Lenses

An Ethiopian Before & After

Starling Travel has just announced the details of a new travel photo workshop that they’re organising with me and Matt Brandon in the epically photogenic Omo valley in Southern Ethiopia. So I thought it would be a good idea edit one of images I took last year during the scouting trip for this workshop in this before-and-after video. I’ll also explain why sometimes I underexpose my images and that - although we’ve all been taught to ‘Expose To The Right’, sometimes underexposing is the way to go.

Image made with the Fujifilm GFX 50R and the GF 110 lens. Want to see more of that combo in action? Then check out the video at the top of this page.

If watching the video made you want to go and take portraits like these yourself, then check out the Omo Valley Portraits Workshop, which will be held from October 25 to November 3. More info can be found here.

Learnt something from the Before & After? Then imagine what you could learn from 2.5 hours of concise Lightroom training and over one hour of bonus tutorials in my brand new  ‘  Learn   Lightroom Classic’  video course.

Learnt something from the Before & After? Then imagine what you could learn from 2.5 hours of concise Lightroom training and over one hour of bonus tutorials in my brand new Learn Lightroom Classic’ video course.

The 5DayDeal is back! $2.500 worth of photo education and tools for only $117

From now until October 18th, noon PDT, it's 5 Day Deal time again! The 5 Day Deal is a unique bundle of photographic training content. If you were to buy every item separately, you'd be looking at a total bill of over $2.750. Now, you're only paying $117 (+ European VAT unless you have a VAT ID), a savings of more than 95 percent! The total bundle contains over 75 hours of video training, several eBooks and over 1400 Lightroom presets, Photoshop actions and other digital tools. In total several gigabytes worth of training goodness.

Yes, but what's in it for me?

Of course, the real question is: 'What is this bundle worth to you?' Unless you're really into all genres of photography, probably not the full $2.500. But I can guarantee you that even if you're only remotely interested in photography, the 5 Day Deal bundle is certainly worth more than the measly $117 it's selling for. In fact, this bundle will do more for your photography than the umpteenth camera bag or a shiny new UV filter. 

To help you determine if it's worth your dollar, I've broken the bundle down into three typical areas of interest: general postprocessing, landscape photography and portrait photography. You'll see that even if you're only really into one of those three areas, the bundle is a steal. Heck, if you're into two or more, you should already be ordering!

1. You're into Lightroom, Photoshop and Postprocessing

Postprocessing seems to be the main theme of this year's bundle, so if image editing is your thing, you're in for a treat. The bundle is ideal to hone your editing skills over these cold winter months and get you ready for a great start in 2018. There's hundreds of Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions, overlays like smoke and sun flares and loads of training videos. As you can see, I'm very honoured that my own Black & White Lightroom Preset pack is included in the bundle. But even if you already have that, there's still $2.767 of other stuff :-) The total value of the highlighted items alone is over $1.500. The 5 Day Deal price is less than ten percent of that. If you're a Lightroom or Photoshop user, this bundle really is a no-brainer.

2.  You're mainly interested in nature photography, landscapes, cityscapes and how to postprocess these

The total value of the highlighted items is about $700. From previous 5 Day Deals, I remember the excellent quality of the stuff that people like Jimmy McIntyre and Christopher O'Donnell put out, so I'm looking forward to discovering their new courses. Also, note that I've only counted items that have a direct relationship to landscape photography. There are lots of resources, like the many preset packs, that will without a doubt also be useful when you're editing your landscape images.

3. You're mainly interested in portrait photography and portrait retouching

The total value of the highlighted items is almost $800. Again, there are some hidden gems in this line-up. For example, I really enjoyed Jeff Rojas' no-nonsense approach on how to interact with, light and photograph 'normal people'. After all, we not always get to choose who winds up in front of our lens!

Still in doubt?

Here's 5 final reasons why you should really consider this bundle:

10 percent of each sale goes to charity. Since 2013, people buying the 5DayDeal have raised over $1.000.000 for charity.

10 percent of each sale goes to charity. Since 2013, people buying the 5DayDeal have raised over $1.000.000 for charity.

  1. This way of learning is one of the cheapest to improve your photography skills, at your own pace, when and where you want it. Furthermore, there's always a couple of hidden gems in bundles like this. For example, I really enjoyed Andrew S. Gibson's Black & White Presets and Jeff Rojas' posing and lighting video.
  2. A lot of this bundle's resources are new and if they aren't new, at least they've never been in any other 5 Day Deal bundle, so there's no overlap with previous 5 Day Deal purchases.
  3. The bundle is gone forever on October 18th, noon PDT.
  4. 10 percent of the entire turnover (not the profits, but the turnover, so almost $10 on every sale) goes to charity. Since the start of the 5 Day Deal in 2013, over $1.000.000 was donated to good causes. To that effect, upon checkout, you can opt for the 'Charity Match bundle'. This is an extra, separate bundle, worth over $900 which costs an extra $24,97, half of which goes to charity. Some 50% of people who bought the bundle so far have chosen this option. If you want to maximise your savings and in the mean time maximise your charity donation, look for the 'Charity Match' section, you'll see it on the 5 Day Deal page.
  5. But wait, there's more :-) Another extra option is the 'Pro Bundle Addon'. That's almost $500 worth of content for an add-on of only $12,47.

