Mar 18, 2013

Street view

_DXE3410EwA day in the life

A couple of randomly selected street photography samples this time. All were shot with the X-E1 during our brief trip to Granada.

For this kind of pictures, I most always gravitate to a classic black-and-white rendering. With that comes that special ambiance, and reminiscences of great masters from the past. The images here have gone first through Lightroom (for a minimal exposure and crop adjustment) and then moved on to Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2, to apply my favorite custom ‘magic sauce’ preset.

_DXE3427EwYes, we can!

_DXE3613EwLet me tell ya, …

_DXE3614EwOlives & Co

The four images above were shot with the 18-55mm zoom, a very pleasing and convenient tool for casual walk-around photography. All but one were at focal lengths between 18 and 23mm. I could easily have made these with either the 18mm or the long-awaited 23mm prime. I am so curious how that latter lens will perform: 35mm (equivalent) is my most favored focal length for street shooting.

Late at night, there's no better pick than the XF 35mm… Wide open and at ISO 1600, it perfectly captured the mood of a freezing evening walk in the old Albaicín quarter.

_DXE3455EwFrozen time

Gear notes: Fujifilm X-E1, Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 & XF 35mm f/1.4

Click on the image(s) to see a larger version

Mar 13, 2013

Interior shots with the XF 14mm

_DXP3456wHotel entrance (ISO 200, f/8, 1/80s)

During our recent family mini-trip to Granada, we stayed at the picturesque Hotel Palacio De Santa Inés, in the Unesco World Heritage Albaicín district. Its 35 rooms are located in two small 16th century Mudejar buildings, restructured and renovated in 1995 and 2001 respectively. The hotel fascinates by its courtyard beauty because of its fountain, columns, balustrades and in particular, of Renaissance frescos painted by two of Rafael’s disciples.

What better setting can you imagine to learn more about how well the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 lens handles interior and architectural shots?

_DXE3677wHotel lobby (ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/25s)

_DXE3674wLobby courtyard (ISO 400, f/4.5, 1/40s)

With no side windows at ground level but a lot of bright daylight coming in through the courtyard’s skylight, these images challenge the dynamic range of the X-Pro1 and X-E1 X-Trans sensors. Fortunately, these raw (RAF) files provide a lot of room for optimization in post using Adobe’s Lightroom 4.4RC, and combining detailed highlights as well as low-noise shadow areas is not to hard at all. Just pull’em sliders…

_DXP3300w Second courtyard (ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/5s)

_DXP3301wSecond courtyard (ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/9s)

Working in small, cramped spaces with a 21mm-equivalent wide angle will often require tilting the camera, resulting in the well-known converging vertical lines. These may become an interesting compositional element, as in the following two shots (that again challenge the dynamic range). Alternatively, state-of-the-art post-processing tools like Lightroom incorporate perspective correction features, which were moderately applied in most of the other pictures.

_DXP3459wSkylight in lobby courtyard (ISO 400, f/6.4, 1/75s)

_DXP3299wSkylight of second courtyard (ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/40s)

I will point out once again that on this family leisure trip I did not bring any tripods, bubble levels etc. as you would normally use for this kind of images. All shots were made hand-held, in a minimum of time, occasionally resting the camera against whatever column or railing was appropriately available. Using a tripod would have allowed smaller apertures (and more DOF) as well as lower sensitivities (and thus lower noise and better dynamic range). But hey, these are X-cameras, so higher ISO settings are no problem, and the 14mm lens gives a large depth-of-field at almost any F-stop!

_DXE3672w Upstairs (ISO 400, f/9, 1/30s)

_DXE3675w Stairway (ISO 800, f/4.5, 1/30s)

The least I can say is that the XF 14mm prime has not disappointed at all! Just as with the exterior pictures shown in my earlier posts, this little gem keeps amazing me. It has rapidly become a favorite of mine, and will find itself in my bag on many, many occasions. I am really looking forward to give it a run at some ‘real’ architectural work, working from a tripod and taking all the time required for optimal image quality.

_DXP3303wBreakfast room (ISO 800, f/3.2, 1/25s)

In the next posts-to-come, we will have a look at that other excellent travel companion, the Fujinon XF 18-55mm zoom. Stay tuned!

Gear notes: Fujifilm X-Pro1 & X-E1, Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8

Click on the image(s) to see a larger version

Mar 8, 2013

More XF 14mm shots from Granada

Continuing our visit to Granada, let’s find out this time what the XF 14mm captured outside the Alhambra.

_DXP3305wCathedral (ISO 400, f/8, 1/170s)

_DXP3296wPlaza Nueva (ISO 800, f/8, 1/2000s)

With its wide angle of view, the XF 14mm is ideal for the traditional ‘postcard shots’. You cannot escape from converging vertical lines as soon as you tilt the camera upwards of downwards: so you options are either to keep them as an element of composition, or correct for them in post-processing. If you make your framing generously, you can properly account for the cropping required after strong compensation.

