Travel Photography

Street Photography in Vietnam pt1

In April I went for a two week trip to South East Asia taking in Singapore and Vietnam.   This is an edit of  blog posts I wrote for the photograd blog during the trip.   I have come back to them and added some detail and retrospective thoughts.  

The Road from Lao Cai to Sapa winds its way steeply through the mountains. The hairpin corners are tight and the traffic is chaotic.  Huge trucks trek up the mountains delivering supplies to the villages and resources for the construction boom currently overtaking Sapa. On more than one occasion our driver attempted to overtake a lorry that was overtaking another lorry, whilst dodging vehicles and/or buffalo coming the other way.

Photo 02-04-2018, 02 43 04.jpg

 

After 5 hours in the minibus we arrived in Sapa.  On first impressions the town itself appears a strange mix of Vietnamese town and a European alpine resort. There is even an old alpine-style church in the main square. We didn't hang about as we grabbed a taxi to take us 10km to the village of Ta Van.

Roads, distances and timings are a loose concept in this part of Vietnam, especially when you are using google maps to find your home stay. Some of the roads marked on the map are little more than paths wide enough for a motorbike (definitely the best way to get around). As such our taxi driver kindly drove around in circles trying to find our accommodation before realising that the road shown on the map was a footpath. After a couple of phone calls to our host we were dropped off and they came to meet us and showed us the rest of the way.

Photo 02-04-2018, 02 34 00.jpg

 

If traveling in this area I would recommend staying at least one night in a home stay in one of the villages. There are quite a few in Ta Van village. The principle is that you stay with a local family in their home, although some of them operate more like b&bs. They are a good additional source of income alongside growing rice, rearing livestock and making handicrafts. Our home stay, Lazy Crazy Homestay, run by John and his friends, was a quirky place, with great views over Ta Van, rice fields and bamboo forests. It was a great place to begin exploring the local villages and countryside.

In Ta Van there are plenty of local guides that will take you on a hike, and most homestays and hotels will organise them too. We decided to walk without a guide to the next village and explore the small paths that led through the rice fields and village outskirts. The H’Mong tribes that live in this area are really friendly and as long as you are respectful, no area is off limits. Some of the tracks we followed led directly to people's homes but nobody bothered that we were there and there would always be a friendly face to point us in the right direction.

Photo 02-04-2018, 07 24 26.jpg

 

Whilst in Ta Van I worked on a project exploring the Vietnamese legend “Why Ducks Sleep Standing on One Leg”.  The legend goes that in the beginning there were four ducks who only had one leg. They were jealous of the other animals with two legs so reasoned with the creator to give them a precious extra leg. To prevent their new legs from being stolen they hid them from view at night and all the other ducks followed this believing it to be the way it should be. The legend speaks of the Vietnamese attitudes to the land and agriculture, which I am hoping the project will also reflect.

Photo 02-04-2018, 02 43 44.jpg

 

After Ta Van we spent a couple of days in and around Sapa town. The town is often covered in cloud and mist which makes for some interesting images. At night the fog, the building work and the neon lit signage lends the town an eerie feel.

Photo 03-04-2018, 12 57 49.jpg

Again I shot almost exclusively with the Ricoh GRII. The small form factor meant that I could carry it all day whilst trekking.  The camera also held up well even with the moist atmosphere.  I wanted to keep consistancy with my images so shooting with the Ricoh allowed me to do this with its fixed 28mm lens. 

Amsterdam with the Fuji X100F

Back in September I had the chance to visit Amsterdam and the unseen photo festival. When deciding what to take on the trip I decided it would be a good chance to try out my new Fujifilm X100F. I knew that I would be doing a bit of street photography and the X100F is well suited to this. Having previously owned the X100S I was familiar with the layout and design of the camera and knew that the form factor and image quality would be fine for this sort of trip. 

