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Fujifilm XF 90mm f2 Review


I had instant gear lust when the 90mm was announced. A full frame equivalent to a 135mm f2 is probably the ultimate portrait lens for great compression and beautiful shallow depth of field. But as usual, in the space between gear announcements and actual release, my brain takes over and starts to through in a bit of sense to the mix. I already have a 16, 18, 23, 35, 56, 16-55, 18-55 and 50-140mm. Plus the two conversion lenses for the X100T. Do I really need another lens?


But when I was asked recently to write some posts for Fuji’s blog about my favourite lenses, I made the mistake of mentioning that I didn’t own a 90mm and was on the fence about getting one. That was a bad idea, because Fuji then sent me a 90mm to try out.

My current lens lineup, which is almost all of the XF series minus the 14, 27, 56 APD, 10-24 and 18-135mm.

My current lens lineup, which is almost all of the XF series minus the 14, 27, 56 APD, 10-24 and 18-135mm.

I setup the shot above to show the difference in size between the 90mm and other lenses in the XF range. My lenses tend to live in different bags, so I was a little shocked to see them all together like this. I only owned five lenses when I shot Nikon, but as you can see from the picture above, I have a lot more Fuji glass. I have also owned the 14mm and 60mm, which I replaced with the 16mm and 56mm. I like my lenses to be as fast as possible and tend not to use anything slower than an f2.8 because I shoot a lot of things in low light.


So, as I don’t live on the Moon, I knew what the 90mm looked like and I knew it was sharp. To be honest though, I’ve shot with almost all of the XF lenses and every single one of them was sharper than any lens I’ve shot with from any other brand. Lets face it, Fujifilm make amazing cameras, but their lenses are on another level again! They set the bar high with the 35mm f1.4 back when they introduced the first of their compact system cameras, the X-Pro1, but have consistently, not just matched, but bettered that lens. That’s no mean feat, because the 35/1.4 was and still is about the best full frame 50mm equivalent on the market.


The obvious use for the 90mm would be for portraiture. If you’re a traditional wedding photographer and love those shallow depth of field outdoor portraits, you will absolutely love this lens! I shot some studio portraits with it and loved the look and performance. The problem I had was that I didn’t have enough room to back off from my subject, so I ended up with mostly head shots and to be honest shot most of the session with the 56mm f1.2. But if you have plenty of room in your studio or shoot a lot outside, then this could be the portrait lens for you.


The Edinburgh Festival was in full swing when I received this test copy of the 90mm, so although a 135mm focal length is 100mm more than I would typically shoot street with, I gladly popped the 90 onto my X-E2 and jumped on a train to Edinburgh. I should say here that my perfect camera to use with the 90mm is the X-T1 with a battery grip, which is what I used for the portrait session. That setup is the perfect combination of grip and balance due to the physical length of the lens. But I realized recently while on a trip to Paris, that I don’t like to shoot on the street with the DSLR shape of the X-T1 and much prefer the boxy rangefinder style of the X-Pro1 and X-E2. My favorite street camera is the X100T by a long way, but I would need a saw and a couple of screws to attach the 90mm to that :o)


the 90mm was a blast to shoot on the street. It took a bit of getting used to everything being so close when I brought the camera up to my eye, but as the day went on I just enjoyed it more and more. Have a look at my street photography blog at 35mmStreet to see a lot more of these pictures from the Edinburgh Festival.

Another thing to note here is that these were all shot using the Classic Chrome Film Simulation. I love the way it renders colour in a desaturated Kodachrome look. I’ve been shooting Classic Chrome almost exclusively now for about three months and I love it! Post processing on these is minimal. A bit of Contras, a bit of Clarity and a Vignette now and again. But I have no problem using JPEG’s straight out of camera too.



The 90mm is such a great lens and certainly in the top three of the XF series. The 56mm is an amazing portrait lens, but the 90mm takes it to another level again, due to the compression of the longer focal length and the out of focus blur is even smother too. There were a couple of times where the subject moved outside my focus point and the lens felt as though it took a while to focus all the way in one direction and then back to where it locked on. This happened very little and to be fair, it focused wonderfully on subjects moving toward me. It nailed focus and faces were pin sharp, even at f2. It doesn’t focus as well in really low light situations as the 16, 23, 56, 50-140 or even the 35mm. This surprised me a bit, considering it has the latest technology, including triple focusing motors. Although I’m talking extreme low light here, it is the only point that makes me hesitate about pulling the trigger on this lens and adding it to my kit.



