Travelling Lighter

Going on a business trip, so I packed up my camera as I usually do...only to recognize some pretty big changes in my load plan. Now this is a business trip, and if I get to shoot and enjoy myself it will be a small miracle. I just feel unprepared without a good camera on hand...and being a geek I wanted my toy set with me. On my last big trip I toted my Pentax K-5 DSLR along. Great camera, outstanding quality from its 16mp sensor. I took the little bag you see below. Inside was the K-5 with a 16-50 F2.8 and either the 50-135 F2.8 or a trio of primes (usually DA 15 F4, DA35 F2.8 (or the FA43/FA77) and DFA100 F2.8 Macro). I could take either one flash, or store my batteries and charger in the top compartment. This was a great set of toys.


Over the last six months I traded out a lot of Pentax gear to pick up a Fujifilm rangefinder style kit. So this time I put the following in the bag: Fujifilm X-E1, 18-55 F2.8-F4, 55-200 F3.5-4.8, 14mm F2.8, 35mm F1.4 and 60mm F2.4 close focusing lens with a small XF-20 flash, XF-42 Flash, off camera flash cord and the battery charger. This is way more than I need...probably too much. The way I shoot though is opportunity driven, as such the better a set of tools I have on hand the better I can handle any situation.


What did I gain and what did I lose? Well the X-E1 displays much sharper image due to its lack of an AA filter, and in dim situations and almost no noise up to IO3200. Now I also want to point out that I have an early generation 16MP sensor in the K-5, and a later generation 16MP sensor in the X-E1 both probably made by Sony. Sony does continuous improvement on the sensors, and users of current 16MP K-5II and K-5IIS do have a better sensor. On the plus side I also had more room to carry some fill flash without exceeding my previous carry weight in the Fuji package. I used that a lot over Thanksgiving, and it could become useful here.

The style of the X-E1 is definitely a retro design with aperture rings and a shutter speed dial. It is simple and direct. For more complicated functions I can dive into the Q menu and handle the need quickly. It does force me to slow down in some situations to get everything set up the way I want it in terms of focusing point just because of button positioning and how my brain works. The AF is definitely slower compared to a DSLR, but it is very precise. I also can compose just as easily on the large LCD as the small Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). I am still working to use it as fluidly as I did the K-5.

I made the jump because quite frankly Pentax had not grown very far since I had purchased it. Now they made advances in the last year I would like to take home with me....but I was not sold on where the company was going and what their intentions were. Heck the company could not tell anyone what they their strategy was. My prize lenses were the FA43, FA77 and DFA100. They were dreamy...but out of place on crop sensors most of the time. I had hoped to use the crop sized zooms for sports, and the primes for deliberate work on a 35mm size sensor one day. With no Pentax FF on the horizon to waltz into at some point, I really had to make a decision about their usefullness. Fujifilm on the other hand had a coherent strategy of getting great APS-C quality with compact glass that was very portable (and when on sale relatively uber affordable). So for now when focus speed and weather sealing is of most importance, Mr. Pentax comes out to play. Other than is getting aback seat right now. The Pentax primes are gone except for the macro....all to fund the new Fujifilm kit.

I must admit the jury is still out on whether I made a good choice. Both are good systems, and a little off the beaten track. I almost picked up a Micro 4/3 Olympus OM-D5. Iit has incredible glass, better AF, and a good sound design except it was a little too small for my hands. The Fujifilm fits me well...and the system is growing by leps and bounds. So time will tell if I did the right thing...until then I just need to learn my craft until I get blue in the face! The gear today is very, very good...and the limiter is not the gear but rather me!

So if you are looking for something to lighten your load take a look at the growing number of mirriorless options. They are good cameras, and by design could save you quite a few pounds on your next all day excursion.


Negative space in life and a portrait

Negative Space Adventure Here is my pretty china doll Julia Rose...

I think the world's technology if overloading us with stimuli.  Our brains are truly wired differently now because of it. Unfortunately this is robbing us of our ability to be introspective.  Introspective people often look into what appears to be nothingness, and find the rich textures and beauty God has hidden in there for their enjoyment and enlightenment that others ignore.  While making these portraits with my daughter I was able to slow down just enough to explore what I was doing...the why...the how...the wonder of the moment before me.  Writing this article, and thinking about what I wanted to do actually made me go back and re-edit my photograph to make it more attractive..actually to make the nothingness more attractive and complementary of the subject!  I had set the stage, but only by self examination was I truly able to explore it.

