwood State Forest … no color, lots of potential. Then we drove a couple of Brown County’s back roads. It just was too nice a day to be inside, especially with a backseat full of camera gear.

We drove down Helmsburg Road and spotted an old barn that is on its last legs. Its strong lines catch your eye; you see what it might have been in its prime. We received permission to take some photos, and I just like the strength that comes through. The old soldier has seen its better days, but if you like old structures you will be drawn to this one. I posted a couple of images from today into a gallery on Barns that I already have. You can take a look by clicking here.

It was a good day. You see life stirring everywhere you look, the renewal of our precious world. An image or two worth sharing makes it even more fun. Camera in hand.

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Help A Fellow Photographer: Vote!

When you receive more than 50,000 entries in a world-wide photo contest you are doing something right. And that is just what the Smithsonian Institute has managed to do this year. Soliciting images in six separate categories, Smithsonian photo editors faced the Herculean task of narrowing the entries down to ten finalists in each category (natural, travel, people, Americana, altered and mobile). Whew! That is a tough assignment, even if it involves viewing thousands of beautiful photos. But they have pulled it off.

Now, imagine you are one of those ten finalists (in each of the six categories). That photo is your baby; you care about it so vey much. It carries your hopes and dreams, and maybe a few apprehensions. And you know that the fate of that baby now rests in the hands of your fellow photographers … us. That’s right – us. We have the opportunity to view the finalists over on the Smithsonian site and then to vote for our favorite in each category. Our votes will determine the final winners. Whew! Another big responsibility. But one we should take quite seriously.

Imagine any of the photos were your own … and that you were depending on others (with the power to vote or not) to determine your fate. Wouldn’t you hope that your fellow shooters would at least view the images, let alone vote? There are some exceptional photos in this collection; it would be a shame if we didn’t offer the authors our support. And you get to enjoy seeing some very fine images while doing your photographic duty; how great is that?

Click here to visit the Smithsonian site and cast your votes. It won’t take you very long, and it is a most enjoyable task. Consider it a duty to our fellow photographers. Who knows? Next year I may be voting for one of your images!

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Another Fuji X-T1 Day: Why You Want One

X-T1

Two new reviews of the Fuji X-T1 are pushing it to the top of the camera heap.

Are you one of those with a federal tax refund? Planning on tucking it safely away in your mattress? Didn’t think so … the lure of all those things-you-just-can’t-do-without is pretty strong. And if you are a photographer, Fuji’s hot-selling X-T1 may be the object of your desires. If so, your desire just received two shots in the arm.

DP Review is a most respected site for camera and lens reviews. The testers are thorough, giving the rest of us all kinds of details to digest. No less a personage than my dear friend Bill Fortney relies on it for unbiased information (and when Bill listens, I listen). Yesterday they published their rather long-awaited review of the latest Fuji. And from a quality standpoint the wait was worth it for Fuji. Bottom line, the X-T1 received a coveted gold award for excellence (its score of 84 points puts it in the very top tier of reviewed cameras). There have been a lot of reviews of this camera on the web for some time now. But the DP Review one is a most prestigious one. Click here to read it, especially if you have any interest at all in a mirrorless system.

Then there is another review of the X-T1 that I found to be informative. It stands out because it is by a shooter who posted some of the images he took with the new camera on a swing through Asia, images that both catch your eye and demonstrate what the X-T1 and the superlative Fuji lenses are capable of. This review is by Gary Tyson (a British professional photographer), and I first saw parts of it over at the Fuji Rumors website. The review is more than a Fuji-fan-boy post; Gary is an experienced shooter, a most talented shooter. And he posts a couple of photos in raw form, unprocessed – really good unprocessed images. This camera and its supporting lenses are the real deal. Click here for the full review and to see Gary’s photos. If you are thinking at all about an X-T1, I promise you will be tempted to do some real thinking after you are finished.

Yes, we are X-T1 owners. But I always have been a Nikon shooter, and I have no plans of abandoning my D800. I receive nothing from Fuji or any other site for my opinions. But the X-T1 is giving the big boys a real run for their money, folks. The lenses are superb, and there is a rather full lineup of them. The X-system camera are small, lightweight and a joy to carry around compared to their bigger counterparts. The X-T1 is the king of all the X cameras, and it is fast gaining a reputation as the finest of the mirrorless gear (arguably). The quality, especially the colors, of the Fuji cameras is outstanding. And 16 megapixels is fast proving itself (all over again) as plenty of resolution for almost all of what we do. In short, the X-T1 and Fuji lenses are a hit here in my household. I have nothing to quibble with on the two reviews we have mentioned today. I add a hearty endorsement to what they discovered and reported.