I’ve noticed that the latest lenses I have bought, (the 16mm & 16-55mm) have a stiffer aperture ring and I’m glad to say the 90mm does too. A lot of the other lenses aperture rings are a bit loose and easy to knock to another position without knowing. Even my 50-140mm f2.8 is rather loose. Build quality on the 90mm is exactly the same as the other XF primes, which is very nice. I must say that it’s not the best looking Fuji lens, looking a little bland due to its longer length. I think the award for best looking lens would have to go to the 16 or 23mm, due to the clutch mechanism and slightly wider front end. Speaking of front end, the 90mm has a 62mm filter thread. It’s a shame there are so many filter sizes between the XF lens lineup, but it wouldn’t be possible to have them all the same with so much variation in lens sized due to physics.



I had one of my regular jazz shoots the weekend before sending the 90mm back. This time round it featured US tenor saxophonist Benny Golson (remember him from the Tom Hanks movie ‘The Terminal”?) The venue was dark and a challenging situation for any lens. I love the look I was getting. The shallow depth of field and the compression are great for music photography. It did hunt for focus a couple of times, but like I said, it was pretty dark.



I’m a bit torn with the 90mm f2. Do I need it? No. Do I want it? Yes. Although it’s not the best lens for focusing in low light situations (by low light, I mean dark), it is an amazing piece of class! It possibly produces the best looking pictures from any of the X Series lenses. Certainly the smoothest, creamiest in shallow depth of field terms. It does take up a lot of room in a camera bag and it’s not a lens I would take to every shoot. But when the job calls for a 135mm focal length, the 90mm f2 is just an amazing piece of kit that delivers wonderful pictures every time. Maybe I don’t need it because I already have the 50-140mm f2.8, but the 90mm is physically smaller and a little faster (aperture wise). I’ll wait to see how much I miss it when it’s gone back to Fuji, then decide if one will join my lineup.



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These Kings. These Subterraneans


My good friend and Kage Collective accomplice Patrick La Roque never ceases to amaze. Can there be no end to this man’s talents? Just where he finds the time, I don’t know. But on top of everything else, he’s only gone and produced an outstanding multimedia extravaganza called ‘These Kings. These Subterraneans.’. Not only is this Patrick’s second e-book (1 eye Roaming is HERE), but he’s also wrote, recorded and performed an album of music to go with it. This isn’t just a bit of music that’s been thrown together to go with some pretty pictures. The album stands up on it’s own with content and production that would sit well on any music store.


Click on the image above for a larger view

But let’s not forget, Patrick is a photographer and if you follow his work you will know he has a unique style and vision. He also has a gift when it comes to words. A modern day poet who starts where Jim Morrison left off with American Prayer, takes up the torch and runs. These Kings. These Subterraneans was born out of a difficult family situation that Patrick has been going through for a while and that’s what makes this work so strong.


Click HERE to visit the dedicated page on Patrick’s site where you can find out more and download the full multimedia content. Incidentally, this is the first project out under the new Kage Editions umbrella.


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Edinburgh Festival & World Press Photo 15


It was a busy rainy day at the Edinburgh festival. Sure it was busy on the streets, but I’m talking more about cramming in as much in the day as possible. I traveled there on the train with my two photographer friends, John McPake and John Summers. The idea was that we would go to Edinburgh for the day, shoot some pictures and visit the World Press Photo Exhibition at the Scottish Parliament building. But by the time the day came around, I had been booked to shoot a musical comedy act at the Playhouse (thanks to my Kage Collective accomplice Robert Catto) and had a meeting at a venue about an exhibition that I will be involved in this coming November.



I really don’t mind rain when shooting on the streets. Everyone is so distracted by the weather and seem to have tunnel vision, that it’s so easy to get in close. If you’re holding an umbrella with your left hand, nobody notices the camera in your right hand. I’m really enjoying using Fuji’s Classic Chrome film simulation and find that the out of camera JPEG’s need little to no work in post. A bit of Contrast and Clarity in Lightroom and maybe a vignette and they’re done. But they’re definitely very usable straight out of camera. I shot a lot of Kodachrome on my OM-2n back in the 80′s and to be able to get that look straight out of camera using Classic Chrome is really great.





