Saturday, 31 May 2014

Reflections


Today is my 50th birthday, a milestone that I didn't really want to celebrate because when you say 50 years or, even worse, a half century, it made me feel old.  

BUT 50 is just a number and the title of this blog is not about the reflection of the sun in the sand on the beach at Belhaven Bay but a reflection on the positives in the 50 years of my life so far.  I have done and seen a lot up til now and I intend to do a lot more.  

I was given the best start in life by my Mum and Dad, who I don't say 'thank you' often enough to but I appreciate and love them very much.  Also to my grandparents who were a big part of my life, especially my Nan, who is still with us and, along with my grandfather, introduced me to Scotland when I was 8 and I fell in love with the country that I am lucky enough to call home. 

I married Julie, my best friend and soul mate, 28 years ago and we were joined 16 years ago by our beautiful daughter Kate.  I have a younger sister, who I don't speak to often enough, but I know she is always there for me, and I'm there for her, and a nephew who I love to bits. 

I have a great job that allows me to travel the world and meet lots of interesting people.  We have some great friends scattered around the globe and we live in the most beautiful part of the world, a five minute walk from the beach at the top of this page.   

I have been to some amazing places and I have tried to document my travels through words and pictures on this blog.  I look forward to revisiting some of these places later this year and going to some new ones, both in the UK and further afield.

These days we are encouraged to constantly look to the horizon, better ourselves, never to be satisfied with our looks or achievements and seek to clutter our lives with material things. BUT I don't think this is the right way and, as I reach 50, I think that this outlook on life is not for me. 

I certainly count my blessings, I am proud of what I, and my family, have achieved and I appreciate what I have.  My cup is definitely half full rather than half empty!  

I think the saying 'you are as old as you feel' is quite correct and with all the things I have to be thankful for I certainly don't feel my age.  

Here's to being 50, it is just a number!   I certainly don't feel any different to how I did yesterday when I was 49.

So it's best foot forward as I look forward to enjoying life being 50+.....


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Friday, 30 May 2014

Wool on a Barbed Wire Fence


Sometimes the simplest of things can make a good image.  Here in East Lothian we have a lot of farms with thousands of sheep roaming the Lammermuir Hills.  This means there is a lot of wool caught on the barbed wire fences that line the fields in this part of the world.  

Using the Fujfilm X_Pro1 and the 18mm lens at f2 I captured this image shooting along the fence with a very shallow depth of field to emphasise the texture in the tuft of wool.


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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Trusting the Fuji X-T1's Panoramic Mode



One of the many functions on the three X-Series cameras I own is the panoramic mode.  This is where you sweep the camera across a scene and the images are then stitch together in a panoramic image by the internal software.  

This function on the X100 and X-Pro1 is very hit and miss.  I have found that a lot of the time the software fails to line up the images and I have lost confidence in the system.  Therefore I have tended to shoot individual images on these cameras and stitch them together using Photoshop Elements afterwards. This is OK but it takes time in post processing to do.


The new X-T1 also has a panoramic mode which is on the drive selector, located on the top panel under the ISO dial (see top image).  I have tried this function on several occasions and I can report that this is a lot more user friendly than the function on the X-Pro1 and X100.  More importantly I haven't had a misaligned shot yet and I have found myself trusting the system more and more.


The size of the panoramic images produced by the X-T1 are 6400 x 1440 pixels, the only downside is they are not available in RAW, only JPEG, but, again, I haven't found this to be a problem as the JPEG images produced by all of the X-Series cameras are excellent. 


Here are four panoramic images taken using the X-T1.


The FIA WEC Paddock at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
The beach at Tyningham, East Lothian
Dunbar Harbour, East Lothian
Rain Burst over the Firth of Forth, East Lothian  
All images taken on the Fujifilm X-T1 in panoramic mode with the exception of the image of the X-T1 Drive Selector, which was taken on the X-Pro1 + Fujinon 60mm f2.4 macro


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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

There is no such thing as bad weather.....


I have written time and again on this blog that I am a great believer that there is no such thing as bad weather for photography, you have to work with what you've got.  Now I live in Scotland and the reputation for changeable weather conditions is well founded and, unless the skies are grey and it is raining in buckets, I see the weather in this part of the world as a photographic challenge that needs to be embraced.

Yesterday evening we went for a walk on the beach near Tyningham.  Because the weather was looking a bit overcast we headed to Links Wood because with the tree line skirting the beach, we had some shelter if the weather forecast proved to be right - and it was!

Here are some 'dark and moody' mono shots of the beach from the tree line, which summed up the weather on this walk. 

I just love the drama in the clouds and I recommend getting out there with your camera in all conditions - just remember to go prepared for the weather.  There is a famous saying - There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes - how true!




