For those of you who have been reading this or have subscribed and or ‘opted in’ to my blog, thank you. This post, however, may be a bit of a departure from normal as it’s based on why I use the kit I have and may be of interest to a photo enthusiast. Still, I won’t be offended if you don’t read it. The pictures are nice! I won’t know either way anyway.
I have always loved photography - ever since I was given a camera by a family friend as a 7th birthday present. I promptly took it to bits only to be discovered by Betty (the generous donor) when I was mid-panic about not getting it all back together. It never worked again but an identical replacement meant she was none the wiser. I should thank my Mum and Dad for getting me out of that one! It was a fixed, 35mm automatic film camera and I loved it. I barely took anything interesting but the process fascinated me and this interest steered many things from my GCSE choices - Art had an optional photography module - and then a Photography A-level as a 4th to accompany my highly academic subjects of Speaking/Reading (English) Colouring in (Geography) and Making Numbers Up (Business Studies).
My time in the darkroom (mainly developing Ilford 3200 film) was a welcome break from school-life - which I never really enjoyed anyway. Off to Uni, where I read Law (and absolutely hated it). I was miserable, comfort spending on crap I’d never need or use and drinking far too much. I ended up leaving after the 2nd year and was elated never to have to return to university again. In the low points, I’d go out and photograph. This tended to cheer me up.
I made some great friends with whom I’m still in touch and some of whose weddings I have also photographed, given my decision to follow my interest in photography into a career. I made that decision 10 years ago last September. In the early days I worked in a portrait studio, churning out the same formula that sells but to me that was entirely vacuous. Other than learning some lighting techniques, I left there feeling there was more to life than working in a white box. I produced good work clients bought but it was unfulfilling. Everyone was treated the same and the shoots largely were similar - this just wasn’t for me.
Having originally not wanted to go into weddings as the appeal of ‘proper photography’ appealed to me more - you know, fashion, products and the like - I was quick proved wrong in shooting a few weddings with the Studio (their main wedding photographer, Barry, is a great guy). Needing to deliver so many keepers for a client - with no chance of a 2nd take is definitely proper photography. The pace and pressure was exhilarating and being essentially a guest on such an important day felt like an honour. I have been shooting weddings mainly for the last 7 years. I simply love getting to know a couple and genuinely see each wedding day I shoot as a privilege. I could have been in an office reading contracts or writing leases. I definitely made the right choice.
Up until mid-2011, I was a dedicated Canon Man and would follow their new releases like mad and heavily invested in their L lenses and 5D bodies, lugging them around and gauging how successful a job was based on how knackered I was at the end of the day (with extra points awarded if I had to change a shirt mid wedding), combined with my ‘raw count’. As you may know, this is a poor judge of a successful day and it was all part of the learning curve for me. That is not to say the end results weren’t resulting in happy clients, it just meant I had a mass of unnecessary filtering to do on the computer, followed by the editing of each individual keeper.
This gradually improved with each wedding and my keep:bin ratio rose fast but I still felt a disconnect between subject and sensor. I felt like I was hiding behind a massive mask, 2 kilograms of glass and tech, only to check through what I had captured in some down time. It was also hard to be inconspicuous with such hefty kit (and accompanying bag over my shoulder).
In 2011, I was working and earning but not growing the business as I would have liked. I bought a Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm lens - a classic symptom of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS), in the hopes that this would improve my images. It didn’t directly do this but it did improve my feeling, outlook and approach to shooting s a whole, which in turn, had drastically improved the images I produce. I had done very little research but liked the look of this new/old thing and felt it was different. Within a few hours of use - getting used to the optical view finder (OVF) and the slightly strange practice of shooting JPG (The Lightroom RAW support wasn’t available when I bought it), I was really taken with this little camera.
Here’s a collection of some of the 1st images I took - they are nothing more than a few street scenes around Bristol but I was so pleased with this little thing. I was hooked.
It was quiet, light and a beautifully made piece of kit - if a little slow. It’s all-black minimalist design was to my eye, very attractive. It was fun to use and I genuinely felt more like I was creating or crafting a picture than taking something. This may sound fantastically pretentious but I don’t know any other way to explain it. Most of all, it reminded me of my film cameras with both the OVF and the way the grain came out in high ISO images - much like my Ilford 3200 A-level work, only with more contrast. I went out more with that camera in the days that followed, ‘just shooting’ with no agenda or plan that I ever had with my Canons. I’d just head out for a walk on nice days to simply use the camera. It was without any doubt, a turning point for me. It was both reviving my interest in photography and suited my aim to be inconspicuous on a wedding day.
I stopped reading kit blogs and staring longingly at my credit card when the next lens came out and all that rubbish, after all, I was familiar with the 50mm field of view and for most things, that’s a good place to start. I took this camera everywhere. It attracted very little attention (unless passing a real camera buff) and was just dismissed as an old film camera. When not in the mood for talking to people in the street, I have lied and said “it’s film” to get away. This can backfire if they know a lot about film!
For work, I can get all the kit listed above, into my small shoulder bag. It is a squeeze but it’s manageable with sufficient padding and protection.
Gone are the days of large backpacks and neck ache. This is particularly good since I am getting a growing number of destination weddings as they become more popular.
I have kept wedding images out of this post as I keep my more personal blogs and work stuff separate. If you would like to see some of my work, you can access my website here.
The images in this post are all taken with any one of the Fuji cameras in either native JPG or RAW and converted later. The panoramas below are stitched in either Photoshop or Lightroom - I can’t remember which. I am not going to explain much about them here - I hope these images will be sufficient, only to say I haven’t ever had a client complain that they need more resolution or dynamic range, or a 300% zoom to check the detail. After all, for the work I do, the content is the most important.
I try as best I can to ignore the really techy stuff and get a feeling into the pictures I take - although there is always a time and place for it. I don’t know whether I have achieved that in everything but I am certainly improving with every shutter release, as we all are or should be I guess!
This is a gallery from Ireland in 2012.
Southwold (and my brother’s Royal Enfield).
Clevedon Pier, South West England.
Iceland - plenty cold enough but the X-Pro1, X100s and TX1 all performed brilliantly.
New York - After a wedding, Sarah (Wife) came to join me for a few days in The Big Apple
In case you hadn’t guessed, I am a fan of the Fujifilm cameras. They make me think more about my images. I feel I have drastically improved as a result, with the images produced being more meaningful and the entire experience of capturing shots is more enjoyable. There are characteristics to the cameras that won’t suit everyone and some that involved a bit of learning on my part but on the whole, these little, more affordable, beautiful and high-performing cameras are quite simply enjoyable to use.
This is of course only my opinion and yours may differ - or you just don’t care. That’s fine but I never felt the need to write about Canon in the same way. They had no emotional tie or drive in them. These do. Apologies for the departure from my normal travel stuff on here… Normal service will be resumed in due course.