fuji X00S

A WALK IN THE PARK WITH A CAMERA

Fujifilm X100S, 1/30 @f2.0, ISO 1600.*

Fujifilm X100S, 1/30 @f2.0, ISO 1600.*

I found myself in a bit of a photographic rut recently, not on assignment, but in my personal photography. I think this happens to all of us from time to time and there are probably many reasons, however, since I'm not a psychiatrist or therapist of any kind, I won't try to analyze the why, but instead reflect a bit on how I cope. And this time, it simply took a walk in the park with my camera.

In a 2014 post titled 5 TIPS TO GET YOU OUT TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS, I shared ideas to help motivate you and get you out shooting, but this post is more about understanding that even while out shooting, sometimes it just doesn't click.

I titled this photo Santa and his Reindeer. Fujifilm X100S,1/30 @f2.0, ISO 1600.

I titled this photo Santa and his Reindeer. Fujifilm X100S,1/30 @f2.0, ISO 1600.

I think it's important to remember that this happens to all creative people and that it's important to accept that we can't be 'on' all the time, that it really is healthy to have short periods of creative downtime. The key is to not allow those short periods to stretch into long periods and to find ways to overcome and manage these slumps so that you don't stay there or worse, give up entirely.

When I'm in a creative rut, I do what can sometimes be the hardest thing to do, grab your camera and go out. Shoot pictures. Bad pictures. Anything. It's alright because not shooting will never get you out of your rut.

The statue of Milton Hershey seems to be rising from the steam caused by unseasonable warm weather. Fujifilm X100S,1/ 30 @f2.0, ISO 320.

The statue of Milton Hershey seems to be rising from the steam caused by unseasonable warm weather. Fujifilm X100S,1/ 30 @f2.0, ISO 320.

Back to that walk in the park. It had been a few weeks since I had taken a photo I liked and then came a two-day visit to Hershey, Pa. On the first day as I walked around downtown I could sense some creativity coming back. As I started shooting I began to see things, everyday things, things unique to Hershey, that I had been ignoring. That's the thing, you will sense when that creativity is returning. That night I resisted the urge to download the photos from that day because I didn't want to be discouraged if the results failed to meet the feeling I knew was coming back. 

The park wasn't completely empty, but the weather did keep many people away which gave the park an ominous feel. Fujifilm X100S, 1/60 @f2.8, ISO 1600.

The park wasn't completely empty, but the weather did keep many people away which gave the park an ominous feel. Fujifilm X100S, 1/60 @f2.8, ISO 1600.

The next night I visited Hersheypark's Christmas Candyland and somehow had a sense that I was going to get photos that I liked. There was fog, mist, and some light rain which might have dissuaded some, but experience tells me that this was the exact time I should be out shooting. And within an hour, I knew I was getting photographs that I liked. 

Once that feeling returns, you get lost in the process of making photographs and forget that you were ever in a slump. 

Fujifilm X100S,1/30 @f2.0, ISO 1600.

Fujifilm X100S,1/30 @f2.0, ISO 1600.

* All photos were taken using the Fuji X100s which has a fixed 23mm (35mm DSLR equivalent) lens. The camera was set to record both in raw and jpeg formats with a monochrome yellow preset on the jpegs. I used auto ISO, set to a maximum of 1600. While I typically shoot in aperture priority, these photos were all taken in manual mode.

ARE "FILM SIMULATION" PRESETS FOR YOU?

MONOCHROME+YeFilter* (black and white with yellow filter)
Fujifilm recently announced that they are bringing film simulation to their official Raw conversion software, Raw File Converter EX, allowing you to take advantage of the features after, rather than having to make the selection while shooting.

This is good news since I think Fuji does an especially good job with their film simulation modes.

Currently when you select one of the film simulation modes, Provia, Velvia, Astia, PRO Neg Hi or Std, and several Black and White modes, on the camera, they are baked into the JPEG file.

As I've mentioned previously on this blog, the mode I prefer when shooting the X100S is MONOCHROME+YeFilter. But that is only half the story because I also shoot JPEG and Raw at the same time giving me the option during post processing to switch to color or do my own black and white conversion to the Raw file. But normally I really like the job Fuji does with its conversion right out of the camera and then spend extra time converting the Raw image to match.

Does this then mean you no longer need these settings available to you on the camera? I can't make that call, but I do like the option to take advantage of them later.

During a recent visit to Great Falls Park in Virginia, I decided to try out the various film simulation modes on my X100S and see for myself how useful they are. **

Provia/STANDARD: I suppose you need an all-around setting and PROVIA/STANDARD offers standard color reproduction suited for a wide range of subjects.
Velvia/VIVID: A high-contrast palette of saturated colors, suited for outdoor photos. And as it turns out, pretty much the hands-down choice for Fall foliage.
ASTIA/SOFT: Enhances the range of hues available for skin tones in portraits while preserving the bright blues of daylight skies. Outdoor portraits.
PRO Neg. Hi: Slightly more contrast than PRO Neg. Std and recommended for outdoor portrait photography.
PRO Neg. Std: Soft-toned palette. The range of hues available for skin tone is enhanced, making this a good choice for studio portraits.

