Nikon

Black and White With The Fuji X100f (Photos) and Nikon D600 (Video)

If you have spent any time looking at my work you know I enjoy shooting portraits. You may have also noticed that I often process my photos in black and white. It’s typically not something that I elect to do on purpose the photos just end up that way. In the case of my most recent shoot with Haven Hudson I ended up making the entire section black and white.

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Why Make Photos Black and White?

The most common reason that I choose to make photos black and white is because they were shot in low light. Because I’m compensating with a higher ISO and to a lesser extent larger Apertures the photos I shoot in low light tend to have a shallow depth of field along with a noticeable amount of “noise” (Grain, Static, artifacts and discoloration). While noise is a common byproduct of increasing the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor it is typically something many photographers would like to avoid. It’s why camera manufactures will invest a respectable amount of research and development into getting cameras to shoot at higher ISOs with less Noise. However even the best cameras shooting at 6400 ISO are going to show some noise but that doesn’t mean an image is ruined.

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In my opinion a humble amount of noise can give photos a film like quality. In an era where Photoshop can polish an image down to the point where it looks more like a life like painting it can be a bit refreshing to keep some of the old rough edges to images as opposed to scrubbing the photos of their soul and leaving them as nothing more than images. The issue is though is that Digital Noise isn’t film grain. It has completely different qualities, the most significant being the way it effects color tones; They can become muddy and difficult to grade colors the way you want. It is especially difficult when it comes to skin tone which tend to be a pain in the ass to change anyways. However if you are okay with less color and a bit of grain you can get some very vintage/filmic looking images.

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This is what makes black and white such an effective method of editing. You’re not worried about what the colors look like you’re more focused on what your exposure, Contrast, whites, blacks, shadows and highlights are doing without having to stress about color balance or saturation as well.

Technical justifications aside the main reason to process in black and white is purely a aesthetic choice. I have always loved the way black and white photography looks especially when it comes to my more candid and improvisational photography. I like having photos that look like you could find them in the attic of you grandparents house and it’s a big reason I frequently order 4×6 prints on some of my favorite photos. One day someone is going to be going through my old stuff and that photos I have taken throughout my life.

Shooting with the Fuji X100f.

cr-35The Fuji X100f is a relatively new addition to my camera bag. I have had it for the last 6 months and in my time shooting with it there are some certain qualities that I have grown to appreciate and other that I have learned to loath and this Black and White series is a good illustrations of the good the bad and the ugly when it

comes to this camera.

The Good:

The image quality off the sensor of this camera is excellent. I have grown so spoiled by shooting with a full frame Nikon DSLR that I have grown pessimistic when it comes to smaller sensors but the APS-C sized chip on the X100f Renders details and colors so well that in the right lighting conditions you would think that you were shooting with a full 35mm sensor.
cr-32I personally believe the sensor benefits from having a well paired lens attached to the front of it. The 23mm f2 lens that is fixed on the Fuji is roughly a 35mm equivalent on the APS-C Sensor and the combination of the f2 wide open aperture and being fixed focal length allows for very precise rendering that takes some very breathtaking images.

The final thing that I love about the camera is how fast it is. The auto focus, the shutter response (along with being incredibly quite) allows me to shoot very quickly and the responsiveness of the camera to my adjustments happen at such a pace that I can focus on shooting more than constantly making minor adjustments.

The Bad:

The X100f is not well suited for portraits, Not going to lie about that. While I am super pleased with the image quality coming out of the camera there are some things that makes it hard to get portraits to look the way portraits to should look (at least for my personal prefrence.

cr-2 Because the lens is a 23mm it has a lot of the qualities and drawbacks of a wide angle lens. Noticeable distortion, the bokeh (blurred Background) never quite gets the subject isolation you want and getting the right composition  becomes a bit more of a challenge.

Most of these things can be overcome with some editing. Adobe Lightroom (Which I almost exclusively edit with)  has profile corrections built right in for this camera and the you can add more blur the background if you’re into that kind of thing but ideally you want to minimized editing by getting as much in camera as I can and having my processing for implementing the style I want. Not so much for fixing issues.

The Ugly:

The high ISO performance on this camera is sketchy at best. The noise after 3200 ISO is Pretty noticeable but the thing that I constantly notice is how muddy the mid-tones become as you raise the sensitivity.  It is especially rough on the color quality. after 1600 ISO the color starts to fall apart on the RAW files to the point that you almost feel like you have to go to black and white which I why I elected to edit all of these photos in black and white. I’ve noticed in time that people are really committed to color photography and I will often deliver black and white photos and have people ask me to convert them back to color. So for me I’m okay with living with a camera I know I’m going to get some color issues but I think there a lot of photographers and clients out there who color quality is non-negotiable.

Video in Black and White:

I want to get back to shooting video more often. Typically I don’t mix a lot of my video work with my portrait work but it has been something that I have wanted to do. After Editing the whole set in Black and White I decided I wanted the video I captured to match.

I shot the Video on my Nikon D600 with the Nikon 24-120 f4g lens. This Camera is a bit on the old side when it comes to video performance. It shoots at 1080p at 30fps (I shoot in 24fps) on a H.264 codec which is respectable but there are a lot of 4k 60fps options hitting the market with better codecs and more video centric features. But the footage from the 35mm sensor looks great and 1080p is still respectable in the online space. (But I still am tempted to upgrade.) The real drawback of doing video on this camera is the focus. The back screen makes it really hard to tell when things are in focus and nikon photography lenses really aren’t suited for manual focusing. Another thing that some of the more latest and greatest cameras have are better video auto focus features that the D600 just doesn’t have. All complaints aside, the best camera is the one you have on you and the D600 has been a work horse since I bought it and part of working in the creative space is being able to work within the limitations of your equipment and to a greater extent yourself to realize your creative vision.

