Leigh MILLER: Blog http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog en-us (C) Leigh MILLER leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) Mon, 05 Feb 2018 14:41:00 GMT Mon, 05 Feb 2018 14:41:00 GMT http://www.leighmiller.ca/img/s/v-5/u544495160-o555293696-50.jpg Leigh MILLER: Blog http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog 120 80 Free | The Race To The Bottom http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2018/2/free-the-race-to-the-bottom Deep Breath...

I have to tackle a tough...tough issue today. It's had me twisting in my sleep for weeks now. Frankly it's been bothering me for quite awhile and I took my time coming to the blog with it because I want to get it right.

Lately there has been heated discussions around a relatively new photo service named UNSPLASH. Check it out... www.unsplash.com Basically it's a site where photographers or even "non-photographers" can submit images which they in turn allow ANYONE to download for use in anyway they please. The idea behind that is the photographer...or "non-photographer" will get "EXPOSURE" or "RECOGNITION" in return.

Now, this isn't a new thing as I've stated before. I've heard from fellow photographers for at least 6 years now that they provide free photo/video work in return for the promise of a paid gig later on. Others who are even more dishonest..or delusional will even say that they are "giving back". I'm going to linger on that one for a moment. The concept of giving back..to "me" is when you have achieved a certain amount of success and you can't use another dime of income. You have too much already. How do you "give back" when you are still paying a mortgage/rent, your children's education fund isn't filled or your retirement account isn't fully funded? 

My network of like-minded professional content creators/photographers is substantial. Very few, if any of them are in a position to turn down paid work. I'm certainly not there, every single cent counts. Free, giving back, exposure/recognition doesn't get me an inch closer to my financial obligations.

 

Back to Unsplash.

They bill themselves as "Beautiful FREE photos for Everyone". That means anyone, including businesses can go to their website and download unlimited amounts of photography (and some of it is very good) work without attribution or payment to the individual(s) who created them. Furthermore there is no requirement for Model or Property Releases which guarantees that the photographer and end user are likely to get sued. Don't believe me? Do a search on that website of any popular brand you can think of...sportswear, etc. You will not see a single RELEASE for those images in sight. Large companies like Apple will sue the pants off you should they get wind of their products/logos etc. being used commercially. That "EXPOSURE" you got in return for the image of a Nike sneaker you posted (and was subsequently downloaded and used commercially) won't be worth an ounce of mercy when that first lawyer letter hits your mailbox.

 

And Here We Are...

I'm not coming down on UNSPLASH in particular. Misguided as they are in that business model, they aren't doing anything unique. Over the years many of these companies have come and gone. Actually my issue is with this whole concept of free work or service in return for exposure or the promise of paid assignments later. This is one of the reasons the photography industry is going down the drain. If we present no value to potential clients/customers for the work we create, how can we expect them to respect us as valuable professionals. I've seen images obtained  for "FREE" being used in major magazine publications without a single dime or recognition to the person who created it in the first place.

To put this who thing into perspective consider this: Magazines charge you for advertising space in their publication. Some of these magazines have a very wide and active distribution stream. Advertising in their pages will cost you thousands of dollars. Would it then be fair if said magazine obtained your image for "FREE" and used it on the front page without any consideration for you...and made millions each year?

Of course not...but that's exactly what's happening. Art departments that used to pay photographers to create images for their publications are now downloading "FREE" images from sites like UNSPLASH and using it to make money for themselves. They are doing it because WE ALLOW IT!!

In fact when you go unto UNSPLASH' site you don't need to log in and provide your credentials. Simply click on the image you want and go. No capturing of emails or company names, no notification to the photographer that his/her image(s) has been downloaded for commercial use...not a damn thing. I've heard tall-tales from the odd photographer about how providing free work got them so much exposure that it turned into a financial windfall. First off, those stories are mostly baloney. The one or two photographers that actually derived some benefit from that arrangement are few and far between. Most of the time they are never aware of who obtained their images and how they were used. I read a story just this morning about a photographer who claims to have "come across her work by accident" being used by a major company. She actually wrote to 'THANK" them for using her image...are you kidding me??!!

Listen, I've done plenty of free work and never under the guise of expecting exposure or future paid work. I've provided services to charities, non-profit organizations and even individuals. Years back a few friends and I offered free portrait services to groups of young single mothers living in halfway homes. These women and I should really say girls..are anywhere from 15 to 19 years of age. Kicked out of their homes by family members who disapproved of the pregnancies, abandoned by boyfriends who didn't want any part of a baby...no money and no prospects with a new mouth to feed. The charity provided only the basics for a limited time..food, shelter and clothing. My friends and I provided the very first portraits of mom and babies. That made me feel good and it was worth the price of FREE.

I'll continue to provide free work for causes I believe in, for projects I like and to people I choose. I will be in complete control of how those free images will be used and by whom. Any other work for which the recipient is deriving a financial benefit for themselves will be paid. I would rather get another job or sit on my camera gear smoking a cigar than work for free.

If this article sounds "pissed"...well that's because I am.

I'll be damned if I spend hours on end, dollars to bare wallet just to give away my best work for free or without some tangible benefit. It infuriates me when fellow photographers and even the "part-timers" who don't depend on the craft for their living, complain about how the industry is dying and how hard it is to convince clients to pay what the work is worth. When I have a legal issue I can call up my lawyer and get basic advice for FREE. When it comes time for work to be done he leads off with how much it's going to cost me. No apologies, no excuses. Why should photography be any different?

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) photographer photography http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2018/2/free-the-race-to-the-bottom Mon, 05 Feb 2018 14:40:18 GMT
Small Camera, Big Picture PT.8 | Chaos http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2018/1/small-camera-big-picture-pt-8-chaos ReflectionsReflectionsLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm X-T1 W/XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS | F4 48mm 1.280 ss ISO200


CHA·OS...complete disorder and confusion.
 

I had this art teacher in high school...she fit all the stereotypes people think of when the word "artist" is used. Long wild hair, every variety of floral dresses I've ever seen...including to date and of course sandals. Yet, she was extremely organized, logical in her presentation and from my constant observation, very sharp in the intellectual department. She used to say something that stuck with me in the background of my logic: We tend to picture the orderly, the familiar..the normative when imagining a beautiful scene. However there is also beauty in chaos. Reorder your mind every now and then so that you can appreciate it.

The image above was actually shot years ago and Ive wanted to delete it for some time now. Each year end I go through my working storage drives in order to cull images I can't see myself using going forward. It gives me back some hard disk space and lightens my image catalogue. This one keeps making the cut and I could never figure out why...until now.

It's a local river in the middle of my city and at various points it's little more than a trickle. I wouldn't drink from, let alone touch it but the reflections of the trees along with the texture of the bed combined with the smooth water really caught my eyes. The perfect image of chaos.

Now I'm making a large print for my bathroom wall.

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) abstract chaos fuji fujifilm photography river water http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2018/1/small-camera-big-picture-pt-8-chaos Mon, 08 Jan 2018 15:40:58 GMT
New Year, New Adventures! http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2018/1/new-year-new-adventures Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca


Happy New Year!

Last year was pretty good on the professional front and I'm definitely planning to move the goal post further out for 2018. In a month or two readers will see some big changes in a few key areas:

First the BLOG...I think it's high time I developed it to reflect the modern times. I enjoy writing but let's face it, there are entire generations of photographers who have grown up with social media. They prefer to consume information by watching, not reading. I won't become one of those walking zombies with a selfie stick or video camera pointed at my face but for my gear reviews there will be more in the field footage to go along with my writing. I've pushed most of my clients to do that so I may as well practice what I preach too. I'm pushing the writing offline into a series of photography related books that I've been working on for quite awhile.

The second change is a work/work/life balance thing. I'm bringing back more variety to the kind of work I do on a daily basis. For instance my bread and butter is portraiture but over the years I've gotten away from shooting beauty, fashion and lifestyle. It was a business decision based on my geographic location. If you want to shoot fashion and beauty buy a plane ticket to New York or LA. 2017 was even a banner year for my travel and landscape photos. A significant number of my images were published in magazines and online campaigns. Beauty/Fashion/Lifestyle is a fun variation on portraiture and they share a lot of synergy. As for life...well I've never been able to balance that with work. In this business it's easy to develop tunnel vision when your chasing the dollars. Most of the time we don't even realize it until forced to take some time off. So this year I'm going to play a little more, reconnect with friends and try some new things.