The Fuji X100S also offers the option to bracket, which to most photographers means some sort of multiple exposures. However, the X100S also allows you to bracket Film Simulations, so you don't even have to stop shooting to change settings.

Starting February 26th, you will be able to download the program for free from the Fujifilm website.

But you will have to wait for this feature to be added to the X100S since initially it will only be available for the X-T1, X-A2, X100T, X30, and XQ2.

* All the photos associated with the blog post are resized JPEGs right out of the camera.
** You can also assign a film simulation mode during playback.

AS SCENE FROM A TRAIN - FIVE TIPS FOR BETTER PHOTOGRAPHS

Photographing an urban scene like this one as the train left Central Station in Montreal offers a different viewpoint of the city. Fujifilm X100S, 1/200 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Photographing an urban scene like this one as the train left Central Station in Montreal offers a different viewpoint of the city. Fujifilm X100S, 1/200 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Traveling by train can be a wonderful experience, sitting comfortably and watching as the world passes by just outside your window. I suppose if you commute daily by train you might not see it as some wonderful experience, however, whether the train you are on is traveling through a beautiful countryside or the forgotten parts of a city, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to take out your camera and make some amazing photographs.

We have all seen photographs out of airplane windows. Instagram anyone? Perhaps they are a bit cliche, although I actually don't mind them. Less often though do you see photos taken from a train and that's a shame. Maybe it is because more people fly, I don't know, but the opportunities to capture unique views from a train are endless. And many times it is not even possible to tell from the photograph that it was taken through a window while traveling upwards of 60 miles per hour.

Taking advantage of the stopped train while waiting to cross the border from Canada into the United States allowed me some extra time to compose this shot which would have been difficult with the train moving due to the strong back light. Fujifilm X100S,  1/950 @ f5.6, ISO 400.

Taking advantage of the stopped train while waiting to cross the border from Canada into the United States allowed me some extra time to compose this shot which would have been difficult with the train moving due to the strong back light. Fujifilm X100S,  1/950 @ f5.6, ISO 400.

So what do you photograph? Think about the difference between trains and cars, besides the fact that trains are on rails and cars are on the road, but what does that offer you visually. If you think about it, roads generally pass by the front of buildings and houses, whereas trains travel behind, which makes it possible to capture a unique perspective. If you are out west or up north, it can be about beautiful landscapes, but most trains travel through urban and industrial areas as well so you see the back side of the city or urban landscape. Take advantage of both and you will be surprised at what you capture.

Notice how the foreground is a blurred. I still think it adds some interest. Fujifilm X100S, 1/500 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Notice how the foreground is a blurred. I still think it adds some interest. Fujifilm X100S, 1/500 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Before you break out your camera on the next trip from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia or beyond, let me offer some tips to help you start making beautiful images from the comfort of you train seat. And you barely have to put down your drink to do it.

Five Tips to make better photographs during your next train journey:

1. Pick a good seat. It might seem obvious, but you really should choose a window seat, otherwise, you better get to know the person you are sitting with very well. Somewhat joking, but there a few ways to ensure you will get a window seat and a good one at that. Use the red cap or a similar service even when you don't need assistance with your luggage because they will get you on the train before everyone else and that is well worth a few dollars. Boarding early also gives you the option to pick a seat with the cleanest, least scratched window. Finally, not all window seats are created equal, so make sure you get one that is more or less centered on a window.

I selected the left side of the Amtrak Adirondack train from New York to Montreal because I knew the Hudson River would be out my window during most of the trip. The ice was a bonus. Fujifilm X100S, 1/1250 @ f2.8, ISO 400.

I selected the left side of the Amtrak Adirondack train from New York to Montreal because I knew the Hudson River would be out my window during most of the trip. The ice was a bonus. Fujifilm X100S, 1/1250 @ f2.8, ISO 400.

2.Select the side of the train that will afford you the best views. If it is not a route you are familiar with, then a little research will go a long way. Google maps do show train tracks. Another consideration when selecting which side to sit will be the direction of light. Shooting into the sun can create some interesting photos, but remember that you are shooting through a window so the sun glare and reflection may not allow for photographs. Compare it to sun glare on a dirty windshield, it is the same thing.

Downtown Albany, New York, as the sun goes down. I like the empty parking lot and elevated shooting position. A view that would be difficult if not for riding on the train. Fujifilm X100S, 1/1250 @ f2.8, ISO 400.

Downtown Albany, New York, as the sun goes down. I like the empty parking lot and elevated shooting position. A view that would be difficult if not for riding on the train. Fujifilm X100S, 1/1250 @ f2.8, ISO 400.

