Articals

Sunset At Burnham Overy Staithe

Fuji X-E1 35mm 1.4 with +/- 1 Stop 3 bracketed images. ISO 200 F/16 1/60 Sec 

This image was taken at Burnham Overy Staithe along the North Norfolk Coast on Wednesday 20th May 2015 during a week off work. Typically I focus on a theme for my photography and this time I wanted to focus on sunsets and the night sky and possibly capturing an aurora if there was an opportunity to do so.

Because the sunsets quite late this time of year around 9pm the sky does not get completely dark till midnight which for me it too late especially when I have an hours drive home and ended up just capturing a couple of sunsets during the week.

Keeping an eye on the weather forecast over the week I was looking for sunny spells conditions to see if there were an opportunity of the sun setting and clouds to create an interesting sky with the sun changing the colour of the clouds and possibly breaking through them. Weather that week was perfect for photography with storms creating interesting skies. 

My reasons for choosing this location was for a few reasons. Firstly I had not visited this part of the Norfolk Coastline before so was somewhere new to explore. Secondly it was recommended for night photography. Thirdly I wanted to visit the coast at least once on my week off.

Taken With Nikon D7100 with +/- 2 Stops 5 Images using 35mm 1.8G ISO 100 F/16 1/25 Sec 

Being warned not to park on the dirt/sandy flat further into the quayside as it floods at high tide I parked on the embankment just off the roadside. When visiting coastal areas I typically wear wellies but mine turned out to be useless with one of them being split which meant I had to be more careful to avoiding ending up with wet feet. 

I soon started to walk along the coastal path which I assumes leads to the beach. While walking along I am constantly looking all around to find potential images such as boats and the general shapes and curves of the landscape and taking test shots to see what is possible. At this point the tide was out and all the boats were sitting on the sand, not researching the tide times I had no idea on what the conditions will be once the sun would start to set. 

One thing I have learned in photography is that once you have found something of interest it's best to stay in one spot. Sunrise and sunset is so short you have very little time to set up to be ready for the show which is why I arrived early. It is better to come away with one good image than nothing because you were rushing around.

While waiting for the sun to set I was previewing different angles along the bank of the waterway,moving in either direction avoiding any obstructions such as bushes and signs. In this case there was another smaller craft to the left which I wanted left out of the picture as their is a photographic tip of having "odds". When capturing flowers for example you want 1,3,5 flower heads, it's just one of the many photographic "rules".

Once I had framed the image in the viewfinder I locked down the camera in that position with a tripod to avoid taking a blurry image due to the camera moving. To ensure there was going to be enough information I decided to bracket the images to combine into an HDR file using Lightroom 6 which I will include a YouTube tutorial below. I find using HDR is very useful to landscape images by capturing detail in the sky and the ground. 

Using both a Nikon D7100 and Fuji X-E1 to compare the bracketing features and to see if I could live with just the Fuji to benefit from the lighter weight. The Nikon has much better bracketing features with taking upto 5 images with +/- 2 stops or 3 images with +/- 3 stops in quick succession with the camera in timer mode.

The Fuji can only take 3 images +/- 1 stop which for me limits its use for HDR, however the 35mm lens for the Fuji is the best lens I own over the Nikon and Fuji so I try and use that where I can. Taking bracketed images with the Fuji is certainly possible and I use it all the time but I cannot see why Fuji is less advanced, maybe the newer Fuji cameras are better? 

Using Lightroom 6 I merged the files using the new inbuilt HDR feature which now avoids the interaction with Photoshop which is handy. Using a similar method to the below YouTube tutorial I eventually achieved these results which I think produced interesting images that I am happy with making my trip out worthwhile.

The top image was entered into the Wex Photographic weekly competition held on Twitter by Tweeting an image taken the previous week to #WexMondays which I occasionally participate in with the hope I could win a voucher, most of their entries by other photographers are simply stunning and I have little chance. If anything I enter images to help increase my twitter following and drive traffic to this blog to help promote my work. Wex have requested I write up my experience in taking this image by explaining my process and giving it difficulty rating out of 10. 

Fuji X-E1 35mm 1.4 ISO 200 F/5.6 1/240 Sec, a Single image not HDR to capture the person.

Asking myself on how difficult it was to capture this image and give out difficulty rating seems to be a simple request but It's actually quite difficult. I went out knowing on what I wanted to achieve. I know what combination of setting are needed to capture this type of image and I know the camera's limitations and why an HDR is useful in this situation. After some thought I will rate this picture with a difficulty rating of 6/10 and here is a simple checklist for taking sunset images and landscape images in general.

  1. Get there early and find something of interest to include with the sky. It can be a boat, tree or a building for example.
  2. Use a tripod to stabilize the camera as hand holding the camera will make the image blurry, or a flat surface such as a wall and trigger the camera with trigger release or self timer mode.
  3. Take test shots before the sunset to see if you're happy with the general framing and dont forget to look around the edges of the viewfinder for any unwanted branches that you don't immediately notice.
  4. HDR is not always required, a silhouette image is just as effective.
  5. Try manual mode, remember to use your lowest ISO and around F/16 then change the shutter speed to get the sky correctly exposed as auto modes will probably get it wrong.
  6. Take images in RAW mode, this is very important to capture enough information for post processing later.
  7. Practice, taking good images takes time and experience which can only improve by getting out there and taking pictures.
  8. YouTube is a great resource with tutorials on camera settings, technique and image editing to learn from.   