Hopefully you have some equally lofty goals for the new year!

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) photographer photography http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2018/1/new-year-new-adventures Wed, 03 Jan 2018 14:17:01 GMT
Cinematic Photography http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/cinematic-photography

Circa...2009 I think


In the years before I began pursuing photography as more than a hobby, I hung out with a group of like-minded people on weekends and holidays. We would go "shooting" in the same way that people get together to golf, bar hop etc. For most of us with serious day jobs like Stock Broker, Doctor, Accountant or Lawyer photography was our way of relaxing and tapping into that part of who we were...that didn't match up with the job titles.

I don't see those people much these days. Life has a way of taking over and shifting your priorities. Personally I think if more people did things like that away from "work" the world would be a more pleasant place for us all. Everyone needs a pressure valve.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca My particular group was very diverse and because there was very little overlap in our day jobs we almost NEVER talked shop whenever we got together. Time was limited and why bother doing that right?

http://leighmiller.zenfolio.com As we got better at making images, leveraging each other's knowledge and experience there was a very real challenge to outdo the next guy by getting "The Shot". It wasn't enough to just take a nice picture...it had to be cinematic. What I considered to be cinematic back then shifted as well but it still contains one important ingredient: Tension.

Here's something that will twist your thoughts: There is no camera setting that you can copy. No lens that works better than another and definitely no "preset or LUT". "Those" people can afford any camera and lens. If it was that easy the competition wouldn't be any fun. Tension is something you have to feel your way through. It's more than "bokeh" and technical execution. You already know the "HOW" of making an image...Tension is more about why and when. It's about lighting, color...perspective. The moment. That time, that place that feeling.


Ten-sion [tenSHan]

noun

  • the state of being stretched tight.
  • mental or emotional strain.

verb

  • apply a force to (something) that tends to stretch it.

Tension

....is that one thing that "invests" you in a scene. It keeps you in your seat instead of getting up for a drink or to head off to the bathroom during a movie or TV show. You don't want to miss anything and it's too good to look away or press the pause button. Photographs that have that same tension engages you, makes you linger awhile before swiping left.

Tap Dancing | Fujifilm X100s

XF16_55XF16_55Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Jamming | Fujifilm X-T2

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

The Medina | Fujifilm X-M1

The Gondola Ride | Fujifilm X-T1

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

NYPD picking up dinner at Katz's | Fujifilm X70

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Snow Monkey Grooming | Fujifilm X-T2

After The Party | Fujifilm X100s

 Sci-Fi | Fujifilm X-T1

Tunnel Vision | Fujifilm X100s


From the bottom of my heart...I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) adobe cinematic fuji fujifilm gear mirrorless photography portrait post processing travel http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/cinematic-photography Fri, 29 Dec 2017 21:50:35 GMT
Album Art | Fujifilm X-Pro2 http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/album-art-fujifilm-x-pro2

Lawrence Wiliford | Fujifilm X-Pro2 W/XF35mm F2 R WR Lens


Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

O Gladsome Light | ISO200 35mm (53mm) F2 1/70 ss

At 53mm (35mm format equivalent), the Fujinon XF35mm F2 R WR lens is "juuuuust" on the line for portraiture when working with individual subjects. Most often when I use it this way it's almost a given there might be a little cropping to give the subject more presence...easy to do with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera which has more than enough resolution for high quality output after cropping.

The venue for this portrait is what I would call...a low light situation where you have two choices: Artificial Lighting or a Fast Lens.

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) fuji fuji xf35mm f2 r wr fujifilm fujifilm x-pro2 gear mirrorless photographer photography portrait http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/album-art-fujifilm-x-pro2 Thu, 28 Dec 2017 21:49:04 GMT
Small Camera, Big Picture PT.7 | Olympus OM-D E-M1 http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/small-camera-big-picture-pt-7-olympus-om-d-e-m1 Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Olympus OM-D E-M1 W/M.40-150MM F2.8 Lens | ISO200 82mm F9 1/8000 ss


I'll take sunrises/sunsets any way I can get them...but I'm partial to a view from above. The entire landscape as far as your eyesight will allow takes on a deliberate, cinematic quality that you can only enjoy from this perspective. 

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Olympus OM-D E-M1 W/M.40-150MM F2.8 Lens | ISO200 40mm F8 1.3 ss


 

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) city clouds colorful landscape micro four thirds mirrorless olympus outdoors sunrise sunset http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/small-camera-big-picture-pt-7-olympus-om-d-e-m1 Wed, 27 Dec 2017 14:16:33 GMT
Fujifilm XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM WR | Review PT.2 http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/fujifilm-xf100-400mm-f4-5-5-6-r-lm-wr-review-pt-2 XF 1.4 TC WR W/XF100-400MMXF 1.4 TC WR W/XF100-400MMLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujinon XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM WR W/ 1.4X TC


NOTE: Part I of this review can be read [HERE]

Disclaimer...I love this lens but it's not part of my regular kit. My professional work is primarily portraiture, weddings and products. However, I love being outdoors and this lens goes with me like butter on toast. A part 2 review is absolutely necessary because a lens like this needs time to grow on you even if you work with similar focal lengths regularly. This time though, I throw in the 1.4X Teleconverter to make things interesting.

XF 1.4 TC WRXF 1.4 TC WRLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm XF1.4 TC WR

The last time I worked with the XF100-400MM was on a trip to Bonaire. If ever there was a place to bring a lens like this, Bonaire would be it. Take your pick, reptiles, birds...sporty people and it's got you covered. While I loved the images I came back with, I've had this nagging feeling in the back of my throat every time I look at them. I finally put my finger on it a few weeks ago. It's the sharpening phase of my workflow. Adobe Lightroom just doesn't do it for me, particularly when it comes to the subjects to which this lens gravitates. For me it lives at the "very" long end of 400mm (600mm in 35mm format) and the sharpness when shooting JPEGS processed by the camera itself is very nice. Try to match it with a RAW files had me pulling out fingernails. With Adobe Lightroom I'm just leaving too much of what it's glass is capable of rendering on the table.

www.leighmiller.ca

Bonaire | Sea Bird captured at F8, 280mm and 1/55 ss

For several months now I've been doing all my sharpening in Adobe Photoshop and it's worked so well that I've pulled images out of my archives to display along with more recent shots. I'm happy to say this workaround...works.

XF100_400MMXF100_400MMLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Bonaire | Iguana captured at F5.6, 400mm and 1/750 ss

There are some things you want to be sure of before buying this lens. I don't see any one thing as an advantage or disadvantage but a little education helps to manage expectations.

This is a Telephoto ZOOM lens and at the wide focal range of 100 to 400mm (150 to 600mm in 35mm format) your going to have a variable aperture. Depending on the kind of lighting you shoot in this might be an issue. With the 1.4X TC the long end at F5.6 becomes F8 which needs considerable amounts of light to keep up a fast shutter speed. The lens has the Fujifilm Optical Image Stabilisation which works very well but it won't help you with fast moving subjects. So you will have to solve that issue one of two ways...raise your ISO sensitivity or add artificial lighting to freeze motion. Lighting wasn't an issue in Bonaire. That island is like a big sunny lightbulb but back in Canada and USA in the Fall/Winter, I had to accept some compromise. Add the XF1.4X TC which sucks a stop of light and you have to plan your shots with intent.

XF100_400MM W/1.4X TCXF100_400MM W/1.4X TCLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Duck captured at F8, 560mm (XF1.4 TC 840mm) ISO 800 and 1/500 ss

Size...and weight. It's big and heavy but there just isn't a workaround for physics. The massive glass in the lens can only be made "so" small. The auto-focus system makes fast work with it though. I don't think I've used another comparable lens that locked focus this fast. That's owing to the LM (Linear Motor) that keeps those lenses moving quickly and quietly. Wildlife rarely stay in one place long enough for the unprepared.

http://leighmiller.zenfolio.com

F5.6, 400mm (600mm) and 1/280 ss

Finally, get a sturdy tripod, not a lightweight travel model...something SOLID. While not as heavy compared to a DSLR setup it still has some heft. The system (X-T2 W/Lens) balances well if you use the collar tripod mount which also takes the stress off the camera mount. Having said that, every single image in this review was done hand-held. My technique is more about holding the lens and less about holding the camera due to the very large weight difference between the two. I almost always bring along a tripod/monopod but sometimes they just limit my reaction time too much.

