VSCO Keys :: Pimp My Keyboard

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My iMac keyboard pimped to match my VSCO Keys set-up

A recently wrote a first look review of VSCO Keys that you can find HERE if you missed it. I hadn’t used VSCO Keys for long at that point, but I knew it was going to be a real time saver. But after using it for a couple of weeks, I started to notice that my original VSCO keys layout was close, but not quite where it needed to be. I was finding it wasn’t as intuitive as I would have liked and as I was using it in banks across the keyboard (W up, E down. R up, T down…), I noticed that it was too easy to lose where my fingers were supposed to be as I got to the centre of the keyboard.

So I decided to pimp my Apple keyboard for a little visual help. I bought a sheet of Black (Non Transparent) Keyboard Stickers from Amazon and after adjusting the positions of my shortcut keys using the layout section of the VSCO website to a more intuitive system, I placed the stickers where I thought they would give me the best indication of where things were. The stickers are black with white lettering, which is the opposite from my white Apple keyboard. It was so successfulI that I now have a set of white stickers for my black Macbook Air keyboard.

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Just a few of the Lightroom controls mapped to my keyboard using VSCO Keys

Presets

By adding the Cmd Key I can use the number keys to apply presets

As you can see from the photo, the first group of keys (from left to right) are black with the top two being Exposure – & + (Q & W) and then Shadows (A & S) and Blacks (Z & X) below. The next group are Contrast at the top (E & R) with Highlights (D & F) and Whites (C & V) below. So the dark stuff is (mostly) on black keys and the lights are (mostly) on white keys. Blacks and Whites also sit side by side. It’s simple things like this that make me remember things easier, but whatever works for you. The next row of (black) keys are Temperature, Tint and Vibrance (from top to bottom). After that it’s a mixture, but again the stickers are all placed to make it easier to remember individual keys, which can be as simple as placing a black sticker in the middle of three keys doing non related functions.

Modules

The Fn keys are set mostly using the apple key symbols. F3 looks like LR’s Survey logo, F4 looks like a grid etc…

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This is my VSCO Keys layout (without adding any control keys

As you probably know, adding the Control, Alt, Shift, Command or Fn keys gives a completely different function to each key. I try to keep similar things mapped to keys, like Saturation is under Vibrance, sharpening is under Clarity…etc. Number keys 1-0 are left for star and colour ratings, but also apply presets when the Cmd Key is added.

So VSCO keys has dramatically speeded up my workflow and it’s still on the increase. I still like to use the Logitech G13 for culling, but I find the two systems work well together. There is one thing I’d like in VSCO Keys that I cant find in the Layout software. In Survey Mode you add photos to the selection by pressing Shift and using the arrow keys. I’d love to have the < & > keys set to this function, but without the need for the Shift Key. Maybe it’s in there, but I can’t seem to find it. You can download a free 30 day trial of VSCO Keys HERE, so there is nothing to loose and everything to gain. You can buy keyboard stickers from Amazon, but make sure to get the Non Transparent ones or you will see double letters on each key.

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Project Jazz :: Instrumental Interview

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I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Michael at INSTRUMENTAL recently. The interview was about Project Jazz, my long term project to document today’s jazz scene. Michael asked a lot of great questions that forced me to think a little deeper than I had about this project. I also had to go through the jazz pictures that I’ve shoot in the last 12 months and look at them from more of a portfolio point of view, rather than during the editing phase. I’m very pleased with what I have so far and I can see a nice body of work coming together.

My aim with Project Jazz is to carry on the tradition of shooting black and white photographs of jazz musicians in the same way as the great players of the 40’s, 50′s and 60′s were captured. If you haven’t had the chance to see some of these pictures, you can have a look HERE and the Instrumental interview is available HERE.

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Freedom Through Photography :: Part 4


Back in September I had the pleasure of shooting a project with Fujifilm UK and Millican. The two companies had teamed up to produce a couple of camera bags for the Fuji X Series and they invited myself and fellow photographers David Cleland and Andrew James to the picturesque Lake District to shoot a project called Freedom Through Photography. The idea was that each of us shot a subject that tied in with the landscape and how it was used. The X-Series is small and lightweight, while Millican’s products are all about getting out into the countryside and having an adventure, so the two companies pair fairly well. David’s mission was to shoot The Landscape itself, which meant a very early rise, while Andrew had the task of shooting someone who works in the landscape. I had the pleasure of doing a documentary project on Alan (Al) Wilson, someone who uses the landscape for their passion. Portrait Of A Photographer is the third in this series and features me shooting Al with the X-M1 and a few different lenses.

