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The Perfect Camera?

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My little Fuji X100 amazes me every time I use it. It’s quite an old camera now in technology terms, there have been two models that have superseded it (the x100s and the current model the x100t).

1524659_1025229974158213_5955181392400240162_nI originally bought the camera to use when travelling, as it’s compact and lightweight but very well built with excellent image quality. It was perfect for that task but it’s also great to just have with you for when a photographic opportunity presents itself.

In the case of the bee above I quickly put the camera into ‘macro’ mode and moved in close to get a few images. The bee stayed still long enough to get the shot above. I set the aperture to f4 to get the bee sharp but to completely blur the background, and I like the way that the focus drops off from the front of the allium (the allium has a dome like head so the effect is a nice, gradual blur).

An ordinary compact wouldn’t have got this shot. It wouldn’t have been able to focus close enough, and the sensors are too small to allow you to minimise the depth of field. My Nikon DSLR would have been able to do this no problem, but it’s now a question of which camera you want to carry around with you all the time in anticipation of these opportunities.

For me, the X100 is the camera I’ve been waiting years for – it’s almost perfect in every respect.

Desire Lines

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An introduction courtesy of Wikipedia:

desire path (also known as a desire linesocial trailcow pathgoat trackpig trail or bootleg trail) can be a path created as a consequence of foot or bicycle traffic. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination.

Width and erosion severity can be indicators of how much traffic a path receives. Desire paths emerge as shortcuts where constructed ways take a circuitous route, have gaps, or are non-existent.

In Finland, planners are known to visit their parks immediately after the first snowfall, when the existing paths are not visible. People naturally choose desire paths, clearly marked by their footprints, which can be then used to guide the routing of new purpose-built paths.”

Which is why I like this image. To me at least it’s not just a photo of a corn field, it’s an image of a journey.

The Kitchen Studio

A studio is just a room. It’s how you set it up that determines whether it’s a studio or not.

mgs-4853If you want an easy to access studio for shooting food and products, then you often don’t need to venture any further out than your own home. In this case I’ve used my kitchen.

My kitchen is quite useful as a studio because the ceiling has been painted white. This instantly gives me a huge light source from above, which is perfect for lighting products. I usually bounce a couple of flashguns off it, and have them on light stands high up above shooting level. This pretty much eliminates any danger of lens flare caused from stray light from the flash heads.

In this case I’ve used two flashes, just so that I can have them on half power and don’t need to worry about recycle times or changing the batteries, but a single one will do the job too.

My kitchen walls aren’t painted white, but this doesn’t matter as I’ve built a hinged tabletop out of chipboard that lets me drape over a roll of white paper for a background. I’ve also bought a few A4 white foam board pieces which I’ve taped together to provide me with some cheap, portable but very effective reflectors. I’ve also taken a sheet of glass out of an old picture frame and used that as a base in order to get a reflection of the products I’m photographing.

mg-4878WThats pretty much all you need, and the results you get are surprisingly good. There’s no dependency on ambient light at all, it’s a completely consistent setup regardless of time of day, and it can all be assembled ready to go in less than 15 minutes.

What’s also important is that because it’s so simple you’ve got consistency across different days of shooting. Images that you shoot using this ‘studio’ in January will be under exactly the same lighting conditions as those that you do in June, and this is important if you are doing work for catalogues or websites where products are continuously being added or updated over time. They should all look the same.

All in, including the flashguns, light stands, tables, paper rolls and cards I reckon you could set this up for under £200. It’ll pay itself back very quickly.

Lighting a Room

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Lighting an entire room with just a couple of portable flashguns sounds like a big ask, but under the right conditions it’s completely achievable and very simple to set up.

Especially if your room is like this one, and made up of white walls on two sides and a white ceiling. By firing a flash into the ceiling you effectively give yourself a light source far bigger than even the biggest soft box, and by opening the white wardrobe door in front of the model (out of shot but to the left in this image) you’ve got the perfect reflector. Light bounces about everywhere giving lovely soft shadows and gentle, even illumination.

A second flash was put inside the bathroom (along the short corridor to the right of the image). This was to show that there is another room along there, but also to blow out the yellow light that’s emitted from the ceiling LED light (the light has been brushed out) and make sure that the entire image is the same colour temperature.

The iPad screen can also act as a light source, simply open Word and create a new blank page and you’ve got a white LCD panel – though in this case it wasn’t required.

Travelling Companion

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I’ve recently been on a trip to Croatia, which was naturally a great opportunity to take some photographs from a new place – somewhere different from my usual haunts.

I thought for ages about which camera / lens combination to take with me. At first I was fairly settled on taking my Nikon DSLR with a fixed wide angle lens. If I don’t attach the battery grip or use a bulky zoom lens this is actually a fairly compact setup, but you would still need a bag of some kind for it, and it still is quite heavy for a travel camera.

1524659_1025229974158213_5955181392400240162_nSo instead, I bought one of these. It’s a second hand Fuji X100, and it cost me around £350 from MPB Photographic. I wasn’t sure at first whether to buy second hand, but the worry and guesswork is pretty much taken out of the equation if you buy from a reputable dealer.

I think that it was the best decision I ever made with my photography, and the little Fuji has quickly become my favourite camera. It’s solid, well built, easy to use and takes beautiful quality images (as good as a DSLR). That fixed 23mm lens is a real beauty, and I found the lack of a zoom wasn’t an issue at all.

You can also pop a leather cover / case on it and then pretty much chuck it anywhere – so in a bag, over your shoulder etc. This makes it so easy to carry around but available at a moments notice, which is an absolute necessity when travelling.

Here’s a quick gallery of a selection of some of the images from my trip, all of which were taken on the X100.

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