I'm not really one for writing technical reviews, so if you want to get the low down on the specs of the X100F I'm sure a quick internet search will give you what you need. Briefly it's a cropped sensor camera with a fixed 23mm f2 lens which equates to a 35mm in traditional terms. The camera has the same 24.3mp sensor that is in the X-pro2. 

24da6-img_0654.jpg

Because I was doing street photography with the X100F I decided to try out the manual focus feature and shot the whole trip in Manual Focus and using the classic chrome film simulation. I did shoot RAW + JPEG but all of the images here are the out of camera jpegs with a little tweaking in Lightroom. 

I like to use manual focus when shooting street photography as it allows you to zone focus which I find quicker than the AF once you are used to it. On the Fuji X system there are a couple of tools that make it easy to manual focus. Firstly there is the focus peeking which allows you to have a coloured overlay that shows you what is in focus. The second useful tool is the distance scale, this shows you what distance the focus is set at, say 1.5m, and also gives you a rough zone focus calculator which gives you an indication of the zone that will be in focus. 

As in all big cities you can find great pools of light reflecting off of glass or metal. As the sun was setting it was being reflected into this shopping street by a glass building at the end of the road.
As in all big cities you can find great pools of light reflecting off of glass or metal. As the sun was setting it was being reflected into this shopping street by a glass building at the end of the road.

One issue I found whilst using the Manual focus is the system of the fly by wire focusing. Instead of a traditional mechanical focusing mechanism the X100F has an internal electrical focusing system which is adjusted by the focusing ring on the lens. This is ok, but it has some quirks and limits the accuracy compared to the traditional focus systems. 

The focusing works by turning the focus ring, but with it being electronic it does not have a fixed position or hard stops, meaning you can keep rotating the focus ring even once you have reached the end of the focus range, it also makes pre judging focus positions impossible because there is no physical indication on the lens. This means that you have to look at the distance indicator, either in the view finder or the screen, to check where your focus is.  The electronic focusing also is a bit of a pain because it is reactive to how the focus ring is turned. If turned slowly the focus will adjust in micro steps, if turned quickly by the same amount the focus will skip by a greater range.  This sometimes makes it difficult to react quickly to something, because my focus would be on 2m and I would quickly try to change to 1.5m and the focus would over shoot. It just means I have to keep an eye on the distance scale in the viewfinder. With a mechanical focus set up, in a Leica, for example, I can set the focus at 2m and remember the position for 1.5m and can quickly flick between them without having to pay attention to the scale. 

I would be interested to see an X100 style camera with a mechanical focus mechanism with a distance scale a bit like what Fuji did with the 23mm f1.4. It would make the camera a bit bigger, but a bit more useable in this situation. By the end of the trip I was beginning to get the hang of it and was getting faster with changing the focus accurately. 

ec42e-photo22-09-20172c080320.jpg

I enjoyed getting to know the X100F, the image quality is a major step up especially from the X100S. General performance is boosted, it just feels that little bit faster to respond particularly on startup and flicking through the menus. It has already found some use on assignments especially when I need to be a little less intrusive. The leaf shutter also helps with this as it is silent. 

Amsterdam itself was a fascinating city full of life and an eclectic mix of people. It was a great place to wander the streets and hundreds of canals and rivers help to give it a different vibe to some big cities. I would definitely like to go back and explore the city in more detail. 

More Images

4bfd8-photo23-09-20172c101106.jpg
41eaf-photo22-09-20172c132438.jpg
08c17-photo22-09-20172c075733.jpg
3d117-photo23-09-20172c161544.jpg
853f7-photo23-09-20172c122625.jpg
bb9df-photo22-09-20172c145000.jpg
7329a-photo23-09-20172c083154.jpg
837e7-photo22-09-20172c171017.jpg
d5d1a-photo23-09-20172c083819.jpg
df120-photo22-09-20172c171418.jpg

Photo Essay: Ski 101

At the beginning of April I went to Austria for a weeks snowboarding, unfortunately a problem with my knees meant I spent more time photographing than boarding.

