Friday, 31 October 2014

Timelapse Video: Technical Scrutineering for the 6 Hours of Shanghai



The preparations for the 6 Hours of Shanghai continue and yesterday afternoon the competitors in the LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am classes underwent technical scrutineering.  

This is where all of the cars are checked for weight and measurements to be sure that the cars comply with the regulations before they go out on track in the first Free Practice session of the weekend today.

The first team to present their cars for the technical checks after lunch were the four cars from Aston Martin Racing, with the nr97 Vantage V8 of Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner, the partnership that has won the 6 Hours of Shanghai in 2012 and 2013, first on the scales.

500 individual images were shot to produce the video, with the Fujifilm X-T1 set to JPEG Fine and 16:9 format in the shoot menu. The lens used was the XF10-24mm f4R OIS wide angle zoom. 


Aston Martin Racing Going Through Technical... by fiawec


More information and live timing of the track sessions can be found on the official website www.fiawec.com


Thursday, 30 October 2014

New American Team Joins the FIA WEC in China


Florida based Extreme Speed Motorsports has traveled to Shanghai to compete on the world motorsport stage in China.  

The Tequila Patron sponsored team, who are a front runner in the Tudor United Sports Car Series in the United States but decided to skip the season finale of that series to travel to China for their second outing with the FIA World Endurance Championship.




To highlight the fact the team had to bring their cars and equipment from the United States while the rest of the competitors shipped their containers from Japan where the last race was held three weeks ago, my colleague Fiona Miller interviewed the team's Director of Operations Robin Hill and I spent some time in the garage taking images to illustrate the article that was published on the official championship website here.  








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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Architectural Features of the Shanghai International Circuit

The final corner leading onto the start finish straight at the SIC

The Shanghai International Circuit (SIC), which was opened in 2004, is a striking example of architectural sports venue design.  

The massive main pitlane grandstand. which incorporates the two overhanging 'teardrops', is one of the most impressive sports stadiums in the world and, situated on the top floor over the top of the track, includes the best view from a media centre I have ever seen.  


The 'lily pad' grandstand, as seen from the service road
The other impressive architectural feature of the SIC is the 'lily pad' tops to the grandstands that lines the hairpin corner on the back straight.

During my second day in Shanghai I went for a walk down to the hairpin to get some shots of the banners and also take the opportunity to grab some shots of the track while it was quiet.  Also with the forecast for rain later in the week it was also a good opportunity to take some sunny images of the track.


The office windows in the main grandstand.

The 'lily pad' grandstand

The 'lily pad' grandstand

The 'lily pad' grandstand

The hairpin corner with the 'lily pad' grandstands lining both sides of the track


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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

First Day at Shanghai International Circuit



Yesterday I arrived in China for the next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at the impressive Shanghai International Circuit.  This will be my fourth visit to China for a racing event and the fifth race I have run the FIA Media Office.  The first was in 2011 when we raced at Ordos in Inner Mongolia and then in Beijing with the FIA GT1 World Championship and then for the past three years we have visited Shanghai with the FIA WEC.

On arrival in Shanghai yesterday morning, after a long 11 hour flight from Paris, I grabbed a quick shower and changed into my WEC uniform at the hotel before heading to the track.


  

Monday is the day the teams unload the containers of all their equipment they will need this weekend.  This is a big job as hundreds of tonnes of equipment are unloaded and unpacked.  I wanted to get a sense of this frantic activity in the paddock and so I set up the X-T1 to record a short timelapse video of the unloading process, which I then uploaded to the WEC Daily Motion site.




Here is the finished video -

Unloading at Shanghai International Circuit by fiawec
** Music used on the timelapse video: Air Hockey Saloon by Chris Zabriskie
Later when the sun had set, the paddock then took on a calmer feeling and I took some shots of the pitlane and track under the spotlights. 







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Monday, 27 October 2014

What's in the Camera Bag?



In October 2012 I bought a Fujifilm Finepix X100 to take to China for that year's FIA World Endurance Championship event in Shanghai because I didn't want to take all my Nikon gear into the country.  Two years on, and on the day I travel to Shanghai for this year's event, little did I know that the small X100 would help me to change direction, photographically speaking, after many years as a DSLR professional user.