So call it Fuji X-T1 Day all over again. And proof may be in the pudding … the camera has been out for a while now, but it still is difficult to find in stock at even the big camera houses. The best barometer of what is good and worth the asking price may be how photographers vote with their dollars. The Fuji X-T1 is earnig its keep – all over the world.

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Shoot And Process HDRs: A Recommendation

Chateau

A capture from the Midnight in Paris video series I recommend, produced by Trey Ratcliff.

The days of either loving HDRs or hating them pretty much are over. By that I mean that in general the processing of HDR images has become more sophisticated, less of the over-the-top stuff we saw a few years ago. HDR now seems to be a bit more focused on its real intent, if you will …bringing out the complete tonal range of a photo without introducing the wild colors that used to scream HDR at the top of its lungs. Quite a few of my friends now process their images by shooting one exposure for the lights and another for the darks, then combining the two in layers and masking it to do their blending. That also is HDR to me, even if some photographers might quibble over definitions. In any event, HDR images can be beautiful and eye-catching and real art. And IMHO Trey Ratcliff is capable of doing it all (and teaching it all) when it comes to HDR.

Yesterday I was roaming around his site, something I hadn’t done for a while. I discovered a video series he has for sale, combining his talents with those of a fine art photographer by the name of Miss Aniela. Now, don’t let that name (or title) throw you off – I watched her at work during a Creative Live presentation last month. She is good. And talented. And creative. The two photographers complement each other well, combining for a photo shoot/workshop on the grounds of a chateau in France. The series is called Midnight in Paris (although they are not in Paris and they shoot during the daytime). There are separate videos for each photographer, each shooting and then processing images. There are some of Trey’s raw files for you to work with in post, and the entire series is sort of a you-were-there workshop that you can complete at home. It is for sale, of course, but the price is pretty reasonable.

There is more than three hours of training in this series. You can view a video introduction for free if you are at all interested in HDR by clicking here. And if you would find yourself tempted to sign up, it is easy to find coupons online for Trey’s store (usually at 15% off the list price). Having watched both these artists in actions on other videos on other sites and having watched the introduction on Trey’s site, I took the plunge and signed up (finding a 15% discount code of RONMART15). I consider instruction videos of techniques I try to use over and over to be capital investments, reference materials. This one falls into that category.

I watched the first Trey video in the series, and it was vintage Trey. he has a comfortable, easy going style of instruction that I am drawn to. I find it easy to learn from him. I immediately picked up a tip on shooting HDRs in very low light that will serve me well in the future. The production values are good; the location of the workshop is one that reminds me some sites near my home. While I may not be into copying, I am open to inspiration from all sorts of sources. This series is that kind of material.

If you are interested at all, click here to visit Trey’s site and see some of the work he produces almost daily. He is good. And he is good at explaining what he does and why he does it. I recommend this video series to all of you. I am excited about learning new techniques of all kinds … and polishing the ones I already know. This series does both.

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Upcoming Red Moon: Maybe You Will See It


This is an image I could hope for … but it belongs to Trey Ratcliff (click on it to visit with him).

2014 offers photographers the rather infrequent opportunity to view and capture a ‘red’ moon (also known as a ‘blood’ moon, this is the reddish phase of a lunar eclipse). Now, as with any nighttime event in our North American skies, our worst enemy will be modern society’s propensity toward light pollution. If you are anywhere near an outdoor light source (say, a street lamp or city glow) your chances of getting a great lunar shot diminish greatly (and pretty rapidly). Requirement number one, therefore, is find a location free from stray light to attempt your lunar shot. Next, figure out when it will take place in your specific locale.

Sky and Telescope Magazine (another new one for me!) has a nice little article that illustrates this rather rare phenomenon, complete with a chart that tells you when it will take place in your time zone (click here for the article and the chart). This event will be a total lunar eclipse, and the photos in the article illustrate how spectacular images can be. So consult the chart, and make your plans accordingly. Then, read up on how to maximize your chances of a good photo.

One of the best (and most concise) articles I found was by a very fine outdoors photographer, Ian Plant. His five quick tips for photographing this eclipse can be viewed by clicking here. Something similar in advice can be seen by clicking here and reading the article published by DP Review. Brush up your skills and ready your gear, including your longest lens. Then, hope for some help from Mother Nature.