It was my first time at a ski resort and I was amazed by the levels man has gone to enabling us to go down the snow on sticks and boards. The infrastructure was quite something. Taking a cable car to a remote mountain plateaux only to find a plush restaurant at the top. I decided to explore this a bit and spent the week exploring, on foot, the slopes above and around Mayrhofen. 

As I had planned on doing snowboarding for most of the trip I had only brought my new Ricoh GRII which I had picked up at the photography show in Birmingham. The camera is small and compact with a fixed 28mm equivalent lens. I might do a review further down the line once I have used it a bit more, but this first experience was very positive. The camera has great image quality, but is very pocketable and unassuming, drawing less attention than a DSLR. 

Ski 101

Thanks for reading.

Random Roll #1: Tri-x 35mm

Welcome to what I hope may become a new blog series. I have a large number of used rolls of film lying around and I thought it might be interesting to get them developed and share what is on them.  Now I have to say, the pictures are more than likely a bit rubbish as most of these were shot quite some time ago, mostly when I was just starting out. I still shoot film occasionally, so some newer stuff will creep in, but hopefully we should see the difference. 

Originally I was going to show every frame on the film, just for reference, but as some of this film is really old some of the frames are just a bit pointless to show. I have also discounted anything that is just technically rubbish or a wasted frame (finishing the roll type of shot). I don't know how many of these I will do or how often (film dev is expensive!), but I will do my best to make it semi regular. 

The Film

The first film is a roll of 35mm Kodak Tri-x. This was a popular film amongst photojournalists back in the day, due to its versatility and robustness. It can be pushed quite a bit and still produce interesting results. The grain gives the film a great texture, which is lacking in a lot of digital files. VSCO presets do an "ok" job at replicating it for digital files, but nothing quite beats the real thing. Tri-x was popular with Sebastiao Salgado, which is why I began using it when I started in photography. 

I couldn't remember using this film, but as it was with some film I have shot over the last couple of years I assumed it was probably used it around the same time.  The film was processed and scanned at PEAK imaging. It was my first time using them and the processing was fast and looks pretty solid from the negatives. The scanning was a bit pricy.  I went for the basic process and scan which was £7.96, this is ok, but the scans are only around 3mb files (6mb when open in Photoshop) which seems a little low res, and only really useful for web use and 6x4 prints. 

On receiving the film back I was amazed to find that was actually a roll of film I shot on a trip to South Africa in 2008! I thought it had been lost years ago, so it was a nice surprise.  Around this time I had begun to get into photography in a big way and was probably my first long haul trip where I had photography in the forefront of my mind, although I was still very much the amateur at this point.  The trip was tagged onto the end of a University field trip to a game reserve in the north of South Africa. Three of us then flew down to Cape Town to carry on the adventure.  

I took my digital kit with me, but I also took a Minolta film SLR with me (exact model escapes me). My dad had picked it up from a charity shop, so we weren't too sure if it worked. This is the only roll of film I shot on that camera. 

The Images

So onto the images. They were all shot in and around Cape Town, South Africa. Most of the images were shot in the Township of Khayelitsha, with a few general shots of Cape Town docks and Robben Island.  Its interesting to see where I have developed over the interim period, but there are a couple of images that I would probably be happy with if shot today.   

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Young Girl, Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Cape Town, South Africa 2008

 Cape Town, South Africa, 2008

 Travelling companion, Rick, taking time out, Cape Town, South Africa, 2008

 Travelling Companions, Rick and Judith, Cape Town, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

Thanks for reading, any feedback or comments drop me an email or leave a comment below. 

Macedonia with the Fuji X System (Picture Heavy Post)

I've been meaning to write this blog post since I came back from Macedonia last year, but life got in the way.  The other reason for the delay was that I worked on a documentary project whilst I was there and I wanted to complete that body of work before posting any of the Macedonian images. The project I worked on will hopefully be ready for viewing in a month or so, but in the meantime I thought I'd present a selection of images that don't fit in with the project but that I liked. I have included them in this post along with some information on travelling and photography in Macedonia with the Fuji X cameras.

