Shooting Landscape

There was once I have a conversation with my friend with regard to wide angle lens. He voiced out his love for wide angle lenses and how he believe in shooting with one makes you a better landscape photographer. Well, to me in order to become a better landscape photographer, there’re so much more than just slapping an ultra wide angle lens in front of your camera.

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Trying out different framing and perception

I think many of us have the misconception to equate landscape photography to wide angle lens, the wider the better. Well, I can’t deny the impact of using a wide angle lens in landscape photography, the broad vista it present, the dynamic presentation of foreground and background and so on. But the truth is, landscape photography can be done with any lenses, be it wide angle or telephoto lens. It’s all about what you want to show, to frame and to present to viewers.

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Shot at 345mm equivalent

There are far more than just using a wide angle lens to improve on landscape photography. Effective composition can easily transform a rather ordinary scene to extraordinary. Always take note on the corners of your frame. Exclude unnecessary objects that doesn’t contribute to your picture. Be aware of the horizon. Observe your foreground and background in order to get the picture with maximum impact. This is where the wide angle lens will make or break your photograph. Since it’s so wide, you can end up having a whole lot of unwanted objects in your frame, or ended up including to many points of interest in your picture, making it too busy and less effective. Due to the pushing effect of wide angle lens, your foreground may end up too empty and lack of interest. Distortion may also be too much until a point it becomes distracting.

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Long exposure & monochrome

Another common misconception is that people tends to equate landscape photography to sunrise and sunset, a.k.a. shooting at the golden/blue hour. Well, there’s nothing wrong shooting landscape during the golden hour or the blue hour. But why limiting yourself just to shoot during these timing? Landscape photograph can be captured in almost anytime of the day. At the end of the day, is all about how you want to manipulate and capture the light hitting your frame. Do not hesitate to make use of accessories such as graduated ND, full ND filters or polarizer to play around with the light. Don’t be afraid to test out various settings and see what effect they provide.

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HDR merge of 3 bracketed shots in Lightroom 6

On the more technical side, study on methods such as exposure bracketing, focus stacking, expose to the right (ETTR) and some post processing method such as High Dynamic Range and Exposure Blending, which will enhance your picture further to create the look that you want. Don’t be afraid to convert your landscape picture into monochrome and set your imagination free.

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Minimalist composition

Last but not least, practice more. Try not to mimic what others have shot. Even though you are standing on the same spot, try to scout for different perspective and composition. Find a way to be different from others. Think, experiment, don’t get lazy, and you will be able to improve on your skills in landscape photography.

A Beginner’s Guide to Fujifilm X Series Camera – Focus Peaking

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One of the advantages for using mirrorless camera (such as the Fujifilm X series camera body) is that you can easily adapt all sorts of lenses on the camera. From old Minolta lenses, Canon lenses, Leica lenses and so on. For those who owned a collection of vintage or manual focusing lenses such as Minolta lens, Leica lens or Zeiss lens, it is as good as breathing new life to their lens collection, as they get to use those lenses on the camera body via a simple mount adapter. There are people who adapt their DSLR lenses on mirrorless as well. Here’s a nice article about adapting lenses on mirrorless body:

http://admiringlight.com/blog/using-old-manual-focus-lenses-on-mirrorless-cameras/

Although you get to use all sorts of lenses on the Fujifilm X series camera body, however you will lose the ability to perform auto focus (well, of course) and one will need to rely on manual focus in order to get things done. It may sounds hard and troublesome, but actually it is pretty easy to be done as there are features such as focus peaking, digital split screen and magnification available on the Camera body which assist you in obtaining focus accurately.

Of all the manual focus aid, my preference is to use focus peaking. Generally speaking, focus peaking will show colour dot over the edge of your subject when it is in focus. This method holds true for most of the time. However, when you are shooting high contrast object, the edge will sometimes be fooled to show it is in focus with the peaking dot while in actual the subject is not yet in focus.