And now the Part II notes...

In my opinion there are three ways to improve this lens....but you can only choose one.

  • Make it a constant aperture throughout the zoom range. That would be a design miracle which would increase the size and weight of the lens..not to mention it's price. For comparison the Canon 600mm F4 equivalent is around $12,000.00 USD. It's 17 inches long and weighs about 4 kg.
  • Make the lens Smaller and Lighter. There are limits and other mirrorless camera manufacturers have run up against this hard wall. They have to choose between quality-self correcting glass, high-quality build...and price.
  • Increase the focal length range without significantly increasing the cost, weight or compromising on the build quality.

For me, the only real option is #3. Enter the XF1.4X TC WR (Teleconverter) ( Weather Resistant).

In use I've found the image quality suffers a little, but only a little and the cause has nothing to do with the lens' excellent optics. In certain shots on the extreme telephoto end I can see some atmospheric distortion. The additional weight is negligible...if you are attaching it to the XF100-400mm lens then I'll assume that weight isn't something you are worried about. It will jiggle slightly if you handle the lens/camera combo exclusively by holding the camera alone. Hold the setup by the lens or mount it with the tripod collar and that concern goes away...and now you have a 150-600mm X crop factor lens which is super helpful for the smallest or most distant subjects.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Sparrow | Near but very small subject | F8 at 560mm (840mm), ISO800, 1/250 ss

XF100_400MM W/1.4X TCXF100_400MM W/1.4X TCLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Hawk | Larger but very far away | F8, 560mm (840mm), ISO800, 1/1250 ss

So my technique and post-processing technique aside the XF1.4X TC WR is the most economical (and easy) way to to add an extra 240mm if you need the range. The trade-offs are few and in most shooting conditions you won't notice them very much. 

XF100_400 CraneXF100_400 CraneLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Crane | F6.4 400mm (600mm) ISO400 and 1/80 ss

In the image of the crane above I'm actually handholding a 600mm lens at 1/80 ss !!

The general rule is that you need a shutter speed roughly double that of the focal length. In this case without the Optical Image Stabiliser I would need a shutter speed of 1/1200 ss just to compensate for the exaggerated motion (mine).However with some patience, timing and a little knowledge of my subject, that OIS negates the low shutter speed for increased image quality.

XF100_400XF100_400Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Parrot | F5.6 226mm (340mm) ISO1250 and 1/30 ss

The parrot above was shot at 1/30 ss...I had to take  somewhere north of 20 frames before I got a sharp capture. These birds will move, especially when humans are in close proximity. By the way, if you want to know how good a lens is take it out and make some images of birds. A good lens will show lot's of detail in the feathers. You should be able to see most of them individually, nice and sharp while maintaining good color and contrast reproduction. A bad lens will render feathers very muddy almost as if they are a solid surface. You may not notice at WEB sizes but for large printing or close up inspection it will become clear.

XF100_400 Snow MonkeyXF100_400 Snow MonkeyLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Snow Monkeys | F5.6 359mm (539mm) ISO200 and 1/500 ss

Ditto for furry animals...I love seeing how a good lens sharply renders the hair/texture. It just raises the production value for me and opens up options for large displays of the images.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Snow Monkey | F5.6 400mm (600mm) ISO200 and 1/750 ss

At 600mm it's pretty easy to isolate a subject like the lone Snow Monkey above. I appreciate the out of focus areas with this lens even more now that i've sorted out the sharpening issue. It looks exactly as it's supposed to...smooth with objects in the background rendered as indistinct patterns.

XF100_400XF100_400Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Red Panda | F5.6 400mm (600mm) ISO200 and 1/750 ss

I do need to practice more though...my usual subjects stay still for me. Animals who I tend to like working with much better are in constant motion. This little Red Panda gave me a real workout following him around his enclosure. I definitely should have brought a monopod with me at least.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Red Panda | F5.6 400mm (600mm) ISO640 and 1/200 ss

So to wrap up Part II, I really like this lens and the XF1.4X TC WR extends it's usefulness quite a lot. Stay tuned for more on this, I have a review of it with my new Xf80mm macro lens coming up...when I get some time after the holidays. Customize it a little by adding a nice camo-sleeve to hide it from wildlife and it's good to go for nature photographers. I don't shoot sporting events except in passing but I imagine it's equally useful there too. Like my other Fujinon lenses it's well made and very solid. I sure it will stand up to years of constant use.

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) adobe camera fuji fujifilm fujinon gear mirrorless photographer photography post processing review travel http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/fujifilm-xf100-400mm-f4-5-5-6-r-lm-wr-review-pt-2 Tue, 19 Dec 2017 15:20:11 GMT
Freedom | Photo Essay http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/freedom-photo-essay XF16_55MMXF16_55MMLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm X-T2 W/XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR 


9/11: This is the closest to ground zero I've been in 7 years.

The last time I was here in New York City the worst terrorist attack on my country took place. I, like everyone else on my flight out of Laguardia was clueless for hours until we landed. The airport was busier than I've ever seen it with lot's of security/law enforcement presence. That's when I got the news and took out my cell phone to place a call that would never be answered.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm X70

I've been avoiding it for a long time but on this trip I visited to pay respects to my friend at the monument. It's a strange feeling being here and listening to the sounds of tourists laughing, smiling...kids running around screaming. Kinda far removed from the absolute terror it represents for most of us with a connection to the names of those etched into stone.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm X70

Don't get me wrong, I don't have hard feelings towards them at all. I've been to to other places in my travels where I've looked upon shrines like this without fully grasping the significance they represent but I've always made a point of being respectful. Still, it was a strange feeling to see the casual selfies being taken for instagram. To be honest, I don't think I'll be back.

X70 Katz's DeliX70 Katz's DeliLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm X70


The day before we got dinner at Katz's Deli, possibly my favourite place to eat in New York City. I had the Pastrami and as usual my eyes were way bigger than my stomach. I kept looking at my watch (I actually wore one back then) and my friend laughed and grabbed my ticket to pay the tab on the way out. "You never change, no matter where you're at home is always on your mind" he said. He was right...I love travelling but I love being home too and when I'm done seeing someplace new I can't wait to return to my four walls. We parted ways after making plans to meet up for coffee in the morning.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm X-T2 W/XF80mm F2.8 R LM WR

The next day we met in Battery Park and chatted while walking the length of the pier. "Don't be a stranger, we don't want another 3 years to go by without a visit". A hug, high five and a bro' shake before parting ways. The last time I saw my friend is burned into my heart. He wasn't some random guy I met late in life. We were tight since short pants even though he was a few years older, riding bikes in our small town neighbourhood and whistling at girls. Right up through high school until we parted ways...he to Harvard and me heading off to Canada. We stayed close although from afar. I didn't go home to the USA very often back then but we made a point to stay in touch.

Visiting ground zero reminded me that everything has a price and Freedom most of all has the highest cost. This holiday season make sure you tell those you care about how important they are to you. More importantly, stay in touch.

 

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) new york city fuji fujifilm ground zero photographer travel http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/freedom-photo-essay Mon, 18 Dec 2017 05:36:22 GMT
Fear, Doubt and Photography | Happy Holidays http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/fear-doubt-and-photography-happy-holidays


I would like to wish all my readers a very Happy Holiday Season!

This will be one of the last few blog posts heading into year end. I'm traveling for the next couple of weeks  to host the final workshop of the season and to address a serious health issue that I've put on the back burner for awhile. Frankly the treatment would have cut into my fun and adventure so I delayed it until my schedule cleared. That situation along with some recent conversations with fellow photographers inspired this topic. Fear, Doubt and Photography. It would take too much space and time to detail the conversations so I'm going to make a compression presentation...hopefully that conveys them well enough.

Friend #1

Not too long ago I was sitting in the Buffalo International Airport when a friend of mine tapped me on the shoulder. I haven't seen this guy in close to ten (10) years so imagine running into him at the airport in a totally different country 200 kilometres away from home. I actually worked for him part-time for a few months. Back when we first met he ran one of the busiest portrait studios in Toronto. Fantastic location that looked more like a showroom or art gallery. I filled in as his assistant and retoucher while I was trying to learn the business end of photography. We got thru the usual "how are ya" stuff and he was telling me that he'd closed the studio down and was really only working sporadically. The last recession, SmartPhones, cheap cameras and the internet had cut into his business and made it hard to keep the lights on. I'm ashamed to say that while he was talking I kept brushing him off. Then he grabbed my wrist and looked me straight in the eyes and I saw it. The look of a guy hanging unto a ledge by his fingernails. He was genuinely scared about how he was going to continue in the only job he'd ever had. Now rolling up on 60 years of age, how was he going to learn to do what he loves differently in order to compete and earn a decent living. Fortunately for him (he says) his wife was now an EX and his two children were out of school and well on their way to establishing their own lives. He didn't have to worry about providing for them anymore but for the next 25 years he has to keep himself in good condition financially.

