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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Just For Fun: A Peek Into Two Camera Bags


Any feathers packed in that case of yours? They may be just the piece of gear you need – or not.

Face it, as photographers we are hooked on cameras and equipment. And as much as we love making images, we love looking at equipment and talking about equipment and we love buying equipment. We even love looking inside other photographers’ camera bags … that’s how bad we have it.

So just for fun today, let’s take a look into a couple of celebrity camera bags as they pack for a shooting trip. ‘Cause we all know – if I just had that one piece of gear that they have I could make all those great photos, also. In the watercolor world they call it the magic brush. We all are searching for the magic camera … or the magic lens … or the magic electronic remote control shutter release … or something like that. And don’t say we aren’t.

Chase Jarvis is a photographer emulated by many, admired by even more. Recently he posted a short video on his camera bag as he explains how he keeps up with technological changes and his own shooting style. This bag contains his essential gear – the stuff he doesn’t want to be caught without, the stuff he actually makes photos with all the time. It’s pretty basic … but good, high quality. And it might match up pretty well with what you own (or your manufacturer’s equivalent). Then he also goes into his basic video bag. I wasn’t interested in that one, but I know a lot of you will be. So take a look and see if your bag matches up … both to your budget and to your shooting style.

Then, another bag from a legendary shooter – my dear friend and mentor Bill Fortney. Bill is setting off for a fantastic adventure out in Moab and Arches National Park. He was kind enough to share what he is packing and shooting with for a major workshop of several days. Bill is shooting Fuji almost exclusively these days, lenses with a 1.5 crop factor that you can figure in if you shoot full frame. This is another camera bag that will go about anywhere and shoot about anything, one to keep loaded by the front door. Click here for a link to Bill’s post and see how his thinking matches up to yours. Then click here for a second post from Bill, one in which he goes into detail on his choices and why he shoots the way he does. It’s an interesting read from a true master.

Okay, now the main point for the day – one I constantly am repeating to myself and constantly trying to follow. Did you find some secret, exotic piece of gear that makes these noted shooters stand out from all the rest of us? Didn’t think so. What is interesting is what they shoot with; what is important is their vision and their eye and their technique. Photography is light and art and creativity, not cameras and lenses. You don’t need more gear or new gear; you need what we all need – the desire to learn and practice and improve, along with a real love for what we do. Just for fun.

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A Tale Of Two Cities: Moutain View And Valhalla

X-T1

Apologies to Charles Dickens for the first part of this title … thanks to Fuji and Smugmug for the second part.

Yesterday I posted photos from our weekend scouting trip to the country’s second-longest railroad viaduct. Smugmug wasn’t allowing me to organize the gallery the way I wanted, no matter what I tried. It was getting late, so I left a message for the help heroes there and called it quits. This morning I had an answer … early this morning. And their suggestions fixed my problem on the first try, with no fuss. Thank you, Smugmug!

And Fuji has discovered a possible flaw with some of the very earliest X-T1 cameras (new on the market). As soon as the problem was reported (a light leak can occur under some hard-to-duplicate conditions), Fuji posted a response on their website. That response was quickly picked up and reported by other sites, where I saw it a couple of days ago. This morning I called Fuji and got a real person right away … unusual in many regards for our day and age. The rep heard my explanation of why I was calling and immediately took my name and email, apologizing for the inconvenience. He said to expect an email very soon that would detail how Fuji would arrange (for free) to pick up our camera and make sure it was perfect. Thank you, Fuji!

The point today is that good service cancels out problems that consumers (me, for example) experience with products we like. We all make mistakes in life (me, again). It is how we respond to those mistakes and errors that colors the experience for others who interact with us. Smugmug (located in Mountain View, CA) couldn’t have been more prompt, and the solution they offered worked immediately. No one asked me what I had done wrong; no one urged me to check the FAQ for answers before contacting them; they were concerned that my site wasn’t working the way I wanted it too. The experience turned into a pleasant one. Fuji (located in Valhalla, NJ) wasted no time offering me a solution to what is only a possible problem on a few early cameras – no questions asked other than my serial number. On their website an executive announced that all other activities would take a back seat to examining cameras sent to them. Again, their response makes a possible problem into a pleasant experience. Good service trumps product problems.

Now contrast that with the way Nikon handled the D600 dust-on-the-sensor problem. First they ignored it, even though it quickly became obvious that the problem was real and that it was affecting quite a few cameras. Then they charged owners for sending in their cameras for repair (at least for the postage). When it became impossible to ignore the problem they fashioned an answer designed only to infuriate D600 owners – they changed the shutter mechanism in the camera and re-labeled it the D610. Problem with a D600? Buy a new D610 – at retail! It wasn’t until Nikon was hit with a class action lawsuit that they announced they would repair existing D600 cameras for free. By then any goodwill the action would have engendered had been squandered. D600 owners were – and are – infuriated with Nikon. And deservedly so.

Which companies out of the three outlined above are most likely to keep their customer base? Which company is skating on some increasingly thin ice? My good friend Kendall Reeves once told me that people like to do business with people they like. I wrote back this morning and told the Smugmug hero assisting me that the term was most apropos. And I told the Fuji rep how much I appreciated the great service. In contrast, I am unhappy with Nikon – and I don’t even own a D600!