I don't like writing too much about gear, but the experience of travelling with the Fuji X system is great. I remember when using Nikon that my travel kit used to weigh around 10kg. It was cumbersome and wasn't exactly subtle. Now my travel kit fits in a small bag and weighs around 2kg at most.  At the time of this trip my kit was the Fuji X-T1, Fuji X-E2, Fuji X-100s, Fuji 18-55mm, Fuji 55-200mm and Fuji 35mm f2. I ended up using the X-T1 and 18-55 combo for most of the trip.  The 18-55mm kit lens is super sharp and well worth keeping in your bag.  It's sharp enough to be a main workhorse lens, with only the construction letting it down a little. 

Sian and I didn't know much about Macedonia before travelling. We chose it as a destination because the flights were cheap and it was somewhere we hadn't been before. The country is in the Balkan region and borders Greece, Albania and Slovakia. Macedonia was part of Yugoslavia and still has plenty of communist influences, however as it makes a push for full membership of the EU it is increasingly looking to Greece for inspiration. There is some dispute with its neighbour, as Greece does not recognise the name "Macedonia". The name comes from an Ancient Greek region that geographically may not have been where current Macedonia sits. History is also disputed as Macedonia have claimed Alexander the Great as one of their heroes. He came from the ancient region of Macedonia. The formal name for the country is The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, I will be referring to it as Macedonia for simplicity. The clashes of influences makes for an interesting mix of architecture and culture, especially in the capital, Skopje. 

The public transport in Macedonia is ok but limited as it basically centres around Skopje and the lake resort of Ohrid. There were parts of the country that we were hoping to visit that were a bit difficult on public transport so we decided to hire a car. Driving in Macedonia is really easy and the roads are wide. Some of the mountain roads were a little tight, but most of the time you could fit two cars through. Although you do miss things whilst concentrating on driving, it was really nice to be able to pull off the road and stop any place we saw something interesting. 

 Sian waiting patiently in the car whilst I photograph satellite dishes.

Lake Ohrid

Despite the name, The lake and town of Ohrid is a really beautiful and relaxing place to be. Most flights from the UK fly into Ohrid as it is the main holiday destination in the region. The lake itself is one of the world's deepest and oldest lakes and when looking out it feels more like an ocean. Its a lovely place to relax and take in some of the culture of the region. Apparently in the summer it can get incredibly busy, but in early May it was pleasant and not too hot. The town itself is not huge and has its fair share of usual tourist shops and cafes, but with a bit of exploration you can uncover some lovely areas. For street photography it will probably keep you busy for a day or so. There are plenty of trips around the lake and you can even take a ferry into Albania. We didn't do that on this trip but I am hoping to go back. 

SKOPJE

After three days enjoying the Lake we collected our car and drove to the capital, Skopje. We took the scenic route through one of the mountain ranges and stopped at a few places along the way. I was a bit concerned about driving through the mountains but it was very easy. We stopped at the St. John the Forerunner Bigorski Monastery in the Mavrovo National Park.  It was a beautiful setting although the light was a bit rubbish for pictures. It was quiet and tranquil, again I was thankful for my Fuji gear that allowed me to photograph quietly in this situation. 

St. John the Forerunner Bigorski Monastery

On arriving in Skopje we promptly got lost. The road of our Airbnb had a similar name to a road 2 miles away and we spent ages on the wrong road trying to find the flat. In the end we stopped and asked directions from some people looking at us curiously. Luckily for us they spoke good English and helped us contact the guy at the Airbnb to find out where the flat was located. They offered to drive us to the location, so we set off in convoy and when we arrived they helped us with introductions. We were touched by their kindness.