By that I mean that the best laid plans of mice and men … I have read up and studied, and I have a pretty dark location in mind for shooting. I own an 80-400 lens, and the 400 portion would be fine for this particular event. But … the weather forecast for my town is for of all things a low of 29 degrees, with a 70% chance of rain or snow. In any event you know that forecast spells clouds and an overcast sky. If I wanted to kill any chance of a good image of an eclipse I would order up an overcast or cloudy sky. Mother Nature is the wild card for this rare event, and the hand she is dealing here is not a good one. I certainly wish you better luck wherever you may be (or can quickly get to).

Best of luck to all you dedicated shooters out there, and don’t you worry about all of us here in the Bloomington area (sniff, sniff). We will be wishing you the best … camera in hand.

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Surviving Nature With A Camera: What NOT To Do

Elk

The bull elk in this image made his presence known to us in a big way.

Spring finally has arrived here in Indiana, and with it comes the lure of the Great Outdoors. Even dedicated studio shooters find it difficult to resist the sheer beauty of nature in all its many and varied forms. No matter where you live or travel Mother Nature has something bound to catch your eye and lift your heart. And there we stand – so very privileged to take it all in with cameras in hand. Life can be so good.

Spring also heralds the onrush of summer and vacations and travel and photo opportunities of all kinds. The opportunity to see and experience and photograph things-not-seen-before is one of life’s real joys, both for you and for those around you. Don’t allow that chance-of-a-lifetime to become a tale of danger and sorrow. Or worse.

What brings these thoughts to mind for me today is a video passed on to me by my good friend Richard Small. It details the nerve-pounding danger a photographer in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park found himself in while trying for some of those I-just-gotta-get-this-shot images. The video turned out to be one of those “can’t look away” types; you find yourself fascinated by what could come next. And you quickly realize what started out as entertainment turns rapidly into a very dangerous situation. It really hit home to me because I came close to witnessing something similar last year out in Olympic National Park near the Hoh Rain Forest in Washington State. The encounter I saw unfolding fortunately never progressed as far as the one in the video … but not because the person involved was any smarter than the shooter here. In my case the timely appearance of a Park Service Ranger prevented what could have been a real tragedy. Take a look at today’s video, and I will explain a bit more.

Folks, that was a dangerous situation! My best friends and I never really got over our amazement at some of the situations the public would put themselves in when we still were at the police department. I can understand some of our youngest citizens believing with that youthful bravado of theirs that nothing bad can happen to them. But someone the age of the photographer in this video? Incredible! No shot was worth the risk he took in possibly losing an eye or other body part from those sharp antlers … or even worse. And rather than try to signal for help or slowly and cautiously try to move toward safety, he tried to compete in a head-butting contest! I still can’t figure out whether I am more amazed by his lack of common sense or his determination to take photos in the midst of the situation. I do know he was foolhardy in not moving away when first confronted by this agitated elk. And that he owes a great debt of gratitude to the person who showed up in the white vehicle to move him to safety. Better lucky than good? Better to err on the side of caution, if you ask me.

My own experience? We were in the Hoh Rain Forest, on the home range of the largest herd of Roosevelt elk in the U.S. It was rutting season, when the bulls were rounding up harems of females. We didn’t see a lot of them, but they are magnificent when seen up close. And it was thrilling when we heard them whistling in the far distance throughout the day. When we drove into the park we saw a young bull working a creek some hundred or so yards from us, keeping a close eye on his two female companions. And we knew they were there in part because a crowd of photographers had gathered on the roadway in sight of them, a crowd we joined with our longer lenses. Well, it wasn’t all that long when we saw the bull elk watching back, intently. And shortly thereafter he began working his way back up the creek toward us, keeping his gaze directly on our group. It didn’t take a Jane Goodall to figure out pretty quickly that he didn’t appreciate our presence. And that there was more than a passing chance that he had decided to do something about it. We passed the word, and we headed back to our vehicles (discretion being the better part of valor in this instance). Except for one photographer … of course.

That one photographer never budged – even when members of his own family urged him to retreat to the car. And that young bull never slowed down; he just kept coming. Fortunately, a park ranger showed up and ordered the shooter to leave the area. I say ‘ordered’ because the photographer at first refused to move! He wanted to argue about his safety and his rights! We could tell the ranger had about had it when our shooter finally gave up and headed back to his vehicle. And as we began to drive away the bull elk stopped and watched us go. There was no doubt that he was making sure we actually did. He meant business.