Nikon, I am far from alone in feeling you don’t care much about your customers (let alone consider them family). And some of the missteps Canon has made in the past couple of years makes many wonder if they are really attuned to what we are looking for out here? Today was a good lesson, a good reminder for me – I really need to continue doing business with the people I like. The others? Not so much any more. How about you?

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Scouting Trip To The Tulip Tree Viaduct: Photos


Click on the image of the trestle to see more photos.

Saturday was sunny and near 60 degrees, too nice a day to spend without a camera. We loaded up the Fuji and the D800 and drove some of the backroads of neighboring Green County. The second-longest train viaduct in the country is located there, way out in the county. We never had seen it, so Saturday was the day. And you never know what you will run across when you just start driving some of the dirt roads that snake through much of the county. It was a good trip.

We found the viaduct, sitting there among the empty fields (at this time of year). It still is rather barren around here, nothing leafing out and no spring flowers yet. The light was harsh, but the sun was welcome after the winter we have had. And the viaduct is impressively long; all we needed was a train (which, unfortunately, never materialized). Next trip we will plan for a very steep trek up to the top of the ridge to shoot down the tracks themselves. And wait until there is a bit of greenery to break up the surroundings. We look forward to that trip.

While driving the roads to the viaduct we went down Harshman Road, winding and hilly. It is gravel-slowly-turning-to-dirt, way out in the country. One benefit of that was we ran across an old barn and shed combination that the owner kindly let us shoot. There was texture and color, line and form. We are keeping them in mind for that return trip to the trestle, planning on shooting both in early morning or late evening light.

And also on Harshman we ran across a large gorillas standing just off the road – now that’s a sight to draw your attention. It turned out to be made of black garbage bag strips, artfully tied to make up a very realistic great ape. That in turn led to meeting and conversing with John Haywood, an artist working in recycled items of every size, shape and description. John has been fashioning recycled art for some thirty years now, and his modest home and yards are filled with colorful works. He is a real talent, one we were surprised to find so far from much of anything else. He also is a most gracious and interesting man, one we enjoyed meeting and spending time with. John allowed us to walk around his property and do some shooting. I have added some images to show the fun kind of stuff he envisions and creates. We only scratched the surface of what we might find to shoot on another trip. You can read more about John from a site I found on the web; just click here.

Click on the image at the top of this post to see the photos I selected from Saturday. Unfortunately, I am having some problems with my Smugmug site, and I couldn’t properly arrange the images the way I wanted. And I would like to add some captions to help explain what you are seeing. Smugmug Help promises to get me straightened out soon; bear with me for now.

Saturday was a fun scouting trip. I hope your weekend was as enjoyable … camera in hand.

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An SD Card For The Fuji X-T1: Don’t Go Overboard

Lexar
Be careful not to spend more than you need on a card for your X-T1.

I posted recently about shooting some out-in-the-field comparisons between raw and jpeg with the Fuji X-T1. One result was that writing to the camera while bracketing exposures in raw was noticeably slower than writing the equivalent jpegs. I suggested investing in the fastest SD card you could afford. Today I want to modify that answer just a bit.

The other day I was shooting a Lexar 16gb (133x) card. The brackets were three exposures, one-stop apart (the best the Fuji can muster). I know the camera is one of the first that can handle the UHS-II class SD cards, and I took a look at them. San Disk is the only company that has them on the market right now, I believe (in both 16gb and 32gb capacities). And they are fast … read speeds up to 280 MB/s and write speeds up to 250 MB/s. Wow! And they are pretty pricey … $130 for the bigger card; $75 for the smaller. Another wow! I also wondered if my current USB 3.0 card reader was equipped to handle the newer, faster kid on the block? So I turned to the experts at B&H, who are definitely into customer service. I was quickly connected to a rep to look up any questions I had and make some recommendations. Thank you, B&H.

Chris at B&H couldn’t be sure that my current reader would handle the new card. And if he couldn’t find an answer I wasn’t going to act in faith and purchase a card I couldn’t put into use. I found that San Disk is introducing a new reader over on their web page (one that costs another $50 at Adorama. Use this link to check it out). Since San Disk explains that this reader is for the new UHS-II cards, I am becoming more and more sure that my current reader isn’t going to work. And Chris advised me that the new card was probably going to be a lot faster than I ever was going to need in the Fuji and that I would be paying a lot of money that would not be put to good use. He recommended instead the Lexar (my current brand) 600x card, assuring me that it would make the Fuji sing in those three-shot brackets. And that it would save me money (that 32gb card costs just $43 at B&H. I even received free shipping on my order. A link for that card is here). The Lexar card writes at up to 90 MB/s and writes up to 45 MB/s. Now, that doesn’t seem to compare with the high numbers of the UHS-II cards … but my rationale is to buy what I need to effectively accomplish the job at hand, not to spend more for specs I just won’t need. Chris and I had a good, detailed conversation. And I also believe that if I am smart enough to ask for expert advice, I should be smart enough to take it.