Throughout this trip it became apparent that the Macedonian people are very welcoming and friendly. Most will stop and help you if needed.  At one point, in the latter stages of the trip, our car became stuck in a low ditch. Luckily the first person to drive past stopped to help. He spoke excellent English and we tried to move the car with no luck. In the end it took 8 of us, a tractor and a lorry to move the car (surprisingly there was no long term damage). All in all about twenty people stopped to help and offer support. My only regret was that I didn't capture the moment on camera. 

The entire city of Skopje appears to be in the process of being renovated. Many of the soviet style buildings, especially in the centre, are in the process of being replaced with more ornate ones that are Greek in style. Lots of faux marble pillars and multiple statues, all recently erected. It makes for an interesting back drop.

Just before we arrived in Skopje, there had been protests over Government spending. The protestors had thrown paint at the newly installed monuments to protest the expense. The action was effective at bringing attention to the protestor's concerns and the paint-splattered statues added another dimension to the city, even for people unfamiliar with the city's politics. No protests took place whilst we were there, although we did notice the police presence at times. 

Skopje is surrounded by mountains. Mt. Vodno overlooks the city and has a large cross on the top which lights up at night. You can take a cable car up to the top of the mountain for a closer look at the cross and great views over the city and the surrounding landscape. It is quite an interesting structure and we spent a couple of hours wandering the top of the mountain. Strangely there were also few bedraggled cows up there. 

After Skopje we made our way back to Ohrid via the winery at Popova Kula (well worth the cost, we stayed the night here) and a stay at Villa Dihovo near Bitola. I would recommend Villa Dihovo as base to explore Bitola and the surrounding mountains. Its a nice little lodge which operates a pay what you feel policy. The only thing that has set prices is the wine (made at their own winery). All the food is homegrown and organic. It was quite the experience and worth an excursion. You get welcomed in by the owners and really made to feel at home. 

When we first arrived there, they were having a family day and a group of musicians were during the rounds from house to house in  the village, which of course I had to capture. 

My experience of photographing in Macedonia was a pleasant one. I have heard that in some rural parts people are suspicious of photography as some believe it steals the soul. I did not experience any issues. Shooting with the Fuji system helped as it is pretty unassuming and not as threatening as a full DSLR kit.  I also think I capture more intimate moments with the Fuji because I always have it with me, where as with a DSLR I may have been tempted to leave it at the hotel on some occasions.

I would recommend Macedonia to anyone, it is a beautiful country with a diverse landscape and enough interesting places to visit. The people can be a bit cold to begin with, but are helpful and welcoming ones the ice has been broken. English is not widely spoken outside of Skopje and Ohrid but that is to be expected and it is easy enough to get by. For me the best thing about Macedonia was that there were not huge amounts of tourists. We quite often found ourselves the only people in a museum or on a mountainside on a nice sunny day. It felt like an easily accessible adventure. 

Please get in touch to ask any questions or share your stories in the comments. 

More images

Finally an obligatory selfie in a wing mirror.

Morocco Part 4: Remaining days and the Sahara

If you want to catch up on the previous instalments check them out here

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

The remaining 5 days of the trip was a blur of Taxis, coaches, trains and 4x4's as we made our way from the mountains to the Sahara via Ouarzazate. I quite liked Ouarzazate, it was a relaxed city, which was certainly more chilled than Marrakech. From here we booked a driver to take us to the Sahara and the big sand dunes, known as Ergh Chebbi. 

The journey took us via a Kasbah (ancient, walled, palace) at Skoura, the Dades gorge and the Todra Gorge.  The scenery was amazing and all the different landscapes were really interesting. Unfortunately time was at a premium. 

 Kasbah at Skoura, Morocco

 

We spent the night at a village near the Todra Gorge. Here we went on a wander and came across a strange museum, which turned out to be a carpet shop. There seems to be a big movement in Morocco to develop and promote women's "cooperatives" and this museum was one such operation.  You very quickly begin to question the validity of such "Cooperatives", they sometimes seem to be run by men, and like this one, they bring out an old woman to demonstrate how they make the rugs, then whip her off again. Its all a bit strange.  