As we all know, nature is a glorious expression of God’s love for us. We are so privileged to be able to share in that glory, camera or not. But we never should take nature for granted. Folks, there are situations and places out there in which we can be hurt or even killed. A few years ago we were at Horseshoe Bend near Page, AZ with Bill Fortney and Jim Begley (an incredible location and an inspiring His Light workshop). We were warned about the dangers of getting too close to the various edges overlooking the formation and the river below. Just a couple of weeks prior a photographer fell some 1400 feet to his death when he did just that. The Western philosophy (and that of our parks) is that your safety is your own responsibility. And that is a good point for us to remember, no matter where we visit. That’s also why I decided to pass on the video that began today’s post. Use some common sense when photographing; take a great interest in your own safety.

Most of us are going to hit the roads at least a bit during the coming warmer months. What could be better than to do so with a camera in our hands? And what could be worse than sacrificing our health and safety to foolishness and ignorance? This ain’t rocket science, folks. At times it’s simply attending to your own survival. Be aware; nature is everywhere (a new slogan I just came up with). Make sure you offer her the respect she deserves.

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Test Your Photo Vision. Then Start Carrying A Real Camera.

Just a bit of fun today, an exercise that isn’t scientific in any manner. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t instructive in at least one small way. Let me show you what I mean.

What follows is a short video first posted over on a site named The Slanted Lens (I saw it after that on The Imaging Resource website). It is a video designed to test your camera IQ, if you will – can you pick out which final image that was made with each of six tested cameras? The idea is to give you some fun while pointing out (if once again needed) that there are indeed some major differences in the end result you will get given your choice of production. Now, we all know that … but a visual demonstration is usually effective, and we all can use reminders from time to time on even the most basic of photographic decisions. Watch below, and then allow me to make a point.


Comparing 6 Cameras

How did you do? I found it easy to pick out the iPhone and the iPad shots, even to getting which was which correct. I have been a Nikon shooter for a while now and am used to their colors, so I got the Nikon correct. The Canons I couldn’t tell apart, but I did have a pretty good idea which was the Sony (and to be honest, I didn’t care for its renderings). But, a couple of points:

None of the images would have been acceptable to me straight out of the camera. Learn to process your images to make them look their best (even while trying as much as possible to get everything right in the camera). You owe it to your subject to make whatever you shoot look its best; that’s why we have Photoshop and all those other great programs on our computers. Second, stop being content to use your phone as a camera. I know, the convenience factor is off the charts. And phones do so much more than a mere camera can do, so why carry both? That video should have demonstrated why. Cameras, even cheap little cameras, are better almost all the time than your phone. You are a photographer … carry a camera with you! And third (but not least), it’s not the camera; its the photographer carrying the camera that matters. We all know that; this is just another chance to remind ourselves of that important fact.

And that is a good lesson for myself for today.

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Lightroom Mobile App: Nice, But With A Got’cha

LR5

I own Lightroom; I like Lightroom; I have used it for quite a while now. Yesterday Adobe released an update to this go-to (for me) program, one that included support for the Fuji X-T1. Thank you very much, Adobe! And there was a nice surprise tucked inside – a new app that makes Lightroom quite mobile. Thank you again, Adobe. But the app has at least one sizable gotcha that means I won’t be using it.

First, you have to be a Creative Cloud subscriber to download and use the app for more than a 30-day trial period. I don’t really get that since those who own Lightroom without a subscription still have paid for the full use of it. But, that is not what is stopping me from using it. And you have to be an Apple user to use Lightroom Mobile – no Android users need apply (yet). But I have an iPad, so that doesn’t matter to me. What is the deal breaker for me is the syncing aspect of Lightroom.

My wife and I share our subscription to Photoshop CC (which includes Lightroom). It is registered in my name simply because I was the one who signed us up (however reluctantly in the beginning). Adobe fairly allows us to install and use our programs on two computers, so it is on my PC desktop and on her MacBook Pro. She has a newer iPad, and I inherited her older model. So far, so good. Sue downloaded the mobile app right away today after upgrading to the latest version of Lightroom. It worked just as advertised, quickly and completely. So far, so even better. Then I downloaded the app (I had earlier upgraded the mother program, also). It all worked perfectly. Thank you, Adobe. Oh, right … there was a gotcha in there, wasn’t there?

