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A lucky day in Fuji(XE2)-land

July 26th, 2014


Ok, first a couple of caveats:
1. I believe Fuji when they say that the XE2 and the lenses that I used are not waterproof, so this post is my own personal experience and, to be honest, a lack of good judgement.
2. It is not recommended to use the XE2 in the following conditions
Bonus caveat: The XE2 is NOT an AquaCam!

On our Cuba 2014 trip, I decided to bring only my Fuji XE2 and several Fuji lenses, leaving my larger Nikon DSLR system at home for the first time ever. The reasons being, less weight, more mobile, much less intimidating to subjects. One of my perennial goals was to photograph a storm at the Melacon. The Melacon is a sea wall that goes along the street of downtown Havana for about 7 miles. The Malecon is often vibrant with human activity and red hot Cuban music. But, not on this morning…

We were walking down to the Malecon, unaware of the weather, as it has been consistently sunny and hot for days. We were hoping for great, soft morning light. The clouds gathered very quickly and the wind picked up. After a moment of disappointment, I began to realize that this is what I have been waiting for and my pace began to quicken.

Arriving at the Malecon, the large breaking waves were incredible and were coming up onto the street. The main street on the Malecon is closed, or is assumed to be closed, during these conditions. It was actually a bit chilly, and wet didn’t help.

I wanted to use the XE2 and the 35mm, f/1.4 because of the very low light, knowing that it was not waterproof, but hoping that a little ambient mist would be ok. Well, there was a little ambient mist, quickly followed by becoming repeatedly drenched in salt water. But, during the shooting time, the XE2 and lens worked flawlessly. I also knew that the water hasn’t seeped into the camera mechanisms, yet. My wiser friends, who did not get the dramatic water shots, by the way, were standing way back in the distance, incredulous that I was subjecting my XE2 to such camera-cidal conditions. Only 4 of us were putting our cameras (several with Fujis) at risk. I don’t know how everyone else faired out, although I’m sure we would have heard something if there were any salt water damage issues.

All of this said, I dried off the XE2 back in the room and was waiting for the camera to malfunction due to salt water for the remainder of our trip. To my surprise, it functioned perfectly during the tour, and to this day. Since then, I got the XT1, which adds more confidence to shooting in challenging conditions.

REMINDER: It is NOT recommended for you to shoot the XE2 in the rain or in splashing water. I consider myself lucky that my XE2 was unaffected by this experience, and have no intention of repeating it.

That said, here’s a few shots of our storm at the Malecon. oh yeah…I used ISO1600 to ISO3200 only.

I’m enjoying the liberating mirrorless Fuji X system and lenses more than ever.

I, and many others, are still looking forward to the addition of a 2-stop auto bracket and more multiple exposures in a future firmware update. 

That aside, my primo kit these days is an XT1 and XE2 and the following lenses: 14mm, 23mm 35mm, 60mm, 10-24mm, 18-55mm, 55-200mm, and the Rokinon 8mm fisheye. I’ll be picking up the 56mm later this year before Cuba 2015, and will have a hard look at the 120-400 later this year! I’m currently getting my Xpro converted to infrared and will have it delivered when we are in the Palouse.

If interested in Cuba 2016, led by John Barclay and myself, or have any questions about it, please email me.

We start hitting the road pretty hard beginning in about a week to the Palouse. You can see our 2014 Visual Artstry schedule here. We have a few openings in our fall series (New Hampshire and Acadia). Please contact Susan for more info and to register.

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online!


Evolution of style

July 20th, 2014

From the first time I saw a beautiful, painterly textured image (although, I wasn’t aware of textures), I had an affinity for that particular look. It just felt right. To me, being in the arts my entire life to date, art is visceral. Technical virtuosity as the message is impressive, but doesn’t really get inside of me. Never has. 

I’ve been playing around with textures for years, but seldom got the precise look and feel I was seeking. The new extension panel by Adobe creative genius, Russell Brown (links at the end),  has greatly facilitated the texturing process by making it easy to add many textures on a single image, adjusting the opacity and blend mode of each texture. That capability, along with the use of layer masks, has basically brought texture overlays into the realm of instant gratification, where we can immediately see the basic result of an added texture and then can chose to develop it or click off of it and try something different. 

The ease of being able to work and experiment without clunky openings and closings of texture and image files, greatly streamlines the technical process, allowing more spontaneity in the creative process. 

Note: Texture selection is as important as subject selection.

Here’s a small gallery from the day at the computer (all images made with at least 3 textures and layer masks):

There is a Texture extension panel for CC2014 and an older version still available for CS5 and CS6 (maybe earlier. You’ll have to try and see). Both panels are FREE and include some flypaper textures. Thanks Russell Brown!!