In October 2013 I added a Fujifilm X-Pro1 and 14mm, 18mm, 35mm and 60mm XF prime lenses and that camera showed me a different path than the SLR / DSLR track I had been following since 1992.  At that point I still had my Nikon D700 / D800 full frame DSLRs and associated lenses, but I was using them less and less as the Fuji X-Pro1 / X100 combo became my cameras of choice.

The final nail in the DSLR coffin came in April 2014 when I decided to visit Park Cameras in London and try a Fujifilm X-T1.  That was it, I was sold on mirrorless cameras and the Nikon gear went up for sale, with the final lens being sold in July.  After being a Nikon photographer for 18 years, the only piece of Nikon branded equipment I still own is the ME1 external microphone and an old Nikon F70 film camera. 

I added the Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom in February and then the XF10-24mm f4 zoom and XF56mm f1.2 this summer.  

For the X100 I bought the WCL-X100 wide angle converter in November 2012 and added the TCL-X100 tele converter this summer.

Now one of the things I originally bought into the X-Series system was because it offered me a lightweight alternative to a DSLR outfit.  While I have now got three bodies and 9 lenses plus all the add ons like filters, batteries, memory cards, battery charger etc, this substantial Fuji outfit is still a lot lighter than my Nikon kit ever was.  AND I can choose to go lightweight if I choose by taking one body and a couple of prime lenses if I want.  

For example on one trip to Paris I took just the X-Pro1 and the 14mm and 35mm lenses.  This covered everything I needed for that trip and I felt liberated as a photographer to be able to capture the images I did with such a small camera kit.  If I need to go lighter I take the X100 and the two converters.

However, if I need to, I can take everything in a Lowepro 350AW backpack and it still isn't a chore to lug around.

BUT how does the X-Series compare to the full frame Nikon D800?  To be very honest I don't miss the big Nikon.  The D800 is a superb camera but if I was going out for a walk it would stay at home, I had to make a conscious decision to take it.  With the X-T1 / X-Pro1 / X100 I just walk out the door with the camera, a couple of lenses, filters and the small Manfrotto tripod.  

The quality from the 16mp X-Trans sensor is stunning and is on a par with the 36mp Nikon sensor.  More megapixels does not equal better quality, despite what you read on some internet forums.  The only reason to have more megapixels is to have bigger images and I can print to A2 from the X-T1 / X-Pro1 without any issues in quality and I know I can go bigger if I need to.

The reason for the quality of the images is also down to the excellence of the XF lenses.  They aren't cheap but these lenses are professional grade at a very good price.  I have not found one bad lens yet and I have tried almost all of the lenses currently available in the Fujinon line up.

The only two things that are missing from the current Fujifilm line up is a decent flash gun and a long lens with greater pulling power than the 200mm (300mm eqivalent) of the XF zoom for wildlife and sport.  There is a long lens on the Fuji road map (and rumours of a long prime telephoto as well) and a better flash system is on the cards as well. 

For me the flexibility, the portability and the quality of the Fujifilm X-Series is the reason I use these cameras.  The attention to detail and the fact Fujifilm develop their camera system by listening to the end users means that, for me, Fujifilm is the camera of choice for me.

Currently in the Bag
Fujifilm X-T1 + Battery Grip
Fujifilm X-Pro1 + grip
Fujifilm Finepix X100 Black with Fujinon 23mm f2 lens

Fujinon XF14mm f2.8R
Fujinon XF18mm F2R
Fujinon XF35mm f1.4R
Fujinon XF56mm f1.2R
Fujinon XF60mm f2.4R macro
Fujinon XF10-24mm f4R OIS
Fujinon XF55-200mm f3.5/4.8R LM OIS

WCL-X100 wide angle converter for X100 (19mm / 28mm wide angle)
TCL-X100 tele converter for X100 (33mm / 51mm lens)

EF-20 Flashgun
EF-X8 Flash for X-T1

Lee Filters - 0.3 / 0.6 / 0.9 ND Soft Grads + 10x ND 'Big Stopper'
Hoya Pro Circ Polariser (49mm + 77mm)
Hoya Pro8 ND filters (52mm + 62mm)

