Leaving for China - Cameras and lenses

Cameras

Every body knows that the Fuji X-T2 is gonna be release in the next couples of weeks. Attending such a high profile event has the G20 Summit, I reached out to Fuji Canada and try to get an X-T2 shipped to me. Unfortunately, because we are so close to the launch, none of them were available. I have to say that I was very last minute in my request and Fuji was super cool with me.

Now that the X-T2 was out of the picture, selecting the cameras was very easy. I opted to bring 2x Fuji X-Pro2 and a Canon G7X II for daily videos. The X-Pro2 is by far my favorite camera and is the perfect documentary photography camera in my book.

I'm also bringing a bunch of chargers and batteries enough to cover me for 2 days of shootings. It always a good practice to have sufficient batteries when you are away. I always have a 2 days supply in case my charger dies on me. It gives me an extra day to find a replacement. It happened to me in Istanbul last year. 

Lenses

Selecting what lenses to bring was not that easy. I'm lucky enough to own most of what Fuji has to offer but at the same time it didn't help my cause at all. My initial plan was to bring only 2 lenses:

  • XF 16-55mm f/2.8 LM WR
  • XF 10-24mm f/4.0 R OIS

These are two fabulous lenses an this kit would have been very capable. When traveling, the XF 10-24mm is one of my favorites. So I decided to pack my bag with my 2 bodies and carry it around for a few days see how it felt. After 2 days I realized that it would be two heavy for what I wanted. The XF 16-55mm is a big lens!! I could easily go with just the XF 16-55mm. It's weather sealed, very flexible in terms of focal range and let's face it, it is the traditional photojournalism lens.

MY FINAL SELECTION

So I decided to experiment traveling only with primes (well almost). If find that changing lenses all the time while traveling can get annoying really fast but since i'm bringing 2 bodies, this should not be an issue.

Here is the little kit I've put together:

  • Samyang 8mm f/2.8 II
  • XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS
  • XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR
  • XF 35mm f/2 R WR
  • XF 56mm f/1.2 R

I know this is more then 2 lenses but here is the logic behind this kit. First, I will never walk around with more than 2 lenses. During the day, my kit will probably include the XF 10-24mm and the XF 56mm. At night, I will walk around with the XF 16mm and the XF 35mm. Now the wild card in the mix is the Samyang 8mm fisheye lens. I will only carry that lens to capture cityscape and I intend to capture those mostly at night.

The combo XF 16mm and XF 35mm works very very well for me. I absolutely love it. When the XF 23mm f/2.0 is released later in September, I will get my hands on one for sure. I'm a big fan of the 35mm (on full frame) focal length for street photography and I usually shoot those pictures a f/8 or f/11 so I don't always need the f/1.4. The reduction in size and weight + the weather sealing are all I need to place an order! 

Other notable candidates

During my selection process (I know some of you might think that I'm crazy) I seriously considered the following lenses:

  • XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR
  • XF 23mm f/1.4 R
  • XF 27mm f/2.8

I just love the XF 90mm. It's a fantastic lens but, I think it's bit to long for traveling. At least for the kind of images I want to produce over there. Yes it is weather sealed and the XF 56mm is not but, I've shot the XF 56mm and in a little rain and everything was alright. I will just have to be more carefull.

As I mentioned above, I'm a big fan of the XF 23mm but since I'm bringing the XF 10-24mm I figured this would be redundant. After inspecting my stats in Adobe Lightroom, I also realized that I rarely shoot bellow f/4 with my XF 23mm so that's why it's not coming along on this trip.

Now, if you would ask my friends or colleagues, what I always have with me, they would most likely answer: his fuji camera with that little lens!! This would be the XF 27mm. It's not a perfect lens but for my day to day photography and capturing little moments here and there, it's perfect. I just wish it had an aperture ring like the XF 18mm f/2 but that's another debate. So far, the XF 27mm is staying home but it might change at the last minute... It's so small!

