Walking the walk with the Fuji

I’ve gone out the last few days with my camera and besides some interesting looks from other people out walking, cycling, running; its been good. I had hoped for some basic inspiration and creativity from the over 1.5 hours sometimes of walking. I zone out and listen to Google Play Music on my Galaxy S8+ so don’t hear the smatterings of discussion and I also exit the scene stage left since I am also a walker. The city and rural streets are a gold mine of things to find. Small sites to apply to the camera and then harvest from the walks.

Here’s some proofs of the scenes.

I think people want to find the next great thing to take with them. Some larger than life frame that lights up the people as well as the room. The truth is that the big scenes are made up of many smaller ones that I think we find our ways through with no real notice. There is a geometry and a beauty and science to even the regular when I am out moving during a walk.

There’s no explaining it but its there. A small thing that looms up larger when you can find the normal things which form a strange, fun, or unusual progression.

If you are looking for inspiration; try starting with some perspiration. Taking my camera for a walk lets me test my methods, make the inevitable errors because I’m new, and then head back out the next day to try again.

 

 

 

Novice Photography with a FujiFilmX100F

I decided some months ago I needed to find a thing I could go learn that would get me out and doing new things besides the one plus hour walks I do. I could have done a variety of things like going new places with my smartphone. Could have hit the road with no real way of recording the passage.

I decided to embark on learning a new technology which is part art, part science, and mostly creativity. I bought a FujiFilm X100F on ebay and decided to take it when I go to Vancouver and Victoria BC later this year.

Image result for fujifilm x100f

On the way I learned a few things.

  1. the FujiFilm X100F is a good learner’s camera but probably not the best. Its way customizeable so you have to pick things you can “learn”. You cannot learn it all so I decided to pick a set of things first that would apply to most of my photography.
  2. the method to do photography is active and what you do can be outside your back door or down the street to a place you took for granted.
  3. there is no real commitment to posting the photographs or finding some way of promoting them. I don’t earn money from it nor do I do it for any other reason than enjoyment and learning.

If you are looking for something to start on, I can suggest that FujiFilm X100F but its an expensive thing if you decide its not your thing. Perhaps you don’t mind and I did not. I wanted something that would stretch me a bit and also provide the vivid colors and flexibility a small camera would allow when I finally hit the road early next year. I don’t need massive lens and fixtures. See if your use cases measure up to mine and be the judge.

  1. walking tourism traveling light. I want to hit the roads in cities without carrying a bulk of stuff. I can take the Fuji and have a spare battery and memory card in my pocket.
  2. I take photographs of cities and historical sites and some landscapes. I want something that’s fast and easy to set and only adjust one variable. More on that in a moment.
  3. I want something that can fit within a portable workflow with a chromebook and a card reader. Chromebooks I think are the best travel devices. Lose or break one, no big time loss. I can replace a chromebook in moments in Japan or Singapore. I like the Android app support but don’t need it.
  4. Finally, the photographs are for me. They are for me to remember and share with a small circle of people I choose. Perhaps I instagram them or place them on facebook or GooglePlus. My choice though.

So lets get down to Mike’s settings. Its simple really. I only use Aperture Priority mode and I use either Velvia or Classic Chrome simulation. Velvia when doing nature or landscape and Classic Chrome when doing street shots. Doing nature shots, I want a wide depth so I use something like F11 or F16 and it works well. Doing street shots I use something like F5.6 to F8 and that works well. Sometimes I mess with opening things up and getting closer shots but I am not a macro photographer or desire bokeh.

Now, with all these basic settings you still have to decide what is the correct aperture. Simple just get out and take photographs and you will learn the basics. Reading lots of material will give you a baseline but what you find may not mirror what someone happened to find. I did use a few resources in building my “comprehensive” settings. Here’s a few for you to read:

  1. Ian McDonald describes his settings for street photography. I stole those for the most part. I don’t do black and white too often but I would probably start with his and work my way around.
  2. Danny Ngan describes his settings for everything he shoots. What I like about Danny’s settings is that they are simple and you can go implement them without really having to spend hours.

One constant is that people tend to use Aperture Priority for a lot of things and its an easy one to start with. I think people must get off the Program or Auto modes if they want to learn what elements make a good photograph. To get there, experimentation, failure, success, failure, trying again is the recipe. Luckily, the Fuji is very forgiving and I just reformat the memory card and start it all again.

The final thing is the workflow to get the photographs off the camera. I documented what I do here. I choose a cheaper method using the Samsung Chromebook Plus with the android apps in tow. You can use what works. Perhaps its an iPad or a Surface Pro. Since I am a tool user by default I choose the one that fits inside the ecosystem I am most comfortable with. So for me, its Google Photos, Snapseed and then sharing to social media if I must or want to.

