Soul Intention: Funky South West Soul band

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The Pier House at Westward Ho! last night was rocking to the sounds of funky new band Soul Intention.

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Chris, the raunchy male lead vocalist piled it on and Terry, lead female vocals wowed the audience with sublime soul oldies.

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Soul Intention has  an eleven member line up of experienced  and professional musicians who have come together under the stewardship of Trevor Davis who lays down the bass line.

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A five piece horn section keeps the groove running while Tom lets rip on lead guitar. Drums and keyboards compliment the ensemble.

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Superb arrangements by Tony Oreshko..   Never stop dancing ..  the audience could not get enough.

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The event organised by Bideford Lions Club helped to raise funds for the wonderful Children’s Hospice South West .. with thanks to Braddicks Holiday Centre, Westward Ho! for providing the venue.

Ceramic product shots with Fuji X Series

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.

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Fuji X Pro 1 with XF 35mm 1.4

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Raspberries, Devon clotted cream with pie, on slipware dish

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Fuji XE2 with XF 60mm

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Lunch in the studio [Fuji X 100 series] 

 

Fuji Jpegs versus Kodak Gold 25 years on.

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25 years ago on Sanibel Island, Florida I took some fashion images. A few days ago I caught up with the lovely model, Barley, and sugested we re-create one of the shots.  So here is is on a dull day with our U.K. yellow sand, shot with Fuji X Pro 1 and XF35 1.4 lens.  Well, I did my best but Kodak Gold sure has a great look ..

 

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Coast versus Mountain: a fujifilm Quest.

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.

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FujiX Pro 1 with XF60mm

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Storm gathering at Instow

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a busy day at westward Ho!

Analogue versus Digital: the believe in film syndrome.

The tail end of the fifties we had the Everly Brothers, Bill Haley, Elvis and Buddy. Then the sixties. The first album I ever bought was the Rolling Stones, then the Animals. I loved jazz, and Ray Charles and Dave Brubeck. I loved Dusty and Dylan, then I loved Joni and James Taylor. I saw Neil Young play Wembley and I saw Jethro Tull, Deep Purple and Yes. Never saw Bowie or Nina Simone much to my chagrin. Yep, I dug Punk and John Peel too, Oh, and Peggy Lee and Soul and Blues.  I photographed a girl sitting in sunlight and later, married her.

Stay with me .. You will soon understand where this is going..

Girl sitting in sunlight

During the early seventies I worked in a very posh hifi shop. Our sole aim was to perfect the sound experience. Customers spent literally thousands of pounds searching for high fidelity, the best deck, the least hum and hiss the best suppression, the biggest woofer, or the lightest stylus. We craved this impossible perfection, dreamed music, had albums lining our walls, dusted them lovingly wiped them clean, double wrapped them when putting them away, played them and cursed the crackle and pop of analogue recordings, compared tape and stereo, dolby and four way sound.

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We loathed cassettes but played them in our cars because although they sounded crap compared to 8 track they were smaller and worked better. Anyway my 8 track caught fire in my Ford Cortina mk 2.

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Through the Seventies we surfed and danced and traveled a little. I forget the Eighties, think music was boring,  anyway,  my family was growing up.

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The nineties brought cd,s blimey, they were neat.  They sounded tinny compared to my old albums and not so warm, but they didn’t scratch much. Anyway what is hifi when you listen to music in the kitchen? Screw it , I embraced digital, chucked out my Yashica slr, downloaded or ripped all my albums to mp3 bunged them on an ipod and never looked back..

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And so with photography. This nostalgia for film is reciprocated in the resurgence of pressed plastic albums. Maybe I am being controversial but can’t we now re-create digitally pretty much every film emulsion ever used.? Every Photographic web site or blog I follow and there are loads of them , is offering realistic film simulations or analogue looking presets.  Some of the images here were taken years ago and some taken yesterday, with one or other of my Fuji X series cameras.  Without cheating and looking at the Exif data,  can you tell?

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All social media offer their own brand of clever filters that add grain and scratches to age the image. One of the reasons I Stick with FujiFilm is because their filmic jpgs look so great. Sure, like so many of you, I developed and printed my own negatives, burned, cropped, cut, pushed and experimented, in fact just like I do now in Lightroom. But when I contemplate this wonderful digital world we live in, I don’t really get that we view the images we say we love made on film with obsolete ( yet still fabulous ) cameras, on a screen! This means the image has been scanned, ok so it might look like an analogue photo. But essentially it has been rendered into binary code, like everything else we see online on our Macs and PCs.

I still love music, I still love my wife.

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I still love photography and still believe in film.  But I do love digital too!

Natural light portraiture with the Fuji XF60mm

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!