I’m not a tech expert. But I have shot enough to believe that if I begin using a card more than twice as fast as my current one, the three-shot brackets I take in raw will write fast enough in the Fuji to satisfy my needs. I wasn’t dissatisfied previously; I simply saw a noticeable difference that I wanted to reduce. The 600x card will handle that chore, and it will do so at a reasonable price. I shoot some action shots in continuous mode, but that is not my main concentration. Perhaps if I was exclusively a sports shooter I would try out a UHS-II card. But barring that, I am going to enjoy the money I saved today. And continue using my current card reader. Let me know if you have a different experience with your X-T1 … and what kind of shooting you do the most.

It’s Friday. Enjoy the weekend … camera in hand.

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The Wapiti Strap On The Fuji X-T1: A Review


We received our Wapiti Strap yesterday. It is ideal for the Fuji X-T1.

I have posted previously about a product highly recommended by my dear friend (and legendary photographer) Bill Fortney. And when Bill speaks well of camera gear, I (and many, many others) pay close attention. This one is no exception.

The product is the Spike Strap by Wapiti. It is hand crafted from strong nylon webbing and tanned elk hide, good looks going hand-in-hand with excellent construction (form follows function, as American architect Louis Sullivan wrote back in 1896). The elk hide rides on your shoulder, providing a soft cushion between the strap and you. It absorbs perspiration, and its natural texture keeps it securely on your shoulder (regardless of what you are wearing). It feels suede-like to me, promising to soften even more with time and mold to your form. It looks good; in my case making the already good-looking Fuji X-T1 look even more handsome.

The Spike Strap is made for this small mirrorless camera. The webbing is thin enough to complement the size and design of the camera, but strong enough to remove any fears of a falling camera. It attaches with the usual threading through clips that all these systems use, and it attaches most securely. I have no fears whatsoever about it failing. The sewing is neat and even, with attention paid to detail. This strap is well-put-together. It feels right to the hand; it looks good on the camera.

My wife and I attached it to the Fuji and adjusted it to a length that felt right on the shoulder and around the neck (there was plenty of strap to adjust, and you actually can order any length you want if you want something really long). We tried it on the shoulder with several different coats and sweaters of different materials. The non-slip factor was evident with all. Time, I believe, is only going to make that trait even more effective. Plus, Bill has had this model strap on his cameras for quite a while now, and he has experienced the same thing. ‘Nuff said.

I can tell this a camera strap that a photographer, someone who appreciates cameras, came up with. And that a craftsman puts together. I recommend this one highly; it seems ideal for the smaller, lighter systems we are seeing more and more of. Wapiti also makes more substantial models designed for larger, heavier cameras. You can see them and all the various details by using this link to Wapiti. The prices are reasonable for a hand-crafted product that will long outlive the life of your camera (and one that looks this good). The Fuji X-T1 is a camera that deserves a strap such as this one. Your camera might well deserve the same.

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Fuji X-T1 Comparison Shots: Jpeg And Raw

Selfie 2
Click on the old-fashioned selfie to see Fuji X-T1 comparison shots.

Yesterday was warm and sunny here in Bloomington, fine for taking some test shots with the Fuji X-T1. I wanted to see any differences between the Raw files and the jpegs we have been shooting. I was anxious to get them into Lightroom and Photoshop to see what I thought (and could do). Sue and I walked a portion of the downtown B-Line Trail, trying to stay out of the direct sun and harshest light. I shot with the so-called kit lens, the 18-55. And I say ‘so-called’ because the lens is sharp, very sharp. I have no quarrels with it and can recommend getting it with your X-T1. Today was not an artistic day; the light wasn’t great, and I was interested in comparisons. It was an instructive day.

The camera processes bracketed jpeg shots quickly, even with a medium-fast SD card. I could see a noticeable slowing down when I bracketed Raw shots. I definitely recommend the fastest card you can afford if you want to bracket your shots. I wasn’t dissatisfied; I just could see a big difference in the writing-to-card times. The controls on the X-T1 are easy to get used to and to use in the field. Fuji has done a good job in laying out the buttons and dials; the back of the camera and the menus are simple and quick. No complaints from me on that score. I shot from a tripod. I would not have needed to at all. This camera is well-balanced, and it sits well in the hand. I just am used to shooting off a tripod – habit, I guess. The auto focus was fast and accurate all day long. I only had one set of three bracketed images that weren’t in focus. That set was my fault … I was trying to make the camera focus on a wide expanse of painted door with little texture or change in pattern. I was asking a bit too much on that one. Overall, everything I have read in various reviews about this camera is true – it really is a fun camera to shoot.

The jpegs that come out of the X-T1 are sharp, with quite a bit of headroom for tweaking. I left all the settings for jpeg images on their defaults. One thing I noticed was a very slight tendency to overexpose in the brightest of conditions. I should have watched my blinkies just a tad closer. But every camera will do that in the conditions we faced today. There is nothing to worry about here – I just needed to manage my exposure a bit better. I am strictly a Raw shooter with my Nikon; if I shoot jpegs I will need to get back in the habit of watching my histogram a bit closer. Part of that also resulted from a lack of chimping today – I was shooting and moving, not spending any time reviewing images before moving on. Don’t blame the Fuji for that.

