When the X-H1 was introduced, it was described as a sibling lineup; specifically an approximately 60/40, video-weighted hybrid that also shot great stills. It had a larger body and grip, not just to facilitate the IBIS system, but to give it better balance with larger cinema lenses for owners seeking a capable video camera. The X-T series was defined to be exactly the opposite ratio; a stills-centric camera that also shot great video. However, like the odd inclusion of a factory adjustable leaf spring shutter switch on the X-H1, a feature that's more coveted by stills shooters, the X-T4 has also incorporated a couple of weirdly out of place features that betrays Fujifilm's original description of the X-T series being stills-focused.
The biggest news was the purchase of a Fujifilm GFX 50S, GF 45mm ƒ/2.8 lens and TechArt autofocus EF-GFX lens adapter. It arrived just before Xmas and I was able to use it for parts of both latter shoots. I also gave it a couple of runs, one from Kerry Park that was foiled by fog, another from Rizal Bridge that wasn't. The increase in resolution is shocking. Shots taken from the bridge could be cropped down to 8mp and were still crystal clear. Also shocking: the size of the uncompressed RAW files at ~140MB each.
Today, despite watching others do this for years, I've finally started using it for its intended purpose: modifying photographs to create images that don't exist in real life. I guess you can infer by my tone that I'm not a huge fan of photo manipulation, and you'd be correct. There's a fine line between photography and art and I feel wholesale manipulation of the image to create something that cannot be captured in whole, within the camera, as dishonest. However, I draw that line at profitability. If you're profiting from a reputation as a photographer while creating digital art and misrepresenting it as a photograph, I take issue with that. If you're creating art for the sake of it and representing it as such, for profit or not, I have no problem. The gray area is of course the line between reality and art. What I did, while photorealistic, is what I would classify as art because you couldn't recreate my result in a single photograph.
My friend Craig and I have been planning to hit Keekwulee and Snowshoe Falls on the way to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest for 2 years now and it's never come to pass. However, I recently was able to hit Keekwulee Falls with my girlfriend last weekend. It would've been better with more water, say after the spring thaw or between autumn rains, but that would also make it far more difficult to reach as you have to ford the very stream the waterfall is upstream of. Despite the unimpressive flow, the granite formations were spectacular. There were also enough pikas running around and whistling to fill a Disney movie.
Single row panoramas have always seemed to thwart me. Either the scene was never appropriate or they wouldn't stitch for one reason or another. After getting the stuff I needed to establish the nodal point on a couple of my lenses, I decided to give it another go from Kerry Park.
Shot the Blue Angels performing on Sunday from the top of my condo building. This year, I benefitted from both the autofocus speed of the Fujifilm X-T3 and the reach of the XF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 lens. The result was being able to actually see into the cockpits during some of the low passes around downtown. This is also without the 2x teleconverter installed, whose 2 stops of reduced light gathering would have slowed down the shutter speed to being nearly unusable.
Just a few photos of the local deer on our last morning in Long Beach. They came by for breakfast, the doe bringing her two fawns, approaching our balcony as if she’d remembered that I was out feeding them apples the night before. They sat patiently below our balcony as we dropped bananas and apples for them, posing for photos before moving on to the next set of condos. These deer definitely have us trained well.
Like it or not, the Fujifilm X-H1 has no real reason to exist. If the X-H2 is to happen, it needs one to justify its status as the "flagship" of the X-series range Fujifilm claims it to be. When it first came out, it was $2000 for basically just a $1500 X-T2 with a bigger grip and IBIS. Sorry, but that's not gonna cut it if they plan to release an X-H2 with X-T3 guts at the end of that product's lifecycle, especially if they plan to price it above $1500 again. It needs a real reason to exist and I have an idea.
Went on another photowalk, this one being a bit more fruitful due to the weather conditions at the start time. Why do I do this to myself? I'm generally asocial and not very talkative, especially around people I don't know, preferring to operate alone. Despite that, it's hard to learn without someone to learn from and it's difficult to be inspired by my coffee table, so I fight my urge to run away for the sake of education and practice. Regarding the setting, while it wasn't ideal for golden hour, the cloudy skies and convergence zone did make for dramatic views and a highly textured backdrop to the humdrum scene. I hit the shutter over 40 times, but the result was less than 15 kept, fewer still that I liked and only 3-4 that I've processed to completion so far.
As for the evening, I took the Doc Maynard from downtown to West Seattle, meeting up with Kate Hailey and the attendees at Marination Ma Kai at Seacrest Dock. Two hours of rambling north, and then west, from the dock to Alki Beach as the sun set in the background behind a small convergence zone. Afterward, I jumped on the ferry back to downtown.
Maybe you've heard of Fujifilm's mostly ignored software companion, X Raw Studio. It was released sometime after the X-T2 and advertised to leverage the power of their X-Processor Pro image processing engine, aka onboard CPU, to post process your photos on a desktop or laptop computer. It did this by connecting your X-Pro2, X-T2, X-H1, or X-T3 via USB 3 or USB-C's superspeed bus and would allow you to edit your RAW files on a computer but would leverage the high speed bus and X-Processor Pro's power to process the images. Since it's release, it's sat collecting dust with only minor bug fix updates since, while Fujifilm has established partnerships with brands like PhaseOne's CaptureOne and Skylum Luminar to natively support the X-Trans system. All of this seems to be the result of traditionally poor support from Adobe, the long-standing leader in the industry. But I have a vision.
As promised in my previous blog post, I'm revisiting my thoughts on the Leofoto LN-324C Systematic Carbon Fiber tripod I picked up before going to Forks, WA. The trip gave me my first chance to use the tripod in a real world setting for photos I cared about. After putting the Leofoto LN-324C and LH-40 ball head through the roughest conditions I ever plan to use it in, it has stood up admirably. There are no conditions to this conclusion. It is an excellent tripod, full stop. The value oriented pricing only makes this combo that much more appealing.
High contrast scenes tend to work well when processed in monochrome format. I'm especially lucky since Fujifilm's film simulations are such great emulations of their popular film stocks. Their Acros simulation is especially good with high contrast, moody scenes and I've been processing more and more of my landscape shots with it.
A few of the high contrast shots I took while in Forks took especially well with the Acros film simulation.
After a day's break from the trip to Forks, Craig and I took advantage of a break in the rain to hit Roozengaarde in Skagit to photograph the tulips before the festival began. About half of the tulips were in bloom and the daffodils were still out, though they looked ready to wilt. Fortunately the weather and time of day seemed to keep most people away. This also gave me a chance to use my Leofoto tripod on different terrain. Again, things just happened to work out for us as the rain held off and the clouds helped give the photos a dramatic, almost ominous look that contrasts with the burst of colors below. Too bad the stiff breeze prevented any chance of getting a longer exposure, but that's fine. For tulips, it's all about the colors.
Day 2 at Second Beach. Unfortunately, this time we hit high tide and quickly discovered the beach was a lot less interesting when the tide is in. We managed to make do, despite shooting over 200 shots, again, trying to chase waves that weren't hitting the shore as intensely as they had the day before. At least having my tripod allowed me to get some long exposures as the clouds were moving on shore fast and thick.
Funny how things tend to happen in spurts. I spent the past week in Forks and Mount Vernon to get some camera work in. Craig and I went to Second Beach on the Quilayute reservation to photograph the seastacks just off shore. After a day of recovery, we went to Roozengaarde to get some early shots of the tulips before the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Despite the weather forecast predicting rain for the week, we were fortunate to get some breaks in the rain that were long enough to get all of the shots we had planned for, and then some.