ALAN WILSON
Sophie (my awesome sidekick for the day) and I met Al at the Bowder Stone. It was my first visit to this amazing 2,000 ton rock, but Al had been here many times before. He has climbed and studied this rock for years, practicing and perfecting moves that could take him to the top using all sorts of routes. A few minutes talking to Al about the Bowder Stone and you know he has an obsession with this place. He talks about rock climbing the way photographers talk about photography and you can see the passion in his eyes. He also has a fair bit of respect for The Bawder Stone, as if it lived and breathed. It was a privilege to photograph Al doing the thing he loves and I hope I did him justice in the photographs you see in the film.

FUJIFILM, MILLICAN & FREEDOM THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY
The purpose of the Freedom Through Photography project was to showcase the collaboration between Fujifilm UK and outdoor bag company Millican. Thanks to the great folks at Millican (especially founders Joritt and Nicky), we X Series shooters now have a dedicated bag for all our great Fuji cameras and lenses. The bag featured in the film above is the ‘Christopher’, but there is also the option of the smaller ‘Robert’ bag. These bags are really high quality and will last for years. The Fuji bags now come in two colours and you can see them at Millican HERE.

THE CREW
As I’ve mentioned before, director Giles Brown and camera guys Andrew Lawrence and James Barns did a fantastic job on all of the films. I’m sure you will agree that the quality of these films are fantastic. Credit to Sophie Crewdson, for not only co writting the screenplay with Giles for these films, but Sophie was also my guide while shooting my part at the Lake District.

THE GEAR
All three of us used the Christopher bag from Millican (the larger of the two bags made for the X-Series). Like all Millican products, it’s made for the great outdoors at a very high standard that will last for many years. These bags are tough, good looking and above all else functional. Freedom Through Photography isn’t just a nifty slogan by a PR department either. Having spent the weekend with Millican founders Jorrit and Nicky, I know they are totally dedicated to producing quality kit for people who love the outdoors. Millican also do a complete range of outdoor bags for hillwalking and many other outdoor persuits.

The Fuji gear we were using was the X20 and the X-M1. The X20 is a solid little camera that just oozes quality, but I think all three of us shot most of the projects with the X-M1 and a verity of lenses. Not having a viewfinder was a bit alien to me and I really missed not having one, but you adapt to the gear you have and it didn’t take long to get the hang of holding the camera out in front. It did force me to use my glasses though and I was glad I had my eyes tested a few weeks before:o). I made a conscious decision to use a variety of settings to show how the camera handled things like high ISO etc…

This was my first weekend with the 14mm and I was impressed with how it performed. It’s the one lens in my kit that I feel I haven’t used enough yet. The 23mm and now the 56mm are the shiny new toys and two of my favorite focal lengths (35mm and 85mm in old money), but I’d like to spend a few weeks with just the 14mm (for my personal stuff at least) and really get to know that lens better.

THE EXIBITION
Some of the photos shot by David, Andrew and myself will be part of an exibition at the Keswick Mountain Festival in the Lake District, which will run from the 15th of May until the 22nd of June (2014). I’ll be dropping in to see the exibition on the 17th of May and would be happy to talk about Fuji, Millican or anything photography related.

THE COMPETITION
You could also be included in the exibition by sending your own Freedom Through Photography photos in for review. Click HERE for full details on how to enter. The winning prize is a Fujifilm X-M1 and a Christopher X-Series camera bag.

LINKS
Click on these links for more information.
More on this project.
David Cleland (Flixelpix)
Andrew James
Fujifilm UK
Home Of Millican

A big thanks to Katie, David and Marc at Fujifilm UK for taking an interest in what I do.