Finals…

Don’t get dismayed or disappointed. Remember why you are taking up a new hobby. You don’t learn a thing by doing it once or twice and photography is a combination of things so don’t take yourself too seriously. Just get out there and travel with the camera. That was a difficult thing for me but you have to do that part. I mean, how can you take photographs without the camera? Using a smartphone is not an option here for me. I don’t want a smartphone when I travel. They are obnoxious and link you to a cell phone signal.

I have taken a few photographs that I like with the camera. I have taken dozens, perhaps hundreds, which I deleted but each one taught me a lesson or helped me find a new way of doing a thing.

By August, I will be that much better with it. I always will be some kind of newbie but I can see the questions I ask when doing various things are becoming things I target for the next outing.

But, that’s enough for now. Its time for me to get going :-). I’ll leave you with a butterfly I found yesterday…

 

Workflows at a cheaper cost point

One can spend umpteen hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars on Apple gear and high end photo editing software or one can take another approach. What are the primary goals in getting photographs from the camera memory to a place where the applications can work on them?

  1. Transfer photo files from the camera to a holding place where they can be shared, edited, copied to new albums. I use a Samsung Chromebook Plus for my day to day compute needs so I insert the card reader with the memory card from the camera and the laptop mounts up the drive and I can open the gallery application and view the photos. At this point, I choose which ones I want to upload to Google Photos.
  2. I open the web version of Google Photos initially and upload the photos I have chosen from the memory card to Google Photos. When this exercise is done, I close the web version and start the Android version of Google Photos since I now can use the Android applications on Chrome OS.
  3. I can leave the photos the way they are or open them from the Android Google Photos in Android Snapseed to do post processing. I am not big on post processing because I’m still learning the ropes with the camera so I more often delete the memory card contents or reformat after saving only a few.
  4. Here is where the productivity mode kicks in with these Android applications. I can see them in windowed mode like this.

Screenshot 2017-06-10 at 4.01.57 PM

This creates a more compelling experience for me since I can see both applications running on the screen, use the keyboard and interact with both applications much easier. I think that this is one of the compelling use cases for the chromebooks which have or will have Android app support. This windowed mode is very useful and beats the full screen thing on iPads or Android tablets completely. I can also open a web browser if need be.

The other major factor with this is cost. I did spend more on the Samsung Chromebook Plus because I wanted the stable android apps and the screen resolution but other chromebooks can do this easily at lesser of a cost point. You can get the same apps on a Apple device but the cost of entry is a bit more and you will not get windowed view quite like this. Perhaps you will have it in newer IOS releases though.

The final thing with this workflow is that the android apps are technology I am used to using and I can build the supporting flow to allow easy backups to Google Photos.

Since my chosen FujiFilm camera uses regular memory cards, I bought a cheap card reader with both a Type C and regular USB connector on each end. Very useful as well and quite cheap.

If you are looking to build a workflow and use case which will let you harvest your photographs or images, the Chromebook with Android app support is a reasonable and cost effective solution. Having Google Play Store support makes a lot of difference but the laptop form factor, apps in windowed mode, and the obvious productivity enhancements like keyboard and larger screen that can be split or use with other tools is very nice.

More Adventures in FujiFilm Land

I spent yesterday and this morning here and there. There mostly being on the road finding new places which there are an abundance of practicing with my camera. Yesterday went to a few places like Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto and today down Castro Street in Mountain View practicing street photography. I acquired an X100F on ebay so now I am re-learning on a newer camera. I am hoping I feel ready when August gets here to capture the vacation to Vancouver and Victoria.

Today I shot using the standard film called Provia and set down Noise Reduction by a -2 and basically just used aperture priority through the day either at 5.6 or 8. Mostly apertures at 5.6.

Yesterday I went out to a few places and used the Velvia simulation mode and aperture priority and got these.

I found this little gem of a place hidden in plain view called Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto so spent time there as well.

Its all practice and learning and the places are close enough that if I wanted to get back it would be an easy jaunt.

I feel I am getting better at least using one of the modes on the camera.

Then I went to Don Edwards Refuge

After a fun day in San Francisco, I doubled down and went to Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge for a complete sea change. First was street photography and walking the city. Next was a completely different take with the Fuji X30 and capturing the scenes from the refuge. I played with different film simulation modes including Provia which is standard and Velvia which is an enhanced mode which seems to saturate the colors a lot more. Which one I like most I cannot say so its fun to shoot with both and compare.

 

The quality of the color representation is amazing to me.

I’ve also been experimenting with different shooting modes. So far I have done Program mode when doing the street shooting and aperture priority doing landscapes or more rural shots. I chose them because program mode provides that quick release where the camera does the figuring but you can also apply overrides or use custom film types. Aperture priority for outdoors photography seems like just common sense since you want more depth of field.

I have not experimented with Shutter Priority or Manual yet. That will come.