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I was actually really happy with how the video came out but I do want to improve a few things going forward. First I need to get a better stabilization setup. Not necessarily something fancy like a DJI RONIN or a Glide Cam but possibly a shoulder rig to give me more steady movements going forward. Also I need to get back on my music game because it’s very hard to get quality music that you can use in videos. Luckily Brain Altano has encouraged people to use the music he is now making for his new creative project Weird Heat on their own projects so I have decided to take advantage of his generosity.

The Set:

I feel fortunate to have been able to shoot with how busy I have been lately but I’m finding it important to continue with my own creative endeavors. A lot of what my day (and night) job have me do is beneficial to my professional growth, but being able to do things like this black and white series makes me feel like still have the ability to flex my creative muscles.

Getting back into the swing of Modeling with Crystal Sedillo

Sometimes we get away from doing certain hobbies or activities for one reason or another. Heavy work scheduled, lack of motivation/inspiration and sometimes just lack of opportunity all contribute to this. In Crystal Sedillo’s case having a Kid is a pretty legit excuse to getting away from modeling for a little while. I’ve known Crystal for years now and her husband Orlando has done a lot of my tattoo work so when she wanted to get back into modeling I reached out to help get her back into the swing of it. Crystal brings with her a list of Features that compliment my style of photography specifically her tattoo work and her Alt Model Style. Those things works well with the way I like to process my photos, especially the way I use contrast and colors it allow all of her tattoos to really pop. Over all I really loved this shoot and I hope that  I get to work with Crystal again on something a bit more high concept in the future.

Khaleesi in the Bosque Feat: Joy.

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It doesn’t get much better than golden hour on a slightly cloudy day, and that’s exactly what I got when I had the chance to work with Joy again. This time she dressed up as Daenerys Targaryen from the incredibly popular show Game of Thrones to shoot out in the Albuquerque Bosque.

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The lighting that we got on that day couldn’t have gotten any closer than perfect even if it wanted to. Slightly cloudy, about an hour before sunset it gave me the ability to essentially shoot any way that I wanted and so I decided to try something different than I normally do. Most of the time I’m shooting at apretures between f2.8 and f4 but I wanted to play with shooting more wide open. So much of the shoot was done between f1.8 to f2.5 on my 85mm 1.8g lens.

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I shot at the larger apertures specifically to get the shallow depth of fields that created a very dream like quality to the images. I’m normally very apprehensive about shooting wide open because while the effect is beautiful it becomes very difficult to nail sharp focus. That being said it’s not impossible; while at f2.8 and f3.5 my 85mm is tack sharp I was still really impressed with the sharpness I was getting at f1.8 and f2 and I still got to keep the dream like bokeh.

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When it comes to shoots, locations always have to make sense. Lucky enough for me Albuquerque has an endless supply of locations. The easiest choice for the character Joy chose was the Albuquerque Bosque. It looks fairly remote and lush and allowed for a very clear backdrop.AJA_0042

The thing that I consistently need to work on is directing my subjects. Directing is one of those skills that really take time to get good at and almost every situation is different. Joy is one of those wonderful to work with in that regard. She comes from a performance background so she’s uses to making small adjustments even when they seem insignificant and she has an understanding of the big difference those small adjustments can make.

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One thing I want to improve in my portraits is making them more dynamic. Doing things compositionally to create a higher level of visual interest. Part of that is thinking differently about how I shoot and also about how I post process. I like to think of myself as a purist, with my shooting doing the bulk of the work in camera and doing basic and minor adjustments in Lightroom afterwards. While I still believe getting things right in camera is critical I’m trying to spend more time in post making images the best they possibly can be.

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Last Shoot with my First DSLR

Almost a year ago I got myself a Nikon D5100. I had originally gotten the camera for video purposes so that I could film better quality YouTube videos but through associations and professional opportunities I learned to use it as a proper camera and learned the ins and outs of the camera settings, Manual operations and the rules to follow (and break) in photography in the Year that I had the camera I also invested in full frame, Wide aperture lenses and other pieces of equipment thinking that they will be good now and great when I choose to upgrade. Well I’ve officially upgraded and gotten myself a refurbished D600, full frame DSLR.

The day before the new camera was delivered I decided that I was going to send it off with shooting a random set with my close friend Yasamin.

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Yasmine does not have any real modeling experience to speak of and as such is a very shy person when the camera pointed at her. That being said she is one of the more energetic people I’ve ever worked and this was an excellent opportunity to work on my directing skills which is one of my weakest tools in my photography utility belt.

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Being that she is such a high wired individual I had to approach this as not so much as telling her what to do but more along the lines of how I wanted her to behave. When I’m shooting portraiture I don’t like to spend and extensive amount of time positioning the subject into exactly where I want them to be. Instead I like to have them just flow freely and position themselves while I look for the best spot and the best moment to get the shot I want. Does it work every time: No but it’s more enjoyable way to shoot in my mind. This method has been great when I’ve worked with models who have been doing this line of work for quite a long time and know how to control their body language and expressions well in front of the camera. However this method isn’t nearly as effective when working with a more inexperienced model and proved to be a challenge. However after some trial and error I started to get the best out of the subject by just harnessing her personality.

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This shoot proved to be a very fun way to send off a camera that has served me well over the last year and we’re both ready to move on to bigger and better things. Although it can be a smart idea to keep your older bodies as back ups I’m selling my D5100 to a friend of mine who actually owns and operates a local magazine out here in the land of enchantment and has some big plans for the camera. Me on the other hand will begin adjusting to shooting on a full frame camera where my focal lengths are going to start looking quite a bit wider and the noise in the photos are going to be a lot less noticeable. I’ve enjoyed growing as a photographer over this last year and I’m looking forward to what this next year brings me and my new camera.