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Street Photography Diary No. 5

Street Photography Diary No. 5

I was back out shooting some street photos in Dublin this past weekend, and I had a great time doing it. It's been a bit of a challenge shooting street photography in the city here recently because of the massive amount of road and construction work going on. Basically they're extending one of the city's existing tram lines, which originally terminated at the south side of the city centre, to cross right through the heart of Dublin, and out the other side.

The Right Place at the Right time

bell-tower-hero

Sometimes it takes a lot of work and careful planning to make a great photo. Other times it’s just pure dumb luck. I’ve been travelling all this week, and I’m currently in the Belgian capital of Brussels. The other morning I was walking through the Botanical gardens early in the morning with my Trusty X-E1 and I was taking some pictures of the flowers, the lavender and the statues that are throughout the gardens and I looked up and actually exclaimed out loud when I saw what was in front of me.

Overlooking the gardens is an old abandoned church. I don’t know much about it but it’s a pretty tall building and the bell tower towers over the park and the surrounding streets. At the exact moment I turned around and in the exact spot where I was standing, the morning sun, desperately trying to break through the light cloud cover was right behind the bell tower. I stopped to think about the odds of that happening when a little voice in my head said “shut up and take the damn picture” and so I did, and here it is. To make matters even better a bird flew into the shot just as I pressed the shutter and landed in exactly the right spot to make an already ominous looking shot even more so.

Pure dumb luck. More from the trip to come!

Church Tower

Fujifilm X-E1 + Photo Ninja = Awesome

As many of my long time readers know I’ve spent quite a bit of time going back and forward between different raw converters trying to get the best out of Fuji’s X-Trans files. While I use Lightroom as my main photo management and digital darkroom application, I’ve found that whet it comes to images from Fuji’s cameras you can get better results from a third party converter. In the past I’ve looked at both Iridient Developer and Photo Ninja, and for a while I preferred Iridient Developer. Lately, I’ve been giving Photo Ninja another workout, and after using it for a while now, and having come up with some new default sharpening settings, I’m absolutely loving the results I’m getting.

I took my Fuji X-E1 out this morning and was shooting around Dublin city, and I wanted to process the whole shoot with Photo Ninja for a change. I still start by bringing images into Lightroom first, and then rating the ones I want to work on with 5 stars. Once I do that, I’ll save the metadata back to the disk and then open the folder in Photo Ninja. Now I can see the images I’ve selected and I can go through and process them. It’s pretty much the same process as I’ve outlined before when working with Iridient Developer. I’ll post a full tutorial on my workflow for using the two together sometime in the near future, but for now, I was just I just wanted to share some of the settings’s I’m using.

The key to making your images look great is the sharpening settings. In the past when I reviewed Photo Ninja, I liked the results I was getting but I still preferred Iridient Developer’s rendering. Anyway, after experimenting recently, I found a good combination of sharpening settings that I really like, and now, I’m definitely preferring the results from Photo Ninja. Here are the settings I’m using at the moment:

  • Sharpening Strength: 40
  • Sharpening Radius: 1
  • Noise Masking: 100

Obviously, these settings are just my personal preferences, and I’m sure some people will prefer things differently, but this is what works for me, so by all means give it a try.

I got the images as close to where I wanted them as possible before rendering them out, and re-importing them back into Lightroom. It’s not just the sharpness and detail that are great from Photo Ninja, but the colour rendition is amazing too. While I’ve tweaked the settings on a few of these images substantially, most only required minor adjustments in Photo Ninja. Once back in Lightroom, I didn’t really need to do anything. On one or two images I added an extra bit of clarity, and fixed some purple fringing, but for the most part these are rendered straight out of Photo Ninja.

I’ll cover this all in depth in more detail in the future, but for now, here’s the results of this morning’s experiments. For more information on Photo Ninja check out Picture Code's website.

A Spider's Web

Wild Flowers

Tree Details

Long Grass

Trees

Grass

Reeds by the canal

Shadows

Car through the reeds

Water falling over the canal lock gates

Dublin Streetlight

Cycling by the park

Watering Cans

Red Details

Pub Walk

Lolly and Cooks

Flowers

Walking with the Paper


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2 Quick Tips That May Help You Get Sharper Images on the Fuji X-E1

Over the months of shooting with my little Fuji I’ve discovered two things that can really help you get sharper pictures. While Fuji’s x-trans sensor and the excellent x-series of lenses generally produce sharp images, there are times when there are circumstances that may make for soft images, that aren’t necessarily bad technique on the part of the photographer. These tips may work for other cameras too, although the first one is specific to Fuji’s cameras.