Sue noticed that she had a notice on her laptop that indicated she had another 29 days before her trial period with Lightroom Mobile expired (she was logged in with her Adobe ID as required). I was logged into my program with my Adobe ID, the one under which we had signed up for Photoshop CC. No disclaimer or warning for me; my app was permanent. I had her logout and then login again, this time with my ID (the one CC runs under). Voila! the disclaimer disappeared; no more trial period. Then came the gotcha. When her images were synced, they all showed up on my iPad as well. And my images showed up on hers. Now, Sue is a good photographer with a fine eye. I like her photos … but I don’t want them taking up space on my iPad. I don’t want to flip through her collections to get to mine. And she doesn’t want to do the same with my files. We tried deleting her collections from my iPad, with the result of deleting them from her laptop Lightroom collections. And then she deleted mine! This not only left us without our images on the mobile devices, it also forced us to go back and recreate collections in our main Lightroom programs. What a pain (and disappointment).

We tried renaming collections and moving collections and copying collections and making new folders and everything else we could think of to fool the mobile app. And we have yet to do so. I finally called Adobe. My rep was most sympathetic and she tried to be helpful, but … no can do. The policy of allowing us to use Lightroom on two computers means we truly are sharing. Everything. For the app’ purposes the Adobe ID login rules – and we only have the one. If we wanted her to use her own, a separate one, we would have to pay for a separate subscription. Another ten dollars a month for what we already own. Needless to say, we are not going that route.

Well, why not just keep both sets of photos on both iPads? Turns out they use up more storage space than I would like (or can afford). We are photographers, and we take and process lots of photos. Over much time at all we would find ourselves out of space. Now, I suspect this app isn’t meant to act completely like Lightroom. By that I mean the marvelous way it organizes images into all kinds of collections and sets of collections. I suppose Adobe envisioned it as a way to work offline or do some basic processing while on the move, which is fine. But I also suspect a whole bunch of us see it as a truly easy and appreciated way to send images over to our mobile devices as a travelling (and rather permanent) gallery. Would it work that way for all you single users out there? Apparently. But there have to be a fair number of us who share as families on those two allowable computers, and we are going to have to make choices on what we do next.

Sue is going to use the app in our house. I have deleted it from my iPad, and I just won’t use it. That solves our syncing problem, but it doesn’t make the app useful at all to me. I would appreciate it greatly if Adobe could make whatever software change that would be needed to allow a second login on that second machine. Seems plausible to me … but I may be a bit naïve when it comes to software (and a bit biased here regarding its use). In any event, thank you, Adobe for the Lightroom upgrade. And if any of you run into this dilemma and discover a solution, please let me know. Two dedicated Lightroom users would be forever grateful.

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Jack Graham’s Cleaning Cloth: A Recommendation

Cloth

You know the deep feelings I hold for Bill Fortney as a friend and mentor. When Bill recommends something (or someone) I pay close attention – very close attention. He has steered me in the right direction on so many questions I have had that I have lost count. And Bill recommends the talents and vision and workshops of Jack Graham very highly. The two have combined to put on some great workshops in the past couple of years, a fact that other good friends who have attended completely endorse. In the past Bill received as a present a cleaning cloth for lenses and cameras that he just loves. He passed one on to me, and it is hands down the best such cloth I ever have used (add in a second endorsement from Sue). So today I want to give you a link from Jack on where to find the exact cloth he uses.

You may click here to visit Amazon to find the yellow 3M cleaning cloth Jack recommends so highly. Now, this link is for perhaps a few more cloths than you might need right now. But you will be amazed how many of your friends would be most grateful to receive a cloth or two either as presents (or buy a couple from you). These are the real deal. Give them a try; I promise you will love them.

And … it’s good to be back. When I had my computer system in for some tweaks it came home a bit out of sorts, it seems. I lost the ability to show images in Outlook, then the ability to play most kinds of videos (including my own). It seems the cloning we did of one old drive didn’t play well with he rest of the system. I owe a big thank you to Ryan Richardson at PC Max for getting me up and running again, better than ever. But I’m back. Camera in hand.

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Barns And Buildings: Some Photos

Breeden house

Click on the old home to see more images.