Friend #2

He's been a quasi-professional photographer longer than I've known him. His day job is in Finance and it pays well. A few years ago he'd sold his downtown condo and bought a nice estate home in the burb's...got married too. He and his wife are long past having children but they are the proud parents of two cats and some kind of rat thing...something they make coats out of but I forget the name. I swear, this guy is the busiest non-professional I know, always shooting some project or assignment for which he's alternately paid or afforded some equal benefit. If I'm honest, he works more than most professionals in the business I know. Yet he's so doubtful that he can earn a decent living at photography solely that he remains in a job he's bored to tears of most days. I think that when he calls me to get together it's like a drug...he wants to hear what I've been doing and getting paid for since we last visited. He freaks me out...at any given time he has at least $25,000 worth of photography and video equipment in the trunk of his car and even though he's great at marketing himself and is a top notch photographer, he doesn't think he can make a go of it. So once or twice a month I let him sit on my couch and inhale my photography drugs.

Friend #3

Jack-of-all-trades...he's got it going on and is the most complete working professional in my book of colleagues. He can produce and edit videos, compose jingles and is a very competent photographer. We often double as each other second-shooter for weddings and events and I trust him completely to know what shots I want and how to execute them. No advance tutoring for him. He drives up, parks, takes out his gear and gets to work. He works so much that I often get concerned about his health. He's always coughing, experiencing shortness of breath and looks worn out. Long as I've known him there hasn't been talk of any kind of vacation or day off unless he's really sick. The hardest working man in photography, there is just nothing he won't take on. I see a lot of parallels between us...not great for relationships as one tends to give up a lot to be "that" guy but the bills get paid on time and there is always padding in the bank account for when life throws those curveballs at you. If he's as happy as I am, how do you argue with that...but I don't think he is. I think he lives in fear of missing the next paycheque.

Let me show you something...

I didn't come up with this flowchart. In fact I found it a few years ago when I was trying to learn more about anxiety and depression. So many people close to me have some variation of these that I really wanted to know how to help even in a small way. It does sum up my approach to each day and allows me to be just as calm as a cup of tea while others pull their hair out. I still experience moments of fear and doubt. I left a well-paying career to pursue photography and believe me, it isn't easy. I was miserable in the corporate world, where so much is fake. Everyone is running around chasing their tails to make "targets" etc. I look at my friends and former colleagues still in that world...they have all the trappings of success but not happy. The grey hairs and poor health proves it. I still have my challenges but the difference is that I can determine how to address them.

Fear isn't always a bad thing but it can keep you from acting in your best interests. The people we call "Hero's" are those who ACT despite their fears. First responders are a good example as they run towards all kinds of terrible situations most of us avoid. Doubt does something similar...it can be crippling to the point of being painful.

Look at it this way...if you try and fail the good news is that you are exactly where your standing if you did nothing at all. Both have their own set of consequences. You just have to decide if you can live with it.

I showed each of my friends this flow chart. 

  • Friend #1: Changed careers and is going into real estate
  • Friend #2: Accepted a promotion that makes it impossible to do photography except recreationally
  • Friend #3: Finally taking a vacation for the first time in 15 years

 

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) gear health inspiration photographer photography wellness http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/fear-doubt-and-photography-happy-holidays Sat, 09 Dec 2017 17:36:25 GMT
Small Camera, Big Picture PT.6 | Fujifilm X-Pro2 http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/small-camera-big-picture-pt-6-fujifilm-x-pro2 XF10_24MMXF10_24MMLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm X-Pro2 W/XF10-24mm F4 R OIS | F9 12mm 1/125 seconds at ISO200

Shot Details: The spot ahead is where the Yoho and Kicking Horse River meet. I have other clean shots of this scene but I really liked the framing from the vantage point here. The trees made a nice window that just alludes to what's located beyond. The color of the water is derived from the glacial minerals worn away from the mountains. It was a steep climb down to the base and about halfway I grabbed a solid hold of a tree branch and hung off the cliff-edge for a one-handed shot.


Close your eyes and remember that place where you felt absolutely at peace, happy..maybe even more elated than any other time in your life. Forget about how it looked, focus on how it made you feel. That place for me is the interior of British Columbia. I do love the coastal areas but something about being in the middle of BC's majestic mountains just does it for me. It's still got that "raw"..this is what you get quality that you can't call the front desk and tweak to your every whim. It's there, it's been that way for a long time and won't change to suit you. Fortunately for me...I like it like that.

My favourite time of year to visit is the Fall/Winter seasons.

I may have mentioned along the way in this BLOG, but I hate Summer. I, despite being of African descent really can't tolerate heat very well. Give me crisp sweater weather anytime over walking on a beach somewhere. I'm not a biblical man, but if there is a God he got my recipe wrong.

We flew into Alberta and drove a handful of hours into Field, halfway between somewhere and somewhere else. Perfect for me. Our digs...the Cathedral Mountain Lodge, nestled in the Yoho Valley. A great jumping off point to get a good view of all those iconic places you see on instagram... The cabin was fantastic and super warm once the fireplace got going.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

A little rum and a great Cuban cigar later I settled in for a pretty good night's sleep. Now, about that "how it made you feel part"..

I got up kinda of late..after 12 noon as I recall. Took the usual few minutes to figure out where I was, got out of bed threw on a hoodie and stepped out unto the deck.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca I probably should have put some pants on as well because it was cold! I closed my eyes and took a big, deep breath. What happened next is that feeling I'm talking about.

Ever stub your toes on the edge of a sharp, immovable object?

I call it the volcano of pain. It starts out white hot and slowly subsides over what might seem like forever. My lungs just were not ready for that rush of cold, fresh air. It was like drinking a tall glass of ice-cold water too fast. My brain froze, my lungs froze, my heart stopped...all at once. I kinda thought later that I should probably lay off the cigars and rum a bit. Either that or I have to move out of Toronto which isn't exactly known for fresh air.. Despite that shocker, I felt great after the pain subsided and ready for another dose of the volcano. I've never had that awesome (scary) sensation anywhere else.

If you have never been to British Columbia hurry up and go before it's overrun by tourists!


Images shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera with XF10-24mm F4 R OIS lens attached. Editing was done in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC.

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) adobe british columbia canada fuji fujifilm fujifilm x-t2 gear landscape mirrorless photographer photography post processing provia travel http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/small-camera-big-picture-pt-6-fujifilm-x-pro2 Wed, 06 Dec 2017 02:35:42 GMT
Fujifilm X RAW Studio | WORKFLOW http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/fujifilm-x-raw-studio-workflow Screenshot


Fujifilm announced the X RAW Studio conversion package a few days ago and surprisingly...not to very much fanfare.

Personally I would have rolled out the announcement in a much different way given the huge issue most professionals have with RAW (Fujifilm RAW File) conversion. The company offers the (Silkypix) RAW File Converter software free of charge to camera purchasers but like the other proprietary applications I've used excluding Capture One Pro, the performance and user friendliness leaves a lot to be desired. Any effort by a camera company to improve it's software should be a BIG deal.

I'm going to rant a little but before I do, let's back up a little.

When Fujifilm first came on the market with the X100 and X-Pro1 the only choice for most early adoptees was to shoot JPEG. Fortunately for all involved those JPEGs were very good and stood up to additional editing well enough. For those who required their files to be extensively edited later, we were out of luck. That's the reason I stopped using the X-Pro1 way back, at least until Adobe added support for those RAW files in Lightroom. Think that solved the issue?

Nope.

