#blackandwhite

So, Your Pic’s Suck? Go Micro!

Every Photographer’s had it. The Block. Writers call it “Writer’s Block”, that dreaded moment where your creativity hits a brick wall. You want, but nothing works no more. The creative flow stops & your pic’s just suck. Big. Time. So, y’all up against a dead-end? OK, so go for a walk, they say. Eliminate distractions, they suggest. You gotta get yo’self outta that rut, they tell you. Nice. But not very helpful, such generic advice. If you’re experiencing writer’s (or better photographer’s) block, or if you’re dreading getting it, I got an idea for youse right here. It works (at least for me ;-) … helps you break thru your creative constipation & lights a fire under your photography: Go Micro! Please read on to find out what that means!

“Micro” in action: Nikon’s Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 180

“Micro” is Nikon speak for “Macro”, the photography of small things below the usual minimum focusing distance of lenses around 1/focal length in cm, with reproduction ratios above 1:10 up to and including 1:1 (go further and you’re in real “micro”, larger-than-life territory). If you don’t know what to photograph anymore, or you’re stuck inside with a Siberian blizzard howling outside, taking images of things close by is a great way to get your creative juices flowing again!

Closer view, framed by Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/500sec, ISO 64

I often ponder if this or that image is worth sharing on my blog - will my readers appreciate them or are they just mediocre snapshots which don’t elicit any meaningful emotion and therefore just waste my visitors’ valuable time? With Macro photography the results can often be quite interesting right off the bat, coz you showing stuff people normally aren’t aware of. And your subjects are usually quite static, patiently “enduring” while you try out all kinda framing, composition, lighting, exposure, or angles. You actually got time to “work” your subject, see example image below, balancing sharpness and blur between fore- and background, the unsharp flowers mirroring the sharp ones:

More of the same, seen with Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/500sec, ISO 64

Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t advocating that taking Macro images is a cure for crummy photography, but it’s a great training & learning field which will also benefit your normal photography. I like the above image because it has a rich tonal range from dark blacks to pure whites, overall creating an impression of lightness thru the bright tones of the flowers’ petals

Macro flower composition, Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 64

Macro means that your depth of field is extremely limited. Even with f/5.6 as in above image you get a completely blurred background which accentuates and compliments the sharp part of the image. Also in the below image I love how this narrow depth of field and the contrast between the blurred, darker outer areas and the sharp, bright center of the image gives it a 3 dimensional quality & pop:

More Bokeh, using Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 110

More Bokeh, using Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 110

Actually I started experimenting with macro photography more by coincidence than intent: I was planning to get hold of a prime portrait lens. 85mm was a too close angle of view to my beloved 58mm, so I was flirting on the web with Nikon’s amazing AF-S 105mm f/1.4E. On closer scrutiny I found out that that one had some disadvantages: An eye-watering RRP of over 2k$ (which currently is just quite a wayz over my budget) and a minimum focusing distance of only 1m … Just a tick too long IMO (would’ve preferred 0.85 or 0.9m to get really close frame filling head portraits). Also not having VR meant it limited free-hand shutter speeds to 1/250sec

Spiked petals, captured by Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/350sec, ISO 64

So, I started to look for alternatives and found Nikon’s Nicro-Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR, with which all the images on this post are shot. This lens turned out to be a very versatile offer at an attractive price of nearly a third of the f/1.4E, with macro up to 1:1 (life-size, w/o needing extension tubes) & VR included, at a max. aperture of f/2.8! WTF f/2.8? What about bokeh? Would it be good enough for portraits? Well, please judge for y’self in below image of my pretty wife:

Bokeh portrait, with Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/4, 1/250sec, ISO 1000

Concluding I can recommend Nikon’s Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR. It is a macro lens, with very good sharpness & minimal curvature of field. It’s not a specialized portrait lens with an extreme thin depth of field. So, if youse looking for a lens delivering organic, dreamy portraits at wide open apertures of f/1.4 to f2 (like wedding photographers love), it’s precise, somewhat clinical character maybe ain’t for you. However, if you looking for a fun, versatile, high quality lens for documentary, journalistic portraits all the way up to life-size macros at a very attractive price, with vibration reduction to boot, you’ll be impressed! What do you think? If you got any questions, or would like to leave me comments please do so in the comments section below or on my about page. Thanks for your interest and for looking by, I appreciate it!

Many thanks & wish y’all a relaxing, successful photo weekend, best regards

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

A Merry (Fuji ;-) X-mas: 4 intuitive settings for your Fuji X100F!

