Kielbasa Fest

Watching the Band (Fujifilm XE2, XF56mm f1.2)

As I mentioned in the previous article, Summer in our part of Pennsylvania is punctuated by a variety of local festivals or bazaars run by towns, churches, volunteer fire departments etc… Most continue to echo the now somewhat diluted ethnicity of the town where they’re held.

This is a good thing, because that ethnicity is expressed in food.  Generally really good food. Not necessarily good for you, but mighty tasty.

Street Games (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm F1.4)

Plymouth Pennsylvania is a slip of a town along the Susquehanna river downstream from Wilkes Barre. Like many places around the region, it’s a former coal mining town, struggling to survive in the post-anthracite world. There’s a strong Polish heritage here, and a decidedly blue-collar feel. People are extremely friendly for most part, but it wouldn’t pay to mouth off late at night in one of the many local bars.

Uh, Hello Officer (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF23mmf1.4)

The  Kielbasa ( or sometimes Kielbasi) Festival, Plymouth’s signature event occurs each year in early August. For the uninitiated, kielbasa is a pork-based polish sausage. Though back in Poland, kielbasa refers to a number of sausage types, here the term refers generally to what Poles think of as their “farmhouse sausage”.

Boa Man (Fujifiln X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

 

In many parts of Pennsylvania, kielbasa is a passion. People around here have strong opinions on whose recipe is best. Interest peaks around Easter. Small grocers (where a lot of good kielbasa is made) compete with smaller sausage makers that seem to pop up right before the holidays.

Kielbasa and Kraut (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mmf1.4)

The Kielbasa Festival is an orgy of comfort food that health-conscious people avoid during the rest of the year. Halupki (stuffed cabbage)and potato pancakes  beckon from the booths and trucks. Then there are the pierogis (a sort Polish ravioli stuffed with potatoes and cheese).Of course there’s kielbasa: as hot sandwiches to eat now, and as smoked rings to eat at home later.

Pierogis (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

Nowadays there’s the outlier fare such as chocolate-covered bacon, and obscenely decadent deep-fried stuff (we’re way past Twinkies). The odors  on the street are wonderful, even if they tend to be mixed occasionally with the faint smell of cigarettes.

Cooking Kielbasa (Fujifilm XE2, XF 56mmf1.2)

Towns like Plymouth have their issues. But the folks who keep these little town alive are solid, decent people who work extremely hard, whether for their small businesses, or for their churches and service organizations.

Tarnowski’s Kielbasa (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

 

At any rate, I had the obligatory kielbasa and kraut sandwich, and an order of the jalapeno and cheese pierogis. Each was satisfying in a way that only our most familiar foods can be.

It’s a fun season. Next is the Tomato Festival up the river in Pittston,

And yes, it’s Italian.

 

 

As always, clicking on an images lets you see it full size. Or, visit my Smugmug page for these and other images.

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Summer Rolls Out

Foxglove at Sunset

Foxglove at Sunset(Fujifilm X100t)

The older that I get, the more I seem to appreciate the familiarity of life, and the yearly touch stones that punctuate the flow of the seasons. 

Or  maybe I’m in a rut. 

 If so, it’s a pleasant rut.

Here in the mountains of Pennsylvania, summer seems rather precious. The truly temperate period of our year seems short, lasting between perhaps early June to late September. It is during this brief span of time that we must have our fill of swimming, boating, sunning, and al fresco dining.

Given our latitude, and our altitude (around 2000 feet) summer weather is generally quite pleasant with warm days and cool nights, and only a very few truly stifling periods that cause me to second guess the lack of air conditioning in my bedroom.

The natural world unfolds in a predictable way. From photographic standpoint, sometimes summer seems like a succession of flowering events, from the honeysuckles, to the mountain laurels, to the foxglove and rhododendron, then finally to the cardinal flowers of late summer.