This weekend, I’ll take off and drive to the beach and capture Highway One south of Santa Cruz and north of Monterey. I have not done that kind of photography yet with the X30. We’ll see how that works out.

Street Adventures in San Francisco

How many of you want to escape to the streets with a camera and go record life as you pass through it. Perhaps a member of a scene for a moment and then you exit or the scene moves on to new things. Street photography is interesting with the Fuji X30. I spent yesterday recording it in three locations and combined some nice what I will call urban shots along with the personal. I think there are three rules with it so far.

  1. You only have mere moments to capture a thing. People or things move at a speed which does not give you time to pull out the monster DSLR, focus, choose shutter, aperture. By that time, the thing is far gone.
  2. You need to either sit still or move yourself. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Moving lets you see new things but a thing just behind you may erupt in a cacophony of colors or events or both.
  3. You don’t need to find fancy places to find people doing what they do best. Being people basically. I found a few below which I thought captured the scenery and the life of a busy day in San Francisco. See what you think.

 

A perfect mix of different places spent walking around the city. San Francisco has so many settings to capture you can spend a day in one place or reach a lot on your feet.

 

In the “always remember to take the camera wherever you go”, I observed this while out walking this morning through my neighborhood. You don’t have to go far distances to find things. Sometimes things are waiting patiently for you down the street you live on.

There is a fourth thing. If you want to experience a thing, you have to get out and see it. I still forget to take the camera and I miss things which are time limited which I think back on when writing the blog here and wish I had focused on.

Street photography is interesting and fun and a bit challenging. You have the fear of doing it combined with the challenge of the camera and the people. In the end, you should try it. Life is not just a one person experience. How you do it and what you use remains to be seen. For me, the Fuji X30 is the perfect camera with its tiltable monitor and great battery life. I set the camera on Program mode and can always override it if necessary.

Today’s Adventures

Today I am heading into San Francisco via BART to go stroll and take more photographs with my Fuji X30. I’ve settled on two distinct modes when shooting photographs so will be testing them more in SF today.  This is in anticipation of my August trip to Vancouver and Victoria since the type of photography I enjoy doing will not change that much when I am walking there. I went out yesterday to Palo Alto and strolled down California Street to capture people, stuff and their transactions. California street has a mix of restaurants, shops and people enjoying both. Here’s a few samples from the X30 set on program AE mode where I just click away.

I like the contrast of the umbrella things and the blue sky in this shot.

Another joy is being able to just take photographs with the camera in real life where people come and go and I can respond in real time using the mode that works for me.

In retrospect, I should have stopped for awhile in Backyard Brew. I like the looks of that place :-).

In street or urban shooting the depth of field, aperture, ISO is set by the camera and I trust to its settings but can override. Doing some more landscape, I prefer a bit more control so I can ensure that the depth of field is accurate or I want to play and see. I use Aperture Priority mode and the camera decides two of the settings.

 

I took this at the Dumbarton Bridge pull off or vista point because all the years I have driven the bridge I never stopped there. I never knew it had this stuff so I stopped.

Some would say the X30 cannot do landscape. How then did I get this shot? I am not sure. Perhaps an error of some kind :-).

Its very green out there now!

So onward to the day pretty soon. Its about 8am here and I am in no rush to head on out. I’ll go to the Union City BART station and head in about 930am after breakfast.

Can’t wait to test the camera out in a new place!

Back to the Fuji X30

I finished a few side projects so decided yesterday to leave work early and go back to experimenting with how I shoot a variety of types of photographs on the X30. I’m a rank amateur but have found a few things which just seem to work.

  1. Shooting around town with buildings and people. I have been using Program mode for this since there is no real thinking about things and one can simply bring the camera up or tilt the monitor at an angle and be able to take frames from the hip so to speak. I’ve read that Program mode is for lazy people that don’t want to learn more complex modes. To that I say who cares what you think about the way I shoot photographs? Program mode just works on the X30. When you take a photograph of a person or thing that’s happening what do you want? Futzing with manual settings and by the time you figure it out its already happened? Nope.
  2. Shooting at some kinda landscape mode. I like to shoot pictures of natural stuff. I’ve read that the X30 for the purists is not the best for landscape photography. To that I say Nope. It works fine for me in Aperture Priority mode shooting the types of photographs I will want to shoot on vacations. In this mode you set the Aperture and the camera decides what works for the shutter and ISO. This mode works well for me. Forget what others may say regarding whether it should be on manual for now.

My next mode to learn is the opposite so to speak of Aperture Priority. I will next learn when and where to use Shutter Priority by taking the requisite photographs with that mode given what the others have said and using it as a baseline.

Here’s a few photographs of my ongoing attempts.

This was shot in Aperture Priority mode. This is letting the X30 decide what the shutter and ISO should be.