Lightroom (CC and variants) is a buggy, poorly designed application which seems to get slower each time it's updated. I'm definitely not "happy" with it but when compared to others it's really the best of a bad situation. That meant living with color-smearing and artifacts connected to it's sharpening algorithm. To Adobe's credit, they took care of us a fair bit since the early days by adding Fujifilm camera profiles (Film Simulations) and lens correction which does a great deal of the heavy lifting towards achieving a close match to in-camera JPEGS. The smearing issue creeps up every now and then but improved. The achilles heel is still in sharpening. Sharpen too much and "wormy" artifacts develop. Sharpen too little and the image outputs very "muddy". I've banged my head on the computer screen for years figuring out work-arounds. Most of the time I can get about 90% of the way to satisfaction. Fortunately, at WEB sizes only the pixel peepers can see the flaws.

Silkypix is much better...but slow and not at all user friendly. At least though, all of the editing tools available in-camera could be applied to images with a 95% match.

Enter the X RAW STUDIO

I've been travelling so I got the roll-out news second hand from a workshop participant who wondered why using a camera to make edits to images is better than a powerful desktop computer. The answer is so simple you have to wonder why other camera companies didn't think of it sooner...

ASIC or Application Specific Integrated Circuit.

A highly efficient system designed for a specific purpose, which is exactly what a camera is. This is very different than a desktop computer which is designed to do many things equally well. That involves a lot of compromises which isn't always helpful to applications like video editing or photography. A camera can process an image many times faster than a powerful desktop computer at a much lower cost. This opens up a whole new way of processing image files particularly for those of us who are on the go. No more hauling around powerful but heavy laptops, etc. I'm sure Fujifilm was looking forward...and the eventual dominance of mobile computing over desktops.

And just so you know..I'm no genius. I figured this out while watching a movie (The Hateful Eight) late one night. One of the main characters was explaining how he escaped from a prisoner of war camp. The prison was constructed of wood..so he just burned it down. Simple.

How It Works

Connect your camera (must be the camera you used to make the images) via USB 3.0 cable to your computer and select the folder where the images are stored. Here is the important bit...you are not editing the images "ON" the camera or SD CARD. The camera is essential only where it's superior ability to process the images are concerned. Don't worry, USB 3.0 is plenty fast enough to relay information back and forth. Although I do wish the new X-T2/X-Pro2 had USB-C connector types...I'm thinking ahead too.

So how Does It Work...

Fujifilm X RAW Studio ver. W/Velvia Film Simulation

From my cursory use over the past two days, it works well. It's fast, provides everything I normally have access to in camera and is very accurate to in-camera JPEGS. I assume Fujifilm's other motivation was to preserve the process from capture to output without revealing too much about their "recipe" wrapped up in the Film Simulations and unique image sensor design. Whatever the spur was for this, I'm happy so far. Color, Contrast etc are all ON-POINT.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Adobe Lightroom CC ver. W/Velvia Film Simulation

I've gotten used to the interpretation of these from Adobe Lightroom and resigned myself to the shifts, particularly in the color/saturation. I'm pleasantly surprised here...it's even better than Silkypix.

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 2.0 Powered by Silkypix ver. W/Velvia Film Simulation

The breakout benefit for me is sharpening...whoa.

Little to no artifacts even at the maximum sharpen setting. The sample image of the duck was shot at ISO 800. Combine that sensitivity with the atmospheric distortion from shooting at an effective focal length of 840mm and I wasn't expecting a whole lot. Processing it in the X RAW Studio though was impressive...the noise reduction is effective and the correction for the lens (with XF 1.4 TC attached) cleaned things up nicely for a crisp image.

As with anything else...your mileage may vary. Try it out and let me know!

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) adobe fuji fujifilm fujifilm x raw studio fujinon gear mirrorless photographer photography post processing retouching http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/12/fujifilm-x-raw-studio-workflow Sat, 02 Dec 2017 16:09:13 GMT
Small Camera, Big Picture PT.5 | Fujifilm X-Pro2 http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/11/small-camera-big-picture-pt-5-fujifilm-x-pro2 TEW FALLSTEW FALLSLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm X-T2 (PROVIA)  W/XF10-24mm F4 R OIS | ISO200 10MM F/10 1/80 sec


I haven't been out to Tew Falls [CLICK HERE FOR A LARGER VIEW] in ages...I may have been using (still) a Canon DSLR camera at the time so count back at least 5 years. I stopped off late last month on the way to somewhere else. It's changed lot's, the number of tourists that head in there by the busloads will cramp your style if you want a clean shot. Also don't go in Summer or Fall..the colours last month was spectacular but the falls itself tends to be pretty dry. It fills in a fair bit more in the Spring and early part of Summer.

For those of you planning to visit Hamilton (ONTARIO) and want to make a quick stop to check it out, go early to avoid the human traffic. Also you can't park anywhere near the access point so plan on a taxi from one of the local parking lots (several miles away). It took me forever that Saturday morning...UBER doesn't service that area and I had to park off some side street and hoof it for a good 1/2 to get in there.


Post-Processing done in Adobe Lightroom CC for global adjustments & Photoshop CC for selective sharpening

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) adobe canada fuji fujifilm fujifilm x-t2 gear landscape mirrorless photographer photography post processing provia tew falls travel http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/11/small-camera-big-picture-pt-5-fujifilm-x-pro2 Sun, 26 Nov 2017 01:43:01 GMT
Small Camera, Big Picture PT.4 | Fujifilm X-Pro2 http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/11/small-camera-big-picture-pt-3-fujifilm-x-pro2 Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm X-Pro2 W/XF10-24mm F4 R OIS | ISO200 10MM F/10 1/210 sec


Moraine Lake is a short drive away from the more celebrated Lake Louise but well worth a visit. Get there as early as entry allows, it fills up fast with tourists and you will be fighting for a parking space and a clear shot of the lake. The distinctive colour is due to light refraction off the rock flour that's deposited from the glacial run-off.

It's really "that" colour...I didn't enhance it in anyway beyond raising the exposure and some minor colour correction.

For the shot I've used the Fujifilm Provia Film Simulation as my base for the editing.

This image is what I call a "One Shot Wonder"

It was a heavily overcast day and I was able to fit the entire scene within the dynamic range of my Fujifilm X-Pro2. In brighter conditions I might have had to use a Neutral Density Grad filter in order to tame the sky. As it was, a Polarizer would have helped to take some of the glare off the water. I could have also bracketed shots and blended the exposures later on....too much work though, I just wanted to enjoy the moment. It's an incredibly serene place to visit.

Screenshot


Post-Processing done in Adobe Lightroom CC for global adjustments & Photoshop CC for selective sharpening

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) adobe alberta canada fuji fujifilm fujifilm x-pro2 gear landscape mirrorless moraine lake photographer photography post processing provia travel http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/11/small-camera-big-picture-pt-3-fujifilm-x-pro2 Sat, 18 Nov 2017 04:03:19 GMT
Staying Motivated http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/11/staying-motivated


I recently shared a drink with an executive type on a flight. Really nice guy who had his head buried in a laptop screen full of numbers. After about an hour into the flight he looks over at me and asks about the photography mag I was reading. We got to talking and he pops the usual set of questions..."Can you actually make a living doing that" and "How do you stay motivated in a job like that". I shot the same question back at him...crickets. He did say the money...the money as a way of measuring progress/advancement but the passion for what he's doing is long gone. Now with a couple of kids in university and all the other trappings of life motivation is only about staying one step ahead of that avalanche.

The first question is easy but that second one I've avoided for a long time. I get asked that a lot and until now, never really had a satisfactory answer. I'm also not sure if people who ask aren't conflating motivation with inspiration which is easier. 

Inspiration comes easy...I'm pretty much in amazement at just about everything. Imagine if you woke up everyday like that.

I grew up in a small town. The four corners of my family's property was my entire world until age 7 when my folks decided to change the scenery. Our new digs gave me a severe case of sensory overload that's remained constant for over 35 years. 


Just to give you a small idea of what my year looks like...10-15 weddings, lot's of portraits, events and a good sprinkle of commercial assignments. Add to that a rising interest in video from my clients. A good percentage of that work is pretty cookie cutter stuff. Wash, Rinse and Repeat. While I do have some leeway to inject a little creative license from time to time I generally stick to the numbers.

Weddings and Lifestyle portraits are different. They can be fun and creatively engaging but make no mistake about it, it's lot's of work and by the end of the season I'm ready to move unto other things for awhile.

So how do I stay motivated?