Change the focus point size

I’ve found that occasionally when I take a shot, the focus can be ever so slightly out. At first I thought that I was either doing something wrong or I was going mad. However, putting the focus point over a clearly defined area of an image and focussing, would often result in an image that was slightly soft. At first I thought that this was just the way the camera rendered, until I was looking back at some photos from my older X-Pro1 and realised that they didn’t have this softness, so I figured something was wrong. I put the camera on a tripod and focussed on an easy to define point, then switched to manual focus and zoomed in on the LCD. Sure enough, it was slightly out and could be fixed by manually tweaking the focus.

There’s there’s no micro adjustments available in the camera that I’m aware of, (and also, contrast detect auto focus is generally devoid of alignment errors) I’m not talking a huge amount either, it’s only very slight, but it can result in a slightly soft image. There is a very simple solution however. All I did was shrink the focus point size and hey presto, the focus is now properly aligned.

If you’re unsure how to do this, the process is really simple. Just press the AF button on the bottom left of the rear of the camera and turn the control wheel on the back near the top right. This will enlarge and shrink the size of the focus point. In my experience, a smaller point works best. Here’s a short little video showing you how to do it. (Apologies for the audio quality)

The other thing this is useful for is for shooting in low light. If you’re having trouble locking focus, increasing the sample size seems to help a great deal.

I don’t know if this is just my specific camera or if this affects all models. I don’t think it’s necessarily a fault, but more of a function of the way it works. The newer Fuji’s have phase detection points on the sensor, so they may not have any similar focus alignment idiosyncrasies. Still, if you think your images are soft, you might want to try this trick.

Reducing Vibration

The other factor that can effect image sharpness has to do with the small size of the body, and can be a potential issue on any small camera . I noticed that in some cases, when shooting hand held, my photos would exhibit camera shake, even when my selected settings should avoid it. This was occurring even when the shutter speed was high, certainly high enough to avoid camera shake, but I was still occasionally getting slight motion blur on the images. I put this down to the fact that the body on the X-E1 is incredibly light. I find that for me it can feel unbalanced, especially with larger lenses on. To be fair, this isn’t just a fuji problem, it’s a potential issue with any mirrorless or small camera, especially the lighter ones.

I think because the body is so light and the lens unbalances the camera away from a natural centre of gravity, that this causes minor vibration when the shutter fires. I could of course be completely wrong, which I’m sure people will let me know once I post this (that and how this is entirely my own fault.) Luckily the solution was really easy. I was planning on getting a third party grip or case to add weight, but I found that if I left the quick release plate from my (manfrotto) tripod on the bottom of the camera this little bit of extra weight was enough to help with the balance and stop the vibration. Now, I’m no longer getting motion blur on images taken at a reasonable shutter speed.

I hope these little tips have been useful. The Fuji X-E1 s a great camera, and so I hope it is understood that I’m only posting these tips to help anyone who may be having similar issues, and they’re not intended as a criticism.

Incidentally, speaking of the X-E1, the camera is selling amazingly cheaply on the second hand market right now. I found one at a local camera store for €499, with the kit lens. If you’re looking for a good inexpensive way to dip your toe into Fuji’s X-System, keep an eye out for bargins.

Street Photography Pairs with the Fuji X-E1

I was out shooting some street photography earlier today with my trusty little Fuji X-E1 and I noticed that I had taken a lot of portrait orientation shots. As I was sorting through the shots I noticed that all the vertical images paired up nicely, so I thought I’d do a set of paired images, just for the fun of it. All of these were taken around the streets of Dublin city, using a Fujifilm X-E1 with a combination of the Fuji 35mm and the 18–55XF lenses. It was a lovely fresh Autumn morning and I was there early so the city was coming to life with the fresh energy of a new day, and for some reason I just had a really good time shooting. While these aren't award winning images by any stretch, I did catch a few quirky sights around the city. I'll post some more shots from this shoot over on my Photoblog. Processing was done in Lightroom, using various presets as the starting point. There’s a combination of VSCO Film 01, 02 and 04 in there. The VSCO presets work really well with the Fuji sensor, especially if you want to create an authentic film look. I’ve started using VSCO 2 a bit more lately, and I’m really liking the look of the Fuji Superia film presets. I don’t think that I’ve ever shot with that in actual film.

To create the two up images, I used the print module in Lightroom. The print module has a handy option to print to a file, so I set up my options and printed all the images out. The only thing I had to do then was bring them into Photoshop and scale them down a bit. I also had to adjust the black levels a bit as for some reason they were set up slightly (I probably had something set wrong in Lightroom.