You see, I'm shutting up already. Yes. I'm that easy :-)

For an extra $24,97, you not only double the amount of money that goes to charity, but you also get access to over $900 worth of extra stuff. There are two photography courses in there, including the world-famous one by Fstoppers, one of the largest photo websites. Then, if you still have another $12,47 to burn, you can get the Pro Bundle Add-on as well...

For an extra $24,97, you not only double the amount of money that goes to charity, but you also get access to over $900 worth of extra stuff. There are two photography courses in there, including the world-famous one by Fstoppers, one of the largest photo websites. Then, if you still have another $12,47 to burn, you can get the Pro Bundle Add-on as well...

The Fujfilm GFX Files, Part 2 - More videos

A video interview with about the GFX and the accessories I used in India

As you could read in part 1, I have been using the brand new Fujifilm GFX in India and Belgium for a couple of weeks. I also made a 3 minute video about it for Fujifilm. Well actually, I did not make that video: fellow X-Photographers Matt Brandon (www.thedigitaltrekker.com) and Serge Van Cauwenbergh (www.fotografieblog.be) filmed it - entirely with X-T2 cameras by the way - and Matt also edited it. In case you haven't seen it yet, here's that video:

On the way back from Varanasi to Delhi, Matt interviewed me about the GFX, but also about some of the other accessories we have been using, like the SMDV BRiHT 360 and the SMDV Speedbox 85 that you can see me use extensively in the video. We also talk about using monopods and tripods and how to back up images like this while traveling. You can check out the video interview on Matt's site. There's some cool 100 percent close-ups of shots!

Check out my video interview  here .

Check out my video interview here.

More GFX Challenge videos

If you haven't overdosed on GFX news by now, here are the latest GFX Challenge videos that Fujifilm have released:

Ollvier Wehrli - Switzerland

Watching Oliver's beautifully filmed video gave me vertigo. I guess I'm not cut out to be a landscape photographer!

Joshua Loh - Singapore

Joshua Loh appreciates the small form factor and fast focusing capabilities of the GFX. I also take away from the video that I really need a Mercedes SLS to complement the GFX... That car features in no less than three GFX Challenge videos :-)

Supalerk Narubetkraisee (Thailand)

Supalerk also lauds the universal nature of the GFX and has a couple of really nice star trail photos in his video.

Shiro Hagihara (Japan)

Shiro - like me - appreciates the EVF which lets him decide on exposure and color without having to take his eye off the viewfinder. He loves the Velvia simulation for his landscape work. He says the GFX lets him capture details that even his eyes could not see.

Saiichi Nakmura

Saiichi's work involves still life photography with water. The video offers an interesting view into his studio set-up. He praises the quality of the CMOS sensor and the standard 4:3 aspect ratio which he finds better suited for commercial use.

Jonas Rask and Palle Schultz (Denmark)

The detail and sharpness of Jonas' lifestyle shoot images with a biker almost bite you from across the screen. A must-see if you're into motorcycles or good-looking guys :-)

Sangsun Ogh (Korea)

Sangsun takes us to a shoot of a model wearing traditional Korean attire. Needless to say, the resolution of the GFX helps to bring out every little bit of texture.

Knut Koivisto (Sweden)

Knut appreciates the fact that the camera works as well in the studio as it does outside of it, in the streets. He uses the X-T2 and the GFX intermittently. For him, DSLRs have been sidestepped now.

Fujifilm releases new GFX Challenge videos

Fujifilm today have released no less than 7 new GFX Challenge videos. For the GFX Challenge, some 20 photographers worldwide got to work with a prototype of the upcoming GFX medium format camera and the three lenses that are going to ship with it when the camera is released: the 63 mm f/2.8, the 32-64 f/4 zoom and the 120 f/4 stabilised macro. 

The photographers were free to do what they wanted. The only thing is they had to make a three minute video of using the camera. It's really refreshing to see what people do with the camera. Not only the photography is truly breathtaking, but some of the videos are also beautifully made and most of them were filmed in 4K with Fujifilm X-T2 cameras.

Gary Heery (Australia)

Australian photographer Gary Heery uses the GFX and the macro lens to create some really beautiful still lifes (litterally) of objects frozen in time. I cannot wait to see these printed large. And neither can he, apparently!