All images taken on the Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujinon XF10-24mm f4R OIS


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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Quarter of a Million Views


On the 30 March I reported that this blog had received 200,000 views since it began in February 2011.  

57 days later I am happy to report that the MacLean Photographic blog passed the 250,000 mark at lunchtime today, with an average of 862 views per day since the end of March.

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my posts and I hope you will continue to visit in the future.


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On the Road in an Audi R8


Last week I posted a couple of 'sneak peek' images of the Audi R8 I had on loan from the Audi UK Press Office for a feature I was writing for the FIA World Endurance Championship website and the championship's official social media feeds.  

This feature is now live HERE and so I can unveil the other images from the three days I had with the car.

The Audi R8 is a staggering machine but then, for nearly £100K, you would expect it to be.  With a top speed of 188mph (not that I got to test that figure of course) and 0-60mph is 4.6 seconds the performance seriously impressive but it was the usability of the R8 as an everyday car was the best bit.  This isn't a stripped out race car but a luxury Audi that could blow the socks off most other cars on the open road. 


A very early start on Wednesday morning was nearly called off when heavy fog blanketed the East Lothian coast but a little voice at the back of my head told me to get up and get out to White Sands.  My instinct proved to be correct when the fog cleared within 20 minutes of arriving at the car park over looking the beach but I still managed to get some moody images in the fog before it lifted.






Once the images at White Sands had been captured I moved the car to Barns Ness just up the coast to capture some images with the lighthouse in the background.



Next up was a trip back into Dunbar to get some shots down by the harbour.  The fishing boats had left for the day and the harbour was fairly quiet at 7am so I was able to park the car on the quayside to capture some images with the harbour and the buildings as a backdrop.



A quick move down to East Beach, which is the only a short walk from the Dunbar High Street.  There are some beautiful old fisherman cottages overlooking the beach and a quick stop secured another image for the collection.






Moving down to the car park at Belhaven Bay I was able to get some shots of the iconic 'Bridge to No Where' at high tide in the background.  I also took the opportunity to take some detail shots of the car using the 60mm f2.4 macro, which is ideally suited to this sort of work.












The evening saw me head up into the Lammermuir Hills to the Wind Farm at Aikengall. The track is pretty rough but the Audi handle the lumps and bumps with ease and didn't ground out once, proving that the R8 has the ground clearance to handle most conditions on British roads, including 'sleeping policemen'. 








The final location was on Thursday evening after a day of heavy rain. Again I headed up into the Lammermuir Hills, this time near to the Iron Age Hill Fort of White Castle.  The rain had cleared away sufficiently to give a view across the hills to the Firth of Forth.





The three days I had the Audi R8 was brilliant as it is such a great car to drive.  Yes it only has two seats and a 'boot', which is under the bonnet, that is tiny.  But that's not the point of this car, it is a Grand Tourer (GT) of the highest order.  You could drive this car from Scotland to the Cote d'Azur and arrive in style, feeling refreshed and without a hint of backache.  Would I buy one - love to but for £100K it is a little out of my league - unless the lottery numbers come up tomorrow night.

All of the images here were taken on the Fujifilm X-T1 or X-Pro1 using the 14mm, 18mm, 35mm, 60mm and 55-200mm Fujinon lenses, which proves that you don't need a DSLR kit to take good car images.

The Audi R8 feature can be viewed on the FIA World Endurance Championship website HERE.

Further images from this photoshoot are below and also on the MacLean Photographic FLICKR gallery HERE.

Images taken in and around Dunbar, East Lothian
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Monday, 26 May 2014

TEST: Fuji 14mm f2.8 and the Fuji 10-24mm f4

Last Thursday I bought the Fujinon 10-24mm f4 wide angle zoom lens and yesterday I gave my first impressions of this new addition to the MacLean Photographic arsenal HERE.  Now this lens covers the focal lengths of two of my prime lenses, the 18mm f2 and the 14mm f2.8 and a couple of people have asked if I will sell those lenses now that I have the 10-24mm.

The 18mm f2 is a superb lens and I have already given my verdict on this moderately wide angle fast lens HERE.  It is a compact lens with an f2 maximum aperture that is 2 stops faster than the 10-24mm f4.  For those reasons alone the 18mm prime has a place in my camera bag.

On the other hand a decision on the 14mm f2.8 is a bit more difficult to call.  Physically the 14mm is a big lens and, at f2.8, is only one stop faster than the 10-24mm.  So I took both lenses out into the Lammermuir Hills and ran them side by side, the 10-24mm fitted to the X-T1 and the 14mm to the X-Pro1.


The shot above was taken on the 10-24mm at 13.2mm according to the lens data in the file information.  I selected 14mm on the zoom dial but it was slightly wider than the setting on the lens.  No matter the field of view it almost the same and it provides a good comparison to the image below that was taken on the Fujinon 14mm f2.8.  The exposure on both lenses was 1/250 @ f8 with the iso set at 200.