Edinburgh is a fantastic place to be when the festival is in full swing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist or a local, the Fringe is constantly bubbling over and constantly changing. It’s a street photographer’s dream and I always look forward to multiple visits each year. It’s also a good place to try street photography for the first time if you’ve always wanted to try it, but were a bit uncomfortable about pointing your camera at a stranger.





World Press Photo 15 in the Scottish Parliament Building (above) was well worth a visit and had a good variety of pictures. WPP has had a lot of controversy over the past year or two, but there is some fantastic work this year and it’s a shame the event has been tarnished a bit. I bought the book on Amazon the next day and have to say that although some of the pictures work better on a wall, a lot of them look even better in the book, as the prints in the exhibition seemed to be a little up and down on the quality department.


I’ve been back to the Edinburgh Festival since to test the latest 90mm f2 lens that Fujifilm UK kindly sent me for a test drive. I’ll have a full review here soon, but lets just say that the shallow depth of field blur is probably the best and smoothest I’ve seen on any lens, from any manufacturer.

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The Catacombs Of Paris


We walked down a spiral stone staircase and felt the temperature drop with every step. The Paris sun above had been blistering hot and we welcomed the break away from the heat for a while. We walked slowly through the dimly lit tunnels for a while, a little less impressed than I had expected. Then just as I started to wonder what the big deal was about, we walked into the next section and there it was, stretching out through the passageway.


A German kid reached out with a single finger and poked around inside the eye socket of a human skull. A man with a thick french accent called out in english “Do not touch the bones, this is a cemetery!”. The kid pulled his finger back out and moved on until out of site of the skullkeeper, then continued to fondle and prod as many skulls as he could until being told off again, this time from a voice in the darkness that made him jump.



The skeletal remains are expected on this trip underground, but it’s the sheer volume of them that is shocking. The bones from all the cemeteries in France were brought here between 1786 and 1788, always at night under a black vail and lead by priests. Walls of bones and skulls are stacked neatly into walls 5′ tall (sometimes floor to ceiling) and at least as deep. There’s even the odd roundabout made of bones. The tunnels stretch for miles below the streets of Paris, under blocks and blocks of houses.


Oddly, I came across a small pile of old photos placed on top of a stack of bones. These were the last things I expected to find here and they were like an electric shock, a sudden realisation that all of those bones were once regular people, families with kids.




Then suddenly another stone spiral staircase rises steeply in front of us. The climb felt never ending and after days of walking the streets of Paris, my calf muscles could have done without the haul back up to the streets. A quick security check to make sure my camera bag didn’t contain the odd skull and we were outside again in bright sunlight and fresh air. I had no idea where we were, but I knew we had travelled a great distance underground. I glanced back, wondering if the German kid would emerge from the staircase holding a skull like a bowling ball, but he was nowhere to be seen.




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The Digital Contact Sheet :: Episode 7


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I shot a series of pictures for an NGO in the Philippines in 2013 that involved visiting orphanages in Cebu and Davao. The organisation is called SOS Children’s Villages and you can find out more from their website HERE. The shot above was taken in the Davao City village the day before I flew back to Hong Kong. I was looking for a dramatic picture when I came across this scene. I had already shot some pictures of this boy earlier that that day, but after making my way around the village, I came back as the kids were doing their chores. The smell of the smoke caught my attention first and then I saw it creep out between the houses. I walked toward the smoke and saw the two boys from earlier. The smoke was thick and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get a usable shot, but I fired off a few frames and hoped for the odd clear spot.


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The final contact sheet showing red markings for my favourite frames & yellow for the best one

The first three frames on this contact sheet are from the end of another sequence which was a good crop of pictures of a girl studying on a porch. I wanted to show this sequence of twenty-five because it demonstrates how the photographer has the ability, or the power if you like, to show a scene in a way that leads the viewers emotions and thereby the way he or she interprets a scene. My friend Patrick La Roque wrote a post on our Kage Collective website about this very thing and I would urge you to read it HERE.