Backlit Rhodedendron

Backlit Rhododendron (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 56mm f1.2)

The foxglove in particular, has invaded our homestead. Given that they are low maintenance and quite beautiful, this is not particularly a problem. Another bonus is that, unlike much of our foliage, they are apparently deer-resistant. I suspect that this is courtesy of the digitalis they manufacture in their leaves.

In our region, the summer is punctuated by festivals and bazaars, all occupying their particular weekend throughout June, July, and August.

Inflatables

Inflatables (Fujifilm X100t)

Though these events are similar in format, the sponsoring towns, parishes, and volunteer fire departments, still betray a hint of their previous ethnicity in their themes and food selections. One can spend a very pleasant (and hyper caloric) summer attending the various events.

Cash Pitch

Cash Pitch(Fujifilm X100t, Classic Chrome)

 

Fourth of July like the rest of the country means parades, and fireworks. This year on the occasion of his 90th birthday, my father Dr. Henry Smith Sr. was chosen to be the Grand Marshall, of our very local Fourth of July parade. He now claims to be waiting for a call from Macy’s.

Grand Marshall

Grand Marshall Fujifilm X100t, TCL-X100)

Over the summer, our local railroad runs an old locomotive, pulling passenger cars, up and down the line between Pittston, and Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania. This is quite a scenic route, passing through sections of the Gifford Pinchot State Forest, and the Lehigh Gorge State Park.

#425

#425 (Fujifilm X100t)

With the windows of my old home open for the summer, it is pleasant hear the distant “chuffing” of the engine, and the sound of a steam whistle predictably announcing arrival at several road crossings near to my community.

As much as one may profess to love the other seasons, the simple joy and the casual comfort of summer is hard to deny. With each year I feel a twinge more regret as post-solstice, the days get shorter.

 

 

Just a reminder: to see larger, higher resolution version of these images and others, you can visit my Smugmug site here.

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More thoughts on the Fujifilm X Pro 2: Shooting a Wedding

 

Mime Greeter (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It feels like the Fujifilm enthusiast community has perhaps moved on. On brand oriented websites, the interest has shifted from the X Pro 2 introduced earlier this year to the  XT-2,  the freshly announced  replacement for the weather sealed, SLR-styled XT-1. This is hardly shocking, given that a lot of photographers who use Fujifilm equipment, particularly working pros, have come to rely on the less expensive yet equally featured XT series for their livelihood.

I myself have generally preferred the “rangefinder” body form of the original Fujifilm X Series. I do own an XT-10 which I bought in large measure for its movable rear screen, and its excellent autofocus.

Reception (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

I am using and enjoying, the X Pro 2. It is proving to be an extremely capable tool, for both event and landscape photography. It does have some quirks however which have surfaced as I again more experience with the body.

As pleasant and beguiling as the Fujifilm products are ergonomically, they are in many ways inferior for instance to the Nikon equipment I also use. In an article I wrote some months ago on hoped-for features for the as yet unreleased X Pro 2,

Waiting for the Celebrants (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

Unfortunately the format function in some ways is actually buried deeper in the menus, in a fashion that can make it hard to find. I would also say that choosing which memory card to utilize or format, requires some non-intuitive commands that are difficult frankly to remember ( I have too many cameras). All this would be easier if the buttons were marked (as Nikon does). Eventually how to do this (pressing the trash can button and the thumb wheel simultaneously) will sink in to my aging brain.

In the Chapel(Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

I shot my first wedding since obtaining the camera. There was much to be happy about. First the X Pro 2 is truly wonderful in low light. I tend to shoot photojournalist style weddings, hoping to avoid the use of flash, in favor of a natural, “in-person” style look to the images. The ceremony in this case was held in a rather dim but lovely, historic chapel, that I am extremely familiar with over the years.

I used both my X100T, and my X Pro 2, the latter with the 56 mm f1.2 lens mounted. I shot most of the festivities in raw plus jpeg using the Acros+ green filter films simulation, with either neutral or a little negative exposure compensation, and +1 shadow and highlight tones. Reviewed later on the monitor, the jpegs were a tiny bit dark, but extremely tolerant of raising the mid tones and shadows and in the curves section of Photoshop. Images from the X100T were shot in monochrome+ green filter, and were similar, but not quite as dramatic as the Acros files.