To work around this limitation, I find that instead of looking for the edge to show peaking dots, look for the depth of field. When you focus, you should be able to see peaking on certain distance/area/zone, that’s your depth of field/region where with your given setting, the subject falls within that region will be in focus. So you just turn the focus ring until that region covers your subject. By focusing this way, I found that my success rate is much higher.

When required, I’ll couple focus peaking with magnification to get the most precise focus. As for digital split image, I personally don’t find it useful for me to acquire focus easily. Hope this sharing will become useful for you.

A Beginner’s Guide to Fujifilm X Series Camera – User Preset Custom Settings

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There’s this feature in Fujifilm X series camera which I believe is least being used by most. However, I find this feature to be a pretty useful feature which speed up my workflow. It’s called the “Custom Setting”. You can edit the custom setting by heading to menu, then scroll down and look for “edit/save custom setting”. From there you can edit and save your personal preferred setting individually for up to 7 custom settings.

Items that you can predefined in custom settings include:

ISO
Dynamic Range
Film Simulation
White Balance
Color
Sharpness
Highlight Tone
Shadow Tone

Noise Reduction

By now you may realized that these are the parameters that affect the in-camera JPEG processing. Hence, the custom setting is particularly useful for those who shoot JPEG only or RAW + JPEG. I have all 7 custom settings set to different film simulations, and for each film simulation I have a set of adjustment predefined. So when I want to shoot in Astia for example, all I need to do is press the Q button, select the custom setting that stored the film simulation and the adjustment profile, and I’m ready to start shooting. When I want to switch to another simulation, instead of pressing the short cut button on the D-pad, all I need to do is just press the Q and switch the custom settings.

Using the custom setting as a way to change your film simulation gives a few advantages:

  1. It frees up the D-pad, so I can assign direct AF point adjustment function to it
  2. I can ensure consistency on the output of my picture with certain style that I want (such as high contrast fir monochrome image and etc)
  3. Faster workflow for JPEG shooting. Most of the shooting adjustment has already been predefined by you, and if there’s any changes required to be made in the field, it can be done easily and much faster (consider the fact that you may want to change more than one parameter)
  4. Free up spaces in the Q menu. For camera which allows customization of Q menu, having some parameters predefined and stored in the custom setting allows you to remove those parameters from the Q menu and replace with something else. Hence, less hassle to dive into the menu system.

I hope I had brought my idea across… It’s not an easy topic to explain. Nevertheless, here are the 7 custom settings that I used in my X camera:

Custom 1:

ISO: Auto (200-6400)
Dynamic Range: Auto
Film Simulation: Velvia
White Balance: Auto or 5600K
Color: +1
Sharpness: +1
Highlight Tone: -1
Shadow Tone: -1

Noise Reduction: -1

Custom 2:

ISO: Auto (200-6400)
Dynamic Range: Auto
Film Simulation: Provia (Standard)
White Balance: Auto
Color: +1
Sharpness: +1
Highlight Tone: -1
Shadow Tone: -1

Noise Reduction: -1

Custom 3:

ISO: Auto (200-3200)
Dynamic Range: Auto
Film Simulation: Pro Neg Hi
White Balance: Auto
Color: +1
Sharpness: +1
Highlight Tone: -1
Shadow Tone: -1

Noise Reduction: -1

Custom 4:

ISO: Auto (200-6400)
Dynamic Range: Auto
Film Simulation: Monochrome
White Balance: Auto
Color: 0
Sharpness: +1
Highlight Tone: +2
Shadow Tone: +2

Noise Reduction: -1

Custom 5:

ISO: Auto (200-6400)
Dynamic Range: Auto
Film Simulation: Monochrome + Red Filter
White Balance: Auto
Color: 0
Sharpness: +1
Highlight Tone: +1
Shadow Tone: +2

Noise Reduction: -1

Custom 6:

ISO: Auto (200-3200)
Dynamic Range: Auto
Film Simulation: Astia
White Balance: Auto
Color: +1
Sharpness: +1
Highlight Tone: -1
Shadow Tone: -1

Noise Reduction: -1

Custom 7:

ISO: Auto (200-6400)
Dynamic Range: Auto
Film Simulation: Classic Chrome
White Balance: Auto
Color: +1
Sharpness: +1
Highlight Tone: -1
Shadow Tone: +1

Noise Reduction: -1

As such, I have remove items like colour, sharpness, highlight tone and shadow tone from the Q menu and replaced with other items such as flash control, face detection on/off and etc. you may also realized that for Astia and Pro Neg Hi, my ISO is limited to only 3200, which is the maximum acceptable ISO for shooting portrait in JPEG for me. Of course these are just some of my preference, and feel free to play around with those adjustment and find the best presets that suits your style.

 

P/S: If you are shooting RAW, this whole thing may not benefit you much at all. But I still find that it’s good to be able to view the picture when I shoot with my personal presets, as this give me an idea on how my picture will turn out in post processing as well.

 

Credits: This useful technique was first taught by X Photographer, Keith Low during one of his workshop. I have tweaked the settings to my own liking, which is slightly different from his sharing during the workshop.

A Beginner’s Guide to Fujifilm X Series Camera – Film Simulations

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I’m not really an expert to discuss film simulation here. Anyway, here are a few links for you to read up and compare the difference between different film simulation:

http://www.fujivsfuji.com/film-simulation-modes-compared/

http://fujifilm-blog.com/tag/film-simulation/

For general shooting I’ll stick to Provia. Occasionally when I do streets or documentary kinda style, I’ll go for Monochrome or Classic Chrome. When shooting portraiture, my preference leans towards Pro Neg Hi or Astia. Well, these are just my “usual” preferences. Of course there are times when I’ll do the unusual such as shooting landscape in Monochrome + Red filter and etc. Velvia is not my preferred film simulation, somehow… Occasionally I’ll use it when I shoot landscape or nature, but most of the time I’ll end up toning down the colour saturation as often I just find them too overwhelming. Again, these are my preferences, do try out all the simulation and see which one works best for you.

If you shoot RAW, you can convert into different film simulation in-camera via the in-camera RAW converter. Otherwise, you can decide later in Photoshop or Lightroom when you import your RAW files (Note that you don’t get to change the film simulation if you import the Jpeg files). If you are shooting JPEG only and you are not sure which film simulation works best, what can be done? There’s this function in Drive Mode called “Film Simulation Bracketing”. Once activated, the same scene will be shot with 3 different film simulations that you have predefined. You can select the one that works for you later on.

Film simulation is one of the reason why I was lured to use Fujifilm camera. Hope you enjoy using it as much as I do. Till then.

A Beginner’s Guide to Fujifilm X Series Camera – RAW or JPEG

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A lot of times, beginner will shoot mainly on jpeg because they are not very good in post processing. Believe it or not, there are even professionals who shoot in jpeg. Again, it’s all about making the choice, and you must know why you decided to shoot either in RAW or JPEG.

My take on this? For those who just started with photography, feel free to shoot only in jpeg, especially when you are using a Fujifilm X series camera. Their jpeg files are great, if not the best in the industry in terms of colour output and in-camera adjustment. My personal opinion is, for beginners, focus on shooting, learning, framing and master both your camera and the basic skill first, then only you worry about editing your image in RAW.

I know editing is part of the mix in photography, so ultimately it depends on the individual, whether how much he or she can coupe in learning. Just don’t feel shy to shoot in jpeg. It doesn’t imply that you are noob, not at all. My personal preference is shooting in RAW + JPEG. Whenever I find that the Jpeg files are good enough (and a lot of times they did), I’ll just use the Jpeg file straight away.

I’ll talk about in-camera Jpeg adjustment in future post. Till then.