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VSCO Keys :: Speed Up Your Workflow

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There’s been a buzz surrounding VSCO presets for Adobe Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture for some time now. I can’t say I’ve had much experience with them, but lots of photographers swear by them. Even my buddy Patrick La Roque is a self confessed VSCO addict. But I had a look on the VSCO website recently to see what the new Film Pack 5 included and came away with something I hadn’t bargained for.

VSCO Keys is a workflow dream and I thought you guys would be interested in something that can drastically reduce the amount of time we spend editing in Lightroom. VSCO film presets get lots of exposure on the web, but VSCO Keys, maybe not so much. So here is a quick look at what VSCO Keys can do for you.

VSCO is basically a plugin that maps your Mac or PC keyboard to the sliders in Lightroom. Once installed, all you have to do to activate VSCO Keys is hit the Esc key on your keyboard and you’re good to go. The VSCO Keys icon in your Menu Bar with be grey when inactive and colour when active. There are two templates available from VSCO the ‘Simple’ one that changes very little on your keyboard and the ‘Standard’ all singing all dancing template that changes most of the shortcut keys on your keyboard. The best bit is that you can make your own template on VSCO’s website and not only download it to your computer, but they also supply a PDF diagram of all your shortcut keys (like the one below). Probably the easiest way (and the way I did it) was to take one of VSCO’s templates, duplicated and save it with your own custom name. Then you can tweek and change the things you dont like and keep the things you do.

It doesn’t take too long to get the hang of where everything is and the difference it makes to editing time is pretty significant. Remember that you don’t just have one set of keys on your keyboard, when you press Shift, Control, Alt/Option or Command, you have a different set each time.

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One of the best features is the ability to assign any preset to a key on your keyboard. VSCO preset shortcuts are included in the program (not the VSCO presets though, you have to buy them), but you can easily assign your own custom presets or any 3rd party ones you download. If, like me, you’re on a Mac, it makes life easier to have your F keys (F1 – F12) set to work without having to press the Fn key first.
VSCO Keys is available from www.vsco.co. You can download a restriction free 14 day trial and if you like it (and why wouldn’t you) there’s a one off cost of $59.25 (regular price is $79). This is one of those workflow time savers that are worth their weight in gold (I know downloaded programs weigh nothing, but you know what I mean). I’m running the free trial at the moment, but I’ll definitely be handing over my credit card this week. There’s no going back!
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Expert Shield :: Screen Protectors

ExpertShield-XP1X0798The folks at Expert Shield sent me a couple of their screen protectors to try out on the D800, but will also be sending a couple for the X-T1 when available. If you’re like me, you have probably tried loads of these stick on screen protectors from Ebay, only to curse them when you’re looking at your LCD on the back of the camera with a cluster of air bubbles.

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The original but broken Nikon LCD cover

So I wasn’t holding out much hope when the Expert Shield pack arrived last week. I’ve also been super busy lately, so the thought of a bubble wrestle was all I needed to put off trying these out and concentrating on getting edits done. But having recently broken the plastic LCD cover that comes with the D800, I thought it might be some sort of omen. I have however put glass covers on my D800 screens and didn’t want to remove these (still thinking bubbles at this point). So I was about to have two layers of protection. But obviously this is overkill and one screen protector is enough for any photographer.

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Boy was I wrong about these things! The application was quick (even though I was taking photos as I went) and there wasn’t a bubble in sight. The Expert Shield protectors use silicon to stick to the screen, so no sticky residue and you can also peel them off and reposition if you don’t get it right first time. Oh, and did I mention…no air bubbles?

Applying the screen protector was a breeze and very quick to do, even with the D800 having two screens. As the instructions say “dust is your enemy”, so the included lens cloth was both handy and essential. As you can see from the photos below, the finish is absolutely flawless and there are zero air bubbles.

Our camera screens are not something we want to replace. In fact when they do get scratched we tend to just put up with them. So it’s mad not to cover them with some sort of protector (My X-E1 is without protector, so I’m guilty with that one). I highly recommend the Expert Shield protectors as they’re not much more expensive than a cheap ebay version, but the quality is far higher and of course the best bit is that they are air bubble free (I might have mentioned that). You can find more information HERE for the UK and HERE for the US. There’s also a video on the site that’s worth watching.