I had been to the Sahara once before whilst in Tunisia, but on arrival at Mazouga I knew this was something else.  Arriving at the camp, where we would be spending the night,  we were greeted with views of mountain like sand dunes and a beautiful lake. It was worth all the travelling to get there. One thing that was a bit of a shock was the freezing temperature at night. I wasn't quite prepared for it being so cold. We had a tent and luckily we were given 5 extra thick blankets, but we still had to sleep in all our clothes and jackets. The following morning there was thick frost over the campsite and on the dunes.  Going for walk at sunrise, the sand felt like cold water as it flowed into your shoes. 

The previous evening we went for a camel ride through the desert and climbed one of the tallest dunes to watch the sunset over the desert. It was a beautiful sight, even if the climb did nearly kill me (note to self, must get fitter). 

The last couple of days of the trip were spent mostly relaxing. It was an exciting journey and would certainly recommend travelling to Morocco at this time of years, its not so hot and there are less tourists. 

 The road through the Dades Gorges.

This last image is another stitched panorama of Ergh Chebbi. This was stitched from 6 images in photoshop. 

 Hi res image can be seen  here

Thanks for reading, any question on travelling to morocco or about the images please get in touch. 

Morocco Day3: The road to Imlil

Today was mostly about getting from Marrakech to Imlil. The journey is only about 2 hours, but it is hard to believe the difference in atmosphere and landscape. The hot and dusty city is replaced by fresh mountain air, refreshing temperatures and beautiful snow capped mountains. It seems more Eastern Europe than North Africa. 

On the way to Imlil our taxi driver stopped at a town called Tahnaout, which was having its weekly market. It seems ever harder to find the authentic Morocco, but this was certainly as close as it gets. The market sprawled out up a small hill and was full of amazing smells and sounds. Unlike the fakery of Marrakech this was local people selling stuff to local people.  In between people selling odd shoes and radio spares there were tea stalls and meat vendors. I only spotted one other pair of tourists the entire time we were there. If you are ever in the area on a Tuesday I would recommend checking it out.

Once in Imlil we had time for a walk around the village and get acclimatised.  We are planning a walk into the mountains tomorrow, which should be exciting and breath taking in equal measures.  

Morocco Day 1 and 2: Marrakech

Normal 0

false false false

EN-US JA X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-ansi-language:EN-US;}

I arrived in Morocco on the back of a time of upheaval. To be honest the last 6 months has been an extended period of moving and relocating and this had left me a little jaded.  I was in a bit of a creative funk and coming into land I was a bit anxious. Was I going to be able create something?

My first afternoon was just spent acclimatizing myself and reminding myself what a great place Marrakech and Morocco is. The smells, the sights, the sounds, it is a unique experience.  The evening buzz of the Djamma El Fna is amazing and you really can’t help but get drawn in. The street performers were in good voice and the food stalls were serving up amazing looking culinary delights. Marrakech has really developed into a tourist destination behemoth, and this has made it increasingly difficult to photograph in. 

I got up early the next morning to photograph as the sun rose. I knew that there would be fewer tourists and more locals just getting on with things.  Due to my funk, though, I was not as confident or creative as I wanted to be and I struggled to really capture anything approaching a decent photo. Even at this hour everyone is wary of the camera and as there were no tourists around I stood out. I was told not to photograph a motorcycle leaning against a wall, before being moved on. On the bright side is was really pleasant just wandering around at that time, people watching without the hassle of later on in the day.

As I was walking through the back end of the souks (the most interesting part, due to it mostly a local area) I was told by a gentleman “I should head back to the main square” which was back the way I had come.  He said that there was a “terrorist market” the way I was heading and I wouldn’t want to come across that.  When I pressed him about this he changed his conviction “There maybe a terrorist market, I don’t know”.  No doubt he wanted to guide me back to “big square” resulting in a good number of Dirahm being passed his way, so I ignored his advice and carried on in the direction I was walking.  I never came across a terrorist market.