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I like this shot of the two boys away from the smoke. Although I didn’t pose this one, the boys saw the camera and looked into the lens. But I like the composition with the boys off to the right and the wall producing strong leading lines. The Fuji sensor always produces great colours too. I actually have this one printed and hanging on my office wall in a plain black frame with white mount.

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The picture above shows the exact opposite of the featured shot. We see a boy full of fun who doesn’t seem to have a care in the world, a far cry from the one below, that sees him working in the yard cleaning up and burning leaves with a home made shovel.

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This is the one I used from this sequence. This for me, is a great story telling image that makes the viewer read into it and hopefully ask questions. It’s a natural moment that brings out empathy for the subject. The fact that he is using a homemade broom only enhances this feeling and draws us deeper into the story behind this young orphan boy.

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Makoto Ozone & The SNJO :: Jeunehomme CD

1/250th, f1.2 at ISO 400 with the Fuji X-T1 and the 56mm f1.2.

1/250th, f1.2 at ISO 400 with the Fuji X-T1 and the 56mm f1.2.

I’ve been shooting Project Jazz now for over two years. The project started as a one-off shoot with The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra to feature as a story on The Kage Collective website, but it quickly grew legs as a long term project with no end. My love of jazz and mutual interest with orchestra leader Tommy Smith in documenting the scene has just naturally evolved into something bigger and more important than originally planned.

One of the offshoots from doing all this work with the jazz orchestra is to have my pictures used in promotional pieces and album covers. I covered the recording session with the SNJO and saxophonist Bobby Wellins for the Culloden Moor Suit CD and those pictures were used on the inside cover. More recently the live recording of guest pianist Makoto Ozone was released as a CD with the strange title of Jeunehomme. My photographs from that concert were used exclusively for the CD. I used two copies of the CD for the photo below. The CD is on sale HERE

CD Cover (top left), booklet (top right) and Inside of the gatefold cover (bottom).

CD Cover (top left), booklet (top right) and Inside of the gatefold cover (bottom).

The cover shot was taken with the 56mm lens at f1.2. I focused on Makoto’s hands because he is a pianist and those fingers are where the magic comes from. I had already shot saxophonist Courtney Pine from the same position the month previous, so I knew I could get enough shallow depth of field creaminess at f1.2 to make his hands stand out.

1/125th sec, f1.8 at ISO 800 with the Fuji X-T1 and the 56mm f1.2

1/125th sec, f1.8 at ISO 800 with the Fuji X-T1 and the 56mm f1.2

There’s a lot of work involved in shooting these gigs and spending days in Lightroom editing, but it really is a labour of love and something I see as important. I’ve stood alone backstage with many amazing musicians just before they walked on stage, and I’ve been a fly on the wall to some great musical moments and it’s all down to a camera.

1/180th sec, f2.8 at ISO 2500 with the Fuji X-T1 and the 14mm f2.8

1/180th sec, f2.8 at ISO 2500 with the Fuji X-T1 and the 14mm f2.8

This is the only wide angle shot from Jeunehomme. It was taken with the XF 14mm f2.8, a lens that I no longer own as I upgraded to the newer 16mm f1.4. I’ll miss the 14mm, but I need the faster lens more than I need that extra couple of mm. Plus, the 16mm comes in at 24mm in full frame terms and that’s a focal length I’ve always liked. My last shoot with the 14mm (the day the 16mm arrived) was actually at the recording session with The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for Tommy Smiths latest project. More on that very soon.

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Lensbaby For Fujifilm X-Mount


At last, the Lensbaby system is finally available for Fuji X-Mount cameras. I’ve been holding off for a long time for this to happen, rather than buying a Nikon fit and Nikon adaptor. The only problem was that the combination of Composer Pro and Edge 80 optic that I wanted, didn’t seam to be available. For some reason, the Sweet 35, Sweet 50, Circular Fisheye and Velvet 56 are available for X-Mount, but not the Edge 80. So I contacted Lensbaby direct and they offered to sent what I wanted as a special order. The price was what I would have expected to pay, but if you live in the UK and want to go down this route…BEWARE! UK Customs wear black masks and funny hats. They charged £92 import duty, which to me is not only excessive, it’s blatant theft. But hey, welcome to (not so) Great Britain! Anyway, I digress.