Roméo Balancourt (France)

French portrait, architecture and food photographer Roméo Balancourt uses the GFX on location to shoot upscale restaurants and their crew. It's interesting to see him set up an entire lighting studio on location. He mixes available (tungsten) lights with flash and fresnel spots. He appreciates the Q menu and the Electronic Viewfinder that shows him exactly what he's going to get. I blogged about the advantages of an EVF a while back in this post. Roméo admits that before using the GFX, he always had to add extra sharpening to his images before delivering them to his clients. With the GFX, he no longer has to, he says. I also loved how the images he made during the video come together in a final composite, at around the 4 minute 5 seconds mark.

Luciano Romano (Italy)

For his GFX Challenge, Italian photographer Luciano Romano wanted to combine his three favorite elements of photography: art, architecture, and theater. He loves the excellent ergonomics of the camera (something I can confirm: if you're used to working with a DSLR or Fujifilm's X-T2, you'll feel right at home).

Victor Liu (Canada)

Perhaps it's slightly over-the-top, but I just love this Canadian landscape's photographer's video. I love the low angles, the fades from the video to shots of the GFX and back. It's like a trailer for a blockbuster movie. Or should I say, a blockbuster camera? Victor shows that the GFX absolutely feels at home in very rugged conditions. Now I want to go to the Rocky Mountains, too...

Ivan Joshua Loh (Singapore)

Medium format and cars. It's a marriage made in heaven. As such, the Mercedes SLS appears to be a hot ticket amongst car photographers: Ivan Joshua Loh from Singapore is the second GFX Challenger to photograph this gull-winged beauty of a car, yet he does so in a completely different way than Satoshi Minakawa.

Per-Anders Jörgensen (Sweden)

Swedish photographer Per-Anders Jörgensen describes his own work as "faked documentary" (a term I have to remember as it kind of reflects some of the stuff I do). Just like Roméo Balancourt, he takes the GFX to a restaurant but he uses it to photograph the preparation of food. It's interesting to see hem use a curtain as a diffuser tent and get under it to get the softest light possible. That's the nice thing about these GFX videos: you always pick up a thing or two that you can insert in your own workflow...

Minoru Kobayashi (Japan)

Japanese Minoru Kobayashi takes the GFX outside to photograph a sports car. I'm no petrolhead, but I think its a Honda NSX. Its 573 bhp sure goes well with the GFX's 51+ megapixel. He loves what he calls the "resolution with density" that only medium format can provide. His favourite film simulation is Velvia back from in the days where he shot Velvia on film, at ASA 50 or 100. He really loves the fact that he can now shoot Velvia digitally, with a previously unthought of ISO of 1600 and above!

With a price point of "well under $10,000" including the standard 63 mm lens, the GFX might very well wind up to be not only a "medium-format-killer" but also a "high-end-dslr-killer". And we've still got a couple of more GFX Challenge videos to come! In the mean time, if you want to see how the GFX behaves on the busy streets of India, have a look at (shameless plug, I I know), my own GFX video:

And in case you still need some more convincing, here's the other GFX videos that have been released thus far:

Testing the GFX was a lot of fun. Actually, it only had one drawback. I want one, now... 

The 2016 edition of the 5 Day Deal: What's in it for you?

From now until Wednesday, October 19th, noon PST, it's 5 Day Deal time again! The 5 Day Deal is a unique bundle of photographic training content. If you were to buy every item separately, you'd be looking at a total bill of over $2.500. Now, you're only paying $97, a savings of more than 95 percent! The bundle contains over 60 hours of video training, 15 eBooks and almost 500 Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions. In total over 25 gigabyte of training goodness.

From Lightroom presets over video courses on how to shoot wine or photograph models to a complete landscape postprocessing photography course: there's something for everyone in this bundle.

From Lightroom presets over video courses on how to shoot wine or photograph models to a complete landscape postprocessing photography course: there's something for everyone in this bundle.

Of course, the real question is: 'What is this bundle worth to you?' Unless you're really into all genres of photography, probably not the full $2.500. But I can guarantee you that even if you're only remotely interested in photography, the 5 Day Deal bundle is certainly worth more than the measly $97 it's selling for. In fact, this bundle will do more for your photography than the umpteenth camera bag or a shiny new UV filter. 

To help you determine if it's worth your dollar (well, 97 of them), I've broken the bundle down into three typical areas of interest: general postprocessing, landscape photography and portrait photography. You'll see that even if you're only really into one of those three areas, the bundle is a steal. Heck, if you're into two or more, you should already be ordering!

1. You're into Lightroom and Photoshop

Postprocessing seems to be the main theme of this year's bundle, so if image editing is your thing, you're in for a treat. The bundle is ideal to hone your editing skills over these cold winter months and get you ready for a great start in 2017. There's hundreds of Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions, textures and loads of training videos. There's also a lot of HDR training, and I mean photographically interesting HDR, not the headache-inducing variety! The total value of the highlighted items alone is over $1.600. The 5 Day Deal price is less than ten percent of that. If you're a Lightroom or Photoshop user, this bundle really is a no-brainer.