The afternoon was spent seeing some sights as the sun was quite high and the light was very contrasty. We visited the Bhadi Palace which is the temporary home of the MMP (Marrakech museum for photography and visual arts). They had some good work on show from Eve Arnold.  They are currently building the new museum, which will become the biggest in Africa dedicated to photography and the visual arts. I will be interested to visit it when it is completed.

In the end I accepted that I just wasn’t on the ball photographically and enjoyed the rest of the day walking around the city and tried not to beat myself up over it.

I was hoping to do this blog on a daily basis, but the Internet can be a bit sketchy at times, so it will be more as and when. I am travelling up to the Atlas Mountains to a town called Imlil, so the next blog post may be a bit slow coming. 

 Lady walks through the Souks, Marrakech

 Bhadi Palace, Marrakech

The Photography Show, Birmingham - A quick report

On Sunday I headed down to the Photography Show in Birmingham.  Plenty of good gear on show and lots of interesting stalls to see.One such stall was the guys at USB2U. They produce customised USB memory sticks, with an impressive selection of styles and materials.  All printed with a design of your choosing.  The wooden products, especially,  looked amazing and would certainly make a beautiful addition to any promo or marketing material.  I haven't quite figured out how best to use them in my marketing strategy, but they would be perfect for wedding and family photographers.  Check them out.

I also visited the guys Paramo Clothing.  I had heard some really good reports about their outdoor gear and one item in particular had caught my eye.  The Haicon Traveller Jacket.  I had read about this jacket on a blog post by Jacob James, and it looked like something that would be useful when travelling.  Light weight and breathable, but tough.  I had headed straight to the stall on arrival, and on inspection the jacket was all I had hoped it would be, so bought it there and then.  The rest of their gear is also excellently made and although on the expensive side, the gear is made to last and the Paramo guys really know what they are talking about.  The Haicon Traveller has brilliantly designed pockets (yes I am getting excited about pockets!).  They can take my fuji x100s with ease, which is nice for the times I don't want to carry a bag.

Paramo Haicon Traveller jacket

 

New Fuji Lenses!

There were a couple of lenses I wanted to have a look at for the fuji x-system.  The first was the new Fuji 56mm f1.2. This lens is an 85mm equivalent which has always been a favourite focal length of mine for portraits.  I already own Fuji's 60mm f2.5 which is, generally, a pretty good performer, but it is nothing special and the focusing is pretty slow (ironically mine has also developed a bit of a fault now). I didn't know what to expect, this is Fuji's attempt at high end, professional lenses for the x-system and marks the beginning of a range of high profile releases.  In the short time I spent with the lens, I can safely say, I was blown away.  Apart from the Nikon 85mm 1.4G, this is probably the best portrait lens I have used. The auto focus was snappy and accurate, build quality was exceptional and optically the lens is razor sharp.  The lens has beautiful Bokeh too, something that fuji has struggled with in the past.  The image below is just a quick sample shot using the fuji B&W jpeg setting. I apologise for the lighting and the subject matter (sorry Nigel). The Image was shot at f1.2.

Fuji XT-1, Fuji 56mm f1.2

I also had a quick look at the new Fuji 10-24 f4, 16-35 equivalent.  Not a range I would normally go too, but I though I would check it out.  I was very impressed.  It is another beautiful lens.  Very sharp and shows minimal distortion, certainly can be easily corrected.  For landscape photographers using the X-System this would be a must buy.

Fuji X-T1, Fuji 10-24mm f4

These are really exciting times if you are an X system user, they had mock examples of the upcoming 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f.28 equivalents. These along with the 56mm 1.2 really show that fuji are aiming for the pro market. Theres also rumours of a 300mm f4 equivalent coming out which should be brilliant.

Thanks for reading, any thoughts on the show or the fuji system leave a comment.