Castle Acre & New Toy

Recently I purchased a "Joby Gorillapod" tripod designed for a lightweight camera like my Fuji. The idea is to replace much heavier and larger tripod for urban exploring as it can fit all in one bag.

The way its used is by attaching the tripod on railings, lamp posts or just simply walls to add stability to the camera which is essential for photographing sunsets and city skylines. 

A few days ago I was out exploring a nearby field which reportedly was growing yellow and red flowers but it turned out to be too far away from the roadside to be any good.

I then decided to travel to Castle Acre to capture the sunset from a viewpoint I discovered a couple weeks earlier and made a point to use my new "toy" which worked well and kept its position while I changed the dials to manually take images with different exposures to merge into HDR later. 

When I next visit London I shall only be taking this smaller tripod. It should also work well in woodland, however in the countryside I can see it being less useful for landscapes. 

London At Night

London at night is truly stunning, ever since the photography club arranged a day trip last November I have always wanted to revisit. This opportunity to visit the capital occurred when I suggested the trip after a family event during the day.

The plan was to explore the Southbank along the River Themes starting from Bank underground station walking along either side of the river.  The views available were just stunning which got me buzzing for hours, Though i'm sure everyone else didn't appreciate me stopping after a few years. 

I used just the Fuji X-E1 with the 35mm lens to see how it performs at night compared to the heavier Nikon which I also carried just in case I wanted a wider lens. Although I want a wide angle lens for the Fuji I found 35mm was more than sufficient for views over the river. 

If your going to visit London a walk along the River Themes is highly recommended.

Chinese New Year in London

At Christmas it was suggested that the family should meetup in London to see the Chinese New Year event and would be a good opportunity to capture some street life.

As I was traveling into London by myself I decided to leave early. Looking at the weather forecast Sunday afternoon was to be wet so any exploring had to be done in the morning while it was still dry. 

Chinese New Year in Chinatown

The alarm was set for 5am with the idea to leave about 6. It was a cold night and the car was frozen which needed removing. Before setting off the passenger side light bulb had blown as it was turned it on which took a good 20 minutes to replace, most of which was trying to find the tools I needed. 

After much research I decided to travel to Epping which is the closest underground station from Norfolk and is the start of the Central Line. Parking is £1.50 on a Sunday and estimated the underground fee to be around £7 round trip. 

Other options would have been to park at Ely and take the overground in Kings Cross or Downham Market if it were not closed to engineering works. The train fare would have been £22 which isn't bad. But there wasn't too much of a cost difference between these options when factoring in the petrol. I felt Epping would give me more flexibility with the more frequent trains.

Walkie-Talkie (Left) Cheesegrater (Tall Middle Building) Gherkin (Right)

Arriving at the underground around 8am, this was to be the start of my day. In the case of a couple of people who stumbled into the same train carriage theirs had just ended and quickly went to sleep. I found it amusing when they got off at Stratford as both sides of the carriage were open and they must have walked through the train a couple of times figuring out which side of the platform they wanted.

I pre planned my route to exit the underground at Bank to walk across Tower Bridge to explore the South Bank area as I researched where the Sun would be at that time of day. As soon as I emerged from the underground I was inspired by all the old and new architecture surrounding me with the Walkie-Talkie being the nearest landmark.

The equipment I brought along was both my Fuji X-E1 using the 35mm lens and Nikon D7100 with the 18-105mm and 35mm lenses. As I only have the one lens for the Fuji I would be limited in what images I could take and I knew a wide angle lens would be very useful. The D7100 is also weather sealed where the Fuji is not and with the threat of rain I wanted the option to take images if it were to get very wet. 

I spent about 3 hours walking along the South Bank absorbing the London skyline through the viewfinder seeing such landmarks as Tower Bridge, The Walkie-Talkie, Shard, Gherkin and City Hall to name a few. 

Saw a few of these along the Golden Jubilee Bridge

My exploring was peaceful and relaxing until I entered Trafalgar Square where it was packed with people celebrating Chinese New Year and it was a struggle getting through to the meeting point at the M&M store at Leicester Square. I should have gotten here much earlier if have had a chance to see any of the event. With so many people in front it was hopeless to get any images of the dragon (or sheep?) acrobatics. I could only see the large screens which isn't too interesting.

We soon went into Pizza Express in ChinaTown and by the time we finished it started to rain which signalled the end of the trip to London and made my way to the busy underground to start the journey home. 

Thoroughly enjoyed the day out with all the architecture to photograph. I have some time off at the end of March and intent to revisit for night photography. My wishlist for equipment is a wider angle lens for the Fuji to cut down on the weight and a Gorillapod to attach along the bridges and walls to eliminate the need for a bulky and heavy tripod. 

