photo technique

The Little Wonder Lens, the Fujifilm 55-200mm

As a committed Fuji X photographer, who is never shy about spreading the word about this gear, I hear a lot of nonsense how some people think it cannot deliver pro-level quality images. Hogwash! This system nails it. The lenses are sharp, contrasty and sturdy. The bodies, the same. The sensor provides excellent color and images with depth. Not depth of field, that's different, I'm talking about that special extra sauce once reserved for that particular German camera maker. Yeah, you know the one. Think red dot.  

Last night in Pittsburgh we had some crazy beautiful light just after sunset. The afterglow was an insane, super orange. I don't know the physics behind it, but dang, was it amazing. I only know this because about this time I had to go out on an emergency ink run for my Epson. So off to Staples I went, trying to get in just before their closing time. As I snaked around the back way, I saw two deer in a field less than 300 yards from my destination. I had a choice, take pictures, or get ink. Pictures won. Always. As I've said many times before if you always carry your camera you never have to go out looking for pictures. You react. That's what I did. 

I slowly pulled over to the side of the road and carefully opened my door to not disturb the pair from their evening dinner. I pulled my camera, an X-Pro2 and attached the 55-200 zoom. I call this my walkabout telephoto. It's small, sharp, crisp, incredibly lightweight for its range, and has image stabilization. What's not to love?

The light was fading fast. Remember, this was the afterglow of sunset. I quickly changed my auto-ISO setting to #3, which for me gives a range from 640 to 12,800. Not surprising, the camera set to 12,800 to give me a shutter speed of 1/125 wide open. 

A lot of people go a bit crazy and tell me you can't work at that high of an ISO with Fuji. Why not? Is it a bit noisy? Sure it is, of course. But trust me, it's a LOT less noisy than what we had with color film pushed from 800 to 3200, and back then nobody cared one bit. It was all about getting the image. Period. Oh sure, you'd have the occasional grain peeper, but they were nothing like the pixel peepers of today.  Now, this was a personal photograph. Would I ever shoot at 12,800 on a paid job? The answer is yes, I would, and I have. Did the client care? Not. One. Bit. I captured an important moment, one that otherwise would not live. 

I followed the two young bucks with 55-200 fully extended for as long as they allowed. Finally, I either made a noise, or they decided they no longer wanted to be watched. The pair took off gracefully up and over the hill. It didn't matter, I had my shots, and besides, it was getting dark. Even at 12,800, my shutter speed had dropped to 1/40th. I panned the camera as the deer bounced away. 

I must also mention, the X-Pro2 kept the animals in sharp focus with the 55-200 lens while I shot their portraits and their departure. Professional grade? Absolutely. 

Peek-a-boo Buck

Peek-a-boo Buck

Time to go!

Time to go!

The Beauty is in the Details

If you always carry a camera you never have to go out to take pictures. 

Coming back from YM Camera in Boardman, OH yesterday, my friend Marc and I spotted this beauty, just waiting for our attention. The old Dodge was a pallet of aging layers of paint with a patina only a photographer could fancy. Small details are my love letter to this vintage vehicle, a splendor of Detroit's auto industry, once upon a time.

I could imagine being on the open road, cruising down Route 66, AM radio blasting Buddy Holly, while the hula girl was dancing on the dash. Oh, the memories that must be in this graceful Detroit chariot. 

From a technical standpoint, I had my standard kit with me, the one I call my "Walkabout." The one I bring on most daily trips here and there, is a Fujifilm X-Pro2 body, 18mm f/2, 23mm f/2, 50mm f/2 and one of my favorite lenses, the 55-200mm. I pack the kit in a Domke 805 bag. It was the 55-200mm lens I used on all of these images. 

The circle of life – Fujifilm X-Pro2 w/55-200mm

The circle of life – Fujifilm X-Pro2 w/55-200mm

Hula girl, dancing on the dashboard – Fujifilm X-Pro2 w/55-200mm

Hula girl, dancing on the dashboard– Fujifilm X-Pro2 w/55-200mm

The Ram  – Fujifilm X-Pro2 w/55-200mm

The Ram – Fujifilm X-Pro2 w/55-200mm

A badge of honor  – Fujifilm X-Pro2 w/55-200mm

A badge of honor – Fujifilm X-Pro2 w/55-200mm

Andre and Me

To know where you're going, you must know where you've been.

I've said it before, studying the history of art and photography provides you a broader view of the world. Filed away in the recesses of your mind will be snippets. Fragments that can be inspiring, even without consciously knowing.

In the case of "Oil Platform, 1992," I didn't realize the relationship between my photograph and one by Andre Kertesz, "The Balcony, Martinique, 1972," until several years later. Are they the same? No. There are subtle similarities, yes. Do I remember seeing the Kertesz picture before I made my image? Now, yes, then, probably not consciously. I'm sure it was always there, logged in my brain, bouncing between the synapses. Maybe a spark came through that day, or perhaps I just recognized an intriguing alignment of elements – lines, ocean, shadow, clouds, and colors. But whatever it was, seeing the similarities makes a case for studying art and the history of photography. You never know when you'll find a spark.

Oil Platform, Gulf of Mexico, 1992 – Terry Clark

Oil Platform, Gulf of Mexico, 1992 – Terry Clark

The Balcony, Martinique, 1972 – Andre Kertesz

The Balcony, Martinique, 1972 – Andre Kertesz

Capture the Feeling

I recently asked an art professor how do you teach someone to put their feelings into their work. He talked about technique, methodology, and craft. Finally, after pressing the issue, he said, "I'm more process oriented." In other words, he had no answer. 

Maybe feeling can't be taught. You either have it, or you don't. I'm not convinced that's true. Everyone has emotions. Finding them, holding them, and allowing them to flow through you and into your vision takes practice and courage. Allow them to flow like water. Be genuinely a part of the scene. Immerse yourself in the moment. Allow yourself fall in love, shed a tear, smile, feel the joy, or the pain. Just be part of life. Until you can transmit that emotion to your images, they will be just shallow records of shadows.

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