If interested in more, check out our discounts page!

After a day of play, it’s back to the salt mines tomorrow.

Have a great week and we’ll see ya online!


The iPhone loves Iceland

July 16th, 2014


After our fourth trip to Iceland, yes, the iPhone does indeed still loves Iceland. I’ve been trying to make it a point to always have the phone with me and to always grab a shot everywhere I set up my tripod in the field.  And when the tripod was used, I used my  SideKick 360 tripod adapter, which, like with any other camera, rendered sharper pictures in moderate to low light.

Here’s a small iPhone image gallery from our Icelandic Odyssey 2014. The apps used, as best I can recall, are listed under each image.

The greatest thing about Smartphones in general, and the iPhone specifically, is that the camera and apps get better and better with each iteration.

I tend to use my Fuji X system cameras for my more serious work, however, the iPhone is used as a sketchpad, making images that are more interpretive.

The resolution is high enough in photoshop, where the file size triples (3 channels), that large print iPhone exhibits are not unusual.

The spontaneity coupled with the file size makes this a professional tool.

It’s also really fun.

Here’s some workshop info:

If interested in being added to our Icelandic Odyssey 2015 (yr 5) email list to be notified when details become available, please email Susan.

If interested in being added to our Portugal, May 2015 tour email list to be notified when details become available, please email Tony (me).

We have only a few openings in our Visual Artistry Workshops. CHECK HERE for locales and details.

So, that about it.

Thanks for taking the time. Feel free to leave a comment or question, etc., and we’ll see ya online.


Iceland in Pano

July 13th, 2014

[Group 0]-_DSF1699__DSF1708-7 images-Edit

Iceland, aka Pano-land, is replete with incredible panoramic photo ops! Sue and I probably shoot more panos here than anywhere else. It really is quite easy. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:


1. in bright light, when nodal points are irrelevant, hand holding the camera at a fast shutter speed (e.g. 1/125 sec) and overlapping by half will work, however….in low or medium light (unless you want to jack up the ISO), a sturdy tripod is a good idea.

Nodal Points – There are two nodal points. Both require hardware: For single row pans, place the center of the lens over the center of the tripod head for proper alignment; and, for multiple row and/or off axis pans, in addition to placing the center of the lens over the center of the tripod head, you’ll need to also have the center of the front element over the center of the tripod head. Here’s what I use.

2. when there is a near/far relationship in the scene, nodal points are no longer irrelevant and become critical. This is when hardware is required, otherwise the image will be out of synch and there will obvious edges that don’t line up, resulting in an unsuccessful image, possibly fixable with a lot of software work.

3. I use Photoshop’s Photomerge and Autopano Pro. Since software algorithms can be different, images that don’t stitch in Photomerge will generally stitch in Autopano, and vice versa. However, this only happens infrequently.

All of the images in the gallery are shot using the RRS panning system and the Fuji XT-1 and 18-55mm lens. The infrared made using an infrared converted D300 and 16-35mm.

Panoramic images capture more of the expanse and feel of this place, much more than a single frame, in my opinion. Actually, it’s more like what we see, isn’t it?

We have Iceland 2015 on the books for late June/ July. Email Susan and/or Einar at Focus on Nature for more information and if interested in being placed on our mailing list.

Next blog: “Iceland loves the iPhone!” Watch this space.

Don’t forget to check out our 2014 Visual Artistry workshop page, as we have a few openings this fall.

If you have any specific panning questions, email me directly or leave a comment.

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online.


Iceland in Infrared

July 11th, 2014


southeast coast

Since conducting workshops in Iceland w/ Focus on Nature beginning 2009, the intense greens, graphic rocks, and old structures with white puffy clouds made this a killer infrared venue, but because of weight constraints, I’ve been unable to bring my infrared system along with my normal gear. But, since moving to the Fuji mirrorless X-system, the weight was so reduced that I was able to bring my relatively weighty infrared system: Nikon D300, 16-35mm and 28-300, and as a bonus, my RRS panning rig also came in under the weight limit! The lead image is an 8 image stitched pan from one of our favorite venues on Iceland’s southeast coast.

I’ve decided to further lighten the load by getting my Fuji Xpro-1 converted to dedicated infrared (super color conversion) from LifePixel.

Here’s a small gallery of Icelandic infrared images.

All images are processed in Lightroom and further optimized using layer masks in PS and Magic Bullet Photo Looks.

Icelandic Odyssey (IO), June 2015 is on the books!!
Please email Susan if interested in being on our IO/2015 mailing list, being kept apprised as things develop.

Watch this space for future blogs: Icelandic panos and Icelandic iPhone pics!

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online!