2.  You're mainly interested in nature photography, landscapes, cityscapes and how to postprocess these

The total value of the highlighted items is about $700. From previous 5 Day Deals, I remember the excellent quality of the stuff that people like Jimmy McIntyre, Klaus Herrmann and James Brandon put out, so I'm looking forward to discovering their new courses. Also, note that I've only counted items that have a direct relationship to landscape photography. There are lots of resources, like the many preset packs, that will without a doubt also be useful when you're editing your landscape images.

3. You're mainly interested in portrait photography and portrait retouching

The total value of the highlighted items is also some $700. Again, there are some hidden gems in this line-up. For example, I really enjoyed Serge Ramelli's no-nonsense approach to compositing: he photographs a model and then puts her in front of a different background. This course alone by itself normally costs double the entire 5 Day Deal bundle price.

Other areas of interest

But that's not all. There's also more general, introductory courses such as David duChemin's 26 part email course on the one hand but also some highly specialized ones on the other: how 'bout an in-depth course on Photo Mechanic (I know I can use one since I'm using this app more and more as a front-end to Lightroom). Or what about a course on how to photograph wine? It's all there.

If you're still in doubt, here's 5 final reasons why you should really consider this bundle:

The ever-funny-yet-to-the-point Zack Arias has written an eBook of over 100 pages with business advice for photographers. It's an excellent and at times hilarious read.

The ever-funny-yet-to-the-point Zack Arias has written an eBook of over 100 pages with business advice for photographers. It's an excellent and at times hilarious read.

  1. This way of learning is one of the cheapest to improve your photography skills, at your own pace, when and where you want it. Furthermore, there's always a couple of hidden gems in bundles like this. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Zack Arias' 'Get To Work - Business Primer' eBook. It's not something I'd probably buy (in fact, I didn't know it existed), but it was included in the bundle anyway! 
  2. A lot of this bundle's resources are new and if they aren't new, at least they've never been in any other 5 Day Deal bundle, so there's no overlap with previous 5 Day Deal purchases.
  3. If you're more interested in the business side of photography, there's a couple of interesting items as well, like the afore-mentioned guide by Zack Arias. Zack's studio is doing great now, but he once was nearly bankrupt. So, he knows what he's talking about.
  4. The bundle is gone forever on October 19th, noon PST (that's 9 PM Brussels time).
  5. 10 percent of the entire turnover (not the profits, but the turnover, so almost $10 on every sale) goes to charity. Since the start of the 5 Day Deal in 2013, over $650.000 was donated to good causes. For this year, the 5 Day Deal team is hoping to achieve $250.000 of charity donations and they even silently hope to reach $350.000, which would bring their total over one million since 2013. To that effect, upon checkout, you can choose to pay an extra 10% ($9.7) which goes entirely to charity. And, as a token of good karma, you get an extra bonus-download worth $250. Some 50% of people who bought the bundle so far have chosen this option. It's called 'Charity Match', you'll see it on the 5 Day Deal page.

You see, I'm shutting up already. Yes. I'm that easy :-)

300 € cashback: To X-T1 or not to X-T1?

Met alle hype rond Fuji's nieuwe digitale middenformaatcamera GFX zou je bijna de 'gewone' X-camera's gaan vergeten. Recent nog lanceerde Fujifilm de X-T2, de opvolger van de immens populaire X-T1. Die laatste is overigens nog altijd te koop. De X-T2 (winkelprijs ca 1.700 euro body-only) kost sowieso ongeveer 500 euro meer dan zijn voorganger (1.200 euro body-only). Voor dat geld krijg je de helft meer megapixels, een beter kantelscherm, een handige joystick-controller, een gevoelig verbeterde autofocus en natuurlijk nog een resem kleinere verbeteringen.

Rock the Cashback!

Alsof dat het kiezen tussen beide toestellen nog niet moeilijk genoeg maakt, loopt er tot 31 januari 2017 nog een cashback-actie op de X-T1 waarbij zowel de zwarte als de graphite editie en zowel de body-only als de kit met de 18-55 en de 18-135 in aanmerking komen. Je kan maar liefst 300 euro terug claimen na aankoop. Dat brengt het effectieve prijsverschil op ongeveer 800 euro of anders uitgedrukt: de X-T1 kost momenteel ongeveer slechts de helft van de X-T2!

Is de X-T1 plots een slechtere camera geworden nu de X-T2 uitgekomen is? Natuurlijk niet! En met die 800 prijsverschil euro koop je al bijna een top prime objectief zoals de 56 mm f/1.2, de 16 mm f/1.4 of de 23 mm f/1.4 of... een vliegtuigticket naar een fotogenieke bestemming!

X-T1 of X-T2?

Fotografeer je graag snel bewegende onderwerpen, druk je graag op (echt) groot formaat af of wil je gewoon altijd het beste van het beste, dan zou ik eventjes door de appel bijten en toch maar onmiddellijk voor de X-T2 gaan. Je koopt dan een van de beste spiegelloze systeemcamera's die er momenteel op de markt is. Dat zeg ik trouwens niet, maar de EISA (de Europese foto-vakpers) die onlangs de X-Pro 2, het broertje van de X-T2, tot European Professional Compact System Camera van het jaar verkoos.