I've never thought of myself as a good person to say much on the subject of motivation. I love waking up and catching a sunrise or dropping everything to watch the sun go down. I'll stay up late after everyone else goes to bed just to listen to the rain falling without any other human sounds. I'm naturally chatty...love meeting new people and discovering what they are all about especially if they are artists or craftsmen of some kind. I also don't look at work as something I have to do. Regardless of what job role I've had it's always been like my own business. I do it well and consistently and it provides me with a home full of creature comforts etc. I cannot recall a single time when I've woken up and thought "damn, I've gotta go to work".

I'm not sure if "luxury" is the right term but maybe the reason my motivation level stays fairly stable is due to the fact that i have my hands in a variety of things which aren't directly tied into my daily work. I enjoy Landscape & Macro Photography though those two genres don't contribute a lot to my bottom line. They feed my curiosity while helping me relax and enjoy nature. Maybe that's the key...having outlets other than your main interest/work.

BTW...I'm well aware that not everyone has the ability to develop those outlets for whatever reasons. This is just what works for me.

I struggle to explain it most of the time but I came armed with some good examples. Two people...different motivations.

EX. NO. 1

James Brown. Even if you don't dig his style of music check out the documentary "Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown". I believe it's showing on Netflix now even though that's not where I saw it originally. He's got a ton of nicknames (Mr. Dynamite, The God Father of Soul, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business...etc). He was also one of the first African-American entertainment millionaires. This was in the 60's when being African American wasn't automatically paired up with success and wealth. When asked by an interviewer what motivated him, Brown summed it up in one sentence.."I was hungry and I wanted to eat". Just that...survival. All those decades of screaming, shaking and grooving was so he didn't have to be that hungry kid abandoned by his parents. Money can be a powerful motivator.

EX. NO. 2

Gry Garness. This one hurts. I ponied up the cost of her workshop and plane/hotel ticket all the while thinking it better be worth it. It was. I learned more in a single day than a year of retouching on my own. I along with others in attendance felt her passion for photography and retouching but I didn't realize just how motivated she was until a few years back when she announced her cancer diagnosis. She's gone now but right up until then she laboured through pain and uncertainty to pour everything she knew about the business into a complete course. I still have that on my bookshelf. If you have ever been close to someone suffering from cancer it's real easy to understand just how committed and motivated she must have been to do that.

So the closest thing I can deliver to an answer is this...what motivates me is a challenge. As long as photography remains a challenge I'll probably never give it up. Everything has been painted, photographed, written about etc. so the challenge is to raise the bar with my own interpretation of the work. Here is the thing though, I don't think we are designed to be inspired or motivated all the time. For myself I can say that days, weeks sometimes months go by where I hardly touch my camera. I really believe you just have to roll with it. Everyone needs a break even if it's just to recharge and refocus. Put down the camera and do something else for awhile. I'm teaching myself the harmonica right now..five months in I can almost allow other people to hear me hack away at it.

Obviously if photography is your full time job the opportunity to just tune out isn't there. You have to pay those bills but it's not unlike my executive friend on the plane. He may not always be inspired but having a lot of people depending on you provides the motivation to power through.

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) fuji fujifilm motivation photographer photography portrait travel http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/11/staying-motivated Sun, 12 Nov 2017 23:49:07 GMT
Fuji XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR | Review http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/11/fuji-xf80mm-f2-8-r-lm-ois-wr-review Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujinon XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro Lens


It's been about a month since Fujifilm has launched the XF80mm Macro lens and I've gotten a production copy to work with for this review. For comparison purposes (for myself mostly) I'm including a mix of images from the Pre-Production lens as well. I can definitely see some refinement in the output of the production lens and it would be interesting if you might be able to spot the same.

One major change I've made isn't gear related. I've stopped sharpening Fujifilm RAW files in Adobe Lightroom CC. Although there are operational improvements to the application I'm still leaving a lot of "image quality" on the table in the sharpening area. My previous workflow got me close (globally) but at pixel peeping distance I still see a bit of smearing/waxing/squiggly worms. I'm convinced that this is limited to the way Lightroom sharpens. However, I didn't stray too far. Sharpening now takes place in Adobe Photoshop CC and you should definitely try this method:

  1. Export your RAW file image to Adobe Photoshop CC
  2. Click on the FILTER menu and select SHARPEN
  3. Click on UNSHARP MASK
  4. When the UNSHARP MASK dialogue box opens enter 150 for the AMOUNT, 1 for the RADIUS, and 1 for the THRESHOLD
  5. Click OK to return to the image

You can then review the image to see that it's to your satisfaction and maybe even mask it so that you can selectively apply the sharpening to the image. After years of trying different work-arounds to Lightroom this seems to be the best (for now).


For those who don't like to read long articles I'll give you a spoiler alert.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca This lens is amazing and I thought as much when the pre-production copy was in my possession. The focusing is fast and smooth..and very accurate. The colour and contrast is spot on and the output images whether RAW or JPEG are sharp and full of detail. If you are shooting JPEG in camera you have lot's of flexibility for making edits to the image and of course the imaging system will take care of vignetting, chromatic aberration etc. I have no complaints with the JPEG output. If you are shooting RAW, Adobe Lightroom CC also takes care of the previously mentioned items as the lens profile data is built in. Shooting RAW of course just gives you more editing options without making permanent changes to the file itself.

The image stabilisation works as advertised..really well. I've pulled off shots at 1/5 seconds (with practice) handheld and it seems to work well enough even on a tripod without turning it off. The water resistance definitely works. As I write this the rain is pouring down in my part of Canada cutting short my hike in cottage country but not before I got soaked to the skin. The lens...and camera are fine but my new Kanati-Print camo outfit is hanging over the heater.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca And here is what you are waiting for...it's sharp. Sharper than the pre-production copy. That may be a placebo effect messing with me but I do like the new images..there is more "bite" to the in-focus areas. Also the out of focus areas are definitely smoother. I'm not sure yet just how much of that is due to my new sharpening method but the pre-production copy could be a little busy in some shots. 

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

OOF shot of the city lights off my balcony at F2.8

Compared to the XF60mm F2.4 Macro...this is literally night and day. Faster focusing, Sharper to my eyes with improvements to the colour and contrast. I'm also seeing a big difference in the micro-contrast..fine hairs and textures are definitely being rendered better. The OOF areas are much smoother...the XF60mm Macro is busier. I'm keeping the XF60mm though. It's still a very nice lens in that focal length.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

XF60mm F2.4 R Macro | F4, 1/220, ISO200

Compared to the GF120 F4 MF Macro..wow. Almost identical in every way except the XF80mm focuses faster. After-all, there is less glass to move. The sharpness and organic image rendering of the medium format lens is right there in the XF80mm. Big praise because that GF120 lens sold me on the new system format. The colours aren't "hyper" or loud...very natural feel. 

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

GF120mm F4 R LM OIS WR | F4, 1/60, ISO100


Now for the rest of you...

Portraits are a big part of my work and I've been using macro lenses (telephoto) for that for years now. I just love the way a good macro lens renders skin texture and hair. Even stopped down with every wrinkle or other flaw revealed my clients prefer those images to ones shot with a regular telephoto lens. It's just an extra step to dumb unwanted texture down in editing but I prefer to start with a nice crisp image. It's very hard to create good details from a muddy image.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

F5.6, 1/80, ISO 800

The image above was shot in natural light at a higher ISO than I prefer for close-up shots but it works. The hair is well defined and her skin detail is amazing. I retouch most of my portraits but it was light in this case for a few blemishes. I didn't bother with the noise reduction at all.

XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR MacroXF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR MacroLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

My Balcony View of The City | F8, 30 sec, ISO 200

I usually don't use a macro lens for shooting long distances. Most are designed for close-up work but the XF80mm does a fine job. This was a long exposure so a tripod was used in concert with the built-in timer of my X-T2. The image is a near zero-adjustment RAW file which I first chose the PROVIA colour profile and sharpened in Adobe Photoshop.

XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR MacroXF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR MacroLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Lorenzo Marida Spitfire Pipe | F2.8, 1/60 sec, ISO200

In the image of my Spitfire pipe the focus at F2.8 was on the logo. I purposefully places some items around it to demonstrate how smooth the out of focus areas are on this production copy. This is another near zero-adjustment RAW file...just a little tweaking and sharpening.

XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR MacroXF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR MacroLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

F8, 1/50 sec, ISO200

I love watches and clocks...though I don't wear or carry one. I keep a box of old ratty ones in my closet to test lenses with. If I can feel the grit while looking at an image, the lens is a success. This particular shot is handheld at a shutter speed I wouldn't normally attempt with a macro lens without image stabilisation. Keep in mind...this is a 120mm effective lens. I've done other shots with this same setup but with addition of a tripod and they aren't any sharper at the point of focus. Super stable for handheld work.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Cropped | F5.6, 1/320 sec, ISO400

The dragonfly is an aggressively cropped image that I initially rejected. I just couldn't get close enough to the critter to fill the viewfinder and I hate cropping on macros (even though it's a fact of life). However when I took another look at 100% the fine details just jumped out at me. I cropped in to see if they would hold up on an 8X10 print...guess what, perfect print and I'm sure I can go larger.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

F2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO200

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

F3.6, 1/200 sec, ISO200

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

F8, 1/160 sec, ISO200

The above three (3) images were shot at low shutter speeds for moving subjects and at various apertures. The last image was actually shot, employing a tripod and stopped down to F8...all sharp. You can get away with a lot by combining a little patience with the built-in image stabilisation system. I should also mention that they are from the pre-production copy...I think the production unit is even better.

Summary

Forget about the promise of small, light lenses that the mirrorless revolution offered. Just about every single premium glass I've seen in the past three (3) years has been pretty hefty and the XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR is no different. That much exotic glass, plus the linear motors and stabilisation system adds up to a lot of tech that you can only miniaturize so much. I feel it in my gear bags..not gonna lie. It's nowhere near as heavy as my old DSLR kit but I thought we would be further along 5 years later.

That said, it's worth every penny for the sharpest lens in the Fujifilm lineup that does double duty for macro, portraits...etc. The OIS system has come a far way and it just works. Most of the time I don't even take notice of it even in low light. The build quality is definitely top-shelf. Nothing wiggles, nothing makes odd sounds while carrying it and the finish material feels great in hand. I'm a big fan of the wide focus ring which has just the right amount of dampening. The included lens shade is a nice touch.

The decision to buy this lens is really user driven. If you only do portraits then there are other (less expensive) lenses in similar focal lengths (XF90mm F2) which may suit you better. If like me you need the "extra"...close focusing, image stabilisation etc. this lens is now the only way to go.

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) adobe close up photography fuji fuji xf80mm f2.8 r lm ois wr fujifilm fujinon gear macro mirrorless photographer photography x-photographer http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/11/fuji-xf80mm-f2-8-r-lm-ois-wr-review Sun, 05 Nov 2017 22:00:39 GMT
NYC Workshops and Gear Sell-Off! http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/11/nyc-workshops-and-gear-sell-off


Hello All!

I'm on the final leg of the last two workshops to close out 2017. It feels like I haven't been home much in the past couple of weeks but it's been a good time meeting many of you readers from this BLOG. I've been asked by the organizers of the San Francisco workshop to co-host an event in the lower east village area on the 17th of this month (November) and again in Mid December so if any one will be out that way give me a shout if you want to get together.

On another note, I'm lightening/slashing down my gear bag. The idea is to pass on the redundant items that I rarely, if ever use. I've found my Fujifilm gear to be very reliable and some of the cameras and lenses are just gathering dust.

Here is a quick summary...I may add other items later.

  1. Fujifilm X-T1 (excellent working order but the rubber on the grip will likely need to be replaced in a year or two) **SOLD**
  2. Fujifilm X-A1 (Excellent Condition) **SOLD**
  3. Fujinon XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS (Excellent Condition) **SOLD**
  4. Fujinon XF90mm F2 R LM WR (Excellent Condition) **SOLD**
  5. Fujinon XF56mm F1.2 R (Excellent Condition) **SOLD**
  6. Fujinon XF35mm F1.4 R (A little worn but works great. The lens hood is a bit beat up)  **SOLD**

These items were professionally used and maintained, however as the years have gone by they were updated with other high-end Fujifilm gear (in some cases). I want everything I need from now on to fit in one bag as I've got lot's of travel coming up in 2018 with green-lit projects. One trip in particular will require everything in the bag to be weather resistant.

The X-T1 in particular is being updated to the X-T2 shortly as I'm finding the need for 4K Video getting more urgent. Otherwise it's been my daily driver from the moment it was introduced and the 16 MP sensor is just fantastic for my daily work.

Send me an email with the item you are interested in as the SUBJECT and I'll reply as soon as possible.

 

And done...thank you all. That was possibly the fastest I've ever sold off gear. Stay tuned for more.

 

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) fuji fujifilm gear olympus photographer travel workshop http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/11/nyc-workshops-and-gear-sell-off Wed, 01 Nov 2017 18:16:19 GMT
Video Gear under $50 | WORKFLOW http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/10/video-gear-under-50-workflow Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca


This is by far one of the best items I've been using in my video work and it doesn't even come close to the $50 mark. In fact the $28 Canadian I paid is tax and shipping included. Ladies and Gentlemen...the Purple Panda Lavalier Microphone.


Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca The Purple Panda Lav Mic is by far one of the cheapest/least expensive mics I've used...and I can say that it doesn't suck. The sound quality straight out of the mic is better than ok. If you add a little sweetening to it in post-processing it's hard for the untrained ear to tell the difference. I use mine for recording talking head projects such as interviews, speeches and voice-overs.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

It's all very versatile...connect it to your DSLR/Mirrorless camera, GoPro, Field Recorder etc.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

It comes with an alligator clip and pop foam, a nearly 10ft extension cord, TRS adapter and dead cat windscreen. Big value for the price point.

So back to how it sounds...I thought to do a voice-over sample but there are tons already available on YouTube. The shortcut version is that it stacks up very well to my Sennheiser Wireless Kit. In fact I kept it in my gear bag as a backup in case the wireless set ever failed...which it did recently. I won't so far as to say that the Purple Panda matches it for sound quality but they are not far apart considering the price difference. Also it's more durable than any other Lav mic I've used. After a year of use it was still going strong until someone knicked the cable on a sharp edge. 

One thing to note...this is not a powered mic and keep the TRS adapter handy. Some devices require it as in the case of a field recorder. You will have to enable "Plug-In" power or whatever your equivalent is to get it working.

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) fuji fujifilm gear mirrorless photographer photography post processing purple panda lavalier lapel microphone kit http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/10/video-gear-under-50-workflow Fri, 20 Oct 2017 17:16:09 GMT
Post-Processing vs Workflow http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/10/post-processing-vs-workflow Hello all..sorry for the long pause from the previous post. I've been busy with a variety of projects, most of which are finally winding down especially wedding season. I've gotten a few emails about two terms I use frequently on this BLOG "Workflow & Post Processing" so I'm posting the answer here...maybe I should start a Frequently Asked Questions page.

First, those two terms are not mutually exclusive. Post Processing is a part of Workflow.

Workflow simply put are the steps you take to capture, store, edit and output an image. The same applies to video work as well. Post Processing is a fancy term that fits into the "editing" part of workflow.

For example..the image of Takakkaw Falls below.

Takakkaw Falls, British Columbia | Fujifilm X-Pro2 W/XF10-24mm F4 R OIS Wide Angle Zoom Lens

The Image on the left is what's called a "RAW" file. Think of it as a digital version of a negative from those old film cameras. In my case, the RAW file was taken with a Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera that was set to record minimal color, contrast and sharpening. I wanted the most neutral negative I could capture mainly because it was a heavily overcast day without any strong directional light. It definitely wasn't ideal for landscape photography that day but I was in a particular place for the first and possibly last time. You won't always get a "do-over" so you make the best of the situation. I knew that once I returned home the post-processing techniques I use would give me a good representative picture of what my eyes saw.

My "Workflow started the moment I selected the camera, lens, etc. right through to importing the images to my workstation..there are things that happen while I go off for a drink or two. Names, Keywords, Copyright, GPS information etc. Once the entire memory card has been imported the images are duplicated/backed up to my Network Attached Storage (NAS). By the time I return to the workstation there are two independent copies of my photoshoot, ready for the next step.

The "Post Processing" begins when editing with my software of choice which I've used to make global edits to the exposure, white balance and sharpening. I then used the Local Adjustment Brushes to independently edit the color and contrast. Compare the cloud detail in the sky, color of the trees, water and cliffs. Our eyes are amazing and I could see all of those features in great detail. The camera however, was likely to struggle with too many independent things to manage. Having said that, a fair amount of editing (Post Processing) can be done within a Fujifilm camera. You can make changes to color saturation, contrast, sharpening and then output to an internet friendly picture without ever importing to a computer. The limited tools work great for social media and same day printing if additional edit (advanced) are not needed.