If you haven’t used, or even heard of Lensbaby, it’s basically a creative lens system. Although they have a couple of stand alone (direct mount) lenses available, the most popular lens baby’s consist of a lens barrel and various optics that can be swapped out. I opted for the Edge 80 as this has more of a tilt shift effect and due to it’s 12 aperture blades, it also has the creamiest out of focus areas. One slight drawback, which can also be a plus too, is that on a Fuji’s 1.5 crop sensor, the Edge 80 becomes a 120mm focal length (in full frame terms). I’m not used to this length on my Fuji’s, so it’s taking a bit of getting used to how far back from my subject I need to be.


As you can see from the image above, the Lenbaby Composer Pro is basically a ball and socket sort of thing with a locking ring next to the mount. This can be locked into place, left totally loose or anywhere in between. Next ring up is for focusing, which needs very very fine movements or you will get nothing but blur. The third ring up is for aperture (f2.8 to f22) and the final ring, although it doesn’t turn and actually has the f stops marked on it, can be pulled out to take the Edge 80 into close focus mode (which is not that close at all). I’ve heard the words ‘super sharp when used in the centre position’. Now maybe I’m spoiled by the amazing sharpness of the Fuji lenses, but I wouldn’t say that the Edge 80 is the sharpest tool in the bag. But that’s ok, because I don’t think sharpness is what this thing is all about. It’s about being creative and as Lensbaby says ‘see in a new way’. And that’s pretty much what it does, it allows you to look at ordinary everyday things and see them transformed into something unusual and fresh. It changes things up and forces you to look at things you might not otherwise look at, just to see what Lensbaby does to it.


A couple of things as far as setup goes on an X-Series camera. Look in the menu for ‘Shoot Without Lens’ and turn it on. The Lensbaby is completely manual and does not communicate with the camera in any way, so the camera will think there isn’t a lens attached. The Lensbaby is a manual focus lens, so it won’t matter if your camera is set to Auto Focus or Manual Focus, it will still only focus via the focus ring. But I would highly recommend setting the camera to Manual Focus as you will then be able to use Focus Check by pressing the wheel on The X-Pro1, E-E1/2 etc…or the Focus Check button on the X-T1. The X-T1 won’t do this automatically like it does with other lenses, because once again, there are no electronics on the Composer Pro. You might find Focus Peeking will be a benefit too.


I didn’t want to make this post too word heavy (too late for that), but just show some pictures from my first walk around with the edge 80. I’m looking forward to trying this out at my next shoot for Project Jazz. I’ll also post some street photography shots using the Lensbaby over at 35mmStreet, but in the mean time I’ll leave you with this one.


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Just Another Fine Art Monday…


Just another Fine Art Monday
I shot it on Sunday
‘Cause that’s my fun day
Just another Fine Art Monday


Take a pineapple, a sweet potato, a branch, a rose and a flower (no idea what it’s called). Add one Fuji X-T1, a 56mm f1.2 and two sprinkles of  MCEX-11 Macro Tube (pic 2 & 5). That’s it. Window light with a Lastolite background.




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Fujifilm Macro Tubes MCEX-11 & MCEX-16


I just got hold of Fuji’s MCEX-11 (11mm) and MCEX-16 (16mm) Macro Extension Tubes and I wanted to do a quick comparison. Fuji has a table on line with all the information in numbers form about focus distance etc, but photographers are visual beasts. So as I couldn’t find much in picture form on line, I thought I would show some examples of what you get from each of them. I have included one with just the lens, one with the 11mm, one with the 16mm and one with both tubes stacked together. All shots were taken with the camera as close to the subject as possible. I basically focused each lens to minimum distance and then moved the camera in until it achieved focus. I have kept the subject the same throughout (my X100S) so that you can get a good idea of what the difference is from lens to lens with each tube. All of these JPGS were shot square in camera (yes, your X camera shoots in square and 16:9 too:o). Please note, the wider lenses (14mm, 18mm & 23mm) worked with the MCEX-11, but the lens touched the X100 before focusing was achieved with the 16mm or both stacked. The 35mm lens went in so close with both tubes attached, that I had to remove the X100S lens hood.