Crazy how time flies, again one year has nearly gone by and another new year is just about to start! With this post I just wanted to thank all of youse who’ve visited by blog & put up with my ramblings for your continued support, constructive comments and interesting questions (hopefully all answered). And of course to wish y’all a merry X-mas and lots of fun & success for 2018! In Europe they celebrate the “Advent”, kinda like a countdown of the last 4 Sundays to X-mas, see below image of Advent candles captured with my beloved Fuji X100F (btw also a big thanks to Fuji for that wonderful 23mm lens with that dreamy rendering at f2!)

3 burning, 1 to go: “Advent” countdown to X-mas, Fuji X100F @f2, ACROS JPEG in LR CC mobile

Always got my X100F with me. Never leave home without her. Her name’s “Irene”. I know that’s nuts, but it is like it is. Can’t be changed. No cure. Sorry. S’funny, my X-Pro2 & my X-T2 ain’t got no names. Dunno why, they just no names kinda cameras (or they just haven’t yet grown on me as much as my X100F has to warrant gettin‘ named ;-) OK I gotta ‘fess up here, I got history with the X100 series. And no, I didn’t start with the original X100, like ever’body else seems to have ... For me it was only love at ‘S’econd sight: The X100S was what caused me to jump ship from the LeiCaNikon camp, see here and here. Never looked back since. Didn’t. Ever! After the “S” came the “T” and finally I ended up with the fantastic “F”, see below me & my “Irene” reflected in X-mas decoration ;-)

Me & “Irene” reflected in X-mas deco, Fuji X100F @f2.8, ACROS JPEG in LR CC mobile

Now hear this: Fuji’s X100F has taken the X100 series magic to a whole new level: 24mp X-Trans III sensor, X Processor Pro, and other marketing fluff y‘all can read about ad nauseam in millions of tech reviews all over the web ... But what really counts (next to the lovely 23mm lens, higher resolution, better AF and the amazing ACROS film simulation, etc.) is the result of combining all these features with the X100F‘s highly customizable user interface. This makes the X100F so special & intuitive, enabling it to truly become the proverbial ‘extension of your eye’. It allows you to manifest your vision & perception of the world around you in your images without ever getting in your way. Uncanny. Even people you’re photographing forget about it after a couple seconds (if they even notice it at all, thanks to the super stealthy electronic shutter ;-). So, as a small X-mas treat I’d like to share my favorite user interface settings with y‘all, please read on & enjoy!

Chairs. Infinitely stacked, ACROS JPEG, processed with Lightroom CC mobile

There are 4 settings I want to be able to change real fast, without moving the camera from my eye & without needing to fumble with buttons, menu‘s, etc.: Focus point selection, easy Face / eye detection setting, fast switching flash on or off (incl. its relevant settings) and simple ISO / exposure compensation. Let’s take a look (and you ain’t gonna find the tips in the second & third item anywhere else!):

  • Focus point selection - that’s the easy one, just use the joystick next to the LCD display to move your focus point to right where you want it. No more “focus - recompose” antics!
  • Face / eye detection setting - assign the “face / eye detection” function to the “down” button on the 4 way Controller at the back of the camera, then you can press the “down” button to activate this function and continue pressing “down” to cycle thru all the face / eye detection options all in one fluid motion, neat huh?
  • Switch between flash / without flash operation - assign the “shutter type” function to the “Fn” button on the camera’s top plate and set flash function setting to “ON”, “TTL” and adjust your flash compensation as required (eg. -2/3 EV, for optimal fill flash). If I then want the flash off for normal photography, I cycle the “Fn” button to electronic shutter “ES” and the flash is switched off (no flash operation with electronic shutter). If i come across a scene where I want to apply fill flash at the blink of an eye, I cycle the shutter type back to “MS+ES” (mechanical+electronic shutter) or “MS” (mechanical shutter) using the “Fn” button, which immediately again activates the flash with the preset flash exposure correction (-2/3 EV in this example). Cool!
  • ISO / exposure compensation: Last but not least, setting the exposure compensation dial to “C” and the menu item “button / dial setting“ > “ISO dial setting (A)” to “COMMAND” allows you to use the front command dial to toggle between changing ISO settings (jncl. Auto ISO) and exposure compensation by pressing it and adjusting the respective settings by rotating it. Of course this renders the nice “retro” style ISO-compensation-integrated-into-shutter-speed-dial and the exposure compensation dial redundant, but they still do look good & you can always use ‘em as back-up ;-)

See below a summary of my favorite X100F user interface settings in more detail (Fn button allocations, Q-menu and My Menu settings) for max intuitive operation:

My favorite Fuji X100F user interface settings for max intuitive operation

Of course I’d be most happy to answer any detailed questions you may have (please leave me a note in the comments section below) & wish y’all lots of fun & great images with your Fuji camera, especially also best wishes for the new year. Many thanks for looking by & looking forward to hearing about your experiences!