Indien je echter meer statische onderwerpen fotografeert en niet onmiddellijk op groot formaat afdrukt, dan is de X-T1 vandaag de dag nog altijd diezelfde goede camera als hij was bij zijn introductie. Eigenlijk is hij zelfs nog beter geworden, want hij heeft nog een aantal firmware updates gekregen. Ik heb fotoboeken gemaakt van 30 x 30 cm. Ik houd er daarbij van om één foto op een dubbele pagina te zetten zodat hij 60 x 30 cm afgedrukt wordt. Die afdrukken zien er fantastisch uit. Niemand die merkt de foto uit 'slechts' 16 megapixels bestond, waarvan ik er door de 2:1 uitsnede dan nog maar 12 gebruikte! 

De 16 megapixels van de X-T1 zijn groot genoeg om een dubbele pagina te vullen in een 30 x 30 fotoboek. Zelf maak ik die met Lightroom (natuurlijk!) en Blurb. Enkel de voor- en achtercover, die je hier ziet, maak ik op in Photoshop

De 16 megapixels van de X-T1 zijn groot genoeg om een dubbele pagina te vullen in een 30 x 30 fotoboek. Zelf maak ik die met Lightroom (natuurlijk!) en Blurb. Enkel de voor- en achtercover, die je hier ziet, maak ik op in Photoshop

De huidige cashback maakt de X-T1 ook een interessante keuze voor wie in het X-systeem wil stappen op een budgetvriendelijke manier en nog wat geld wil overhouden voor de lenzen.

Hieronder vind je een selectie van tien van mijn favoriete foto's die allemaal met de X-T1 gemaakt zijn. Als je er reiskriebels van krijgt: met het bedrag van de cashback raak je al tot in India! *

Meer info over deze actie (en hoe je de cashback kan claimen) vind je bij je Fujifilm-dealer.

* Een ticket naar India kost ca 600 €, met de cashback geraak je dus al op je bestemming! En er valt zoveel te fotograferen dat je toch niet onmiddellijk terug wilt... Of je moet twee X-T1's in met cashback kopen :-)

5 products that caught my eye at Photokina 2016

I have just returned from a bustling two days at Photokina, the biannual photographic gear lovefest that is held in Cologne, Germany. I was travelling in the exquisite company of fellow Belgian X-photographers Isabel Corthier and Ioannis Tsouloulis. I want to thank the people from Fujifilm Japan and Belgium for inviting us over. Trade shows like Photokina are as much about people as they are about products. So, it was great to reconnect with longtime friends such as Tom, Bert (who used Tom’s bald head as a reflector during his 'Small lights, big results’ demo on the Fujifilm stand), Rob, Damien (energetic as ever), the German ‘rock star’ trio Dieter, Jens & Peter and Marco, Julia, Shusuke and Kunio. I also had the privilige of being introduced to new people such as Patrick La Roque, Jens Krauer, Martin Hülle and their impressive work. Finally, I am happy I got to meet Rico Pfirstinger. He’s the author of the unofficial Fujifilm manuals. If you are struggling to get the most out of your camera, his books and workshops are among the best resources to turn to.

Now of course, apart from the social aspect, Photokina is obviously also about gear. Lots of gear! In fact, it's probably the most GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)-inducing show on the planet. Even during those two days, I was unable to visit each hall, let alone each booth. Yet, there were a couple of products that caught my eye. Because the Internet loves lists, here's five of them, in no particular order. Well, except maybe for the first! 

1. Fujifilm GFX

The GFX looks like a beefed-up X-T2. Image © Fujifilm.

The GFX looks like a beefed-up X-T2. Image © Fujifilm.

Call me biased (I'm an X-photographer after all) but the Fujifilm GFX was the star of the Fujifilm booth and probably even of the entire Photokina. In case you've just returned from another planet, the GFX 50s is Fujifilm's first digital medium format camera. It has a sensor size roughly 4 times that of the other X series cameras and a pixel count of 51.4 megapixel. The GFX 50s will be available with three lenses at launch, which you should be ‘early 2017’. By end of 2017, another tree lenses should be available.

Literally everybody wanted to get their hands on the camera of which only a couple of prototypes exist. I was lucky enough to get to hold it in my hands for a couple of minutes. I was surprised at how well it focused even in the dark venue where I was and also at how lightweight it was: this beast of a camera weighs less than many a professional DSLR! If you want to read more about the specs (even more than is available on Fujifilm's own website) read this excellent article by Rico Pfirstinger.

The price of the GFX hasn't been set yet, but Fujifilm management did promise it would be 'well under $10.000' with the standard lens. We have yet to see into how many Euro that will translate...

Official press release here.

You'll be able to use two EVF viewfinders with the GFX: a regular one and one that can be tilted and rotated, allowing almost every imaginable capture angle. It will even be possible to use an external monitor.

