Fujifilm X100

Kyoto

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(Click on the Image to be taken to the shoot gallery) I get to travel with my day job a fair bit, and I’ve been fortunate to visit some very special places. This past week, though, the trip I took to Kyoto in Japan is probably the most memorable trip I’ve had to date. To be honest, it’s impossible (at least, for me...) to begin to put across in words just how wonderful and special Kyoto is. The old capital of Japan, it has managed to preserve ancient roots, and a real sense of history is everywhere. Probably the closest comparison I could find in Europe would be Rome, where-as with Kyoto-it seems that every street is steeped in thousands of years of history.

For me, I found a real sense of quiet dignity and serenity in Kyoto. In the temples and shrines I managed to visit, the achievements of many hands, hundreds of years ago, is just breathtaking, truly staggering. I’d urge anyone with an opportunity to visit Kyoto to do so in a heartbeat. I hope to return very soon.

Kendra

Kendra 2013

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(Click on the Image to be taken to the shoot gallery) A quick blog about a recent shoot with Kendra Lee, a model I first shot some three or four years ago. We've not managed to shoot since, but thought she'd be great for a recent shoot I had planned. A small retro hotel type set had been built at a studio near where I live, and I wanted to take advantage of shooting there, before the set got taken down. Kendra would be ideal for what I had in mind, and thankfully, she was free to join the shoot.

The images on the set were all shot with ambient/available light, which was a mix of standard lightbulbs, and the modelling lights from the studio flash heads. I wanted a down-at-heel motel feel, and I'm pretty happy with the images we got.

This one was also shot with my Fuji X-100, rather than my usual D300s. The more I use the x-100, the more i'm enjoying it. I reckon this may well be the camera that I just carry with me most of the time from now on.

Li Zheng in Santa Monica

Li Zheng
Santa Monica 2013

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(Click on the Image to be taken to the shoot gallery) I’m fortunate in that I get to travel to some very cool places with my day job. This occasionally offers me the opportunity to shoot in different locations, and do something a little different from my usual shoots. Whether it’s street photography in Tokyo,  or a beach shoot in Santa Monica,  it’s always great to have the opportunity to break out.

I’ve also been incredibly fortunate in the models I’ve managed to collaborate with along the way. When I took the (for me) giant leap of booking a model in Santa Monica two years ago,  I was extremely fortunate to select Trisha Lurie as my co-collaboratee (if that’s even a word). We got some fantastic shots, and they still take pride of place in my portfolio. Equally, shooting with my model friend Miu in Tokyo, which I’ve done a couple of times now, was equally productive. This year, I was again in Santa Monica with a weekend to spare, but with the minimal camera gear. I was to be out in LA for twelve days (most of it working stupidly hard, I can assure you) so there wasn’t much extra room in my luggage.  I decided-at the very last minute-to chuck a single strobe, a lighting stand, foldable softbox and my tiny Fuji x-100 (rather than my Nikon D300s and ridiculously heavy lenses) just in case I got my act together enough to post a casting to Model Mayhem.

Well, I did get my act together, and I’m grateful that I did. I posted a casting for a Santa Monica beach shoot, and as is ever the case with castings in LA, I got an amazing, if not overwhelming response.  Tons of responses, and some amazing models.  I eventually-and believe me, it was extremely hard to select-decided to offer the shoot to Li Zheng, who grew up in New York but who was now living over on the west coast.  Li was gracious enough to accept the shoot, so now it was just a case of waiting for Sunday, and hoping for the bbc promised (if it’s on the bbc, it must be true, right?...) good weather for Santa Monica on Sunday.

Sure enough, the good weather arrived, and after the sun had burned off the usual morning gloom, things were looking great. If anything, I was concerned that the sun was going to be a little too strong, but fortunately, that turned out not to be an issue for us.

The beaches were absolutely packed, of course, so I decided that kicking off the shoot underneath Santa Monica Pier was the way to go again. Underneath the Pier, there are a number of what I guess used to be rowing boats, turned vertically, and kind of buried a bit in the sand (look at the pictures-you’ll get what I mean…) which make a wonderful backdrop for images. And, as Li pointed out during this shoot, they also provide excellent protection from the winds which usually rip round the pier. It may be baking stupid hot out in the sunshine, but if you’re a bikini-clad model stuck in the shade underneath the pier, believe me, it’s not so warm. Fortunately, as well as providing great backdrops, the rowboats protect from the worst of it.