Most workflows go the same way. Others take slight detours to account for backing up images, selecting keepers and discarding bad images etc. Post Processing is an individual thing and very personal. I've rarely found two photographers that think alike in that regard. We have different tolerances, tastes...that's what make our images different despite making a photo of the same subject.


NOTE: My software of choice is Adobe Lightroom CC, however the techniques work equally well with other mainstream applications which recognize the Fujifilm RAF file system.

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) adobe editing fuji fujifilm mirrorless photography post-processing travel workflow http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/10/post-processing-vs-workflow Thu, 12 Oct 2017 14:38:49 GMT
Close-Up Photography Q and A http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/9/close-up-photography-q-and-a Fuji XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro Lens (uncropped)Fuji XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro Lens (uncropped)Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

Fujifilm X-T2 W/XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro lens


I've gotten lot's of emails about my post several days ago following the launch of the newest Fujifilm lens, the Fujinon XF80mm F2.8 Macro. I think rather than reply to each one I would just post a general set of answers here.

NOTE: The shot above of the Melanoplus Grasshopper is UNCROPPED (6000X4000). Editing was done in the Silkypix RAW FILE CONVERTER software which you can download from Fujifilm's website. 


Before we get to the Q&A from the XF80mm F2.8 post let me just pass on a few thoughts.

I appreciate the feedback, even the not so nice ones. My replies are sometimes late because as you can appreciate I'm always working one way or another whether it's client focused or my own personal projects. We grow as much from work as we do from play and I try to get equal amounts in whenever possible. The first thing I want readers to know is this: Don't consider anything I say here as a rule. Every single photographer I've ever met has his/her own way of making images. I've seen everything from DIY photography tools all the way to top dollar equipment.

Fuji X-T1 VS Fuji GFX 50SFuji X-T1 VS Fuji GFX 50SLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca It can probably go without saying that as a  Fujifilm X-Photographer I get to use some very fancy and expensive equipment. I also give a fair shake to the hobbyist/enthusiast level gear too because in my experience you can find some real "sleepers" like the XC16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS II lens that works great and cost very little by comparison.

Second, if someone quotes you photography rules, apply my advice: Listen, look and learn from people who's work you admire and/or are inspired by. That's how I learned. But those rules, BREAK THEM. It's the only way forward.

~

Q: Did you crop any of the images

A: Yep, absolutely. In some cases I cropped moderately for a more dramatic composition. You will find that cropping is a fact of life when shooting macro or wildlife images. Sometimes you can't get close enough to a subject for a variety of reasons...focal length, safety, or a restrictive minimal focusing distance of a particular lens. Also, in most cases wild animals and insects don't like us.

Fuji XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro LensFuji XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro LensLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca This reptile let me get fairly close but well outside the minimum focus range of the XF80mm F2.8. The other factor was that to get the shot I had to stand in thigh deep water with one foot on the slopes of a slippery rock. I wasn't very stable to push the shot much further. The finished image is cropped to 5096X3397, pretty moderate but just enough to get the composition just right.

Fuji XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro LensFuji XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro LensLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca Then there are the interesting but not so friendly critters.

Get too close and they either escape or attack. Neither of those outcomes usually get's the shot. I've never personally met anyone who has been bitten by a dock spider and I don't want to be the first among my friends either. My respectful distance required a crop to 4770X3180.

Q: Did you use a tripod

A: Yes, but for very few shots. Many of these were taken in the full heat of Summer and the little critters were moving around quite a bit. I found it easier to just hand-hold which allowed me to contort into whatever position worked best for the composition. The XF80mm has a 5-stop image stabilisation system which helps quite a lot, however you still need a subject that is relatively static when shooting at slow shutter speeds. For subjects like food, jewelry etc. I definitely use a tripod though. I did film a fair bit with a second X-T2 camera and in that case I alternately employed a regular and video specific tripod.

Fuji XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro LensFuji XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro LensLeigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca Q: What Apertures Do You Use

A: Depends on the subject and desired depth-of-field. Left to my own devices though, I prefer as wide an aperture F2.4/2.8/5.6 as I can get away with while keeping the parts of my composition that are important..in focus. I like blurred out backgrounds and bokeh while the subject remains very sharp and isolated. With close-up subjects you tend to stop down anywhere from F8-F16/22 in order to keep most of the subject in-focus. Sometimes even stopping down isn't enough or desirable. All lenses have a "sweet spot". That aperture where they exhibit their best qualities and going beyond that introduces softness to the images (diffraction). One way around this is to Focus Stack where you take a series of images at different distances along the subject, then use software such as Adobe Photoshop CC to stitch them together in a final photograph.

Q: Do you Shoot With Natural Light or Flash

A: Again it depends on the circumstances...my preference with wildlife and insects is natural light. If you are shooting at very small apertures (F10-22) or in low light conditions then using an artificial light source is a must even if the camera is set up on a tripod. Poor lighting usually results in a poor image.

Q: What Software Did You Use

A: For my general workflow I use Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC. They aren't perfect but for images displayed on the Internet or Mobile Devices it does a good job. For more exacting editing I default to the Silkypix software. It's slow, not very intuitive but once you learn your way around it your images will usually be a near copy of what you saw in the cameras' viewfinder right down to your Film Simulation of choice.

As with anything though...the final image is no small amount of technical execution and lot's of "art". We can both photograph the same subjects and end up with very different images because it all boils down to "art"..or taste.

Q: Which Lens Do You Prefer

A: Definitely the XF80mm F2.8 because of the Optical Image Stabiliser, Linear Motor focusing system and Weather Sealing.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca Basically everything my older XF60mm F2.4 lens isn't. When photographing insects I prefer the longer focal length of the XF80mm over my XF60mm lens. It allows me to stay a respectful distance from certain subjects...and providing them with enough comfort to tolerate my presence.

The icing on top is the compatibility with Fujifilm's 1.4 and 2.0 teleconverters which make the lens even more useful.

Q: Which Camera Do You Prefer

A: Any of the ILC X-Series cameras will do just fine but you have significantly more resolution for cropping with the X-T2/XPro2 cameras. Then there is the much improved auto-focus system and expanded video features.

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) adobe close up photography fuji fujifilm gear macro mirrorless photographer photography post processing retouching http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/9/close-up-photography-q-and-a Thu, 14 Sep 2017 04:10:00 GMT
Small Camera, Big Picture PT.3 | Fujifilm X-Pro2 http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/9/small-camera-big-picture-pt-3-fujifilm-x-pro2 Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca


Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

XF60mm F2.4 R Macro | ISO200 F25.6 1/300 seconds

Handheld with the XF60mm macro lens...I don't stand still very often so when you see me fishing it means I'm totally relaxed. This was the second biggest fish I've caught off the dock at the cottage. I couldn't let the moment go without snapping a picture.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

XF60mm F2.4 R Macro | ISO200 F25.6 1/500 seconds

Small things amuse me. I admit it. This rusty bolt is a really good example of why everyone should have a macro lens in their bag. The applications are endless...small insects, products and portraits. My lens is very versatile. Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

XF35mm F2 R WR | ISO200 F2 1/680 seconds

I love sunsets but the only thing that will get me out of bed early when I don't have to work is a sunrise. A show like this one is rare in the city with all the smog, noise and light pollution.

Fuji X-Pro2 SampleFuji X-Pro2 Samplehttp://leighmiller.zenfolio.com

XF60mm F2.4 R Macro | ISO200 F2.8 1/18 seconds

Yup...I love watches and clocks. The intricate machinery are tailor made for a macro lens.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

XF60mm F2.4 R Macro | ISO200 F4 1/220 seconds

I'm pretty proud of this capture. I noticed this little guy hanging out on a wayward branch just taking in the sights. He wasn't too concerned about my presence but the branch was erratic, moved by the slightest wind. It took 30 tries and a little strategic focusing to get this shot.

]]>
leightona.miller@gmail.com (Leigh MILLER) fuji fujifilm gear mirrorless photographer photography post processing travel http://www.leighmiller.ca/blog/2017/9/small-camera-big-picture-pt-3-fujifilm-x-pro2 Mon, 11 Sep 2017 04:15:00 GMT