Dec 14, 2011

100X100 – episode 19

If you capture live performances of popular music, the sound of your camera’s shutter may not be your greatest concern. Stage illumination, freezing movement in low light, critical focus… will be more than enough to keep you busy and worried.

Shooting pictures during a classical music performance is very different. No one should behave so rudely as to disturb quiet passages or spoil intimistic movements with the clicks and whirs of the focal plane shutters common to DSLRs. In practice, that means that your picture options are restricted to those moments immediately before and after the actual playing. At best, for concerts with large orchestras and/or choirs, you might get away with a distant shot during the fortissimos.


Not so with the Fujifilm X100! That little gem comes equipped with an almost totally silent leaf shutter (as long as you disable the optional electronic shutter ‘sounds’). So silent even that once in a while you will wonder whether you actually just took a picture, or not. Add to that an f/2.0 lens of exceptional optical quality and great high ISO image quality and color rendition, and there’s your go-to hero when things go classic.


I recently was asked to cover a series of small, intimate concerts featuring contemporary vocal, piano, chamber and choral music. Allowing me to put my full-frame D700 (with standard and tele zooms) aside and give two radio-triggered SB-800’s some rest, my X100 proved perfect for capturing the actual performances using available light only.


Obviously, the X100’s wide-angle field-of-view (equivalent to a 35mm lens full-frame) is not ideal when your discrete shooting position is constrained to the back and sides of the theater. But then again, 12 great megapixels leave ample room for some careful cropping.


All images shown here were shot handheld at ISO 1600, using f/2.0 or f/2.8 as aperture, and with shutter speeds between 1/20s and 1/60s.


Another outstanding performance by the little one!

Gear notes: Fujifilm X100

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Dec 7, 2011

100X100 – episode 18

The year’s end is coming near, and all the glossy lifestyle magazines bring plenty of ‘variations’ articles. Nine fresh ideas to dress the family dinner table. Five ways to mix a cocktail with gin. Three trendy preparations for fresh tuna. Four alternatives for the traditional Christmas chocolate trunk cake. And so on…

That variations theme led me to think about different ways to
‘interpret’ a single image in totally different ways. Not just sticking to whatever you had in mind as the shutter clicked, but a little creative exploration of different looks and moods. And what better and easier way to tackle this challenge than to randomly grab in the goodies bag offered by post-processing plug-in suites.


This is what my X100 ‘saw’ from the fifth floor hotel room balcony on a drab and windy Sunday morning. You’re looking at a part of downtown Breda, in the south of the Netherlands: the Chassé Promenade, with the Chassé Theater and the Holland Casino in the background (locals by now will know where I was staying).


Let’s start with a simple basic treatment in Lightroom. A little tweak of exposure and contrast, a pinch of clarity and vibrance, and a more interesting crop: that’s all.


Over to Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro: a tool I could hardly go without anymore by now. I ended up with this rather dramatic, dark and grainy look. As a matter of fact: this is the ‘look’ I had in mind when I took the picture.


Creativity can come in colors too: Nik’s latest Color Efex Pro 4.0 spoils you with stackable effect filters and selective blending.
For this one I combined one of the Cross Processing filters with a Bleach Bypass one; a few carefully placed control points were used to set each filter’s strength in specific areas.

You cannot let a cloudy sky and such concrete walls slip by without a try at HDR processing. The starting image in fact was the middle one of a three-frame bracketed series with –1EV, 0EV and +1EV exposures; that setting too was premeditated… Unfortunately, the X100 does not offer you a 2EV spacing option, more useful for HDR capture. The three frames were combined in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro. This time, I ignored my preference for a more realistic rendering and rather pushed for more. Here again, one or two control points and a little tweaking once back in Lightroom added some final touches.

Do these plug-ins, with their endless creative variations, make your pictures better? I will leave that for others to decide, but they do at least help me to look differently at my shots. And I will visualize a broader range of options when I next push the trigger.

Gear notes: Fujifilm X100 – Silver Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro

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