Simplifying and diagonals

In a photo:

  • Simplifying is good. Often very good.
  • Diagonals can also be very good.
  • The Rule of Thirds is also often very good.
  • Tilting the camera is a way to simplify.
  • Tilting is also a way to create diagonals.
  • And to help you get to the Rule of Thirds.

So it stands to reason that if you tilt and simplify a the same time, you may end up with some reasonable images.

A few examples from the other day – taken with the Fuji X100, which is still a great toy. As you learn more about it it gets better.

Because this camera has a fixed lens (35mm, full frame equivalent) you end up tilting instead of zooming in and out – and this makes your pictures better.

Here’s me, the other day – and look at the texture and converging diagonals:

Michael Willems (Photo: Melony McBride)

Here’s a salad, served with colour and texture – and with a blurred background that “tells a story by making the viewer put it all together”:

Salad (Photo: Michael Willems)

And a few more food and drink snaps:

Bruschetta (Photo: Michael Willems)

Cheers (Photo: Michael Willems)

Acqua Minerale (Photo: Michael Willems)

And a non-food snap: the best calculator series ever made (you do not need an “=” button!)

HP11C (Photo: Michael Willems)

Can you see a pattern emerge?

Here’s your homework. Go shoot some pictures:

  • With a 35mm lens length (real 35, i.e. use 24mm on a crop camera).
  • Tilt to simplify or to get diagonals or to be able to compose with the Rule of Thirds.
  • Shoot at wide open aperture (low “f-number”).
  • Get close.
  • Use high enough ISO to get non-blurry images.
  • Use available light.

And have fun!


Darn Good 9, Third Impression

OK, that is a bad wordplay on Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Karn Evil 9, Third Impression”. In other words, in my continuing “X100 impressions” posts, a few more points.

As I said yesterday, it’s just a matter of learning how to work the technology. Like a new car – after a few weeks you have learned how it works “inside and out”. And like a new aircraft, which is why a pilot needs to be checked out on each type of aircraft he is going to fly.

So, back to the camera.

One thing in particular is worth mentioning. When you focus closely, the camera often misses – and yet it indicates it is focusing. So watch me as I focus on one of Canada’s most talented photographers, Joseph Marranca, Yes, even taking into account parallax I am focusing on him, not on the background, with a small enough focus point to not hit the background at all, and I am on a contrasting area of his face – and yet it completely misses:

This common issue seems to not just occur in OVF (optical viewfinder) mode – in EVF (electronic viewfinder) mode also, in spite of what other reviewers have said. And mainly when focusing on close by subjects.

Here’s the same shot a moment later.

Why? No idea.

Note that when the subject is too close you have to go to Macro mode. (And I also note that some reviewers have said “macro mode does not get close enough” – well, that is merely a subject of the large sensor. Nothing to complain about.. move on.)

Now to exposure. More than others, this camera seems to want to keep all exposures mid grey, leading to this kind of mistake:

That was 9pm and rather dark – and yet, by using 1/35th second at f/2.8 at 1600 ISO the camera insists on making this look like bright daylight. And in this case, that ensures a blurry pic. So the camera does not take actual light levels into account as much as my other cameras.

No big deal! Because of this bias, simply use exposure compensation (down) when using a semi-automatic mode (I was in Aperture mode). This adjustment is much needed in evening shots. But since the control ends at -2 stops, that means for proper evening shots you simply must go to manual., where you can dial in any exposure you darn well like.

And still I go back to two points:

First, the image quality, which is really superb. I am shooting all these as JPG – and that is the first time I have shot JPG in a decade. The quality is often just about as good as the work I produce with my 1Ds MkIII and 1D Mk4. Amazing – for the first time, I actually have SLR quality out of a point-and-shoot. (And yes, if I had money for a Leica M9 I would get that too, of course. But that’s $9,000).

Second, I keep how cool a little camera is for street photography. No-one comes and asks me what I am doing. Uncle Fred does not come up to talk about aperture and lenses.