 

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Freedom Through Photography :: Part 3


This is the second film from the Freedom Through Photography project that featured photographers David Cleland, Andrew James and myself. This one is Andrew’s mission to photograph Tom, a sheep farmer in the beautiful Lake District (UK). As you can see from the stunning black and white shots in the film, Andrew not only nailed the assignment, but he also created some wonderful photographs that show both the amazing quality from the Fuji’s X-M1 and the awesome X-Trans sensor, plus what a great eye Andrew has.

The purpose of the Freedom Through Photography project was to showcase the collaboration between Fujifilm UK and outdoor bag company Millican. Thanks to the great folks at Millican (especially founders Joritt and Nicky), we X Series shooters now have a dedicated bag for all our great Fuji toys. The bag featured in the film above is the ‘Christopher’, but there is also the option of the smaller ‘Robert’ bag. These bags are really high quality and will last for years. You can see the Millican bags for the Fujifilm range HERE.

A big thumbs up for director Giles Brown and camera guys Andrew Lawrence and James Barns. As well as being great guys, I’m sure you will agree that the quality of these films are fantastic. Credit to Sophie Crewdson, for not only co writting the screenplay with Giles for these films, but Sophie was also my guide while shooting my part at the Lake District. If you missed the first film from this project by David Cleland, you can click HERE to watch it now.

Andrew also has an in-depth article on street photography at the moment in Digital Camera Magazine (UK issue 148), which has three photographs of mine and features some other great photographers.

The next Freedom Through Photography film will feature yours truly. Be afraid (I know I am).

Click on these links for more information.
More on this project.
David Cleland (Flixelpix)
Andrew James
Fujifilm UK
Home Of Millican
Digital Camera Magazine

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Kage Collective :: Now We Are 7

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The big announcement today is that we have gone from four to seven members over at The Kage Collective. Our three new members are fellow documentary photographers (in alphabetical order) Vincent Baldensperger fron Toulouse, France, Craig Litten from Palm Beach, USA and Fuji X photographer Bert Stephani from Steenokkerzeel, Belgium. All three of them are great photographers in their own right and we look forward to including their stories in the near future. But for now you can take a look at our updated Members Portfolio section on the Kage Collective site. All seven portfolios are newly updated…so check them all.

It’s a privilege to be part of a collective with such a fantastic group of photographers. I would like to single out the hardest working member of the Kage Collective. Patrick (La Roque) created our Kage website and keeps it up to date and running smoothly. We all upload our own content, but everything else is Patrick. He is also the founder and both the magnet that brought us together and the glue that keeps us as a collective. A friend, a colleague and an absolute star.

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The Fujifilm X-T1 :: DSLR Coffin Nail?

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I had very little interest when the rumors of the X-T1 started to appear. A pentaprism stuck on the top of the camera was exactly what I didn’t want. But seeing both the leaked (allegedly) photos and the teaser picture from Fuji, I started to get a little interested. So I waited eagerly to see if the rumored specs matched that real specs when the camera was officially announced. As usual they were pretty accurate, especially the ones on FujiRumors. Although I’m an out and out Fuji shooter, I still have a Nikon D800 and all the top 1.4 G glass and a 70-200 f2.8. The long zoom is probably my main reason for keeping the Nikon system, followed by faster focusing than my X-Pro1 or X-E1. The X-T1 looks like it will probably out focus the D800 (which has it’s anoying little pause before firing), and with a 16-55mm f2.8 (24-82mm in full frame) and a 50-140mm f2.8 (75-210mm ) being added to the Fuji Lens Roadmap recently. Add to that the new lenses and X-T1 are weather sealed and this is looking like the final nail in the DSLR coffin.

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Here are a few of the great features of the X-T1. Click HERE for a full list of specs.
* Weather sealed body.
* 0.77x magnification EVF with 60fps refresh rate.
* EVF has picture in picture option and automatically changes for vertical shooting.
* 6 Fn Buttons.
* View Mode button (left out of the X-E2) is on the pentaprism.
* comes with small (camera powered) Flash included.
* PC Sync port
* Top plate ISO dial.
* Dedicated video button.
* Drive Mode is on a top plate dial.
* Photometry (Metering Modes) is on a dedicated dial on the top plate.
* Tilting LCD Screen.
* WiFi can shoot tethered.
* Can use UHS II cards.
* Side slot for memory cards.
* Dedicated DSLR style vertical battery grip (optional extra).
* dedicated Focus Assist button.
* 3 stop exposure compensation either way.