Stuck in a Rut, Shoot Film!

I went through a point earlier in the year where my photography was becoming a bit of drag.  I was working, but I wasn't really feeling it and was finding myself less and less excited by the prospect of picking up my camera for personal stuff.  With a trip to Poland coming up I faced a dilemma.  Normally travelling with my camera is one of my passions and it concerned me that I had little interest, and even considered not taking a camera at all.  I admit that it was certainly a low point in my photographic life.I had a few ideas in my head, but was not sure about them.  So I sat down and thought about what was putting me off and influencing my decision.  I came to conclusion that one of my major issues was "chimping" (reviewing images on the back of the screen).  Now I will point out that I am in now ways an excessive chimper, but I realised that recently, every time I was shooting personal projects I would review the images, not like them and get a bit deflated.  I decided to remove that obstacle.

I started looking into using film. I had a couple of different projects in mind and managed to borrow a Medium format camera and a Leica M4.  I stocked up on some film and off I went.

The resulting trip was excellent and I have not had so much fun with my photography in a good few years.  It was all so stripped back to basics. Neither camera had a meter, so I was using a hand held meter which definitely slowed me down and made me think about exposure.  The cost of film prevented me from just rattling off shots, so I stopped to think about composition.  Even my street photography was more thought out as I didn't want to waste a single frame if I could help it.  I loved it.

To be honest I was not too concerned about the results.  I had such a good time and it served to reignite my passion. Luckily though I brought back some good stuff.  Some of which can be seen in my upcoming book "Anywhere But Home" 

The following set of image were shot on the Leica, I had never used a range finder before, but I had great fun.  It is important sometimes to just do something out of the ordinary, it helps to keep things fresh and stop you from stagnating.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

 

 

Thanks for reading. Get in touch with questions or if you have had similar experiences that you would like to share.

From The Archive - South Africa

Welcome to the first in a series of posts where I revisit some of my older work. As some of you know I started out as photojournalist and documentary photographer and this work makes up most of my back catalogue. Some post will be coherent collections, but some might just be full of individual images.This first post shows a collection I took whilst visiting the townships around cape town in South Africa. Some of images were shot in conjunction with the charity that ran the orphanage featured in the collection. It was an eye opening experience and I feel grateful that I had the chance to shoot there and to listen to the stories of those living well below the poverty line. I know first hand that the townships can be dangerous places to be and I realise that I was somewhat lucky to return home without any major incident. For the most part, though, I was made to feel welcome and people spoke to me without much hesitation, offerings of beer and food was often extended and although this never quite dispelled the feeling of imminent danger it was still one the best experience of my life so far. I hope, one day, to go back and carry on documenting this wonderful part of the world.

Thanks for reading!

Maroc Part 2

This the continuation of my project on Morocco. I have travelled around Morocco a few times, visiting places like Marrakech, Fes, Meknes, Essouria and the Atlas mountains. I expressed most of my feelings towards this amazing country in my last post, so on with the images.All feedback and comments are welcome.

Shukran!! (Thanks)

Maroc Part 1

Personal Projects are important for photographers (and all artists for that matter). They give us a release from our commercial work and also offer us a form of escapism and something to aim for. Maroc is a long term project of mine, which I have started to build. In its current form it is a sprawling collection of images taken in this fine country during my travels, but I have already identified several sub projects that I will try to complete over the coming years.I have felt a great connection with this country and with the people that live there. I have only began to get beneath the surface and I am striving to get through the barrier put on for the tourists and capture the real country. My original photographic influences stem from the works of photojournalists, and in fact my interest in photography began when I discovered the work of Sebastiao Selgado, especially his Workers and Migrations collections. Another photographer who's work has had a huge impact on me is Ed Kashi who worked on a book called "Curse Of the Black Gold" which is a fantastic and eye opening exploration into oil production in the Niger delta.

Any way on with some images. As always I welcome any comments on the images or blog posts.