As you can see the difference is negligible.  As another comparison here is the same scene but with the zoom set at 10mm -


As I indicated at the start of this feature, one of the differences between the two lenses is the fact that the prime lens has a maximum aperture of f2.8 while the zoom has a maximum aperture of f4.  When shooting close objects at maximum aperture the difference in the depth of field can be demonstrated.


The image above is from the 10-24mm at f4 and the shot below is from the 14mm at f2.8, once again the difference is negligible between the two lenses. 


The conclusion from this short test is there isn't a great deal to choose between the two lenses. In low light the 14mm has a one stop advantage but the 10-24mm has an Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) system that is effectively worth 3-4 stops, so that negates the advantage of the f2.8 lens - unless, of course, I am in a situation where I need to use a faster shutter speed where the extra notch on the aperture ring has the advantage.  

For now I will keep both lenses and see what happens over the coming months.  I love using the 14mm prime and I am sure it will still get some use in the future.  How much remains to be seen.

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Sunday, 25 May 2014

First Impressions of the Fujinon XF10-24mm f4R OIS

Ever since I have became a professional photographer, back in 1996, I have had an ultra wide angle lens in my camera bag.  In recent years I have used the Sigma 10-20mm f4.5/5.6 for the Nikon D300S / Nikon D90 and when I moved to full frame I used the superb Nikon 17-35mm f2.8 AF-S for the Nikon D700 / D800.  

Now, as part of the move exclusively to the Fujifilm X-Series system, the Nikon 17-35mm has been sold to fund the new Fujinon XF10-24mm f4R, which is the equivalent of 15-36mm in full frame terms.  I picked up the new lens from Park Cameras' London store on Friday morning and took it along to St Paul's Cathedral to test it out with the X-T1 before heading to the press conference for Nissan's LMP1 announcement.  

Firstly the 10-24mm is not a small lens, in fact only the 55-200mm is larger in the Fuji XF inventory. BUT the widest XF lens has the same high build quality as all the other Fujinon lens and I am pleased to report that the reviews and test results of the optical quality seem to be spot on.  


Paternoster Square @ 10mm
St Paul's Cathedral from Paternoster Square @ 24mm



The two images above show the zoom range of the 10-24mm, the top image being taken at 10mm and the bottom image at the long end.  There is a temptation to use these type of lenses at one end of the zoom or the other but I tend to use what works for the composition.



When fitted to the X-T1 you realise that this is a big lump of glass but with the grip fitted to the camera the lens feels balanced.  The good thing is the all the zoom movements are internal to the lens, the lens doesn't change shape like the 18-55 or the 55-200. 


As a size comparison here is the 10-24 alongside the 14mm f2.8.  some of the bulk of the new zoom can be put down to the fact that Fuji have incorporated an Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) system into the lens.  I haven't had the opportunity to put this to the test yet, but if it works as well as the OIS system in the 55-200mm, which allows me to shoot at 1/8 at 200mm, I will be very happy.



Anyway back to the images around St Paul's Cathedral.  The lens performed extremely well, the focus was fast and locked on with ease. I shot at various apertures from f4 up to f11 and, without pixel peeping, the images appear sharp across the frame at all the apertures I used.

One gripe I have is the fact that the aperture ring is unmarked like the aperture rings on the other Fujinon zooms, you have to look in the viewfinder to see what the aperture is set.  

Now with the 55-200 and 18-55 zooms I understand the reason for this is because those lenses have a variable maximum aperture but this isn't the case with the 10-24mm, it is a constant f4. So why couldn't the aperture settings be marked on the lens?  This is one thing I love about the Fuji prime lenses, I can set the aperture just by looking at the lens and I think this is an oversight to not include this on the 10-24. Maybe Fuji should change this in the future.



The first impressions of the Fujinon 10-24mm f4 are this lens deserves it's premium XF badge and it's place in the Fuji X Series line up. I am pleased I have added one to the camera bag. 

The price reflects the premium quality of this lens and at £849 it cannot be considered cheap but it is good value for money. By comparison Nikon's two f4 wide angle zooms, the full frame 16-35mm and the crop frame 12-24mm, both have a street price at around the same level and, while the Nikkors are capable of producing top quality images, neither of these offer the same angle of view or build quality of the Fujinon.




Next weekend I will be heading to Le Mans for the 24 Hours of Le Mans test weekend and then a week later I will be heading back for 10 days for the greatest race in the world.  I will have the opportunity to give this new addition to the MacLean Photographic lens arsenal a good workout.  Keep checking back for further updates.
















Images taken on a Fujifilm X-T1 and a Fujinon XF10-24mm f4R OIS lens

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