Processing jpegs in Lightroom and Photoshop CC is quick and easy. In fact, being used to processing Raw files, I probably over-processed some of the Fuji’s jpeg shots. I think I should trust the camera a bit more on that score, and process just the basics without getting cute. Fuji color is most pleasing; I just didn’t know when to stop on a few of these. Once again, blame that on me. Some habits are hard to break. I had to download Adobe’s latest Camera Raw beta to process the Fuji Raw files. It may have a couple of bugs in it; my computer crashed a couple of times. And the files took a great more work to get them where I wanted to go than did the jpegs. Now, of course, you are saying. True; but I think I had to work a bit harder than I am used to with Nikon Raw files. And part of that was I tried to get the Fuji look, because I actually like the way the X-T1′s jpeg files look. So I was trying to emulate a look a bit more than just pleasing my eye – maybe that added to the time I needed to spend on each shot.

There is not as much headroom with the Fuji files as there is with my Nikon D800 … no surprise there, since the Nikon packs a walloping 36 megapixels inside. But I was used to that fact, and I had to tweak a bit more and a bit differently to get where I wanted to go. It wasn’t difficult, just different. There is a small learning curve here for me with this new system. I like going into Lightroom for a lot of my first processing and then over to Photoshop. I’ll be glad when Adobe add the X-T1 to the Lightroom arsenal. But files are files; Raw is Raw. I’ll get a new workflow going and speed up with a bit more practice.

I like the Fuji’s jpegs – no doubt about that. I can see that in most conditions it is going to be the file form I turn to. The processing is quicker and easier. The results are beautiful, and they can be tweaked in Photoshop for any finishing touch you like. The Raw files may be reserved for some situations when I just am not as sure of myself as usual. I have to admit – I liked not having to spend a lot of time processing the jpeg files while still enjoying what I ended up with. I am going to run some more tests, but I have no reservations in recommending shooting in jpeg with this camera. It does its job.

Click on the image at the top of the page to see the comparisons I did. I wasn’t sure what I was going to discover today. What I found out was that the Fuji is a very capable camera that is fun to carry and fun to shoot. It definitely has a place in my camera bag.

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Searching For Elkinsville With The Fuji X-T1 … A Scouting Trip

Elkinsville

We found the marker, not the town. Click on the image to see more photos from our scouting trip.

Saturday was bright sunshine and get-out-of-the-house time. We grabbed the Fuji X-T1 (did I say, “We?” Make that, “Sue grabbed the Fuji ….”) and a Nikon D800 and headed for the mythical Brown County town of Elkinsville. I say ‘mythical’ because the tiny hamlet was flooded years and years ago when the Army Corps of Engineers built and filled Lake Monroe. Elkinsville now sits under many, many feet of water, its residents long ago evacuated and resettled. But there are rumors and internet reports of some abandoned and still-standing buildings somewhere out in the woods surrounding the lake. And that is a siren call to photographers who love textures and peeling paint and buildings from past eras. So we set out to see if those rumors were true.

I found an internet report that gave directions to finding those old buildings (click here for a link). I even did a bit of research on the little town’s history, finding it rural and poor prior to its demise back in 1964 (click here for that link). We set out with high hopes, anxious to get outside after the brutal winter we experienced this year. And the trip started off well, with lunch at Story (a favorite stop when traversing Brown County’s back country roads). Sue used the Fuji to photograph inside the old inn, and I hope to share some of her images with you soon. In a nutshell, the X-T1 handled the low light exceedingly well – literally no noise even when shooting at 3200 ISO and great color renditions even in very low light conditions. Then we headed off for Elkinsville.

You know you are headed out into the countryside when the directions tell you to keep driving past the No Outlet sign just past Story. And the road goes from paved to gravel … then gravel to dirt. And when you make a wrong turn and drive to the end of that road – and I do mean the end (the road stops and some forest begins. Period). And you do that twice, with the roads in that area just ending. But we finally asked for directions – look for someone working on their car in the yard to make sure the person knows the area well. We were on the right track, directed to the old iron bridge that signaled where we would begin walking. But we were a bit concerned that our guide said he never had seen any buildings in that area, even though he was a hunter. Hmmmm ….

The bridge was unspectacular when we found it (you’ll see what I mean if you click on the photo at the top of the page). I was hoping for something more akin to the old bridge near Yellowwood that we found last summer – no such luck. And shooting it from the side didn’t help. No photo to be had here, fellow adventurers. So we ran out of road and set out on foot, still following our directions. At this time of year it was not a pretty walk … brown, barren and uninteresting. Now, don’t get me wrong – it was a most enjoyable afternoon being outside and in the sun. There just wasn’t much to shoot right then. We slogged through lots of mud and soft terrain for about a mile or so. Nothing changed; nothing looked promising. We finally gave up and admitted at least a temporary defeat – no Elkinsville.