So there you have it, my kit so far:

  • 2x Fuji X-Pro2
  • Samyang 8mm f/2.8 II
  • XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS
  • XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR
  • XF 35mm f/2 R WR
  • XF 56mm f/1.2 R

The last question I asked my self was, how the hell do I carry all this to China and how do I walk around with my Fuji's. Any respectable photographer must have at anytime at least 3 or 4 camera bags in it's inventory. I use to complain about my wife's purse until she made an inventory of my camera bags... Let's just say, I don't complain any more hehe!

I decided to carry all my gear in a LowePro ProTactic 350 for airport traveling and long day of shooting where I would carry a bit more gear. For the day to day, my Billingham Hadley Pro was again the perfect bag for the job. I love this bag so much it's ridiculous!

As always, feel free to comments bellow and let me know what you think and perhaps, tell me what do you bring when you travel with your Fuji's! 

Leaving for China - 1 week to go!

So first of all, let me appologize for the delays in my blogs. It's been crazy lately but now i'm back in control of my life. Long story short, big projects at work, office expansion and a new baby named Olivia.

Next week I'll be heading to China for 2 weeks. On the program, Shanghai, Hong-Kong and Beijing. This is mostly a business trip and it will conclude by me attending the G20 YEA Summit on September 8th, 9th and 10th with the Canadian delegation. I'm very excited about this trip and I'm almost ready.


36 OF THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST CANADIAN ENTREPRENEURS PARTICIPATE TO THE 2016 G20 YEA SUMMIT THIS YEAR. LAST YEAR WAS MY FIRST TIME PARTICIPATING IN ISTANBUL AND THIS YEAR I GET TO DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.


For the last month I would say, one question was on my mind. What cameras/lenses do I bring and how do I carry them. Now this wasn't an easy process let me tell you. I wanted to travel light but at the same time I have to document this trip properly and I have to be able to respond in case of an emergency at work.

In the next blog, I will go over the list of equipments that I'm bringing with me and the thought process behind my choices for this trip. You will se that it wasn't easy but I think I have assemble a nice little kit for this trip.

Now that all my paper work is in order, all I have to do is wait for the big day!

Just how good is Adobe Lightroom Mobile?

A couple of months ago, I got myself an iPad Pro. Why did I get it? I still don’t know. It was one of these impulsive purchase where I had to have it. turns out I enjoy it more and more. I recently discovered the Adobe mobile products via an email I received after subscribing to their CC cloud products. Being a big fan of Google Snapseed and VSCO cam I was very sceptical about Adobe Lightroom mobile but Id decided to give it a shot on my iPad Pro.

The first generation of Adobe mobile products were very basic, slow and didn’t work very well. Let me tell you that we are in a different ball game now. The apps are mature, very responsive and well design. They are not perfect but my first impression were very good. Having the latest generation of CPU from Apple and a lot more RAM plays a big part in the experience but I tried the Apps on an iPad Air 2 and they work just as well.

Adobe Lightroom Mobile (LRM)

When you launch LRM, the first screen you see is your photo library. In that screen you can create collections to organize your photos, launch the LRM camera App, configure your sync parameters, import photos from your camera roll or present your photos in a slideshow. My test were done on LRM 2.2. It supports importing full size images from your camera roll but it cannot read raw files yet. DNG support was announced for Android so we should see it very soon on iOS.

Sync Options

LRM can sync photos accros your different iOS device and with Lightroom Desktop. This feature is not intended to be a backup solutions for your photos. By this I mean that if you accidentally delete a photo from one device, it will be deleted on all the other devices. There is no way specify a unidirectional sync at the moment. If you edit a photo on one device, let’s say your iPhone, once the sync is completed on your iPad, you will be able to change your edit on that iPad even if the photo is already open. This is a pretty cool feature but unfortunately, it does not work with Lightroom Desktop. Once the photo is synced to your desktop, Lightroom will see your edited phote as an original. Your changes will be there and they will be visible but if you set your exposure to +1.0EV for example, Lightroom desktop will see it as 0.0EV. It would be nice in the future to have these adjustments synced to the desktop as well.

Tools and features

LRM contains many of the existing tools in Lightroom desktop. You can adjust your Tone Curve, Vignetting, Split Toning, Color and B&W settings and they even implemented the Dehaze feature.