Manfrotto MT190XPRO4 Tripod
Manfrotto 241V Suction Clamp
Manfrotto MKC03-H01 Travel Tripod

9 spare batteries (3 for X100 and 6 for X-Pro1 + X-T1)
1 x PNY 32GB SDHC Card
5 x 16GB memory cards (inc 2 x Toshiba Exceria Pro Hi Speed SD cards)
1 x 8GB Sandisk Extreme

2 x Peak Design 'Leash' Straps + 1 x Peak Design 'Cuff' Strap




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Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Old Door



I love photographing details on old buildings, especially those with wonderful colours and textures.  

The old harbour buildings at Cove are two such buildings, with the red sandstone walls worn away by the weather and the door to the store having seen better days.  

The old wood has been worn smooth by the wind and the rain and the paintwork that still remains is cracked and flaking away.

This provided me with some great textures to point the X-Pro1 and 60mm f2.4 macro at while I was taking long exposure shots of the harbour on the X-T1.








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Saturday, 25 October 2014

REVIEW: Fujinon XF60mm f2.4 v Fujinon XF56mm f1.2


Last month I added the superb Fujinon XF56mm f1.2R lens to my camera bag, which is the seventh Fujinon lens I have bought for my X-Series kit.  It is also the third lens that covers the short telephoto range, the others being the XF55-200mm f3.5/4.8 zoom and the XF60mm f2.4R macro.  This had me wondering if I could sell off one of the lenses or did each lens offer something that meant I could justify hanging on to all three?

Well for starters we can ignore the 55-200mm zoom as this lens offers the long telephoto reach I need for my landscapes and wildlife.  It is an excellent all round zoom lens that has a place in my camera bag.  So that leaves the two prime lenses.


The 60mm is the older of the two, being one of the original trio of lens launched in 2012 with the X-Pro1.  The auto focus has been improved with firmware updates but it is no where near as 'snappy' as the newer 56mm.  The obvious difference between the two lenses is the faster maximum aperture on the 56mm, a full two stops faster.  

The f1.2 is a dream in low light and this lens begs to be used with aperture wide open to give a wonderful 3D effect by throwing the background out of focus.  Having said that the f2.4 on the 60mm is now slouch either and will produce some very nice 'Bokeh'.  

The problem with shooting with the 56mm in bright sunlight is the X-T1 and X-Pro1 have a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000s and a minimum ISO of 200 (100 for JPEG only).  This means that is bright light you can't use the f1.2 aperture without over exposing the image.  This problem is easily solved by fitted a 62mm 3 stop ND filter to the lens.  Also the X-T1 will receive a firmware update in December giving the camera an electronic shutter speed of 1/32000s, which will also allow wider apertures to be used without over exposing the image.

The focal lengths are very similar but as can be seen on the two shots below the pulling power of the 60mm (90mm equivalent) is just that little bit better than the 56mm (84mm). However the difference is negligible to make it irrelevant in everyday use. 




The area where the 60mm shines over the 56mm is the close focusing ability of the macro lens.  The 56mm has a closest focusing range of 70cm, where the 60mm can focus at 26.7cm, producing an image 0.5x lifesize. This ability is demonstrated in the set of images of a rusty mooring bollard and chain.

60mm f2.4

56mm f1.2

60mm f2.4

56mm f1.2

60mm f2.4


56mm f1.2
This close focusing ability alone justifies me keeping the 60mm AND the 56mm in my camera bag because both lenses offer different abilities.

The size of these lenses are similar but the front element on the 56mm is a big piece of glass. Filter sizes are easier on the 56mm, using a more standard 62mm filter thread compared with the diminutive 39mm on the 60mm marco.

The price difference also has to be taken into consideration, with Park Cameras in London, where I bought my X-T1 and XF10-24mm, is currently selling the 60mm for £434 and the 56mm for nearly double at £829.

CLICK HERE to see the specifications of the XF60mm f2.4R macro 
CLICK HERE to see the specifications of the XF56mm f1.2R  

For me both of these lenses will remain part of my Fujifilm X-Series arsenal for the foreseeable future.  Here are a couple more scenes taken on the 60mm and 56mm to compare the use of these lenses as a landscape telephoto.