Here is the story of the shot:  When I shot this portrait I wanted to explore the concept of negative space a bit.  I just finished reading about in in Bryan Peterson's book so I thought it would be good to practice.  This is one of those times where you purposely let a big set of space be empty...but in this case I filled it up with a rich texture.  Before last month I would be scared to do something with the space, wondering if I was "allowed" to by the photogurus of the world.  Bob Coates helped me walk away from that supposed stigma last month at a class I took with him.  "If the masters of art did it, why can we learn from them?" he said...and then he encouraged us all to play a little but with the concept.  Only through play can you learn, experience and find the your style in the wonderful world of photo development we have at our fingertips today.  It is a great lesson we should all grasp on in so many ways (Bob Coates website  I used Julia's eyes and body curve to compliment the negative space...she is looking at the negative space as if something is there you cannot see!  By moving Julia in the lighting space I also purposely created shadows to give the subject a three dimensional depth to match the texture.  If I had more space in the old basement I'd pull her further from the backdrop..but I am out of that vital commodity in the basement right create more depth and contrast in the textures.  Next step is to do more with the lighting outside of post to make this easier.

So put down that smart phone, ipad or gameboy.  Look into the nothingness, and see what you've been missing.  Remove the man made stimuli, and look, listen and feel for the rich textures of life God prepared for us.  I think our lives will be much greater for it...I know this portrait of my daughter certainly was.


P.S.  The Fujifilm X-E1 F5, 1/110, ISO1600, at 234mm(35mm equivalent) tripod mounted!

Picnic Time

Roswell's Picnic Place Walking down the street in Roswell in any season you will see the picnic place ready to host you for a bit on the lawn.  At night it is quite a busy place, and finding a seat on the lawn is harder than it looks!

One of the hard things in composing this photo is that there are so many elements.  Everywhere I looked multiple items poked themselves out to say, "Focus on me!"  I tackled this in my viewfinder by getting the sign to grab your attention...and framed it with trees, sidewalk and the house.   In the end, I hope the composition corralled the picnic scene and made you think about taking one there!

I attended mass tonight, and had to say I could not miss the parallels to prayer life.  I wanted a few minutes of peace...and the dang work phone beeped.  In my job I cannot ignore it, or I could get reprimanded.  So I had to look.  As a result my prayer life..not just then...but always...gets diverted from thinking of God to a distraction  I had to laugh when I thought about how this is the perfect Devil's tool for my weaknesses...and pulled me away from the solitude required to listen for God's directions.

So somehow in the next week, I will try to push those distractions away.  I need to carve out the quiet needed to calm my mind and stay on the course the Lord intends for us all.


All Aboard!

All Aboard for fun! Three boys and a train museum...with buses!  What do you get?  Fun and energy all wound up and let loose at the Southeastern Train Museum in Duluth, Georgia!

The boys (my son and his two best friends) were really good, considering how much energy they had they were angels!  I loved every minute of their discovery, but had a hard time keeping the lens on them in focus.

I wish I could see the world as they awe and wonder...and with the vivaciousness of their souls leaping out at all times.  Instead I'll do as God intended us to do.  I'll look on then with wonder, accept the challenge in being their guardian for the day, and see what lessons I can bank for another day.


PS Yet another shot showing the versatility of the Fujifilm X20 when equipped with a simple external flash unit (EF-20).

Music through the looking Glass

Music through the looking Glass Last night we attended the Joyful Noise Spring Orchestral Concert.  Joyful Noise is a music organization serving the musical education needs of over 300 home and charter school students in bands, orchestral, vocal, guitar and marching band. The ministry is supported gracefully by Sandy Springs Baptist Church, and is a Christ focused music organization.

While walking the halls with my one year old before the concert I was able to capture this photo.  I am fascinated by the play of glass on my image.  In this case the children of the beginning band were tuning up in the cry room, and the glass captured the reflection of the busy sanctuary where people were waiting, music stands awaited a musician.  Our children's teacher was helping another child with the tuning of their violin...and I tried to capture that whole story in the frame.

I hope you like it!

For you techies....F6.3 to get some depth in the photo, 1/50 sec @ ISO 1600.  I used a 35mm Macro so 1/50 was the slowest I could go to prevent shake on a Pentax K-5 APSC sensor. Post processed in OnOne Perfect Suite.


Scrub Up Sunshine!

Scrub Up Sunshine! Start your week off with a smile!  I know I'll try to!

I was just avoiding a little bit of post dinner cleaning for a few more minutes by playing with my camera...

Everything is spick and span now.  I'm in good graces with the wife and she thinks I'm a bit crazy...but says she'll keep me another week!

If I scrub up myself up that is...

PS Techies...just a simple shot using my X20 in one of the filers called dramatic tone. I think it has its uses.


Saturday Morning Glory!

Easter Flowers in full bloom! A week after I bought these flowers for my lovely wife, they are entering their full bloom.  So I just had to share a quick photo of them outside in the lovely morning light.

This week my devotional had many references to the Glory of God...his rising and the message of hope he brings precisely because he is now risen and on the unstoppable road to full glory in heaven with the father.