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Fuji Colour Profile Presets for Lightroom to help speed up your workflow.

Lightroom-screen-grab

Now that Lightroom has added colour profiles for Fuji’s x-series of cameras, you may want to use them regularly in your processing. Rather than having to go down to the calibration menu each time and find the profile in the list (which can be quite long if you have VSCO installed) I’ve created a set of presets for each of the main profiles. This way you just have to click on the relevant preset.

To take it a step further I’ve added a few variations of each one for common tasks, again to help speed up ones workflow. The four variations are:

  • Base: Just the profile applied
  • Sharp: With added sharpening from my Fuji sharpening presets.
  • Sharp CA: With sharpening and Chromatic Aberration reduction turned on.
  • Sharp DRE: With all of the above, and some highlight and shadow manipulation as well as some tweaking of the tone curve and clarity for a little extra oomph.

I’ve just created versions for the colour looks. I haven’t done the black and white ones, because personally, I have better ways to make black and white images. These are just workflow tools to help you get started, they’re not meant as magical fixes for your images

(I know that is obvious but I got email complaints when I posted the sharpening presets because all they did was sharpen - I kid you not!)

To download the free presets click here.

If you’re not sure how to install Lightroom presets, I have a guide here. (This is meant for the premium presets, but the procedure is the same). I’m offering these as is, as a gesture to the community, and I can’t offer support I’m afraid, but I’ll do my best to answer any questions in the comments. These are pretty straight forward though, so their use should be fairly obvious.

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A Quick Look at the new Fuji Colour Profiles in Lightroom 5.4

Lightroom-Screenshots

Now that Lightroom finally ads colour profiles for the various picture modes that come with Fuji's X-Series cameras, I thought I'd give them a quick review. I've already played around wight the velvia profile and found it quite pleasant. Today, I was out shooting so I took some time to go through all the picture modes so that I could compare the Jpegs to the Raw files processed using the relative colour profile. As far as I can tell they all look pretty accurate. I've posted the pairs below so you can judge for yourself. A couple of caveats. I have the camera set to sRGB (as opposed to Adobe RGB) but I don't think that makes a huge difference as I'm exporting from Lightroom as sRGB anyway. Secondly, I didn't do any sharpening or lens correction to the raw files, so there's some chromatic aberration on the Raw images and they're a bit softer than the Jpegs. I literally just applied the relevant colour profile.

Provia / Standard

Straight out of the camera JPEG: Provia - SOOTC Jpeg

Raw with Provia Colour Profile: Provia

Velvia / Vivid

Straight out of the camera JPEG: Velvia Original Camera Jpeg

Raw with Velvia Colour Profile: Lightroom Velvia Profile

Astia / Soft

Straight out of the camera JPEG: Astia Original Jpeg

Raw with Astia Colour Profile: Astia Colour Profile in Lightroom 5.4

Pro Neg High

Straight out of the camera JPEG: Pro Neg High Jpeg

Raw with Pro Neg High Colour Profile: Raw with Pro Neg High Profile

Pro Neg Standard

Straight out of the camera JPEG: Pro Neg Standard Jpeg

Raw with Pro Neg Standard Colour Profile: Raw with Pro Neg Standard Colour Profile

Monochrome

Straight out of the camera JPEG: Monochrome Jpeg

Raw with Monochrome Colour Profile: Raw with Monochrome Colour Profile

Monochrome +Y

Straight out of the camera JPEG: Monochrome+Y Jpeg

Raw with Monochrome +Y Colour Profile: Raw Monochrome+Y Colour Profile

Monochrome +R

Straight out of the camera JPEG: Monochrome+R Jpeg

Raw with Monochrome +R Colour Profile: Raw - Monochrome+R

Monochrome +G

Straight out of the camera JPEG: Monochrome+G Jpeg

Raw with Monochrome +G Colour Profile: Raw - Monochrome+G

The only thing missing is the sepia picture mode, but I'm guessing that's not something that can be down with a colour profile anyway. I think they did a good job overall. The colours are mostly the same. The only one that looks a little off to me is the Pro Neg S. I only ever use Provia and Velvia anyway personally, and occasionally Pro Neg Hi, but I wouldn't use the profile as it's too soft. Velvia works great though.

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Cherry Blossoms with the Fuji XE-1 and the New Fuji Colour Profiles in Lightroom 5.4

Cherry Blossom Closeup

I absolutely love Cherry Blossoms. They’re my favourite flower and I love the way they herald the start of spring and the end of the winter. I hope that sometime I will be able to visit Japan during the Cherry Blossom season, but for now I’ll have to make do with the trees around Dublin. Actually, there are quite a few around the city, especially in Stephen’s Green park in the centre of the capital.