Yesterday Sue and I spent an enjoyable day driving some of Monroe County’s backroads, searching for an old barn we had seen in Sunday’s newspapers. It is constructed of logs, finished with a unique set of double doors. It has been sitting along Breeden Road for a long, long time now, and it was a beautiful drive locating it. When we did we shot it from about every possible angle, and a few of the shots show off the barn’s age and beauty. Now we are planning a trip back in one of the golden sunrise or sunset hours to do the old girl real justice.

And we were tickled to discover an abandoned old home also on Breeden Road, a home that has seen much better days. But it rewarded us with line, form and texture – the building blocks of good photos. We shot it in fairly nice light, under cloudy blue skies. This is another location to revisit in even better light. But the images we got today were most rewarding. It was a good day.

Then we met and spoke with two gracious farm owners, Joe and Joyce Peden. They have for a long time now opened a part of their farms to Monroe County children to give them a glimpse of what it is like to live and work on a real farm. They are warm and welcoming people, a truly exceptional farm family. They kindly allowed us to shoot an old root cellar on their farm, a look back in time. Thank you, Joe and Joyce.

It was a very good day yesterday. It reminded me that just taking off and looking for things to shoot is part of the fun and excitement of photography. I hope you enjoy the images I selected even a little bit as much as I enjoyed taking them. Click here to see what we discovered or click on the image at the top of this post.

And get out there and enjoy the change in weather, camera in hand.

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f11 Magazine Is Back. Fuji Repairs The X-T1. And Some Photos.

X-T1

I have recommended f11, an e-magazine published in Australia, to you several times. And I am happy to do so again today. The magazine was on a short hiatus (only one month), but it felt longer because the high-caliber contents have me looking forward to each new issue. This issue is no exception to the quality rule – it was a pleasure to view the images inside and read the accompanying text. And I had to think of the old “great minds think alike” line … there is a review of onOne Software’s Perfect Effects Suite 8 that makes a reasoned case for it being a Photoshop CC nemesis (something I have believed for a while now). Click here for a link to the magazine; you will enjoy reading it. Pick up your own free subscription while you are there. You’ll be glad you did.

A week ago I wrote that Fuji has responded quickly and correctly to a light leak problem with some of the earliest X-T1 models (any serial number above 41A05201 is NOT affected). I contrasted that with Nikon’s response to its D600 model’s sensor spotting problems, a response that left camera owners everywhere angry and disappointed. Let me add a little more to those thoughts. Our X-T1 was one of the ones possibly affected. I waited all week for a followup email from Fuji, but none was forthcoming. So Friday I called again, and I again was reminded that Fuji is a first-class company when it comes to customer care. My rep was horrified to hear that we hadn’t yet received a mailer to send the camera in for inspection (I heard it in his words and in his attitude and in his voice). He apologized profusely and excused himself for one minute (literally). He came back to explain an error on the part of another rep (no excuses), promising me that Monday i would have a mailer in hand to send in the camera … AND that my order would be expedited throughout the remaining process. I was treated with complete respect and attention. And it left me feeling good about the entire experience, rather than angry in any way that a mistake had been made. Thank you, Fuji. Now contrast that with a recent article over at byThom (by Thom Hogan). There Thom comments on Nikon’s latest offer to replace faulty D600 models only if there is a continued problem with the sensor and not if the spotting issue continues from yet a separate source. Click here for Thom’s comments and why Nikon is not living up to customer expectations.

And speaking just a bit more about the X-T1 (whenever we take this camera out in public it draws attention and comments or questions): Fuji Rumors has a post with some photos taken by X-T1 users. And some notes about it now being the top camera on Amazon’s sales ranking, possibly equaling the exalted Nikon D800 for pre-orders. Now we all know that it is the eye behind that viewfinder that ultimately makes or breaks an image – bu no doubt about it, mirrorless cameras can do justice to whatever you see in your mind’s eye. Click here for that Fuji Rumors post; it’s worth a quick look.

I usually wait until around the weekend to advise getting out with your camera in hand. Today is Monday, so I really am jumping the gun. But the weather in our areas is 70 degrees and blue skies. Get out there now before the rain arrives later in the week.

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My Two Cents: The Fuji 60mm Lens

Fuji 60
Try the Fuji 60mm. You’ll like it.

The Fuji X-T1 is getting rave reviews all over the internet. It is not a perfect camera, but it is a very fine, most competent camera. Mirrorless systems are gaining traction (however slowly here in the US), and there are many well-known, well-respected shooters out there who are singing their praises. In part that increased attention is due to Fuji’s latest camera and the lenses that fit it. The experience here runs to more of the same.