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CONCLUSION
Sometimes I think Fuji are bringing out too many bodies for the X-Series. I was surprised when they announced the X-M1, but it is a great backup body to slip into your bag. I’m not so sure about the X-A1 – why buy a regular APS-C sensor when you can have the X-Trans in the X-M1? When I heard about the X-T1 I thought “not another one”, but now that I’m seeing information about it, I think Fuji has once again took the X Series to another level! I still prefer the Rangefinder style (especially for documentary photography), but this mini DSLR style will be more than at home on more commercial shoots. The X-T1 with the new 56mm f1.2 will be an absolute dream combination for portraits and I’m looking forward to a new project with this setup.

This camera has took me by surprise. I thought I was holding off buying any bodies until the X-Pro2 arrived, but the X-T1 looks like a solid workhouse that will get the job done in all conditions and I can’t wait to put it through it’s paces. Watch this space.

Marc Horner takes a first look at the X-T1 on Fuji Uk’s blog
Fuji Guys first look video
X-T1 Microsite

All photos curtesy of Fujifilm.

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The Fuji X Series With Flash :: Part 3

Fuji-X-Series-Flash-DC8_5821In this third and final part of The Fuji X Series With Flash (Part 1 is HERE and Part 2 is HERE) I’ll be looking at using multiple flash guns and radio triggers with the X Series cameras. You can use any make of flash for this as the radio triggers are only telling the flash to fire. There’s no information about exposure or anything else, it simple triggers the flash.

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There are many different radio triggers available, but by far the most popular are the Pocket Wizards. I came from a Nikon flash setup and worked with the SU800 Commander unit, and because of this I never owned any radio triggers. But after buying into the Fuji X System I realized that my trusty SU800 would not be usable. The Pocket Wizard Plus III’s had just came out, but were expensive for a multiple flash setup. Pocket Wizard’s also don’t have hotshoes for mounting the guns directly on to them. Instead the work with cables. My older SB800′s have sync ports, but my newer SB700′s don’t (I replaced my SB900′s with SB700′s due to the overheating problem and so glad I did). In the end I decided to go for the Flashwave III system because they were reasonably priced, had both sync and Pocket Wizard size ports and most importantly the receivers have hotshoes. They come with a great verity of cables and adaptors that so far have coped with everything. The receivers have a tripod mount on the bottom, but also come with adaptors to change them into hotshoe mountable. So the flash mounts on top of the receiver and the receiver to the shoe on the light stand.

The transmitter’s are tiny and even look small on the X-M1. They include a test fire button and have a choice of 16 channels via small dip switches on both transmitters and receivers. An X-E1 or X-E2 can also be fired remotely by attaching a Flashwave III receiver to the microphone input on the side of the camera and triggering it using the test button on the transmitter. I’ve used this setup when doing long exposures instead of a cable release.

Lighting doesn’t come any more basic than a radio trigger setup. Lights are all set to manual and you adjust power settings on each one individually. I use anything from one light to six lights, but I only have four receivers. If I need more than four lights I set the extra guns to slave mode. The radio triggers fire one set and the extra guns are triggered by the flashes.

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I wanted to shoot some fresh portraits for this post and I’ve been meaning to do some up to date shots of my kids. So excuse the self indulgence, but if you’re from a modeling agency…they are available:o). I shot these using Nikon Flashguns and Flashwave III radio Triggers. As you can see from the photo above, I used a Lastolite Hilite background. The Hilite works well with two flash guns inside, tilting upward and back to blow the background to pure white. I also use the Lastolite Superwhite Vinyl Train and a piece of thick toughened glass for a reflection. For this shoot I used a Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox which is a fantastic modifier for the money. Some of these shots were with one light, some are with three. I used the X-Pro1 and the X-E1 with the 35mm f1.4 and the 60mm f2.4.

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Fuji-X-Flash-DerekClarkPhoto-10Thank you for reading this series and I really hope you found it useful. Flash with the X cameras seems to be a mystery to a lot of people that are moving over from DSLR’s, so I thought this series of posts would help to clear up a few of the common questions. Click on the links below if you haven’t read part 1 or part 2.