Then you have your typical adjustments:

  • Conversion to B&W
  • White Balance
  • Temperature
  • Tint
  • Auto Tone
  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Whites
  • Blacks
  • Clarity
  • Vibrance
  • Saturation

I don’t know why but there is no sharpening option. You got to use Photoshop Express if you need to sharpen your photo. When you make changes to your photo, LRM is very snappy to apply them on the image. If you press and hold 3 fingers, you will see your original photo before you made any changes. This is pretty neet.

Of course you can flag and rate your photos an LRM comes with a bunch of preset to accelerate your workflow. There is no way to create your custom preset for reutilization and that would be a nice addition. If you need to fix something on your image, there is a nice option menu to allow you to edit your photo in Photoshop Fix. Il talk more about that a bit further.

Finally, LRM allow you to select what metadata you wish to attach when you share your photo or when you save it to your camera roll.

Adobe Lightroom Mobile allows you to specify what Metadata to share

Adobe Lightroom Mobile allows you to specify what Metadata to share

Adobe Photoshop Fix

What the hell is Adobe Photoshop Fix??? That’s what I asked myself when I saw the option in LRM to edit my photo in Photoshop Fix. It turns out that this is yet another great App fro Adobe. It’s the missing features of LRM… Well sort of. This is the app you wanna use if you need to adjust your sharpening, defocus a specific area on a photo, add a custom vignette to a photo, add warp, swell or twirl to a photo.

Photoshop Fix's best feature if you ask me is it’s ability to heal your photo. You can use a spot healing tool, a patch tool, a clone stamp and a red eye removal tool. These are essential to a have a complete photo editing workflow. Both LRM and Photoshop Fix use the same cloud sync so you can open a photo directly in Photoshop fix, make your adjustments and if later on you wish to use it in LRM, it will right there in your photo library.

To me, the way Photoshop Fix is integrated in LRM makes complete sense. These are not tools you use all the time. Therefore instead of having a single App with 300 controls, Adobe decided to segment it’s features and it just works. Why does it work? Simple, from LRM I can open my photo in Photoshop Fix, make my corrections and from a single tap, return to LRM and continue my edit workflow. This is how integrated these apps are.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Some of you might think: What about Photoshop Express? This is a very valid question. When you look at the features offered by this product, you can tell LRM inherited most of them but… LRM feels a lot more refined in my opinion while Photoshop Express feels more basic. For exemple, the slider used by LRM are a lot more precise and graded. Some of them have color indicators while in Photoshop Express it’s a simple slider. One key tool missing from Photoshop Express is the white balance correction tool. The healing features from Photoshop Express are very limited and nothing compared to what Photoshop Fix has to offer.

Finally, Photoshop Express does not interconnect directly with LRM or with Lightroom desktop. It’s really meant to be a standalone product and not a companion to a desktop apps.

Can Lightroom Mobile replace a desktop workflow?

Answer to that question is not easy. Of course it’s missing a lot of feature offered by Lightroom desktop and editing on a calibrated monitor will result in better photos in the end. But you have to remember that LRM was never design to replace it’s desktop version. So if you are a professional photographer and you edit countless images day in and day out, this will not replace your desktop workflow. Let’s face it, editing on a 27in iMac is a lot more fun than on an iPad pro.

On the other end, news outlet, photojournalist and bloggers will be tempted by this new mobile workflow. Remember a couple of months ago Reuters decided to switch to a JPEG only workflow… Well if you are in the field and you need to edit your photos quickly to send them back to your editor, than this workflow works very well. Journalist are not allowed to alter their images in a significant way anyway. Carrying an iPad of iPad Pro is very light and if you equip your iPad with one of those bullet proof case then your in business. It’s a lot safer than carrying a laptop in my opinion.

As for the transfer of your images from your camera to your iPad, you can do it via WiFi between your camera and your iPad or you can use the adapters sold by Apple that can either read an SD card or connect your camera via USB. These adapters work at the same transfer speed USB3 works so it’s a lot faster then WiFi if you need to transfer a lot of photos.

