Monday, 29 May 2017

Anglesey Abbey in Infra Red

It was such a beautiful day on Saturday that I decided to take my Infra-Red camera (a newly converted Fuji X-E2) to Anglesey Abbey.  It's quite a while since I did any IR photography, but the X-E2 produced some lovely results.  Not all the Fuji lenses are IR-friendly, unfortunately, but these pictures were taken with a mixture of the 23/1.4 and 50-140/2.8, both of which work a treat.  The images are processed in Lightroom only at the moment, but I'm looking forward to taking the files into Silver Efex at some point.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Crunch Time

I bought my first Fuji camera, an X-T1, in March 2015; and, since that time, I've run the Fuji system in parallel with my Canon gear.  Initially I was worried that the quality might not be "up to snuff", but my trip to Iceland during the summer of 2015 soon put my worries to rest.  It's true that Adobe have still not added good support for the X-Trans sensor within Lightroom and Camera Raw, but there are other solutions out there - notably Iridient and Capture One - which do an excellent job.

Since 2015, Fuji has gradually become my system of choice, and I gradually added more lenses and a backup body (the amazing X-E2, which has since been converted for Infra Red).  Just before Christmas last year I decided to rationalise my setup and sell the Canon lenses for which I had a Fuji equivalent in order to fund the purchase of an X-T2.  Effectively this meant using Canon for long lens and close-up work (300/2.8L IS plus 1.4x and 2x converters plus the 100/2.8L IS macro), and Fuji for everything else.  In the past 12 months I have only used the Canon system three times, most recently when I went bittern-spotting at Lakenheath Fen last weekend.  Cutting a long story short, I ended up with neck and back ache from carrying the long lens and carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand from gripping my 5DmkIII all day.  The camera felt like a house brick compared to the Fuji bodies, and I found it frustrating having to press buttons and dive into menus in order to change the camera settings.  In short, I realised that I had become completely "Fujified", expecting proper controls (like a shutter speed dial and an aperture ring) as well as a live preview of what was being captured.  Clearly I needed to decide whether to to make the final move to Fuji after 37 years with Canon.  Crunch time, in other words.

The spanner in the ointment was that I don't possess a long lens for the Fuji system (the 50-140, although a stellar performer, simply doesn't have enough reach for nature and sports work).  I was aware of Fuji's 100-400, but wasn't confident that this could come close to replacing Canon's amazing 300/2.8.  As with many things photographic, Ann Miles came to the rescue by very kindly lending me her 100-400 to try.  Ann and I went to a small nature reserve in Kingston, not far from her home, and I played with the 100-400 while she went off photographing bugs.  First impressions were really encouraging - particularly the size/weight compromise and the image stabilisation.  It was only when I got home and downloaded the files onto a computer that I realised quite how good this lens really is.  Granted, this is a slow lens and we were in bright sunshine; but, even so, the performance is highly impressive.  Even with the 1.4x converter attached (560mm, or 840mm in full-frame terms) the images were sharp, and I was able to hand-hold without any problems.  The pictures here were all taken with the X-T2 and 100-400, some with the 1.4x converter, processed in a combination of Lightroom and Iridient X-Transformer.

The conclusion?  Well, it has to be "bye-bye Canon and hello Fuji".  I know we're all supposed to suffer for our art, but for me this doesn't extend to back ache plus pins and needles in my right hand.  Even without the size and weight issues, I simply prefer the ergonomics of the Fuji system: these are cameras, designed to be used as such, and not computers with lenses attached.  As a result, my whole Canon system will be going up for sale, as there are plenty of other people around who don't feel the same and might was well get the benefit of this superb, and well looked after, equipment.  It's the end of an era for me, though.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Once Bittern...

The problem with bitterns is that you wait months for them to appear and then five turn up at once.  A bit like blog posts, in fact, but I've been snowed under with RPS and Cambridge Camera Club work since before Christmas and have only just come up for air.

The sun was shining today, so I decided to head to the RSPB reserve at Lakenheath Fen.  As mentioned earlier, bitterns were more plentiful than I've ever seen them there, and it was wonderful to hear their booming in the background.  I even managed to grab a picture of one flying, which was a real treat.

The coots were very busy feeding their young, and I spent a long time watching them while waiting for the next bittern to turn up.

There was also a family of great crested grebes.  The mother (too distant for an acceptable photograph) had a couple of youngsters on her back, and the father was out catching fish for his growing brood.

There were also quite a few reed buntings around (and, allegedly, a mash warbler, although I never saw it).  Also unphotographed were cuckoos (loads calling, but none to be seen) and hobbies (too distant).