I had taken my Fuji XE–1 with me for a walk today and I got some nice shots of the flowers beginning to bloom. I was using my 35mm lens, which while not the ideal focal length, it’s wide aperture did mean I got some nice smooth bokeh in the background. I also thought that the vibrant colours gave me an ideal opportunity to try the new colour profiles for Fujifilm cameras in the latest Lightroom release. Adobe have finally added colour profiles for all the standard picture modes that come on Fuji’s cameras, including Provia, Astia and of course Velvia. For these shots, there could be no other choice - I had to go with the Velvia !

I started by changing the colour profile to Velvia in the calibration section of Lightroom’s develop module. Even just this change alone makes a huge difference. I’ve often found that Fuji files are a bit desaturated in Lightroom, but with the profiles this problem is mostly rectified. Here’s the raw file, untouched.

Cherry Blossoms Velvia

Now here’s the version with the Velvia colour profile selected.

Cherry Blossoms Velvia

Finally I added some further enhancements using one of my Quick Lux presets. Finally I applied one of my Fuji sharpening presets (X-Trans-Sharpen-SuperSharp). Here’s the final result.

Cherry Blossoms Velvia

I used the same process for the rest of these examples, combining the new Velvia profiles with either Quick Vivid or Quick Trans from my Quick Lux presets and finishing off by tweaking the sharpening. The new profiles are definitely a huge improvement, and I think the results speak for themselves.

Cherry Blossom Bright

Cherry Blossom Bokeh and Flare

More Cherry Blossoms

DSCF7076

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I am a fine art Photographer and do not shoot commercially. If you like what you read here and want to help support the site, then please consider buying a Print, checking out my new Lightroom Presets

Film candy for Lightroom

Two Great Video Reviews of the Fujifilm XT1

Light illuminating the bust of a statue just inside the window

The new Fuji XT–1 has been getting some great reviews. In fact, I can’t recall a camera getting such an overwhelmingly positive response over the last while. Two video reviews caught my eye recently. Well, actually, I subscribe to both of these on youTube, so when I say “Caught my eye” I really mean, popped up in my you tube feed!

The first is from the Canadian Camera Store. They have a great you tube channel and they always have good, informative reviews. Check out their one for the XT–1

The second is from my absolute favourite reviewer, Kai, from Digital Rev TV. If you’re familiar with Kai, and Digital Rev TV, then I don’t really need to say more. If you haven’t heard of them, then think Top Gear, only with cameras.

Photo of the Day

In the spirit of Fujifilm, my "photo of the day" today was a shot I took with my little XE1 last week. I was getting off the tram into the city and I noticed that the light was falling in a little patch through the window of the old Georgian building (It’s actually the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin) that’s just at the tram stop. The beam of winter sunlight was just shining through the window in just the right spot to illuminate the bust that was inside.

Light illuminating the bust of a statue just inside the window

Taken with a Fuji XE1 - Fuji 35mm - Click Here for a Limited Edition Print


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Updated X-Trans Sharpening Presets for Lightroom


UPDATE: You can now get all of my X-Trans Sharpening Presets in One Download. See this post for more details:


A while ago I posted some sharpening presets for sharpening images taken with one of Fujifilm’s X Series of cameras in Lightroom. I was attempting to find a way to minimise some of Lightroom’s idiosyncrasies when it comes to X-Trans processing. They were well received and people seemed to like them. Since then I’ve kept working on it and I’ve been continuing my quest to get the best out of X-Trans files. While I’ve been focusing on using third party applications in recent blog posts, I’ve still been working behind the scenes on best practices if you’re just using Lightroom. I believe that most of the issue revolves around sharpening. Whatever it is about Lightroom’s sharpening algorithms, it doesn’t seem to play well with Fuji’s X-Trans sensor. A lot of people have commented on this across the internet, but most people seem to believe the issue is due to the way that Lightroom / Camera Raw is demosaicing the X-Series files, but having analysed it extensively at this stage, I’ don’t think’m not sure that’s the main problem. I think it’s the sharpening, or how the sharpening interacts with the demosaicing. I’ve been playing around with files from Sony’s A7R and if you sharpen them, they too have some issues in Lightroom including the odd edge duplication that the X-Trans images suffer from. I could be wrong, but it’s possible that Lightroom has an issue with cameras without a AA filter. The other thing that leads me to suspect that the sharpening algorithm is the culprit, is that if you set sharpening to zero and send the image to Photoshop and sharpen there, the results are much more natural looking.