What was new this year is that the location appears to have been discovered by wedding/engagement photographers. In the past, I’ve pretty much had the place to myself, but this year, two other photographers showed up, each with a lovestruck couple in tow, to use exactly the same locations. There was practically a queue at one point to shoot against the two boats there. Still we managed just fine, fortunately, and we got all the shots we needed in the boats. One of the other photographers was good enough to show myself and Li the images he was shooting with his couple, and they were fantastic. He’d come up with an amazing way to light this particularly unique location, and it was one of those ‘punch myself in face’ moments for not thinking of the same lighting. He’d got some wonderful images, and I can’t imagine that his couple would be anything other than thrilled with the results. Certainly, remixing the lighting is something that I plan to do the very next time I get to shoot in Santa Monica. It’ll mean packing two strobes, and a few gels, but boy will it be worth it.

Anyway, back to this weekends shoot. Having shot with the strobe, and got some wonderful images, the sun was setting now, and there was an opportunity to get some natural light shots. I should point out that I’m not exactly super-familiar with my x-100 (something which I clearly need to address, given the super quality of the skin tones and just fabness of the images), but I managed to wrangle it into shooting decent images in natural light. Given the extreme lighting, setting the camera to auto didn’t seem to do the trick-the images were blown out at first-but a few test shots following best guesses for aperture/speed and we were all set, and I ended up getting some shots that I’m very happy with.

Next up, we took a short break, and ended our shoot with the sun now set, the sky getting a little overcast, but one more swimsuit which Li wanted to feature, as she’d not shot in that particular one before. For these images, it was back to artificial lighting, and shooting quickly-it’s pretty cold right by the sea once the sun has gone down-but this spurred us on to capture some of the best images, before calling it a day.

Shooting with Li was a great experience. She’s a very accomplished and capable model, and given the amount of time we shot together, I’ve ended up with an embarrassment of riches, as far as images go. Again, some absolutely fantastic images which doubtless be prominent in my portfolio for a good while to come.


At the time of writing I’ve edited and posted around 10 of the images, and had a fantastic reaction to them, from friends and ‘fans’ both. I’m looking forward to my next trip out to Los Angeles, and the opportunity to shoot with Li again.

And, this wonderful shoot also served as valuable reminder that the dinky little x100 left in my office for months on end is a waste, and I really need to be taking it out more, and learning how to use it properly.

Mini Miu, photographed in Tokyo

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(Click on the Image to be taken to the shoot gallery) I was recently in Tokyo on a business trip, something which I do once or twice a year. This time, though, instead of arriving wishing that I'd arranged a shoot before travelling, I actually did something about it. I posted a casting call on model mayhem, asking if anyone in Tokyo fancied shooting whilst I was over. Much to my surprise, one of the very first to reply was Miu, who I photographed at a group shoot a couple of years ago. She now lives in Holland, but was fortunately planning on being in Tokyo at pretty much the same time as me.

We planned to shoot on the Thursday evening. All set, no problem. Until Typhoon Roke decided to show up. Wednesday afternoon, all staff were told to go home from the Tokyo office, as the imminent arrival of the hurricane was likely to disrupt things. No kidding. Wednesday afternoon and early evening, the whole of Tokyo got battered by the Typhoon, and having had to cross the street in order to get to a restaurant, I can assure you it was… intense. LIke Skegness Pier in Winter, only twenty times worse. So, I thought the chances of us getting to shoot on Thursday were pretty slim.

Fortunately, though, the morning came around, and it was a completely different story from the day before, as evidenced in the picture below. So, despite it still being a little bit breezy, and certainly rainy on the Thursday evening, and despite the plan to shoot out of doors, we decided to go for it.

I chucked my main camera, and flash gun into my bag, but decided that I would, first of all, try to grab some decent shots on my new camera, the FujiFilm X100. It's getting some great reviews at the moment, and I was pretty happy with the test shots. I planned to shoot a handful of shots on the new one, but despite it being a little bit fiddly and difficult to set (trans: 'although I hadn't even looked at the manual…') I ended up shooting with just this one. I'm very happy with the shots we got. I suspect Miu was more than a little suspicious about the little old fashioned looking camera, and was probably a little bit worried about the images, but too polite to say anything.

Honestly, so was I. I knew they looked good on the back of the camera, but that's not much of an indicator of what it'll look like once it's on a thirty inch monitor. It can look fantastic on camera, and then once on the proper monitor, out of focus, super wonky, or just not right. And, with a new camera, you just never know what the foibles will be. I needn't have worried though-considering we shot for probably 50 minutes of the two hours, we got a good handful of images that were more than worth the effort.

Okay-not quite fifty minutes. We then did a handful of extra shots at the end of the shoot in the Taxi on our way back to the train station. This gave us another couple of images that I’m certainly very happy with, and one of which is featured as the gallery icon here.

Anyway, as will be evident with the images, I experimented with exposure lengths of around 1/4 to 1/2 a second to allow for light trails, and ‘blurring’ but still forcing flash to freeze the main image, and was pretty happy with the results. The neon, and various lighting trails in the backgrounds definitely add to the images, I feel.

Check them out by clicking on the picture of Miu at the top of the blog, and feel free to leave a comment.