On the way home we looked for things to shoot. We began with the Elkinsville marker we passed on the way to the bridge and trail. There is one old abandoned house nearby, quite probably a relic from the town. And just a stone’s throw down the road is an older barn, looking also like an Elkinsville survivor. The light wasn’t great, but we shot both. They are interesting, but not spectacular in any way. Would I go back to shoot them in better light? Probably not; there’s not much that stands out here. Then we looked for barns and buildings on the way home. We saw a couple that we would like to go back and get permission to photograph … in better light. It is not a target-rich environment. We shot because we were there and because we wanted to share with other photographers what Elkinsville has (and hasn’t) to offer.

Oh, yeah … the Fuji. Sue loves this camera! And I was thinking how much I might have loved it while we were making that mile-in, mile-out trek past the bridge. My bag, with its D800 and D3 backup and selection of lenses, was more-than-heavy by the time we made it back to the truck. On the other hand, Sue was loving the light weight and compact form of the X-T1. Advantage, Fuji. I carry a heavier tripod to stabilize the bigger Nikons. Sue’s lightweight tripod complements the smaller X-T1. They make a good pair, and an easier-to-carry pair. On a long hike? Advantage Fuji. I only got to take one 3-shot bracket with the Fuji (someone else was using it all the rest of the time). The shot was a jpeg; my Nikon photos all were RAW. When I processed them on the computer I was impressed with the Fuji’s color and sharpness. The jpeg image was quick and easy to process; it looked good from the get-go. The Nikon files took a lot longer to process, with a lot of steps to get where I wanted to go. But I could go in any direction I wanted with full confidence that I could crop and massage and tweak to my heart’s content. Those big files give me a lot of headroom, a luxury not as apparent with the Fuji. Advantage Nikon. And the sheer size of the Nikon file allowed me to crop if I needed to with near-impunity. I like that freedom.

I shot all day either in a five- or seven-shot bracket with the Nikon. I’m not wed to HDR processing, but I like having those extra exposures just in case. The Fuji gives me a maximum of three shots in a bracket, one stop apart. I know I can do a manual set, but this advantage (for speed and convenience) goes to Nikon. I like setting up the Nikon to always show a review of the current shot, one that automatically shows me any blinkies (blown-out parts). I have figured out how to do that with the X-T1, but it is a two-step process. And the second step gives me a smaller (less than full screen)view of my photo. Advantage Nikon. Color? Fuji really does attract the eye, even for me as a dedicated Nikon shooter. Resolution (as in sharp detail)? Toss a coin … both systems have some great glass, and both are capable of bring out the best in those lenses. Both are easy to shoot with; both are more-than-capable for the vast majority of us.

Would I be comfortable ditching my Nikon system for Fuji? No, not really. The D800 is an amazing machine. My good friend, Raymond Jabola, told me once that with the bigger cameras you just have to make the commitment to carry them. You like the features; you like the images; you make the mental effort to use them. I am used to the Nikon way, if you will. I have an open mind, and there are many, many things I like about the Fuji X-T1 and its lenses. I am headed out this week to shoot the Fuji more and more. It may be that I become used to it enough to carry it more and more and more. I’m just not sure yet. But I love the results I am seeing, and I love the shots Sue is taking (she has a lot more of them than do I). She is sold on the X-T1 as her go-to system. And we have discovered there is nothing wrong – and a lot right – with owning both.

It was a great day spent outside shooting with my lovely wife. Not much to show for it photo-wise, but that is not the end-all of shooting these days. What is it they say? A bad day shooting beats a good day doing most anything else? Saturday was that kind of day.

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Really Right Stuff L Plate For Fuji X-T1 Six Weeks Out

X-T1

RRS’ L plate is still four to six weeks out.

Yesterday I spoke with Emily at really Right Stuff. I trust their products so much that I wanted to preorder an L plate for the Fuji X-T1. I figured being an early bird might ensure getting one of the first ones. I still think that way, but Emily advised they didn’t have one of the cameras in house yet. WPPI just ended out in Las Vegas, and apparently they were in line to pick one up there. Then it is a four to six week process for the first orders to be produced. So we are a ways out from the first deliveries.

Sue and I have a small RRS plate left over from her Canon G11 (that is no longer with us), and it has been pressed into use for the time being. It is not ideal (we have to remove the plate to change batteries), but it is rock solid (as are all the RRS products). Emily advised we all can follow them on Facebook for news on X-T1 items, or we could subscribe to their newsletter. Info on the L plates will be posted there (as in when preorders will be accepted). To sign up for the newsletter (worthwhile in its own right), click here and go to the bottom of their Blog page. Sign up today and be among the first to receive news on X-T1 items.

The weather has recently made a turn for the better here. The next few days are forecast to be near or above 50 degrees. We are planning a photo outing to shoot the heck out of the X-T1, a new place with some old buildings. This is a scouting trip to see if the site is worth a full-fledged group outing in the future. Hopefully, it will turn into a worthwhile shoot while we are there. In any case it should give us some more impressions to share with you soon. We also are taking along a Nikon D800; it should be interesting to compare the files from these two. The D800 is arguably the big-kid-on-the-block in the DLSR world. The Fuji will have its work cut out for it.