This was shot in Program Mode. In this mode, the X30 decides it all but I can set overrides or do what are called Program shifts if I want. I do use a custom Photo simulation called Velvia and back off some details using negative values. Here’s another shot in the same mode.

One thing to notice here is the color of the sky. In the past, I had serious over exposure issues when I got too complex with the camera so I decided to use simpler methods that still have overrides when I may want them.

I also thought over during my Friday night binge beer event what I expect out of this learning experience with a better camera. I came away realizing I am not a candid street photographer completely or a landscape photographer only. I am some kind of mix and want the best of both but still want ultimate control over what the camera is doing so its a continuous learning experience. Its okay to make mistakes and then go back and use a workflow to address. Learning to use the X30 is not about proclaiming I am only going to shoot on Manual or I won’t use Program because of some reason. Its more about what works between me and the camera. I don’t want to be bothered shooting something in a city with nagging doubts whether I got a setting right or not. People or things moving are not gonna be there so Program mode in my downtown mode works better. My landscape photography includes things that don’t move so much. Mountains, hills, trees, and grassy fields do not change so Aperture mode works.

Workflows

The final thing I have been working on my Samsung Chromebook Plus is a workflow to get the photographs from the camera card to my Google Photos. I now upload all the photos from the card to Google Drive and then I told Google Photos to include my Google Drive as an image source. This works really well and means I can see everything in my cloud photo service simply by using the flow I have established. Its also easy to use Snapseed in this workflow if I want to change a thing in post processing. I don’t do that a lot. I just accept, delete, or retake  the photograph these days. It shows back up in the workflow on all my devices since everything uses Google Photos as the cloud source.

So there’s the current state with Mike moving from taking photographs with a Android phone that requires no real decision making to learning something and then learning new things. Learning is good. Whether I keep the camera workflow and custom settings the way they are or move to Aperture Priority for everything only depends on me.

Perhaps I’ve simplified the camera or perhaps the camera offers these modes for some reason. I think there is  reason and its not to “dumb down” the exercise. I think Fuji offers Program mode and the ability to override it for people that want to take pictures when in a busy or saturated environment like street photography. There should be a way to make a few changes using the Q menu that are not available in automatic shooting mode. If you are a purist, that’s great. At the end of the day you will take your photographs and perhaps you publish them or sell them. I don’t. This is about my own enrichment which does not include justifying why the camera I use can capture the picture while you are still fiddling around with the triangle.

Adventures with my Fujifilm X30 continues

I’m taking the camera more places which is good. Its not a habit though which I would want it to be. I took it to work yesterday and ended up at a 7/11 store and took this. I wanted to try making basic changes to the black and white so darkened it a bit and applied “pop”.

Shooting in black and white creates a completely different reality but applying a few basic post processes brings out more of the photograph which I did not capture in my enthusiasm and complete newbieness.

I also went to a park earlier today to play around with Aperture Priority shooting on the X30. It gives more control over the camera but still the camera sets the ISO and shutter speed so not all the values are up to me.

I need to learn more technique and ability with the aperture. Its one of the triangle of photo shooting. If you are just learning (like me), a few resources come in handy that are not slanted toward any camera in general but more about technology and approach. Easy to find with a google search!

Shooting with a camera is so different. The X30 has different film simulation modes which are fun to play with and explore. The above picture was taken with the Velvia mode. Each one offers some unique combination and a new playground for things to experiment with.

I also went prowling through our backyard and its amazing what I could find to take a picture of if I would remember the camera.

Its truly unlimited out there and I’m glad I bought the camera. I cannot imagine now going back to my smartphone camera no matter how well its rated. Learning photography is not just about taking pictures in some auto mode and letting the camera adjust. Its finding the different modes and learning each one.

I am hoping that by the time I travel to Vancouver and do all the different kinds of photography I am learning now, I’ll be better and more able to judge what I should set the camera to. The real benefit is learning something new. The camera worth has far exceeded what I paid for it already.

Uh Oh. Mike got a new camera…

You know what that means, right?

These were my first photos with the FujiFilm X30. I have a feeling that there will be lots more to come. This camera has a definite funk feeling to it. I wanted to head out to a few local places and shoot on fully automatic where I let the camera decide what it should do.

I also offloaded the photos from the SD card to my chromebook and then uploaded to Google Photos in Starbucks. This will be the way I “harvest” the photos each day when I travel so its like proving out how the workflow will work. Since my chromebook has the android apps as well, I can run Google Photos Android and Instagram. I think it would be easier to share from my android phone using Google Photos after its all uploaded.

Someone asked the key differences and why I would want to move to a camera. There’s lots of reasons. The first thing is a smartphone is just that. Its smart and its a phone. No matter how good the camera, there’s a certain thing to holding a camera. There is also a learning thing for me where the camera and I reach an agreement. That’s to come though after a number of more day trips to various and sundry places where I shoot with the Fuji on fully auto and harvest the pictures.