60mm f2.4
56mm f1.2
60mm f2.4
56mm f1.2
All images taken on a Fujifilm X-T1 and either a 56mm or 60mm lens.  Except for the shots of the two lenses, which were taken on a Fujinon XF35mm f1.4R. 
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Friday, 24 October 2014

TIMELAPSE VIDEO: Morning at Barns Ness


Yesterday morning I went out before dawn to catch the sunrise at Barns Ness lighthouse, one of my favourite spots on the East Lothian coast.  

As the sun was coming up I decided to set the X-T1 to recorded a short timelapse video sequence, setting the camera to take one shot every five seconds for two hundred images.  

I then moved the camera on the tripod to a different location and did the same two hundred shots at five second intervals.




The results was a shot 20 second video showing the movement in the clouds and the water in the rock pool on the beach. 




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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Demonstrating Depth of Field


A lens with a fast aperture like Fujifilm's superb XF56mm allows me to be very creative with the extremely shallow depth of field the very wide f1.2 aperture produces.  To illustrate the difference between f1.2 and f16 I took two shots of the 1881 East Coast Fishing Disaster memorial at the top of the track down to Cove Harbour.




The shot above was taken at the maximum f1.2, with the focus on the figure of the child nearest the camera.  As you can see the rest of the figures are thrown out of focus.



The next shot is taken at the smallest aperture available on the 56mm, and that is f16.  The small aperture extends the depth of field to include most of the figures, with the background visible to the viewer. 

I did a blog on the memorial in February, which includes links to the story behind the disaster that left many widows and orphans on that fateful day on the 18 October 1881.  CLICK HERE to read the blog.

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sunrise at Cove Harbour


This morning I decided to get up and catch the sunrise down at Cove Harbour, which is located a few miles down the coast from Dunbar and is an oasis of tranquility.  After two weeks of travel and work in Japan and Portugal, Cove was the ideal place to unwind for a couple of hours before heading back to the office to prepare for the next FIA WEC event in China, which I fly out to on Sunday for eight days.

Once a busy part of the east coast fishing industry, Cove Harbour is now used by a few small fishing boats that catch crabs and lobsters. All of the buildings associated with the harbour are listed and the harbour is owned by Cove Harbour Conservation Ltd.  

With its old world feel and old building Cove is the ideal location for filming and has been used for major films, TV shows and fashion shoots.  With it's close proximity to Edinburgh, Cove is an ideal location for international companies to use.

The shots on this page were taken on the Fujifilm X-T1 and the Fujinon XF10-24mm f4 wide angle zoom.  The shot at the top was taken with an exposure of 1/20 @ f5.6, using the Manfrotto tripod and the lens fitted with a Lee 0.9 ND Soft grad filter.

The shot below was a long exposure of 3 minutes using the Lee 10x ND 'Big Stopper' filter to give the required long exposure.



The final shot was taken on the X-T1 fitted with the Fujinon XF14mm f2.8 prime lens, with an exposure of 1/110s @ f11 from the top of the harbour wall looking east along the coast.



CLICK HERE to visit the official Cove Harbour website

Please note that while the images on this page are the property of MacLean Photographic they are not for commercial purposes and only for illustrating this blog post. All commercial, film and photographic rights of any kind are reserved by Cove Harbour Conservation Ltd.


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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Shooting with Fast Lenses in Low Light



One of the beauty of the Fujinon prime lenses are the fast apertures that allow you to shoot in low light without having to resort to pushing the ISO to the limit.  

On Sunday evening we held the end of season awards ceremony at the Casino Estoril and the lighting conditions in the room could only be described as challenging.  While my photographers worked the floor around the room, I sat up on the first tier of tables using the Fujifilm X-T1 to get wide shots of the proceedings.  Using the 35mm f1.4 and 56mm f1.2 I was able to keep the shutter speed high enough to shoot without pushing the ISO higher than 800 for the entire evening.

In the low light the AF on the X-T1 did struggle at times but a switch to manual focus solved this problem, and with the wonderful split screen in the viewfinder, manual focusing was very easy.

Here are some of the shots from the ELMS awards evening.










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