It’s Friday, and the weekend beckons (a much warmer one than recently). Get out and enjoy it … camera in hand.

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Do You Have To Be An Experienced Photographer To Shoot The Fuji X-T1?

X-T1

Don’t let the X-T1′s looks convince you that it is difficult to use.

We have had the X-T1 for five days now, long enough to get a good feel for how it handles and what the files look like. My wife has been wearing it out, taking photos and comparing them with the look of our Nikon images. So tonight I asked her if we were going to need two X-T1′s? “Only if you want to shoot with one,” she replied. I guess that rather neatly sums up what she thinks of this new addition to the family.

Sue is not an experienced photographer. By that I mean she did not grow up with a camera in her hand or a dedicated photographer in the family. She took occasional snapshots with a variety of point-and-shoot film camera over the years, but she didn’t become interested in shooting until I became serious about seven years ago. And even then she just began shooting a bit because we were going to some beautiful locations, and she tired of standing around while I was taking photos. We bought her a Canon G9, and then a G11. She got better and began sitting in when we attended His Light workshops with Bill Fortney and Jim Begley. Her first DLSR was an entry-level Nikon D5100, and she really began learning the basics of exposure and aperture at that time (only a couple of years ago). So, she doesn’t have a lot of experience in shooting, especially with various types of cameras. And I wondered – was she going to have trouble with the format of the X-T1? In a word … no.

Neither one of us owned film-era SLRs. So when the X-T1 came we weren’t taken with its looks because it reminded us of what we used in the past. Far from it, we are digital camera babies. The camera just looks good on its own, its engineering and design are stand-outs. It catches your eye … and holds it. This camera isn’t selling so well and becoming so popular because of an on-going retro craze or fad. If you like well-designed products of any kind, you will be drawn to the X-T1. It is a looker.

If you are at all intimidated by looking at the dials and buttons on the top of the camera, thinking you aren’t going to know how to use this kind of setup, relax. Sue didn’t grow up shooting camera styled like this. I sure didn’t. And it has been quite easy to get used to and to shoot with. If you read my post from Tuesday you saw our learning curve – me reading the manual and Sue diving in head-first. That first morning she was asking me question after question about how this worked and what that did (she never has read the manual except for a few specific pages). By the afternoon she was shooting shot after shot in all kinds of conditions and comparing them to the results she had been seeing with the D5100. Truthfully, she did it without a lot of help from me – she learned by just grabbing the camera and shooting. It is that easy to get used to the retro-style X-T1. Don’t be scared off if you are not an experienced shooter. If you are interested in the Fuji read the reviews on its performance and if it suits your style of shooting. Don’t make a decision based on a fear of dials or buttons.

The Nikon D5100 is smaller and lighter than the D800 my wife has been used to recently. The Fuji is lighter yet, and a lot smaller (especially when you add in the lens factor). She loves those facts. Her experience has been with larger cameras – you might think the smaller Fuji would require a getting-used-to-it period. Not at all. It felt right to both of us from the very beginning. If you worry that a smaller camera can’t feel right or be easy to handle, relax. My only advice would be to consider the optional battery grip if you have larger hands. To us, the smaller size is a plus – easier to pack and easier to carry.

The X-T1 looks different from your bigger DLSR. And subconsciously you might be thinking it has got to be slower or clunkier or whatever you have in mind when you think back to film cameras. It is a modern, up-to-date, pretty much state-of-the-art digital camera. If you are not very experienced and think you need to be shooting whatever bigger camera your friends shoot because that is what modern DLSRs look like … relax. My dear friend and mentor Bill Fortney is a legendary photographer, a legendary Nikon shooter. And he is shooting (and making gorgeous images) with his Fuji X-series cameras and lenses now. Why? Because he says they give him the best results he ever has gotten. Think of that statement – a legendary photographer, a Nikon Professional Services rep for many years – shooting now with Fuji gear because of the quality he demands. My point is: if you are in the market for a new camera or if you just are interested in the Fuji X-T1, don’t be put off by its size or looks or buttons or dials. Experienced photographer or brand new shooter, this camera is worth a second look.

My wife has fallen in love with the X-T1. She could be a model for any newer photographer who wonders if the X-T1 might be a good fit. Trust me, we have learned that experience has nothing to do with making a decision. What you need to do is get one in your hands to see how it feels. You need to see one and appreciate the layout and design of the controls. You need to read up on the camera’s strengths and weaknesses (no, its not perfect), and see if it matches up well with your style of shooting. If it does, this truly may be what you have been looking for. If it doesn’t, look elsewhere. I am really beginning to appreciate how easy this system is to carry around. I like the fact that many of the lenses (tack-sharp lenses) are many, many dollars cheaper than their Nikon and Canon counter-parts. And the quality of the files is top-notch.