Anyway, that’s all well and good, but people have been asking for a solution that doesn’t involve having to leave Lightroom. As mentioned earlier, I had posted some sharpening presets a while ago. I’ve updated these based on my research, and I believe that they can get you descent results in Lightroom. Unfortunately, in my personal opinion, Iridient Developer (or Photo Ninja or Capture One) is still probably better for detail, especially when it comes to repetitive patterns like tries and grass. However, under normal circumstances, unless you are cropping a lot, or are scrutinising the images at 1:1, these sharpening settings should get you results that are more than good enough. If you combine them with a little bit of photoshop processing you can get even better results, but more on that in another post.

Of course, as with all things visual it is a matter of personal tastes, so you may not like the results yourself, but try them, and if you don't like them then that's fine.

About the Settings

I’ve created a whole new set of presets. There’s 4 different sharpening settings, and a couple of looks which can be a useful starting point. I’ll talk about the sharpen settings first:

There’s four different presets fro sharpening which you can apply and they are each aimed at different uses.

X-Trans-Sharpen-SuperSharp - This is the main preset. It should give you good sharp edges. It works well all round and it’s very good with architectural detail, landscapes and anything where you have a lot of detail you want to sharpen

X-Trans-Sharpen-SuperSharp-Cleaner - If the previous one is too sharp, this version adds a tiny bit of noise reduction. The edges in this are a bit smoother and the over-all look is more organic. This too should work well for most subjects

X-Trans-Sharpen-Smooth - This is less sharp, but again, more natural looking and works well when you have details in focus and areas out of focus.

X-Trans Sharpen-High-Radius-Low-Detail - This is form the old set and is useful if you have people or faces in the foreground and the background is de-focussed. It can work well with buildings too.

I’ve also added some looks which are inspired by the picture modes from the camera, but are not trying to emulate them. There’s standard, Vivid and Neg. The standard and vivid have variations which expand the dynamic range and simulate the in-camera DRO settings (albeit roughly!)

Some general Notes about the Presets

The looks presets are there as a starting point. They’re there to get you in thew ball park, and you can then tweak the settings to your own tastes. Each of the looks uses the “SuperSharp” sharpening settings

The sharpening presets only adjust the sharpening. Because of the way Lightroom works, you may not notice any change in the image after you apply the preset when zoomed out. You may need to change Lightroom’s zoom setting to 2:1 or 1:1 before you notice the changes. They should still have an impact though when you export a file (at a reasonable size) or when you print.

To install the presets complete the following simple steps.

On A Mac

  1. Download the File from your account page or the email you received from the store.
  2. Locate the downloaded file (usually in your Downloads folder). Unzip the File if it did not unzip earlier.
  3. In Lightroom, choose “Preferences” from the Lightroom Menu. This will open the preferences dialog.
  4. From the list of tabs across the top of this window, click on the one called “presets”
  5. Click on the button that says “Show Lightroom Presets Folder…”
  6. This will bring you to the finder and the folder Lightroom should be highlighted inside a window that says Adobe
  7. Open this folder and Navigate to folder called “Develop Presets”
  8. Copy the folder that unzipped from the file you downloaded earlier into the “Develop Presets” folder that you just opened. Be sure to copy the whole folder and not just the individual .lrtemplate files.
  9. Restart Lightroom

On a PC

  1. Download the File from your account page or the email you received from the store.
  2. Locate the downloaded file (usually in your Downloads folder). Unzip the File if it did not unzip earlier. To unzip the file right click on the zip file and choose extract all.
  3. In Lightroom, choose “Preferences” from the Edit Menu. This will open the preferences dialog.
  4. From the list of tabs across the top of this window, click on the one called “presets”
  5. Click on the button that says “Show Lightroom Presets Folder…”
  6. This will bring you to Windows Explorer and the directory “Lightroom” should be highlighted inside a window that says Adobe.
  7. Open this directory and Navigate to the directory called “Develop Presets”
  8. Copy the folder that unzipped from the file you downloaded earlier into the “Develop Presets” folder that you just opened. Be sure to copy the whole folder and not just the individual .lrtemplate files.
  9. Restart Lightroom

Please Help Support the Blog

I am a fine art Photographer and do not shoot commercial projects. I do my best to keep this site regularly updated with lots of tips, reviews, news and photography advice, all for free. If you like what you read here and want more, then sign up for our newsletter to get regular site updates and occasional special offers. You can also follow my photographic exploits on Facebook and Twitter

If you're a Lightroom user check out my original Lightroom Presets

http://store.thomasfitzgeraldphotography.com/product/film-candy-2-lightroom/

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