Sue absolutely loves this new camera. It has become her go-to system. And every system needs a means of shooting closeups, including this Fuji. We picked up the 60mm this week, taking advantage of a very nice reduction in price that the company has been sponsoring (it ends April 5th). The 60 is not a true macro; it will give you half-life-size images (no 1:1 quite yet). But if you fill your viewfinder as much as possible at its minimum focus distance of about eleven inches you still are getting in quite close. That is in practical terms, not in pixel-peeking terms. And the lens is small. And really light (my Nikon 105 micro looks more like a 200 compared to the Fuji). It is metal and well constructed and solid, actually quite good-looking. But what it important is how it functions in the real world – and this lens is razor sharp. It is tack sharp. Let’s see … what other cliches can I use here? Yes, it is slow to focus, something all reviewers have noted and bemoaned. But let me ask you – were you planning on shooting sports or birds in flight with this lens when you bought it? It’s for closeups; that’s why we got it in the first place. And almost all of those things aren’t moving. They sit there waiting on us to zero in on them, to get close. And this lens will reward you with images that give you details upon details. My dear friend Bill Fortney is the best source (and most trusted source) I have for Fuji gear; he has been shooting it almost exclusively for a long time now. He would like a longer-focal-length macro from the company sometime in the future. But for now he recommends this lens to anyone looking for sharp images. My two cents is what Bill said.

We are impressed here at home with the Fuji system. The lenses are a joy to use, complementing the X-T1 to the T the new camera sports in its name. The 60 is no exception. If you have read reviews elsewhere that are not so complimentary make sure you have someone who actually is out there shooting and using the darned thing. For closeup work this lens is a steal at its current $400 price tag. If you have a Fuji, pick one up at this bargain price. If you have been thinking about switching systems or adding a new camera/lens to your arsenal, this is where I would begin.

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Computer Outage

Turrett-web

A view from North Turret, an iconic American scene.

Time for a bit of spring cleaning (although with this week’s forecast we hardly will know winter has officially ended). The computer system is in need of a couple of tweaks, and the boys at PC Max tell me this one will take a few days. I hope you will keep checking back to see what is new around here, but there won’t be anything for a little bit. In the meantime, let’s all keep up with my dear friend Bill Fortney. He and the His Light team are out in Utah, shooting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. If we can’t be there with them, we can enjoy the view they are seeing over on Bill’s website. Click here to keep up with him, and I’ll meet you back here later in the week.

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A Trip To The Indianapolis Zoo: Photos And A Lesson On Technique

Flamingo
Click on the flamingo to see more photos from the Indianapolis Zoo.

We played hooky from our household chores Friday and made a trip up to the Indianapolis Zoo. It was a sunny and warm day and a welcome break from this unending winter. There is an annual butterfly exhibit at the adjoining White River Gardens that always is fun; opening day for it brought out a good crowd (good if you are running the zoo, not-as-good if you are a photographer). The zoo is set to open a world-class orangutan habitat today. The outside grounds for that exhibit still are under construction, and some of the older habitats have been relocated. So we spent a very enjoyable afternoon there, scouting the new layouts and exercising our itchy shutter fingers. The winter has been a long one.

A note on the new Fuji X-T1: Sue absolutely loves the camera and the images it produces. All those great reviews from our dear friend and mentor Bill Fortney? True, true, true. All the glowing comments over on Fuji Rumors? Equally true. Form, function, style, looks, ease-of-use, size, images … this is a very fine camera. And I can attest to the fact that there indeed is some value to the compact size and light weight of the Fuji system, especially when paired with a solid travel-style tripod. I was carrying the Nikon D800 and a bag loaded with lenses for it … at the end of the day I was ready for a break. And when we compared images over the weekend? The X-T1 photos can compete with anything else out there.

If you visit the zoo there are a few changes from the end of last year. The flamingos have always been eye-catching. The zoo just had them in about the worst possible, inconvenient location you would imagine for photographers. I never was able to get a decent photo of them. Now they are more out in the open, in-the-round, so to speak. You can get up close, and with a bit of effort you can reduce the cluttered background to something more pleasing. I’m going back in the near future to really concentrate on the shot I have stuck in my mind. The lemurs always were fun, pretty easy to shoot sitting out on a small island by the cafeteria. That area now is being eaten up by the new orangutan grounds; the lemurs are in a netted-in area now. Don’t count on getting any decent shots of them from now on (unfortunately). I’m not sure about the orangutans when they get outside … I didn’t see any nets or fences right now to get in the way. If that remains the case, this could be something special. If the grounds become another netted-in area, the odds for photographers are going to go way down. Overall, the zoo is a good place to practice creative shooting and problem-solving: too much glass and too many fences for easy shots. If you want a truly good shot up there, you have to work hard for it. But do make the trip at some point … it’s a fun place to visit.