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest fads of any kind. Cameras and photo gear are not exceptions to that rule. So you have to step back and make sound decisions on your purchases, making sure what you buy is right for you and your style of shooting. At this point I’m going to give you what is just my opinion – mirrorless systems are not fads. More and more, Nikon and Canon are going to see clients quietly drift away from them and into the Fuji/Olympus/Sony arena. If you are a new or inexperienced shooter, don’t let the fact that you are scare you away from considering these lighter systems right now. The Fuji X-T1 is a perfect example of what I believe is going to be a lot of the future when it comes to camera sales. Take it from my wife. If you can ………

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Day Two: Learning To Shoot The Fuji X-T1

The image above represents the day my lovely wife and I spent learning more about the Fuji X-T1 … and more about our styles of learning (even after 38 years). When the camera arrived late Saturday I spent time carefully looking it over, becoming familiar with all the parts and Fuji’s nomenclature. On Sunday I continued reading the manual and testing out what I was reading on the camera. We passed the camera back and forth between us, admiring how it looked and how it felt in the hand. It is most stylish, with good looks to boot. We both admired it – Sue more from an overall feel perspective and me more from what I was finding out as I played with the features. Then yesterday morning I did a bit more reading up on a couple of features I was learning more about and trying them out on the camera, while Sue took the camera and made a bunch of shots for herself. The photo she took of me with the Fuji was toward the end of the morning.

What I would do is take some shots and tell her how I liked or appreciated the feature I was using. Then she would take some shots and tell me the camera wasn’t working or that she thought it wasn’t a very good camera at all. I would ask her what she was trying to do, and then I would tell her why that particular effort would be impossible for any camera (e.g., hand-holding for a shutter speed of two seconds and expecting a tack sharp image). Then she would correct that and tell me how much she liked the sharpness and color of the resulting shot. Or she would say that focus peaking doesn’t work and that the camera wouldn’t do what it advertised. Then I would say it had to be in manual focus mode, and she would tell me what a cool feature that is and how much she liked it. Then she would say it wouldn’t bracket three film simulations at once … then I would tell her the mode dial had to be in bracketing. Then she would tell me how amazing it was to be able to do that. And so on …….

Eventually she told me yet something else that wouldn’t work and took the photo featured above.

Sue has gotten wonderful advice and encouragement from two dear friends when she was learning to shoot her D800. Both Richard Small and Raymond Jabola encouraged her to stay with it, learning the features of that camera as she needed them. Both are terrific photographers; they make shooting seem easy. So she just picks up a camera and starts making images, learning what she needs as she goes along and not worrying about all the rest. She shoots the same way … seeing a scene and capturing what she wants as a whole. I study the manual; I pick and fiddle while learning all the dials and buttons. I like to study a scene, figuring out the composition I want according to all the rules I have safely stored away in my mind. I now need Richard and Raymond to call Sue and encourage her to keep shooting with the X-T1.

Actually, the point of our experience is to encourage anyone considering an X-T1. This is a camera that has all the important stuff at your fingertips. It is a camera that is pretty easy to learn and pretty easy to shoot (with the same caveat each of us should remember when shooting at anytime with any camera – good technique will beat more and more expensive equipment every day of the week). Frequent practice and use are important for any piece of gear – know your equipment well enough so that you are not continually thinking about buttons and dials, but rather your mind’s vision. An example: Sue has a Nikon D5100 as back up to her D800. The D5100 doesn’t get used very much, since the D800 is such a beauty. So when she got the Nikon out today to shoot some comparison shots between it and the Fuji she had to learn again some of the D5100′s features. By the end of the day she was handling the Fuji quite efficiently.

The X-T1 has some great features that are going to be extremely useful once I get them muscle-memory down pat. When doing macros and close-ups the focus peaking is an aid that I wish Nikon would have given us long ago. I actually can see with a lot of certainty exactly what I have in focus and what I don’t – throughout the entire frame. Bracketing film simulations gives me different looks without going into post processing to see what I might like the most for any given scene. The Fuji color renditions are truly pleasing to the eye (at least to my eye). This little camera could really grow on a person.

Now, is it going to replace the D800? Nope. That camera sits at the top of the DLSR heap for many of us. Is it going to replace my backup camera (a Nikon D3)? The magic 8 ball says, “Most probably.” The D3 is a great camera, even though it was introduced back in 2007. It makes great images. But I can tell this little Fuji does also – and gives me more resolution (16 megapixels compared to 12) in a smaller, lighter package. Continuous shooting? Just about equal. Color rendition? Fuji makes a very strong case for itself. Good lenses? Fuji’s lineup gives Nikon a real run for its money. I’m still shooting and evaluating and learning … but, as good and reliable as the D3 is, the X-T1 is one heckuva camera.

Stay tuned. We are not done learning and testing. The weather has to get better and more conducive to shooting at some point in the near future. And that will be the final arbiter, where the rubber meets the road as my good friend Bill Fortney tells me. How well can the Fuji X-T1 compare with the D3 (and how close can it come to even the D800)? I am anxious to see more and to shoot more. But I can tell you this much for sure … it is a lot of fun in finding out.

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A D800 Shooter Tries Out The Fuji X-T1

I’m not a particular fan of the way Nikon does business these days, but I am a great fan of their D800 DLSR. It makes beautiful (extremely large) files with all kinds of room for cropping when I don’t get it right in the camera (yes, that is all-too-frequently, I admit). I am prone to shooting on a tripod, a heavy one. I shoot rather slowly, I suppose, being careful to think through what I hope to accomplish. The D800 suits me … most of the time.

