A few Snow Buntings have made the onerous journey from the Arctic to Crow Point, North Devon. Today there was a harsh frost, temperature minus four, so they may have wondered why bother? Nevertheless a brilliant clear, bright morning, with wraiths of mist gently rising off the River Taw and Torridge estuary and frost lying white, coating the dunes with tiny ice crystals. Then typical of this Biosphere in a few moments, a sharp, freezing wind kicked up and the landscape changed from blue to grey as a heavy mist rolled in from the sea. The surf, at low tide, some half a mile away.. invisible, yet still heard, loud, Atlantic waves, at least ten degrees warmer than the air, the cause of this pea souper. Out of the gloom, random and abstract, a runner, miles from any where..
Then we saw the Snow Buntings, squat, fat little creatures, hunched against the cold, feeding on frozen seed heads in the short Burrows grass. Flitting suddenly to another station, a flash of white and they are gone.
Overlooking the wild Atlantic coast it is never easy to forget the savage beauty of the ocean or the calm sunset of a still day.
For a while I have been focussing on other photography projects but this evening I slung the lovely old Fuji Xpro 1 over my shoulder with XF18mm attached and set off along the sand. Dusk comes slowly here in North Devon. The light hangs in the air, there is a glow, cast from the sand and the sea, reflections of gold and blue. Today not a cloud in the sky, a faint mist already drifting across the sand-hills, everything calm. Around me feeding on the shoreline, Oystercatchers and Egrets, Sandpipers and Sanderlings. The haunting cry of the Curlew echoes across the River Taw. Sometimes it is awe inspiring, sometimes you have to look out and look up, how can this magic be here for me, yet others, far away suffer oppression and tyranny? So for today I whisper a quiet thank you.
Here in North Devon, U.K. the days are drawing in, full moon and high tides are upon us. So here are a few shots taken this week before the sun retires for a while….
A couple of days ago I undertook a new shoot for Clive Bowen, one of the U.K’s most respected Potters. Clive’s wonderful ceramics are made from local North Devon red clay, thrown, decorated and wood-fired in a huge traditional bottle kiln. The resulting pots exemplify the materials they are made from, with deep earthy green, gold and black tones and floating etherial trails of slip. Studio pottery was essentially born from utilitarian table ware. Objects to contain food or liquid, to store or eat food from. So here are some of the images which are intended to celebrate both the ceramics and the food.
Fuji X Pro 1 with XF 35mm 1.4
Raspberries, Devon clotted cream with pie, on slipware dish
Fuji XE2 with XF 60mm
Lunch in the studio [Fuji X 100 series]
For we coastal dwellers mountains are austere, cold and forbidding places that block out light and have no familiar rythm. I live overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Here, our life is bounded by horizon, tides, and sunsets. We see giant storms come through and watch wonderful and wierd cloud formations. We get lonely and lost away from the sea.
But I know for others it is different. You see mountains in their cool isolation as wondrous and mystical, you play on them, climb them, and ski their icy sides.
As photographers we choose to take images of what we love best. Recently travelling over the Alps we stopped and gazed in awe at lofty crags. But for me I was not content until I saw, at last, a glimpse of the sparkling Mediterranean. So there it is. You Fuji lovers take the best images with the best cameras. Let us have more Mountains and more Ocean.
FujiX Pro 1 with XF60mm
Storm gathering at Instow
a busy day at westward Ho!
The Fujinon XF60mm was one of the first three lenses made by Fujifilm for X_Series cameras. Always regarded as super sharp however it was initially criticised for slow autofocus and excessive focus hunting. Lens and camera firmware updates have now transformed this little beauty into a superb portrait lens. Having a little more reach than it’s big 56mm brother at 2.4 wide open it is admittedly not the fastest in the Fuji stable. No image stabilisation either, so beware those with shaky hands. For these trade offs, in return you get very nice colour rendition, [and now] smooth and pretty fast focussing, a classic focal length for portraits and the ability to get as close as you want to your subject. Oh, and here in the U.K. it still can be found at about half the price of the Xf 56mm orXF 90mm.
Shooting natural light with a slowish lens can be a challenge especially in low light or murky conditions. For the two shots I use as examples I had aperture set to wide open at f2.4, auto iso with minimum shutter speed set to 80, auto dynamic range, +2 sharp, noise reduction set to minimum and Classic Chrome film simulation. I set my young[ish]subjects opposite a single window as light source, partially controlling the light with a blind, the background was red. I wanted to capture catch light in the eyes and asked them to look directly into the lens. I used area metering but underexposed by two stops using the exposure compensation dial. The first image was taken at 200 ISO at 80th sec. and the second at ISO 500 and 80th sec. Both processed as jpgs. in Lightroom 6. I am grateful to my glamorous assistants for allowing me to show them, without brushing out their beauty spots!