The Fuji X Series With Flash :: Part 1 :: The Fujifilm EF-42 TTL Flashgun
The Fuji X Series With Flash :: Part 2 :: Off Camera TTL

 

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The Fuji X Series With Flash :: Part 2

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What Is TTL
I’ll start part 2 (part 1 is HERE) by describing what TTL actually is. Feel free to skip this part if you already know this.

NoSchoolLikeOldSchoolBack in the good old film days a lot of flash guns had a small calculator in the form of a chart or a small disk that rotated. These things basically calculated what setting worked for the Guide Number of the flash you were using. I had a Vivitar 283 back in the early 80′s, which was one of the most popular and reliable guns of it’s time. It had a dial built into the hinge of the bounce head (photo left). You set the dial to whatever ASA/Din number your film was (now called ISO) and the dial told you what distance you would cover with the varies apertures. The coloured sections corresponded to a dial on the front of the camera. It all goes a bit hazy after that…it was a long time ago. But I do remember having a cable that plugged into the front of the gun to use it off the camera.

Fast forward to today and we have much more sophisticated flashes that talk to the camera and vice versa. The camera takes it’s exposure reading through the lens (TTL) and tells the flash the information it needs to know. The flash then works out how much power it needs to put out to achieve a good exposure. The flash gun can also let you know via it’s display if the right exposure was obtained.

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What TTL Cable Works With The X Series

If you want to do off camera TTL photography with your X Series camera, you will need an EF-42, EF-20 or an EF-X20 and a TTL suitable for a Canon (usually called ETTL in Canon speak). The Canon hotshoe pins match the Fuji ones and allow TTL flash with a Fuji X camera. Nikon has a different pin arrangement and definitely won’t work in TTL. Remember to turn off both camera and flash when attaching a TTL cord as the contacts are sliding into position and could short out. I’ve never been a Canon shooter so I don’t have access to their flash guns and I can’t say if an X camera and Canon flash can speak to each other and work in TTL harmony. Nikon guns do not work in TTL. Nikon flashguns will work on an X series camera in Manual or Automatic, but not in TTL. If used on an X camera’s hotshoe or with a TTL cord, A Nikon flash is only being told by the camera to fire – exposure settings are up to you the photographer. The flash must be set to Manual (not TTL) or it won’t fire.

The Pixel FC-311/S TTL Flashgun Cable
Canon’s own ETTL cords will be great for the job, but they do tend to be a bit spendy. I bought the Pixel FC-311/S 1.8m cable (for Canon) from Amazon UK for £17 and it works fine. A really nice feature with this cable is that it has both a tripod mount and a cold shoe for attaching it to a light stand. This could come in really handy (although a longer cable might be better for using on a light stand). I’m using an SB700 soft case to hold the Fuji EF-42 and the TTL cable and there’s even space for a plastic foot too.

Hand Holding For Off Camera Flash
Obviously if you are doing off camera flash without the use of a stand or tripod, you have to be careful of camera shake as you’ll be holding the camera with one hand. Thankfully X cameras are great for hand holding due to their size, weight and the lack of a mirror popping up and down. But having a good solid grip and steadying technique is very important. In the photo below you will see the grip I use. By holding the flash in the left hand and crossing it over to the right, you can rest the camera on the left shoulder, the flash can be stretched out as far to the right as you like, as long as it’s pointing in the right direction a bit of shake won’t make any difference. If your TTL cord has a hotshoe or tripod mount at the flash end (Like the Pixel cord), you could easily use a handle. Lastolite do an extending Handle and a Brolly Bracket .

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The left shoulder supports the camera and reduces shake.

So that’s off camera TTL, what you do with it after that is up to you. There are some interesting accessories available like the Rogue Flashbenders to spread or direct the light, or Rogue Grid to focus it exactly where you want without light spilling all over the place, which is a must if you have a coloured gel on the background. The possibilities are vast and a lot of fun.

The Fuji X Series With Flash :: Part 1 :: The Fujifilm EF-42 TTL Flashgun
The Fuji X Series With Flash :: Part 3 :: Using Multiple Flashes With Radio Triggers

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