All this workflow works on iPad, iPad Pro or iPhone but for a better experience, I recommend sticking to iPads. For me this is better than using Snapseed or VSCO. Don't get me wrong, they are great apps but the Lightroom Mobile + Photoshop Fix combination is a step ahead in terms of productivity and editing capability especially on the iPad Pro.

I hope you enjoyed this review and make sure to leave me your comments below! 


Simple but so original

Image Copyright: Jason Travis

Image Copyright: Jason Travis

Today while browsing the internet, I stumbled on a photo project that has been going on for a couple years now and I was amazed. The project "Persona diptych series" was started in 2007 by photographer Jason Travis and has been featured in numerous publication and on many news outlet. The idea is simple, Jason decided to capture what each individual considered essential enough to carry around with them everyday. 

At first I was tempted to look away but as soon as I started to browse the photos on Jason's Flickr stream, I was addicted. I spent a god hour just peaking into people's pocket and you know what, it was amazing. The way the images are framed and the objects are precisely laid on a flat surface magically tells a story about the owner. Just by looking at what a person carry, you can sort of tell what kind of people they are or what their habits are and the car they drive.

This is a great example of story telling with photography in it's simplest form!

Have a look for yourself on Jason's Flickr stream.

The accessory Fuji should have designed!

Lensmate Thumbrest (X-T1) - Image from LensmateOnline.com

Lensmate Thumbrest (X-T1) - Image from LensmateOnline.com

Anyone new to the Fuji X System will almost always mention that the cameras are small, lightweight and well balanced. But for many people used to a DSLR, the grip provided by Fuji's cameras is simply not sufficient or not secure enough.

Fuji offers some solutions to this problem. You can get a half leather case or the handgrip that screw into the tripod mount. There is even a vertical battery grip similar to the one found in modern DSLR.  These accessories do work but at the same time they don’t. I feel that they are taking away the beautiful design we all love and some of these accessories add serious weight to your camera.

If you feel like I do, meet Lensmate. Located in Seattle USA, they, manufacture what I believe to be what Fuji should have included with every camera. The Lensmate Thumbrest. It’s truly a must have accessory for your Fuji. I have one on my X100s and it never comes off. I will order one for my X-T1 very soon.

Made from a solid rod of 6061 aluminum along with silicone inserts, you can see the Thumbrest was sculpted especially for your camera. It doesn’t block any camera controls and once inserted in your hot shoe, it will remain in position as long as you want. It won’t come off unless you pull it out.

Lensmate Thumbrest (X-T1)

The Thumbrest improves your grip and allows you to relax your hand while shooting. Therefore the camera shake is reduced dramatically allowing you to shoot at much slower shutter speeds. At 75$ it’s cheaper that any accessory made by Fuji, it won't change your camera’s aesthetic and after a week of using it, you won’t even noticed that it’s there anymore.

For the X100 cameras, Lensmate offers the Thumbrest in black or silver. When I first got mine for my X100s (silver), I was expecting to notice a big color difference between the camera and the grip's color. I was wrong, Lensmate did a great job to match the camera's paint color with their Thumbrest.

Lensmate Thumbrest (X100s)

As for the X-T1, the Thumbrest is only available in black and they won’t be producing it in silver. I asked Susan from Lensmate about that and she told me that the Fuji Graphite Silver is very hard to color match and instead of releasing a product that looks like a color error, the company decided to only offer the Thumbrest for the X-T1 in black. I personally like it black. I looks very good on the X-T1 Graphite Silver. 

Lensmate Thumbrest (X-T1 Graphite Silver)

Lensmate Thumbrest (X-T1 Graphite Silver)

Lensmate Thumbrest (X-T1 Graphite Silver)

Lensmate Thumbrest (X-T1)

Lensmate Thumbrest (X-T1)

There you have it guys, head to LensmateOnline.com to get your Thumbrest Grip. It’s worth every penny. It even comes in a nice little box that makes it feels like you bought yourself a piece of jewelry.


Note: LensmateOnline.com did not sponsor this review in any way.

FlashQ - Cheap, Lightweight and very good!

Since I moved to the Fuji X system, I find myself using more and more Speedlight then I did before. Especially for street photography but also for quick and dirty shooting. When I sold my DSLR gear, I kept my Nikon SB-900 and I’ve been using them mostly without issues since.