(OK, these two gentlemen in the background did rather worriedly ask “HEY! You taking our picture?” – but they took my assurance of “No, I’m taking his” (meaning Joseph’s) at face value.)

A small camera is just less threatening.


When you get a new camera…

…you need to learn to use it. Its instructions. Its strong points and weaker points. Its do’s and dont’s. Its quirks, even.

I am learning to use my Fuji X100:

Fuji X100 (Photo: Michael Willems)

It will take me a few days of use until I fully “get” it – its instructions (cannot use the optical viewfinder for close focus); when it does not accurately focus; when exposure is off; how it displays pre- and post-shot; how best to focus (in manual, I can use the AE-L/AF-L button to focus, which I only just discovered!), and so on.

Let’s start with a few snaps taken during a nice downtown Oakville “getting to know the camera” walk today. All these were shot as JPGs, and post-editing in Lightroom was minimal – a little cropping, perhaps a slight exposure tweak, that sort of thing.

Oakville Scene (Photo: Michael Willems)

Oakville Scene (Photo: Michael Willems)

Oakville Scene (Photo: Michael Willems)

Oakville Scene (Photo: Michael Willems)

Oakville Scene (Photo: Michael Willems)

Oakville Scene (Photo: Michael Willems)

Oakville Scene (Photo: Michael Willems)

Oakville Scene (Photo: Michael Willems)

Quality is excellent. Results are good.

In using the camera today, I found a few issues I have to work on. Namely:

    1. I have to get quicker at the “switch to EVF (electronic viewfinder) if you want to focus closely” thing.
    2. Switching focus points. I switched to “let camera select focus points” half way, since I was not quick enough switching. Next time, manual focus plus the AE-L/AF-L button to pre-focus!
    3. When does the camera refuse to focus? And when does it miss, and focus on the background instead of on the object I am clearly pointing the focus spot at?  I am not 100% clear yet, so this needs a little more work too.
    4. I have to get more familiar with shutter speed limitations: at what ISO is it limited to what shutter speed? This needs to be second nature to me.
    5. Exposure is sometimes unpredictable, or at least seems so when looking pre- and past-shot. In fact looking at the results, they seem good, if somewhat hot in the highlights – forgiveable on a bright sunny day at 2pm. So maybe on a crazy bright day like today I just shoot and ignore the previews and post-views.

      And here is my favourite of the day, because it shows clearly what you can do with a little camera: people do not even notice you. Not even Mr Muscles here:

      Oakville Scene (Photo: Michael Willems)

      (Click and see it at large, original size to see the full effect.)

      The Degas-like composition is due less to my artistic input than to the fact that the camera was just fast enough for me to capture him before he skated out of the frame.

      The pedagogical point of this post: when you get a new piece of equipment, whether it is a camera, a set of lights, a flash, or a lens, do not be discouraged too quickly. Learn its quirks and benefits and how to best use it.


      Gear News

      OK, OK, I bought a Fuji X100 point-and-shoot.

      If you have not heard about this camera, you should: it looks like an old Leica, and in many ways works like one, including fabulous build quality, excellent image quality and quiet operation. But in one way it is even better: it has a viewfinder that is both “purely optical with information overlays” and “fully electronic” – and you can switch between the two options using a switch. Genius. And a great-looking camera:

      Fuji X100 (Photo: Michael Willems)

      Talking about looks, here’s Rob Buchelt, the manager of the Oakville Henry’s store, shot just now with the X100:

      Rob Buchelt (Fuji X100 Photo: Michael Willems)

      Yup, the new toy is great for street and impromptu photography and it is small and inconspicuous.

      It has drawbacks, of course. More about those soon – but in my case, they are vastly outweighed by the positives.

      As a result, I am selling this – much as I love it, because money does not grow on trees (I keep hoping, but no luck so far). This is my Panasonic GF1 with 20mm f/1.7 “pancake” interchangeable lens, and a spare battery as well as a 4GB memory card. I am about to put it up on Kijiji.

      GF1 for sale (Photo: Michael Willems)

      I’d like to chat more but now off to run errands and then two shoots to finish!