I must admit that after many weeks of Lent, and very contemplative devotionals this is quite a drastic change.  Lent forced me to be introspective, and  contemplate my weaknesses which could prevent me from reaching full communion with Christ.  So the celebration this week still has me wondering if I can meet the challenges ahead.  Can I obtain this rather incredible reward Christ offers us all?

These flowers though can teach a lesson about natural law we are all called to follow.

Even in the ground attached to their roots, these flowers were destined to die.  Once cut their death will be accelerated.  But if cared for with nutrients and sunlight they to can go out achieving their mission of full bloom pollination.  How does this relate to us?  We are all destined to die.  All of us walk off the path of goodness from time to time...and that hurts our growth.  Christ's gift to us in this Easter is that if we look back to his word, pay our penance, and move back to the living water we can still reach heaven.

I'll pray today that we all can find the living water we need to make the goodness grow to full potential in each of us.


Published on Bill Fortney!

  Motion photography in HDR

Hey Hey!

My friend Bill Fortney just published one of my HDR photos to illustrate how you can use various types of tripods to get "surprising" shots.

To check it out please go here!

In this photo I wanted to try and see what motion would look like in an HDR photo.  In my first attempt the exposures were way to long, and the trains actually disappeared.  So unlike my other HDR where I kept the ISO down at 80, these are way up at 1600.

And in my final photo of the day I wanted you to see what it looks like when a group photo is requested...and you get a lonely tripod field of dreams...

If you get a chance do attend a His Light Workshop!  It is so much more than the photos!


Tripod field of dreams!

Game on!

T-Ball Season is on! T-Ball season is on!  I've been moving up the baseball chain with my older son, and now its time for my younger son to join in the games.

This is a typical early season sight...multiple players creating a scrum for the baseball...oh that's a rugby term?  Well it might as well be rugby for the first few weeks.

By the end they will start actually making a few plays..that is just the way it is.

So the challenge for the photographer is finding the scene which captures the love of this new game...with the innocence of youth springing forth in boundless energy.

In all, it is a wonderful journey to take frame by frame.

Because in a blink of an eye they will be....ready to fly away.

Ready to fly to the ball.


Bel Air Glamor

Glamour Glow Special One of the effects of HDR photography is also to bring out textures and color in a very realistic way.

I took this photo and had some fun with it in HDR Efex Pro 2, then ran it through Color Efex 4.  Sharpened to taste and called it a day.

RC Conception pointed out to us on the second night that the purpose of HDR is to get a good product to finish in post processing.  He found many people shot, process and don't finish.

It would be like writing the first acts of a play, and then walking away from the final act.

I called this Bel Air Glamor because the Glamor Glow filter seems to be all the rage in many a circle today, and I wanted to try it out for myself.

If you want to see some really extraordinary HDR check out both RC Conception's website and Jim Begley's.  Both are true master artists with this technique.

Check them out at and



Mail Time!

Postal Car HDR at Southeastern Railway Museum. Day Three at the Old Car City HDR Workshop took us to the Duluth, Georgia Southeastern Railway Museum.  Twenty six photographers danced their way through this car...which except for the cooking cars was the top attraction for the day.

The team was fantastic. During the day talked gear, life, Christ, and how to get shots right in camera.  It was big boy rules, if you wanted help you got it.  If you did not want help you just shot... and shot...and shot again.

This postal car was the first scene one I wanted to process and share.

I'll write more later.  For now I wanted to let you know to keep His Light shining in your hearts and send it out for all to see.

God Bless.


Day One at Old Car City

Desoto puts a twinkle in my eye on Day one of Old Car City... Heading back into the evening class...put wanted to post something from this morning.  Six miles of trails and seventy years of cars to photograph!  I only covered two small yards so far, and they are full of fun shapes and images just crying to be photographed.  I am of course the only Pentax shooter here!  So my stuff does not get borrowed much for some reason.

Getting ready for critiques tonight and learning from what I've done and failed to do...

More tomorrow!


White Out!

Introducing Green Ranger! What kid does not like Power Rangers?  Heck I like them when I was a kid listening to them in Japanese in an Army Post in Japan in 1982!

Well I needed to practice with my flash and lighting this weekend and I wanted to try blowing out a background with a color gel.  So I got a few willing volunteers to hop in and play Pink, Green and Blue Rangers.  This is one of the final shots.

Set up?  Standard camera with short zoom.  One constant florescent into and umbrella to the left of the picture in front of my son.  One medium strength flash fun on manual set behind my son on a flash stand with a green gel.  Remote trigger via a radio popper.

When it fires it gives me a pretty well blown out set of white double doors acting as a back drop.  I could improve on the glow a little by adjusting the distance of my son from the door to create more separation and using s diffuser of some sort.

As it was I am happy to get the subject in focus and depth of field set properly so he remains the focal point of the photo.

I am pleased to report all three customers were happy with their final portraits!