TTL for me has never been a requirement for flashes. I find that I get a much better and more consistent result using my Speedlight in manual (M) mode.

Before receiving my FlashQ kit a few weeks ago, I tried using PocketWizard but I found them to be too big and heavy combined with the weight of the SB-900. I could use a smaller flash but I like to have power at my disposal. On some occasion, I use an SC-29 cable or a Wein Infra Red Trigger. It’s not a perfect solution but it works 80% of the time.

The FlashQ seemed very promising when they were announced and that’s why I personally backed their project. It’s a very small 2.4GHz wireless trigger that works with any camera and any flash. It doesn’t support TTL or any fancy feature like HyperSync.

So once I received my kit from LightPix Labs, I ran a few control test and a few real life scenarios. Let me just say that it isn’t perfect… But it’s very close! I shot almost 1000 images with this unit before writing this review.

Here a quick summary of the specifications according to the manufacturer:

  • Operating range of 10 meters (32 feet)
  • Sync speed up to 1/250th
  • Battery life of 100 000 fires (using CR2032 coin battery)
  • 6 months standby time
  • Comes in Blue, Black, White(+3$) or Pink(+3$)
  • Price for a basic kit (transmitter / receiver / sync cable): 39$US

After my testing I find these specs to be exact. I wasn’t able to test the battery life but according to my math, 100K triggers are plausible. In some instance I was able to sync up to 1/320th but the result were not consistent. At 1/250th sync was always dead on.

The pairing of the transmitter and receiver worked every time. Simply turn on the transmitter and receiver and you are ready to go. It’s very easy to use. The build quality is good but the little clip on the receiver’s cradle will probably break easily. At 20$ a replacement, compare to pocket wizards, I don’t really care.

To be honest, I only had one issue with this product. According to the supplied documentation, the units are supposed to Auto Power Off after 15 minutes. For some strange reason, when the receiver is used with the sync cable, it seems to loose connection with the transmitter after 5 or 10 minutes. Other than that, this is a great product.

This will not replace your PocketWizard on commercial shoot and it’s not what the company is going for. If you want to trigger your small flashes or studio strobes with any camera without hassles, these little cubes are what you need. They are very low cost (50% cheaper than Nikon sync cable), super lightweight and produce a consistent result.

They should be in any photographer’s bag! Even on occasion when I’m using my PocketWizard, I will bring my FlashQ along as a backup.

Get yours at: lightpixlabs.com

Note: The manufacturer did not sponsor this review in any way.

My FlashQ has arrived!

In May 2014 I decided to back my first ever crowdfunding project.

The company I backed, LightPix Labs promised to create a small wireless flash trigger working with all major company in manual flash mode. What interested me at first was the fact the their unit were small, lightweight, cheap and universal.

The first shipment was supposed to happened in September. The company ran into a few production glitch that resulted in the expected delays with that sort of projects.

But today, the postman brought me a small package from China. My FlashQ is here and I can't wait to test it. I will post a full review very soon.

Meanwhile, here is a link to the project's page

 

Image from LightPix Labs. FlashQ Kit In Snow White.

 

Low light focusing in manual mode with the X100s

Hi everyone, here is a quick tip for you today if your are shooting with a Fuji X100s.

If you are shooting in manual mode using an external flash, by default, the X100s will display a preview of your exposure according to your settings in the EVF.

Here is the problem. If you are shooting at an event without much ambient light, hence the need for a flash, the exposure preview will be very dark in the EVF so you might be tempted to switch to OVF. For some reason, you will notice that the camera has a really hard time focusing on your subject and you will miss a lot of shots.

The solution is in your camera settings. You need to turn of the exposure preview in manual mode. To do so, head to the SET-UP menu, tab No. 2 and then go to SCREEN SET-UP. Turn off the second option “PREVIEW EXP. IN MANUAL MODE”.

Immediately, not only will you be able to use the EVF in manual mode but your camera will focus a lot faster and more accurately. Of course, exposure preview is a nice thing to have in other situation. Therefore, I turn it ON or OFF depending of the situation. Also, when it’s OFF, the histogram won’t accurately display the exposure.