3. Pay attention to your aperture. Selecting a wide aperture, f 2.0 - f 5.6, will limit the effects of shooting through the window, similar to shooting through a fence. If you have the time and can do it safely, clean the window from the outside prior to boarding. Of course, you should check with train personnel before you do this just to be on the safe side. But at a minimum, wipe the inside of the window. You don't have to shoot wide open though because you do want some depth of field, but too much and you will be spending a lot of time cloning out spots caused by dirt on the window.

4. Shutter speed matters. Objects close to the train will blur even at relatively fast shutter speeds. If you are shooting objects in the distance without a foreground then you can get away with a slower shutter speed even on a fast-moving train. If a fast shutter speed is not possible or you are just looking to get more creative, then slow the shutter speed way down and blur the scene as you pass by. Instead of you panning with the camera, let the train do it for you. Think about this technique to photograph trees during the Fall.

Photographing the backside of the city. The slightly burred train structure at the right adds just enough context to let the viewer know that this photo is taken from a train. I like the industrial look and hints of color in this image. It can be hard to frame a shot while the train is traveling at 60 m.p.h. so take plenty of shots.  Fujifilm X100S, 1/160 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Photographing the backside of the city. The slightly burred train structure at the right adds just enough context to let the viewer know that this photo is taken from a train. I like the industrial look and hints of color in this image. It can be hard to frame a shot while the train is traveling at 60 m.p.h. so take plenty of shots.  Fujifilm X100S, 1/160 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

5. Always be prepared to shoot and when possible try to anticipate what's coming up. Even when you are very familiar with the route, the view outside will pass by quickly so you need to keep your camera ready and as close to the window, without touching it, as possible. This might be a good time to mention that a wide angle lens works best, especially in a changing landscape. Fast moving trains make framing and shooting with long glass difficult. If the train is moving slowly or you are traveling the great plains, then this may not be a problem.

Take the time to shoot lots of pictures on your next rail journey and let the results surprise you and your friends. Besides, there is much more to see from a train window than from a plane window.

Check out Amtrak train routes and start planning your adventure today.

MEMORIAL DAY - A PERFECT DAY FOR A PHOTO WALK IN DC

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is the newest addition to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is the newest addition to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
I know it is not the final Monday in May. This is memorial day with a small "m."

It started as a government snow day and it doesn't take much in the Washington, D.C., area for the government to shutdown due to weather, or even the threat of weather.

On these days the temptation is to stay inside, pour a second cup of coffee and just spend the day relaxing. Of course the other option is to grab a camera and take advantage of the weather and day off to get some unique shots. On this day, and after a text from a friend reminding me I should be out shooting, I decided to head downtown.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the final stop and by this time the sun started to come out and made for some interesting reflections in the still wet stone.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the final stop and by this time the sun started to come out and made for some interesting reflections in the still wet stone.
In the absence of a specific assignment, I like to pick a theme prior to heading out on a shoot. It doesn't mean I have to stick with the theme, but I find that it is helps to focus, otherwise I just walk around aimlessly with my camera and end up disappointed at the end of the day. So the natural theme I self assigned myself was to capture Washington, D.C., under a blanket of snow.

Now remember when I said earlier in this post that it doesn't take much for the government to shut down. Well this was the case and as I exited the metro at Foggy Bottom it was apparent that my theme was already melting away. There was NO snow.

The Lincoln Memorial was a good starting point.
The Lincoln Memorial was a good starting point.
With that idea out I decided to just start walking in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial and see what I could see and before I realized it, I found myself walking from memorial to memorial and it hit me, or more specifically a new theme came to light; memorial day. Not the most original theme of course, but if you are in Washington, D.C., you really are in the perfect place for this kind of photo walk.

Map shows the route I took to capture memorial photos in Washington, D.C.
The route I took from the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
I started at the Lincoln Memorial (A) and made a counter clockwise loop ending at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (E). Along the way I stopped at the Korean War Memorial (B), Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial (C) and the World War II Memorial (D).

Snow was the most apparent at the Korean War Memorial and somehow the most appropriate.
Snow was the most apparent at the Korean War Memorial and somehow the most appropriate.
There were very few people around and while I usually try and include people in my photographs, this day I concentrated more on the memorials themselves. I carried only my Fuji X100S and shot in black and white mode all day.

Even though there was no snow, or very little snow on the ground, everything was wet which made for some great reflections. Also as the day wore on, the sky cleared up and provided some nice light and cloud formations.

Just because the theme for the walk was memorial day, it doesn't mean other things won't catch your eye along the way.
Just because the theme for the walk was memorial day, it doesn't mean other things won't catch your eye along the way.
Give yourself an assignment or pick a theme to get started and get out there and shoot. Don't wait for a rainy day. But if it is raining, or snowing, all the better.