These tubes are more than double the price of the equivalent on Amazon or Ebay, but as this is a one off purchase and because I’ve read a lot of comments on line about the electrical contacts not working on third party ones, I though it was worth going for the original Fuji tubes. Besides, I sold my 60mm Macro lens when I heard these were coming out as they’re smaller and easily stuff in the corner of a camera bag. Built quality is extremely high and the fit is tight (but not too tight). My one gripe is that neither of the tubes come with a case or a bag and as these go between lens and camera, dust is not welcome. I’m storing them in the little cloth bag that came with the X100 lens hood at the moment. I’ve used the 56mm f1.2, the 35mm f1.4 and the 50-140mm f2.8 for examples here. I think owners of the 56mm will get the most use out of these, as that lens has a poor minimum focus distance. Sop here are the results.

I wanted to confirm that the photos from the 50-140mm f2.8 lens are correct. I had to check the metadata to make sure these were in the right order. I even re-shot them just to be 100% sure.
I hope this post has been useful. Use the comments section if you have any questions about these tubes, or if you would like to see a ring shoot …etc.

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The Digital Contact Sheet :: Episode 6


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I recently uploaded a video to YouTube featuring a selection of my street photography during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (Scotland). It’s kind of a video contact sheet in a way, as there are a few shots in there that are obviously short sequences. There is one picture in the video that seems to stand out for some people and as I remembered it was a lengthy sequence, I thought it would make a great Digital Contact Sheet. Feel free to check out the video mentioned above by clicking HERE. Click on the images below for a 1500px wide version.


The final contact sheet showing red markings for my favourite frames & yellow for the best one

I came across this guy feeding pigeons at George Square during the 2014 Commonwealth Games. I shot a few frames leading up to what you see above using the 10-24mm lens that Fuji had sent me to try out, but it was a bit wide so I switched to the 56mm f1.2. As you will see from the contact sheet, I started off at the subjects right hand side, but the background was messy and I moved from a low POV to standing. I still wasn’t getting what I was looking for and I knew there was a good shoot here. I don’t often spend as much time on a single scene when shooting street photography, but I felt it was worth sticking with and besides, neither the subject or the pigeons were bothered by me being there. I was using the Fuji X-T1. The X100S would typically be my weapon of choice, but I was testing lenses for Fuji too.

The colour contact sheet. This is the way they came out of the camera.

I moved around the scene in a clockwise direction, taking more shots than I normally would have, but the birds were changing constantly and I knew it would be a tiny move either way that could make the shot. I started off at f4, but as I moved to the subjects left side, I switched to f1.2 to blur the background and loose the distractions. Sometimes you can see all the elements of a photo and you just need to wait or keep shooting until those elements come together to make that single frame that works in all the right ways. Sometimes you wait and the scene falls apart and you get nothing.

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The image above is the straight out of camera JPEG. These last couple of years I’ve started to wear glasses, but I look over the top of them when looking through the viewfinder, tipping my head forward to try to get in as close as possible. This is not the best way to get level horizons, so as you can see from above and the final image below, I had to straighten the picture in post. But the point of showing the SOOC version is to let you see how nice the Fuji JPEG’s are. The X-Series are the first digital cameras that I feel could have useable files without the need for computer work. If fact, adding Contrast and Clarity in Lightroom is all you might need for a great shot.

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This is the finished shot (above). 1/4000th of a second at f1.2 & ISO 200. After straightening the horizon as much as I could without chopping off part of the guys feet and hat, I sent it out the Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 to get converted to B&W. This is my own preset for street photography, but it’s mostly just a good mixture of Contrast and Structure. As long as my picture is exposed properly, it’s a one click process in SEP2 and then save back in to Lightroom ready for export. As you saw from the contact sheet, there were many usable shots (maybe as many as 15), but on this occasion I felt that there was a possibility of something better. I was waiting on a gesture from the subject or something interesting from the birds. As I pressed the shutter and the image was displayed in the EVF, I knew I had got what I hoped for. In that single gesture of the hand, I knew I had what to me looked almost biblical. That was the last frame I shot of the scene with the X-T1 and the 56mm. Although I shot six more with the X100S and the TCL-X100, I knew it was pointless as I had the one I was looking for.

P.S. I have a new story published on the Kage Collective site today called Fashion Consciousness

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