This was tested on firmware 1.10

Making sure TSA is careful with your gear

If you travel through airport security with photography gear, you know how stressful the TSA inspection can be. I don’t like it when somebody else touches my gear. So when they take my bag on this side conveyor belt for manual inspection, they probably think I’m carrying drugs just by the look on my face.

I remember once, I was at LAX and there was a line-up for personal inspection. Meanwhile, my bag went on the infamous conveyor belt without me seeing it. A moment later, the agent opened my bag the wrong way and my 50mm f/1.4 went straight on the floor. It survived but I almost had a heart attack. And it’s not like you can start screaming at these people.

So here is my fairly simple tip. Whenever I have to go through security with my camera bag, I put a lock on the zippered pocket. That way, even if they pull your bag on the side for inspection, TSA will wait for you and ask for either the combination of your lock or for the key. They won’t go commando and break it. It will also give you a chance to tell them politely that the content of your bag is fragile and expensive. You can even guide them on how to access and manipulate the content of your bag.

Newborn Photography 101

Today, I want to share with you a few tip when it comes to newborn photography. These tips are real life experience. I’m in no way an expert in baby photography but like many of you, as a photographer, I get asked by family members to take pictures. Not my favorite thing to do but it comes with the territory.

1) Pinterest is your ally

If you are like me, creativity can take it’s sweet time to come when babies are involved. What kind of poses to do, what kind of accessories to use. A great source of inspiration is Pinterest. Just do a basic search on baby photography and you will see thousands if images. Be careful not to be intimidated by the photos you see online. Some of them look very complicated to realize and some are but in the end, all you are looking for is inspiration and what works. The mom or even your significant other can be of good help. Personally, my masculine side is not the best when it comes to creating sweet baby pictures. Trust a woman… Always!

2) Start by the newborn’s room

Don’t make the same mistake I did. Start by visiting the baby’s room. I started on their dinning table with white seamless on the table and the mother brought down some clothes, blankets and a few toys. Pictures were good and the setup was nice but once I moved upstairs and saw the baby’s environment, WOW. The mood of the room, the decor that usually as just been done is all very good for a photographer. Even if the room is not that nice you might see accessories or toys that will spark your creativity.

3) Talk to the parents before beginning

When you are doing newborn photography, there is a very good chance that it’s the parents first baby (on the second baby, parents are less excited). They are very protective of their newborn child and you have to understand them. Tell them what is your plan and ask for their inputs. Make sure the environment you are in is war and comfortable for the baby. Always ask their permission to touch or move the baby. Personally I prefer to guide the parents in positioning the baby. If the parents ask for naked picture of the baby, make sure to always hide the genitals in your composition.

4) Beware of Pee and Poop

Let’s face it, it’s a new born baby… Inevitably during your session, if you take naked picture of the baby, it will pee or poop without warning. It’s only normal. Be prepared and make sure the parents are also aware. You don’t want the baby to pee on 5000$ rug. It’s part of nature!

5) Plan a lot of time

The baby is not a professional model, you cannot direct him like you would normally do. He will need to be nourish at some point and he might even fall asleep. No matter how well prepare you are, the baby is the boss so plan a lot more time than you would usually do. To get good results, you need to take your time.

6) A newborn is not always flexible

You know the pictures you see online where the baby is in a frog like position of in a basket or where he fits in the palm of the father’s hands, well in order to do those, you have about 10 days after the baby is born. After that the baby is a lot more awake, a lot less flexible. You won’t be able to have him take those poses. Again, planning the shoot is very important.

7) Gear to use

When it comes to baby photography, try to aim for a more natural look in your lighting. The subtler it is the better. If you can use natural light go for it. Remember to be extra careful if you use external lights to secure everything so nothing fall or touches the baby. Try to use a low ISO. The baby’s skin is like silk and you want it to be rendered as such. High ISO might not give you nice results. For details shot like the hands and the feet, if you use a big aperture somewhere between f/1.4 to f/2.8 focus is going to be critical. A baby moves without warning so you might have problem focusing at f/1.4.

That’s it for my tips… A wait, one last tip: HAVE FUN SHOOTING!