Here is a brief post describing some ideas for editing Fuji files in Lightroom. I have included Nik pack plugins too. Sometimes a little colour works well for street photography as demonstrated by this lovely lady. Here she was decked out in matching red sandals and spotty bag, pulling along her little dog while pushing a giant pram. Shot with Fuji X100 with the brilliant 23mm lens, stopped down.
So first we have the out of camera Jpg file imported into Lightroom with no adjustments. Looks fine to me but lacks a little impact and contrast which reflects the gloomy light in which it was taken.
Next I opened Analogue Effects pro plugin, adjusted detail, contrast and saturation sliders in camera 3, included a little grain, turned off scratches etc then added a little spot adjustment in her face area. The resulting image was saved back into Lightroom. For me this image seems to be a reasonable representation of a 1970’s Kodak analogue snap.
Despite my belief that colour works best for this image, in the interests of black and white fanatics I next edited the original jpg file in Silver Effects Pro. I used high contrast smooth camera setting, added detail and a little brightness using sliders, increased white and improved tonality using curves. Then again I used the spot adjustment to add detail to her face and scarf. The vignette was already quite sufficient in this setting.
Nevertheless being a Lightroom aficionado I usually prefer to edit my own images rather than relying on others interpretation of the scene I shot. So my normal workflow is to reduce exposure slightly, add a little contrast and adjust white and black sliders, then highlights and shadows. For this image I decreased clarity, added a touch vibrance and a little saturation. Then added two gradient layers in top left and right adding some exposure and a tad saturation. Next I used the adjustment brush to add some exposure to her face, some clarity and improved skin tone a little. Finally I added some grain and a little vignette. The final image looks pretty strong and I like how the red tones in her bag attract attention. Comments welcome!
Anyone who believes wedding photographers have it easy better think again. Last weekend as a wedding guest I took my Fuji XE2 along, with XF 60mm attached and for lower light, the XF35mm 1.4 in my pocket. The official wedding photographer had two huge camera bags with bodies and lenses bulging out. He arrived early to shoot guests as they came into the wonderful arena at 1.0pm and left at 4.0am the next morning having shot around 3000 frames. Our conversation went like this. ” Oh, for Goodness sake, what’s happened to the light, O bloody hell, I will have to change this lens, Oh Blimey, which is the brides Dad? where have they all gone now, Ahhh. ? ” and so on. It was a wonderful overcast start to the day, saturated light but plenty of it. No shadows all straightforward metering. Then the harsh sun broke though, reflections off the lake where the ceremony was being held, white bridesmaid dresses, Ah, I could see him sweating. He is kneeling down on the wet boardwalk as the bride arrives. Sun goes in, his shutter is chattering. I guess he knows only his first shot will be in focus and properly exposed. Later we discuss how he can martial 150 guests for a group shot and where he can stand to capture the shot. Next, one huge marquee .. how do you get a decent white balance in there when the sun is in and out like a yoyo? Two hours of food and speeches. He never stops ! By now kids are all over the place, the adults are several fizz, pimms and vin rouge the worse for wear. The place is chaos. We have quick word about Fuji cameras and tracking moving subjects. Light has gone and so has everyone else, down to the dance tent with two fire pits burning, strobe lights flashing spots gleaming. And so it continues while our photographer, who by now, has thrown in his lot with the rest of us flashes off random shots while dancing to Sex Machine.
In contrast I took 140 frames all jpgs, every one was beautifully exposed even with the varying light conditions. The XF60mm lens performed flawlessly, never hunted for focus and all the shots were amazingly clean and sharp. Later on I switched to the XF35mm, let the camera do it’s own thing and again all my images were bang on. Here are a few of my favourite shots processed in Lightroom 6 .
Here in North Devon, where the cool Atlantic ocean meets the green combs of Exmoor, two broad rivers run into the sea. Either side of the estuary stretch mile after mile of yellow sand and dunes, a protected area, where sheep and ponies on one side roam and the other where nature takes it’s fine course. And spanning the broad river Torridge a great bridge, twin to the ancient one that has existed for ten centuries at Bideford port, the Little White Town. If you should rise early one morning, when the sea fret is drifting along Bideford Bar and make your way alongside the Tarka trail, you will find the mist spread across the bay and river.
Well, it isn’t often there is a freebie, so I took advantage of Google’s offer to download the complete Nik collection which includes.. Silver Efex Pro and Colour Efex Pro plus others. . These work as a Lightroom 6 plugin and seem to do the job. Here is a link
This is a quick edit of Instow Quay taken on a gloomy day, some grain and glamour glow added, taken with the brilliant Fuji XE2