photojournalist

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. 

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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. 

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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

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James Nachtwey - War Photographer.

"I have been a witness, and these pictures are

my testimony. The events I have recorded should

not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

-James Nachtwey-

James Nachtwey is possibly one of the most important war photographers of the last thirty years.  His vivid black and white imagery from countries such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, Rwanda and India are extremely provocative.  They show human suffering and conflict in a way that is not really presented by any other photographer. Shooting mainly with wide angle lenses, he gets himself into the thick of the conflict and this results in an energy and brutality that hits hard.  There is not much I can say that cannot be seen through his images so head over to his website and check them out for yourselves. 

In 2001 a documentary was released called "War Photographer" and was made by Swiss director, Christian Frei.  The film followed Nachtwey as he worked in Kosovo and India, using on board cameras filming "camera point of view" footage.  It includes interviews with Nachtwey and people who have worked with him.
Overall it is an excellent insight into war photography and one of the greatest documentary photographers ever. It is interesting to see how Nachtwey works and also how he deals with being exposed to so much horrible stuff. It is compulsory viewing for every photographer of all disciplines.  It makes you realise what some people deal with on a regular basis.
Buy the DVD from here

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pPxqWe7j1U]

Mimi Mollica

I came across the work of Mimi Mollica whilst flicking through some books the other day.  There were a couple of images from his Terra Nostra project.  The project is an intimate look at his homeland of Sicily, specifically the myths surrounding the Mafia.He has a variety of work and his reportage work is really interesting.  His style differs from project to project and I think this makes viewing his extra interesting.

 

One particular project I am not too sure about is his work documenting London busses through the cctv screens.  Different idea, but not sure I like it too much.  Have a look yourselves and let me know your thoughts, view the work Bus Stories.

First Impressions - Panasonic GX1

Well the other day I bought myself a Panasonic GX1.  This is the first time I have owned a Micro four thirds camera.  First of all, why? you probably asking this, why bother?  Well I do a lot of street photography and travel photography.  Sometimes using a big professional camera can be a bit annoying as people look at you suspiciously or notice you before you take the picture.  As much as I try to blend in its hard, with a camera the size of a Nikon D3.  This was my main reason for buying the GX1 (also lugging around a massive camera can be very tiring).I have been interested in the Micro Four thirds system for some time, with the GF1 originally making me think.  I looked into it and I didn't really think the technology was at a point for me to consider it seriously (I must add, I have since seen some really good work taken on a GF1).

The recent advancement in the technology has made me reconsider and after reading up on all the specs and after a lot of thought I decided to take the plunge.  On paper the results should be similar, if not slightly better than the D90 I was using as a back up body.

The main stats for the GX1 is a 16mp sensor, ISO up to 12,800, Full HD video and obviously much more. I'm not all that interested in specs as I like to see real world results, but if you are interested here is the spec list.

Straight out of the box it felt tiny, but reassuringly made. It has a metal chassis, which makes it feel like it will take a bit of abuse.  The hand grip feels really nice and gives it a high end feel.  I bought it with the power zoom, which I am not too sure about yet, but it does make it quite a good size for the equivalent of a 28-84mm zoom.  The main downside is the f5.6 aperture, which will limits use in low light.

Out on the street the camera handled really well, with really fast focusing.  The feature that has really revolutionised my shooting with the D3 is the auto ISO function.  Basically I can set a maximum ISO and set a shutter speed, so when I am in Aperture priority, if i set the shutter speed at 1/60th the camera will adjust the ISO to maintain that shutter speed until it reaches the pre determined max ISO. Sounds complicated but it is simple and a really good feature.  The GX1 has a similar feature , you can set a maximum ISO, say ISO1000, and the camera will change it up and down to reach an exposure, however there is no way setting a minimum shutter speed, not that I have found anyway.  I am therefore not entirely sure what the auto ISO is doing.  In my first outing I found myself shooting one minute at 1/13th at ISO 160 and then shooting at 1/500th at ISO 1000.  Need more reading up on that one.

Looking at the early results, though, i am quite impressed. Even at ISO 1600, noise isn't an issue, especially once it is processed in Lightroom 4.  The power zoom has some odd characteristics and really benefit from a run through DxO optics, before processing.

As a tool for street and photojournalism work the GX1 seems perfectly capable, yes you wouldn't shoot high end advertising campaigns on it, but then thats not the point.  Its small, lightweight, fast focusing and produces good quality files up to ISO 1600.  I will be using it a lot more over the next few weeks so I will report back on any findings.

Here are a few sample images.

If you would like to get in touch or ask questions about the GX1 or anything else please email blog@darrenobrien.co.uk or leave a comment.

Steve McCurry

As I have mentioned a few times in previous blog post, I am a big fan of photojournalism and have taken a large part of my inspiration from it. A few weeks back I posted about one my all time favourite photographers Sebastiao Salgado, well here is another of my favourite photographers, Steve McCurry. What I admire about his work is the connection he has with his subject, especially in his portraits. He often builds relationships with his subjects, even if he is only with them for ten minutes, allowing him to capture people in a natural way. He gets invited into a moment of their life and when viewing the image we are also transplanted there.It's amazing stuff, but I have to admit that I have only recently began studying his work in more detail. I have always been aware of his famous work such as the "afghan girl" and the "smoking miner", but it's his consistency that is truly awe inspiring. Shot after shot is pure gold, obviously we don't get to see the bad frames in between, but if I could put together a collection that was half as good at the end of my career I would be happy.

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Thanks for reading!