I picked out a few photos from the day for this post. Some are just for fun, as in the puppy-like walrus youngster. Some I liked, as in the plant shot and a couple of the flamingos. And a few just are to show you that a day outside with your camera is just a good day. Period. Click on the image at the top of the post or right here to view what I selected from the afternoon.

Then a couple of notes on technique. Good technique will beat equipment every day of the week, all week long. I was shooting with a Nikon D800, arguably the best DLSR on the market today. It is capable of fantastic results from its 36 megapixels. And I have a hundred or so photos that prove you can get soft, disappointing images when you get sloppy with your technique. I did a lot of shooting with Nikon’s 80-400 zoom lens, another great piece of equipment. I was on a tripod, using it loosely like a monopod to focus in on the moving and grooving flamingos. To really isolate them I was near 400mm most of the time, and I got cocky. I kept the ISO on 200 to get the best resolution I thought I could, and my shutter speeds kept falling down to 1/250th or 1/300th a lot of the time. What’s the rule of thumb? Keep your shutter speed above your focal length (at 1/400th or higher for a 400mm focal length, for example). And for the D800 with its 36 megapixels the better advice is to keep the shutter speed at 1 1/2 or two times the focal length. What looked good on the back of the camera out in the field was soft and disappointing on the computer. Lots and lots of poor technique on lots and lots of shots … all my fault.

Now Sue’s Fuji had a more-than-sufficient 16 megapixels to make beautiful prints with. And she shot with an ISO at 800 most of the day, given that the X-T1 has absolutely no noise at that level. She watched her shutter speeds and, even hand-holding most of the time, her images are crisp and in focus. Good technique beats good equipment every day of the week. She approached the day looking for good photos; she also approached it as a day for practicing her skills … and perfect practice makes perfect performance later. She reminded me of a very good lesson Friday.

Friday was a very good, very fun day out in the field. It also was a very instructive day for me. Don’t repeat my mistakes when shaking off the rust this spring. Practice good technique; make great photos.

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Jerry Uelsmann … In Bloomington!

Adams

My good friend Kendall Reeves called me today, excited about a rare opportunity for Bloomington-area photographers. Pictura Gallery on the downtown square is bringing an exhibit of Jerry Uelsmann work to our fair city for a two-month run. Beginning April 4th with an opening reception as part of Downtown Bloomington’s Gallery Walk, Uelsmann’s works will provide inspiration for photographers from miles around. Kendall advised he studied this seminal photographer while in college, ranking him with Ansel Adams and other giants of this world of ours. And that is high praise indeed. Make plans to visit Bloomington for this exhibit, which also will feature works in color (Uelsmann is a black-and-white master) by his wife, Maggie Taylor. She is a noted artist in her own right; we are most fortunate to welcome her.

For a look at some of Uelsmann’s work and more about his career, click on this link to his website. His works will engage and surprise, I guarantee you. Oh, Kendall also advised me that Jerry shoots with film. So when you take a look at his selected works over on his website, be prepared to be stumped on how he does all this without the modern-day magic of Photoshop. His is the world of the darkroom, unknown and mysterious to so many of us. This is an exhibit not to be missed. Oh, and if you are not familiar at all with the Pictura Gallery, click here to see where they are and what they do so well.

And while we are on the subject of true masters, the giants of the field, keep in mind that there is an ongoing exhibit of Ansel Adams works at the Eiteljorg Museum, just up the road from us in Indianapolis. More than 75 of Adams’ best works went on display March 1st. This is another rare treat for those in our area, one not to be missed. It runs through August 3rd, giving you plenty of time to plan an outing. And while you are there, plan on spending time with the museum’s permanent displays of Western art. They are world-class, always worth a day wandering and looking. And plan on having lunch there; I speak from experience – it is a first-class restaurant with pleasant surroundings. Click here for more information about the exhibit and about the Eiteljorg.

We are amazingly blessed recently. Take advantage of these wonderful exhibits.

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