You'll be able to use two EVF viewfinders with the GFX: a regular one and one that can be tilted and rotated, allowing almost every imaginable capture angle. It will even be possible to use an external monitor.

2. Phottix Spartan beauty dish

As you know, I use a lot of artificial (flash) lighting in my images, so I'm always eager to learn about cool new lighting accessories. One interesting modifier I came across was at the stand of Phottix. The Spartan beauty dish (full specs here) is a modifier that seems to come straight out of a Transformers movie: it's easy to set up and you can remove the disc in the center to turn it into an octabox. I also like the fact that it comes with a grid. More and more, I seem to be using grids in my own lighting. The Spartan comes in two sizes: 50 cm and 70 cm. Price for the latter is about $145. That is very affordable, considering that some companies charge about that much for just a grid!

3. SMDV BRiHT-360

The SMDV BRiHT-360 is a lightweight 360 Ws battery-powered barebulb flash with removable battery that slides into the main unit.

The SMDV BRiHT-360 is a lightweight 360 Ws battery-powered barebulb flash with removable battery that slides into the main unit.

Just as I thought I could finally finish the manuscript of the second edition of my Making Light e-book, I came across the SMDV stand... I could not help but notice their BRiHT-360 portable barebulb flashes (there were about 10 of them placed along the counter). As you may know from previous blog posts, I am a fan of their easy to set up (and even easier to break down) Speedbox series of softboxes. At Photokina, it was the BRiHT-360 that stole the show, though. As its name implies, this is a 360 Ws barebulb flash. What I like about it is that it's super lightweight at only 1.25 kg including the battery. The latter lasts about 300 full power pops. Basically, this thing produces the same amount of light as four Speedlights at the weight and price of only two. What I also like, is that it works well with SMDV's Speedboxes, who happen to be also very lightweight: the combination of the BRiHT and an 85 cm Speedbox only puts 2 kgs on the scale!

The BRiHT does TTL and HSS with Canon and Nikon cameras (using a compatible SMDV Flashwave 5 trigger) but luckily enough it also works in manual mode on my Fujifilm cameras. I am looking forward to testing this unit more in-depth and to see whether I might even be able to get some sort of HSS with my Fuji cameras by using the Cactus V6 Mark II triggers, which I reviewed here.

In the mean time, you can read the full specs of the BRiHT 360 here. In Europe, the BRiHT will be available through www.foto-morgen.de. Price should be somewhere around €700 / $750.

4. Godox

The AD600 exists in a Bowens and a Godox mount and in a TTL and manual version. All versions support HSS with Canon, Nikon and Sony (provided you use the matching Godox X1 trigger). Image © Godox.

The AD600 exists in a Bowens and a Godox mount and in a TTL and manual version. All versions support HSS with Canon, Nikon and Sony (provided you use the matching Godox X1 trigger). Image © Godox.

Godox, whose Lithium battery-powered Ving V850 speedlight I’ve reviewed here, also had a stand at Photokina. Their AD600B battery powered studio flash has recently been reviewed in Shoot, the Belgian photography magazine I write for (Dutch link here). This unit packs 600 Ws of power in an affordable package with TTL and HSS support for Nikon, Canon and Sony. By default, it comes as an all-in one light with a battery that attaches directly to the body of the flash. The advantage is that you don’t need cables and you don’t have a separate power pack to worry about (or carry around).

The potential disadvantage is that if you put your light on a boom stand, especially with a heavy modifier, the setup can get a bit top-heavy. Also, if you’re using an assistant instead of a light stand, it’s quite a workout to hold a setup like this in the air for any prolonged period of time.

Image © Godox

Image © Godox

So I was happy to see the 600 Ws Extension Head. This accessory allows you to separate the pack from the head. Just unplug the flash tube from the AD600, plug it in the Extension Head, connect the power cable to where the flash tube used to be and boom, you've transformed your all-in-one into a pack-and-head system.

Godox also had a 1200 Ws Extension Head on display: this accessory has a special, more powerful flash tube which effectively allows you to turn 2 AD600s into one 1200 Ws pack-and-head system. With so much power, you can overpower the sun even when using larger modifiers. Or, you can benefit from faster recycle times.

Finally, Godox also had an AC adaper on display which allows you to turn the AD600 into a mains-powered flash. The adapter includes a fan as well.

If you live in the US, note that the AD600 is sold by Adorama under the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 brand name.

Image © Adorama

Image © Adorama

The 600 Ws Extension Head ships without a flash tube because you use the one that comes with the AD600. Price is around $80. Image © Adorama.

The 600 Ws Extension Head ships without a flash tube because you use the one that comes with the AD600. Price is around $80. Image © Adorama.

The 1200 Ws one has a special flash tube which actually consists of two 600 Ws tubes. Price is around $300. Image © Adorama.

The 1200 Ws one has a special flash tube which actually consists of two 600 Ws tubes. Price is around $300. Image © Adorama.