But there are lots and lots of times when I don’t get the shot I want, the one I see in my mind. And most of the time it is because that bulky D800 with its relatively heavy lenses is home on the shelf. I head out to do whatever and think I should grab the camera to take advantage of whatever the day offers – only to decide its just too much trouble to carry that (quite) heavy camera bag or decide on one particular lens to stick on the D800. So I run off without a camera and regret it later. And I bet I am far from alone in that bad (and lazy) habit. What is a poor photographer to do?

Enter Fuji’s latest small camera triumph, the X-T1. It is mirrorless, small and light. Easy to grab and go, even if you grab a couple of lenses in a small bag. Its 16 megapixels and renowned Fuji color give the files a most pleasing look, one that Fuji has been known for. It fits in the hand, sort of nestles there to wax more poetic. It just feels right for what I call normal-sized hands (I am a nine in glove size, if that helps). The X-T1 looks cool; it draws you in style-wise. When I removed it from the box it was a bit like the Really Right Stuff experience – you feel the quality and the engineering that went into its making. Sue and I have been passing it back and forth while we become accustomed to the dials and controls … the camera is a joy to handle. I like carrying it around (something I don’t think I can honestly say about any of the DLSRs I have owned). Fuji is getting very good reviews for its X-series cameras for some time now. The X-T1 is no exception.

I have owned a couple of MGB’s in the past. They weren’t Porsches, but they were speedy and responsive and well-built and really fun to drive. They didn’t just get me where I wanted to go; they got me where I wanted to go in a manner I enjoyed immensely. Fuji’s X-T1 has that feel to me. It also has a bit of that Really Right Stuff feel to it – solid, but not heavy. Buttons and dials that are placed where they should be (with a couple of niggles), machined to be strong and long-lasting. Just about everything a shooter looks for is well-at-hand with this camera, with unnecessary extras left out. Small and light don’t mean insubstantial. If I put this camera in your hand you would like it.

Now, as my dear friend Bill Fortney tells me, the proof is in the files. Winter isn’t ending anytime soon this year, unfortunately, and yesterday Bloomington experienced another ice-and-snow storm. It has not been a weekend conducive to getting out and doing a lot of shooting. We have been restricted to shots around the house, running through the dials and controls for effect instead of art. It has given us a good feel for the color and resolution, but I don’t have a work of art to post for you today. What I can say without hesitation, however, is that I have seen the files Bill produces with his Fuji X-E2. The sensor is the same as the X-T1, so there is no reason to suspect that these files won’t match the beautiful photos I have seen Bill take. In fact, he spent last week in St. Croix shooting with his X-T1. What he posted is what this camera is capable of … and that is a lot. As in, Bill Fortney quality images (top-of-the-line professional images). So you may rely on Bill’s results for the quality built into this camera. I will have some images of my own as the weather gets a bit better this week.

Sue and I are most impressed and pleased with this new addition to the family. Stay tuned as we explore it further and examine more closely our own photo results. It promises to be a fun trip. And what I can say for sure right now is that owning a high quality D800 has not spoiled me for the Fuji X-T1. And that says a lot, given that the big boy camera is an outstanding one in every respect. Move over, Nikon … and tell ‘em Fuji is back in town.

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Nikon (Finally) Does The Right Thing

D6001Yesterday Nikon announced they were going to service any D600 cameras that owners sent them, replacing the current shutters with new ones that are free from the sensor dust problems so publicly revealed and talked about last year and this. Finally. It took long enough. But it is appreciated. And it is the right thing for Nikon to do. But they are not going to get much credit for doing so.

Have you ever had to nag and nag someone to finish a chore that they just should have done on their own? Ever had to raise a fuss to get someone to do what they should have done in the first place? We all have been in that position, unfortunately. And how did you feel when you finally received what was due you all along? Grateful? Joyful? Overflowing with praises for that person? We all know how we really felt … a bit resentful that it took so long to get the task accomplished. And that the joy or pleasure was taken from us amidst the struggle to get it done at all. What should have been a triumph of service or thoughtfulness for the provider was lost completely in the ugly process and feelings that the whole incident engendered. Nikon is in that position now.

Nikon should have long ago publicly admitted the D600 had a problem, announced a fix, and then followed through with timely (free) service for each owner. We all know that mistakes happen. We are for the most part very forgiving people. Nikon actually would have gotten credit for being a company that provides great service and cares about its customers. Now all they get is grudging thanks from disgruntled clients for fixing what Nikon denied for way too long. I mention all this because it is not the way to run a world-wide camera company (or any company). As cameras and associated gear become more and more advanced, with each manufacturer turning out a product capable of taking great photos, customer service (hence, trust) becomes more and more important. Nikon just isn’t doing a good job of that recently; there are camera companies that are.

Click here to read Nikon’s statements on D600 repairs over on DP Review. And see if what should have been a nice gesture on Nikon’s part hasn’t turned into a customer failure.

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