_DXP3395w‘Wired’ (ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/40s)

_DXP3431wSouvenir shops in the Albaicín (ISO 200, f/6.4, 1/25s)

The wide angle view of the XF 14mm also comes handy in the narrow streets of old Granada, such as throughout the Albaicín Moorish quarter. The 21mm (35mm equivalent) perspective for me is a little too wide for people-oriented street photography, but is works great to capture a broader view of a cramped environment.

_DXP3284wIglesia del Salvador (ISO 400, f/4, 1/35s)

_DXE3376wCarrera del Darro at nightfall (ISO 1600, f/4, 1/15s)

Coupled to either the X-Pro1 or the X-E1, this lens performs equally well in low light situation, indoors and outdoors. There are no obvious issues like flare when light sources enter the image. Fairly long exposure times are quite feasible with a little technique (and, to make sure luck goes your way, an extra take or two just in case …).

Next time, we’ll try the XF 14mm at some interior shots.

Gear notes: Fujifilm X-Pro1 & X-E1, Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8

Click on the image(s) to see a larger version

Mar 3, 2013

Granada captured by Fuji’s XF 14mm f/2.8

_DXP3415w At the Mirador de San Nicolas, looking out on Alhambra and Sierra Nevada
(ISO 200, f/8, 1/450s)

A couple of weeks ago, we took a short but much needed break from the Belgian winter and from all other things-as-usual. We set course on Granada, a city of UNESCO World Heritage fame that we hadn’t visited before. This was to be a relaxing family trip, so I was told to go tourist-style and leave behind any heavy stuff or tripods.

My travel kit was easy to assemble: first the X-Pro1 with the just arrived all-new 14mm f/2.8 wide angle, then the X-E1 with the 18-55mm zoom, and finally the 35mm f/1.4 just in case. Everything fitted comfortably in my Think Tank Retrospective 7, with room to spare. Sometimes things fall nicely in place…

_DXP3321wAlhambra – The Palace of Charles V
(ISO 800, f/8, 1/60s)

_DXP3363wAlhambra – The Courtyard of the Lions in early morning light
(ISO 400, f/11, 1/170s)

We found ourselves in a sunny but bitterly cold Granada, with above-zero temperatures between mid-morning and late afternoon only. The wind had a nasty chilling bite. This time of the year the light is very harsh: perfect conditions to challenge the sensor’s dynamic range. The quality of the out-of-camera JPEGs keeps surprising me, it is simply amazing how much shadow and highlight detail is captured and available to be further exploited in post-processing. I did often shoot at a minimum ISO 400 or 800 to maximize the potential dynamic range enhancement.

_DXP3345wThe Courtyard of the Myrtles, one of Alhambra’s signature shots
(ISO400, f/11, 1/180s)

_DXP3353wTesselations and arabesques 
(ISO400, f/11, 1/180s)

The harsh lighting conditions and the huge contrast between indoor and outdoor scenes however call for shooting RAW followed by careful post processing: that remains the best approach to reveal all highlight detail while maintaining low noise shadow information. Adobe’s Lightroom 4.4 release candidate finally brings us X-Trans demosaicing support at the level of the sensor’s image quality; this software was used for all sample images in this post.

_DXP3355wAround the Courtyard of the Lions 
(ISO400, f/5.6, 1/40s)

_DXP3356wAround the Courtyard of the Lions
(ISO400, f/5.6, 1/50s)

The Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 proved to be all that is reported by many reviewers and early adopters. The lens is sharp right from its maximum aperture, shows excellent micro-contrast and is virtually distortion-free. Color rendition is superb. Autofocus is more than adequately fast (behaving like a true tourist on this trip, I almost never selected manual focus). Shooting handheld only, I was able to use fairly long exposure times with a very high keeper rate. In one word: the 14mm prime is a pleasure to work with!

_DXP3352wAlhambra – Hall of the Ambassadors 
(ISO1600, f/5.6, 1/8s)

_DXP3358wAlhambra – Ceiling of the Hall of the Abencerrajes
(ISO800, f/4, 1/45s)

The very wide field of view of course means that perspective distortion always lies just around the corner. Lightroom’s lens correction tools make it easy to compensate when desired, and the image files allowed so without visible loss of quality and detail.

_DXP3373wLooking out at the Palacio del Partal
(ISO400, f/5, 1/450s)

_DXP3374wThe famous fountain in the Patio de Lindaraja
(ISO800, f/6.4, 1/60s)

Let there be no doubt: the 14mm prime is a beautiful lens that is likely to come along on many more trips. And that’s just one of its many potential applications!

_DXP3387wVista from the side gallery of the Generalife
(ISO400, f/11, 1/480s)

_DXP3391wGeneralife – View on the Patio de la Sultana
ISO200, f/8, 1/850s)

More images from Granada and its wealth of monuments and sights to follow.

Gear notes: Fujifilm X-Pro1, Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8

Click on the image(s) to see a larger version