5. 3 Legged Thing Albert Tripod

I have been using the Three Legged Thing Brian tripod during my travels for the last couple of years. The main reason is that it is a lightweight travel tripod that still can be extended really high. For me, it serves a dual purpose: I can use it as a traditional tripod for long exposure photography (in which case I obviously don't extend it all the way up) but I actually use it a lot more as an impromptu light stand. Having this versatility (transformability really seems to be a theme in the products I selected in this blog post) allows me to travel with less weight without compromising on photographic opportunities. Alas, the Brian is no longer available. At Photokina, I was introduced to his successor: Albert. The Albert was improved on a number of points but still shares the Brian’s adventurous and multi-purpose DNA. Price of this carbon-fibre travel tripod system is about GBP 400 (including a ballhead).

Full specs here.

The Brian used as a light stand.

The Brian used as a light stand.

So there you have it, a quick round-up of some of some of the products that caught my attention at Photokina. If you were there, I’d love to hear what caught yours!

 

 

Honoured, humbled, frightened and excited: 2 months with the X-Pro 2

When a while back, Fujifilm offered me the opportunity to test a pre-production sample of the upcoming X-Pro 2, I felt honoured, humbled, frightened and excited all at the same time.

Honoured, because I was one of a limited number of photographers worldwide to receive an early sample. Humbled, because the list of the others included big name photographers that I regard very highly, such as Damien Lovegrove, David Hobby and Zack Arias, to name but a few. Compared to these guys, I'm just a grown-up kid with too many cameras, too many lenses and waaaay to many flashes. I felt like taking a shower with the highschool football team. When I had just been out in the freezing cold...

You know the old joke ‘How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb?

Frightened because I had a tight deadline to give Fujifilm four images, preferably from different shoots. Four images that would be looked at, pixel-peeped, scrutinized by the whole world. Four images of which Fujifilm would choose one to display during the Fujifilm X Series Five Year Anniversary Exhibition in Tokyo. You know how photographers can be ruthless for each other’s work. I couldn’t help but think of the old joke: "How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb?" The answer is: "Eleven: one to actually fix the bulb and ten to comment afterwards about how that one guy could have done it better."

Charleroi, one of Belgium's old industrial cities. I scouted this cool location without ever leaving my house, thanks to Google Maps and Google Street View. The  actual  hike up the hill made me appreciate a lightweight camera system like the X-Series even more. Hills definitely look lower from Google Earth than they do when you're standing in front of them! My original plan was to do a Long Exposure here, but the wind was so strong I could not keep the camera steady enough.

Charleroi, one of Belgium's old industrial cities. I scouted this cool location without ever leaving my house, thanks to Google Maps and Google Street View. The actual hike up the hill made me appreciate a lightweight camera system like the X-Series even more. Hills definitely look lower from Google Earth than they do when you're standing in front of them! My original plan was to do a Long Exposure here, but the wind was so strong I could not keep the camera steady enough.

Excited

But I also felt excited: I had been slaving away at my new Lightroom book for months (the Dutch version is available now and the English version is in layout) and I hadn’t really been photographing a lot. This opportunity and the deadline it included gave me a much needed kick in the butt. So I rustled up some models, fired up Google Maps and Google Street View to scout some cool locations, charged the battery of my Jinbei flash, dusted off my Formatt Hitech ND’s and my B+W Vari ND's (Dutch link, English link) and planned a couple of shoots.

Shooting JPEG (and actually liking it)

It was freezing cold but model Stéphanie was a real champ. Shot with one of my favourite lenses: the 10-24 mm. I used the  Jinbei HD600 II  and the Phottix Luna Folding Softbox. In very contrasty, backlit situations like these, it's good to have an Optical Viewfinder, too. Especially the X100T-like one, where you can still have a small EVF inserted in the bottom right corner to help you with your composition. The X-Pro 2 also has a 1/3rd stop faster sync speed than the X-T1, which comes in very handy when you're trying to overpower the sun in bright daylight.

It was freezing cold but model Stéphanie was a real champ. Shot with one of my favourite lenses: the 10-24 mm. I used the Jinbei HD600 II and the Phottix Luna Folding Softbox. In very contrasty, backlit situations like these, it's good to have an Optical Viewfinder, too. Especially the X100T-like one, where you can still have a small EVF inserted in the bottom right corner to help you with your composition. The X-Pro 2 also has a 1/3rd stop faster sync speed than the X-T1, which comes in very handy when you're trying to overpower the sun in bright daylight.

The camera being a pre-production sample, the camera’s firmware was also still beta, so there were a couple of limitations. First of all, the ‘Preview Exposure and White Balance in Manual Mode’ feature was not working on my sample. It’s a feature I rely on heavily when using flash, because it lets me easily set the desired ambient exposure. However, my model will generally be too dark in this mode, so once I’ve determined how dark or bright I want the background to be, I will switch this mode off.