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Editing Fuji .jpg files in Lightroom 6

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

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Silver Efex Pro and Nik collection now free

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

 

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The Fuji XE2: Quirky little monster

Getting used to any new camera takes time.  I should know, I have had enough of them over the years, ranging through Olympus, Yashica and Pentax. But after using the Fuji X100and XPro I am now firmly fixed to the FujiFilm mast. The X100 series are just brilliant cameras, simple, elegant, beautifully constructed with such a retro feel.  I believed the XE2 would be a logical update to my kit along with the XF35mm lens. So here is my real world review, a week in Venice, with the Fuji XE2

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From the Bell Tower, San Giorgio Island

There are a couple of points I should make straight away. If like me you normally wack in a usb lead to connect up your macbook, then you need to buy a new micro cable, It isn’t supplied.. I know you can plug in the memory card easily.. so no problem really. And battery life is seriously disappointing, they are a different size to X100 series and use a different charger.  To preserve power as long as possible I have the camera set to electronic viewfinder only. The EVF is simply wonderful, clear and bight with no lag as far as I can tell. But with this prescribed you are destined to look at all your settings through the viewfinder. There is no quick way back without scrolling through the menu.  Another point: silent mode is not silent. I don’t know why I was expecting no shutter sound, similar to X100, but there is a distinct,  quite pleasing little click. Bear in mind in silent mode nothing bleeps or chings, but you can’t use flash or focus assist.

Here I am ready for a week in Venice. Lightly packed, one camera, one lens, one iPad.  The XF35mm lens is gorgeous. really fast, really sharp, well made and nicely balanced on the XE2.  I also love the square, flat hood, it looks great. The 50mm equivalent is what I grew up with, whilst aspiring to fast, wide angle primes I could never really afford them.. hence I stuck with,  what back then,  was the standard lens.  So I was intrigued to see how XE2/35mm combination would fare in the bright shimmering light of Venice, how it would manage both street, landscape and architecture.

Towards the Lido

Towards the Lido

In preparation I have created four pre-sets, the first using Classic Chrome, auto ISO, auto DR, sharpness -1, NR low and so on. Plus three others with different film simulations, one for black and white and low ISO. I like the Q menu, although it doers seem a little counter-intuitive. I am pretty sure Base is not the first, most commonly used setting but the setting you are currently using, so hitting base does not take you back to setting one. Instead you have to use the scroll wheel. Well, over a few days I selected base, thought I was shooting in Classic Chrome, tuns out on uploading images all in ProNeg, at ISO 200. Ah, well, the shots look great anyway.

The quiet back waters

The quiet back waters

I have also set up my function buttons,  face detection, film simulation, raw, and exposure mode. I found over the week that I missed focus several times,  just getting a red stop light instead go green go.  Failing to lock on focus seemed random, and was not particularly in low contrast scenes.  I enlarged the focus area by a couple of steps and this definitely helps to improve focussing performance. Re-composing the shot was never a problem, but a couple of times I missed what I thought might be a nice street image.  The XF35mm was stunning and I loved being able to get in close.  I controlled exposure almost exclusively with the compensation dial and usually under exposing by half a stop preserved detail in the shadows and prevented blown out highs.

San Marco at 8.0a.m.

San Marco at 8.0a.m.

Managed to capture this image as the Gondolier fended off the wall.  Didn’t nail focus, I know,  I thought I was shooting in auto ISO which would have bumped up the minimum shutter speed.  I also forgot to use facial recognition even though it was on a function button.  Just not used to it, but Crikey! when I did use it, superb.

Fending off the wall

Fending off the wall

So I was pleased to take some raw images. yep, press the Raw function button, shoot away. Nice clean viewfinder display no information just me and the subject. Hmm, best not, better to display as much information as possible I now feel, in retrospect, because rather stupidly pressing the Raw button takes one shot and then reverts to jpg/fine. Absolutely no problem ‘cos the Jpgs are really rich and well rendered.  Pixel peep all you like with this lens, every image is bang on..

Just looking

Just looking

Before setting out I downloaded the FujiFilm App which works like a dream. The WiFi connectivity is amazing, looking at what your lens sees through the iPad is brilliant and  having more or less full remote control is going to come in handy some day. I also uploaded the day’s photos over Wifi to the iPad. This took only a second or two to set up and the transfer was almost immediate.  It meant immediate access to Social Media, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram in my case. The first shot I tweaked was the header image for this page. I know the water looks pretty green, but the light in Venice is translucent, green, reflective, bright.. so I think the white boats against a green ground is effective.

The next image is a heavily cropped shot of a Ballet Dancer model undergoing a shoot just off St. Mark’s square.  The shadows, contrast and colour exemplify what this lens/camera combination can handle.  A really frustrating idiosyncrasy of this camera is the inability to hit the play back button and turn on the rear screen. I hate chimping but sometimes it is nice to show a subject what you are doing.  With this camera, ridiculously, you have to scroll through the menu in the viewfinder to re-selct LCD

Shadow Dancer

Shadow Dancer

As primarily a landscape photographer,  I found the XE2 to be perfect too in an enclosed street capacity.  But Venice demands shooting at dawn and dusk, when it is quiet and the shadows come out to play.  No complaints then, with any of my images.

Sunset over Guidecca

Sunset over Guidecca

Finally here is the lovely model Molls, which shows, for me,  the XF35mm is no slouch in the portrait field either.

Contemporary Living: model, Molls

Contemporary Living: model, Molls

One of the things that has really impressed me about the XE2 is the manual focus mode with highlight peaking. Using my vintage Pentax K mount lenses with a Fuji XF adapter is superb.  Yes, I have even shot with a fifty year old 58mm Helio  lens and had lovely results. No stabilisation though so remember to use the reciprocal of lens length for shutter speed as minimum.  To wrap up: I love this quirky little monster. We are still getting to know each other.