Best regards & merry (Fuji) X-mas!

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

How to Win Time With Fuji!

Time. The “fourth dimension“. We can’t control it. We just live in time, but can’t travel in it like we can in 3 dimensional space. Moments passed can never be revisited. They only linger as memories in our mind or saved as images taken. That’s why time’s so precious, don’t waste it! Fortunately we can choose what to do with our time. It’s a very personal choice. If you’d love to maximize your free time photographing the world around you with your Fuji, I may have something interesting for you to minimize time spent image editing. Please read on to find how to win more time with your (Fuji ;-) camera:

Wooden Bridge, seen with XF 35 / f2 R WR on Fuji X-Pro2, JPG developed in LR CC mobile

To be faster & more efficient on the image processing bit, editing your JPEG’s with Lightroom CC on a mobile device’s the way to go: You can work while traveling or waiting at airports & it syncs your image processing seamlessly with Lightroom CC Classic on your MAC/PC. Means you can continue where you left off when you’re back at your desktop! You can then happily save up RAW files of your favorite images for those long winter evenings (when the next blizzard hits ;-) to eke out that last bit of highlight detail (which eluded you on your JPEG’s) via Fine Art editing & printing using Capture One Pro on your Mac/PC. See below a schematic representation of my workflow:

I usually download my JPEG images (just ACROS Black & Whites for me ;-) to my iPad Pro via WiFi using the ShutterSnitch App. IMO better than Fuji’s Camera Remote App, but a bit pricey. For that I can automatically update images´ metadata with my copyright during import & rate / sort out the ones I want to process later before exporting them to iOŚ’s photo library. From there I “add“ them to an album called ’JPEG’. I do like this coz of iOŚ’s dorky image filing system, where all images on the iPad are dumped into the camera roll: taken images, processed images, screenshots, the whole smash - all in one big mess you ain’t ever gonna find anything in. So by “adding“ your images to a separate album (or albums) you can find them easily afterwards for importing into Lightroom CC mobile. See below some screen shots of my workflow once in Lightroom CC mobile (please click on the thumbnails to see more details):

processing in LR CC mobile

when done, select ’open in‘

& size for web / social media

in Phonto App, to

add your copyright

in your preferred format 

WiFi download? Boy, you can easily go for lunch while that’s going on (Fuji JPEG´s typically got around 16Mb ;-) OR, in case you’re in a hurry, transfer them to iPad via Apple’s SD card to Lightning Adaptor, but then there’s no automatic IPTC copyright update & no way to preview images before saving them in the camera roll ...

Ok, ‘nuff said, for sure y’all interested about what settings I use for my JPEG’s (coz choosing the JPEG route means many settings can’t be modified after the fact. I always shoot RAW/F (RAW + fine JPEG’s) to always have backups of the original files, either to experiment later with differing RAW to JPEG conversions in camera, or for more precise RAW post processing using Capture One Pro. In camera I use following settings:

  • ACROS-R film simulation (of course ;-)
  • -1 Highlight tone
  • +3 Shadow tone
  • Grain effect off (ACROS film simulation already has its own grain effect!)
  • -3 Noise reduction
  • 0 Sharpness (more sharpening in camera creates visible artifacts)

This delivers pin sharp, contrasty black & white JPEG’s with punchy shadows & smoothly gradated highlights. And they got ACROS film simulations’s amazing tone dependent film-like grain effect! Only minor adjustments in post processing are needed, if at all. For me adjusting the images’ tone curve is the most important means to create image depth and giving them a 3 dimensional look. Please also check out Patrick la Roque’s amazing article on this topic!

Apart from the s-shaped tone curve the second most important thing for me is to accentuate the sharpness - I keep the sharpening amount low but up the detail level, see below:

Fall in the Park, captured by XF 35 / f2 R WR on Fuji X-Pro2, JPG developed in LR CC mobile

So, all in all no big deal. With this simple & fast mobile workflow needing only a couple moments attention for each image before uploading to my blog and/or social media I can complete post processing in no time, during commuting or while enjoying a latte in a cafe. See another example here, shot shortly after sunrise:

Bayreuth on Sunday Morning, XF 35 / f2 R WR on Fuji X-Pro2, JPG developed in LR CC mobile

This way I can maximize time spent on enjoying the world around me & taking images! Please let me know your thoughts, or ask me via my contact page if have any further questions / need any advice, thanks for your interest & for looking by!

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Best regards,

Hendrik