I use the ‘Preview Exposure and White Balance in Manual Mode’ so much that I’ve assigned a function button to it.

I’ve even dedicated one of the function buttons to it. To assign a function to a function button, press and hold it for a couple of seconds and then choose the desired function from the list that appears. When off, the EVF goes to a normal brightness level so you can choose your composition and your focus point more easily. Being able to switch between both views and having a live histogram is one of the key advantages of mirrorless cameras. Needless to say, the feature will work as expected on shipping X-Pro 2’s.

Another thing that slightly worried me was the fact that there was no RAW support yet. In fact, there still isn’t (as is always the case with new cameras). As a Lightroom user, author and trainer, I eat RAW files for breakfast. Although I love the quality of Fuji’s out-of-camera JPEG files (they’re probably the best in the whole camera industry), I prefer to shoot at least RAW + JPEG for the added postprocessing leeway that RAW files give me. Partly, that’s for creative reasons, as I like to edit my images quite elaborately but partly it’s also to cover up for the underexposure mistakes I sometimes make while shooting. When you know your way around Lightroom, you run the risk of becoming a sloppy photographer because you know the tricks to cover your ass after the shoot.  

Just like David DuChemin, I firmly believe in  Vision-Driven Postprocessing . I always try to maximise the mood in my images to make them convey what I felt at capture time. As you can see from the behind-the-scenes shot, this image was actually taken during the day, but I thought the loneliness I felt from shooting from the top level of a parking lot, would be better expressed by a "dusky" postprocessing. I used one of my  Colorific Colour Grading presets .

Just like David DuChemin, I firmly believe in Vision-Driven Postprocessing. I always try to maximise the mood in my images to make them convey what I felt at capture time. As you can see from the behind-the-scenes shot, this image was actually taken during the day, but I thought the loneliness I felt from shooting from the top level of a parking lot, would be better expressed by a "dusky" postprocessing. I used one of my Colorific Colour Grading presets.

Old X-Pro 1 shoots new X-Pro 2 :-) This is what the scene really looked like. The dusky atmosphere was added in post. I was surprised to see that even a JPEG could survive this much postproduction, so that's very promising for the RAW files!

Old X-Pro 1 shoots new X-Pro 2 :-) This is what the scene really looked like. The dusky atmosphere was added in post. I was surprised to see that even a JPEG could survive this much postproduction, so that's very promising for the RAW files!

For that reason, I chose to shoot with the Standard Profile, rather than with Classic Chrome which I normally prefer: that film simulation blocks the shadows and without the fallback option of a raw file, I preferred to keep my options open. The X-Pro 2 also has a new Black & White film simulation and a new grain feature, but I did not test that for the same reason.

In this blog post, I will list my top 10 favourite features of this incredible new camera. To conclude this post, I was amazed with the quality of the JPEG files and the flexibility they still offered in terms of further processing. It almost made me wish Fuji would offer an option to save images as 16 bit TIFFs: you would get the benefit of near-raw like editing options along with the beautiful out-of-camera film simulations.

So, these were the four images I submitted to Fujifilm. I’m as curious as you to know which one they picked for the 5 Year X anniversary exhibition. I hope they picked at least one. And even if they haven't, I still had a hell of a time shooting! For me, the X-Pro 2 is already a fantastic camera: it made me get up from my couch and go shoot. Isn't that what all good cameras should do?

This location, an abandoned cooling tower, had been on my to-do list for quite some time. But writing books, magazine articles, creating Lightroom presets and changing the occasional diaper kept coming in the way. The X-Pro 2 deadline was the necessary kick in the butt to finally load up my  F-Stop Loka UL  backpack and go explore. And that's probably what I like most about Fujifilm cameras: they inspire me to just go out and shoot, experiment, learn from my mistakes and shoot some more.

This location, an abandoned cooling tower, had been on my to-do list for quite some time. But writing books, magazine articles, creating Lightroom presets and changing the occasional diaper kept coming in the way. The X-Pro 2 deadline was the necessary kick in the butt to finally load up my F-Stop Loka UL backpack and go explore. And that's probably what I like most about Fujifilm cameras: they inspire me to just go out and shoot, experiment, learn from my mistakes and shoot some more.

My trusted F-Stop Loka UL backpack and me at the foot of the hill overlooking Charleroi.

My trusted F-Stop Loka UL backpack and me at the foot of the hill overlooking Charleroi.

My favourite new camera with my favourite old lens: the 10-24. I think I make about half of my shots with that lens. In fact, three of the four images on this page were shot with it.

My favourite new camera with my favourite old lens: the 10-24. I think I make about half of my shots with that lens. In fact, three of the four images on this page were shot with it.

All images in this blog post are JPEG images coming from a pre-production X-Pro 2. They were processed in Adobe Lightroom with my Colorific Lightroom presets. A big thanks to Serge from www.fotografieblog.be for the behind-the-scenes shots (made with an X-Pro 1).