Exploring Norwich & Narborough

Narborough 

I belong to a Facebook group called Norfolk Countryside Photowhere people post their photos that have been taken in Norfolk on a wide variety of subjects, usually landscapes, animals and birds. I find it a good resource to discover new locations to visit and enjoy. The admin team had organised a meetup in Narborough for Saturday but due to the weather forecast it was delayed till Sunday.

Only been to Narborough to visit the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve which is known for the butterflies in the spring and summer. 

I'm still learning the Fuji camera so I decided to just bring this instead of the Nikon to get used to it more and also to keep the weight down and I definitely noticed the difference. Also not knowing the route this was going to be a scouting and socialising exercise. This was the first time I had meet this group so I was more interested in listening (i'm not much of a talker) and getting to know them.  

The only point of interest I saw was an old disused derelict watermill. Otherwise the usual farmland and trees are plentiful. Could be better in the summer with insects flying around. 

A map for this walk can be found on the Norfolk Trails website or click HERE for the PDF download.

Norwich 

As Saturday was now free I decided to visit Norwich to see a friend and to watch a film at the cinema, Night At The Museum 3 is worth watching. I intended to do a little street photography that would be a good subject to take advantage of using a smaller camera which is more discrete. However I just wasn't inspired and moved onto my preferred type of photography of architecture.

After going back to the car to off load some light shopping I started at the bridge near the cinema taking images interesting buildings either side of the river which I have done before. What was new to me was following the river around to Jarrolds Bridge passing by Cow Tower that I had yet to see. Considering how close it is to Jarrolds bridge that I have visited many times is just stupid.  This time I focused more on the materials of the bridge. 

By the time the film had finished it was close to sunset and decided to hang around till it was dark. For sometime now I have been wanting to visit Jarrolds Bridge at night as i've been told it lights up and I wasn't disappointed. 

On the way back to the car I decided to go by the Cathedral where I setup the tripod and took a series of images to merge into HDR later. What surprised me is when processing the image on the PC the camera had picked up the stars that I was not expecting and add to the final image. Normally stars do not show up when taking images in a city due to the light pollution.

The next part is a bit technical and can be skipped.

After using the Fuji I have noticed a couple of drawbacks compared to the Nikon. When doing bracketing to take multiple exposures to create an HDR image later I am used to the camera keeping up. On the Narborough trip I was taking images to stitch into a Panorama and often I bracket them. On the Fuji I was waiting for the camera to write to the card which isn't a slow card and I never had the same issue when using the same card in the Nikon so it is the Fuji not keeping up which was annoying as I take the sequence of images in burst mode to avoid using a tripod and remote control.

On the Nikon I set the bracketing option to take three images at +/- 2 stops whereas the Fuji only goes to +/- 1 stop which can be an issue. I would need to get a newer version that has the ability to use wifi and remotely control and take each image manually as changing the exposure settings. The Fuji is a bit fidley to change while taking a sequence of images. 

That being said the X-E1 with the 35mm lens is a fantastic camera, the image quality coming out is excellent and I just love using the camera. Once you know the limitations you can work around them.   

My Fuji X-E1

On Boxing day I went into the John Lewis store in the Outlet Mall in Swindon. This store, like many high street shops in this shopping center sells end of line or damaged stock, I quickly went over to the glass cabinet that displays various cameras.

Soon spotted a Fuji X-E1 and a 35mm 1.4 lens that had been discounted, The retail assistant suggested these were returned and therefore not sold at full price, both sold separately. Costing £237 for the body and £286 for the lens which is cheaper than second hand stock at London Camera Exchange, effectively buying brand new equipment with no missing parts at second hand prices. The X-E1 launched in September 2012 is an older model that has been replaced by the X-E2 and I would assume the X-E3 is not far behind.

I have been reading and watching reviews of the Fuji mirrorless lineup for sometime and only been hearing good things about them. The advantage of using this camera over my Nikon D7100 is a much smaller and lighter camera. The Fuji is not suited to fast action photography such as wildlife and sport, neither of which I photograph often and not an issue. I will still use the D7100 for my macro photography and where I need the more reliable auto focus in dark environments.

I Intend to use this camera in situations where I do not need my bigger and heavier D7100 such as family events and general exploring. The Fuji 10-24mm lens has jumped to the top of my wish list which is more suited to landscapes and architecture unfortunately it costs over £600 and it will be awhile before my budget allows for it. 

A feature that I just love is the inbuilt flash unit where you can "bounce" the flash light by moving the flash head with a finger while taking a picture that removed the shadow behind the subject which produced a more professional image.  To take a similar image with my Nikon D7100 I would need to use my flash unit that adds extra weight and cost more than the Fuji camera itself. 

From a couple of days use so far I have been impressed with the results. The image quality coming out of the smaller camera is just as good as the Nikon D7100 and the images are very sharp based on the image of the kitten (Click to enlarge).  I plan to have a lot of fun with this camera and I will share the results on this blog.