Daughter and Granddaughter (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

Also noteworthy is the dynamic range of the sensor.  I try hard not to be the choreographer for the wedding. This forces me to deal with weird lighting situations that arise when the couple is allowed to move freely about.  I do try to sometimes help the couple choose well lit locations, for instance, for their table in the reception hall.

We shot this wedding on a brightly sunny late afternoon, and large windows facing west provided light that was very directional, but deep shadows were quite recoverable, even on the JPEG’s.

One issue was the autofocus. I’ve generally had good luck with face/eye detection in the right setting, but in the dim church it became somewhat unreliable, and I went to a regular movable focus point.

Exchanging the Rings (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

In better light, particularly with more posed shots in the brighter reception hall, it was more useful. It would generally ignore the face when shooting the person from beside or behind, but would grab focus appropriately when the subject faced the camera. It continues to amuse me that, the face detection seems to prefer a female visage; conveniently choosing the bride for focus when posing with her new husband.

I did have an issue with the camera I still don’t understand. I’m not one to often use bracketing, but somehow during the afternoon the X Pro 2 ended up set to film simulation bracketing , and suddenly was not shooting raw files, or for that matter, my preferred film simulation. I ended up with some images shot in classic chrome, which are actually somewhat interesting, but not what I was intending to shoot. Just how this happened is unclear to me and it took me a few minutes to figure out what was the problem and set the camera correctly.

Groom (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

At the end of the day, you just can’t argue with the quality of the images. I set the camera to auto-iso allowing it to drift up to 6400 iso when necessary to keep the shutter speed greater than 1/80 of a second. Even at that sensitivity sensor noise is quite low, and the 56 mm lens is so sharp that the images are crisp and detailed. I have been shooting in that chapel for years, and even with for instance, a camera as competent as a Nikon D700, I was more comfortable with using flash and a diffuser at those light levels. Now at least to me, it is definitely possible to shoot in natural light and still obtain images that please the bride and groom.

Married (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

I really don’t think that there is any issue above that cannot be rectified by either gaining more experience with the camera, and/or in a firmware update.

We are lucky as photographers in these times. to have the availability of such capable equipment, particularly gear that is as unobtrusive and discrete as these wonderful Fujifilm cameras.

Now let’s see what the new XT-2 can do.

 

Just a Reminder: you can left click on the images  to see a larger version. Better yet you can visit my Smugmug site here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Pause in Publishing

 

Dark May Skies (Fujifilm X 2 Pro, XF 35mm f1.4)

I have been remiss. Over the past several months, I’ve been dealing with illness in the family, and then a nasty personal respiratory infection that has taken weeks to shake (and me a pulmonary physician).

I’ve had construction projects to manage both in Pennsylvania, and the Adirondacks.

All of this has left me less attentive toward shooting, and writing about it. It didn’t help that our warm brown winter was followed by a cool damp spring.

Old Adirondack Farm (Fujifilm X 2 Pro, XF 35mm f1.4)

 

We spent last week for instance, in Lake Placid, which much of the time was 50 degrees, windy and raining. This continues my run on bad Adirondack weather. It did keep us focused on completing, the task at hand: restoring the first floor after a water heater problem laid waste to the place in late December.

Waiting for Better Weather (Fujifilm X 2 Pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

 

We (the DCNR folks and I) did manage I think, to pull off a successful landscape photography lecture/ photo walk in May at our local Nescopeck State Park. I hope to do more workshops at our local parks as the year unfolds.

Don’t Ask (Fujifilm X 2 Pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

 

I rarely become ill. So this stretch of problems was a bit daunting. I’m feeling better now, and with the improvement in my health, I feel the need to get out with my photo equipment and start shooting.

So let the Summer Begin!

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The Gear that I Use; The Fujifilm X Pro 2

First Blooms in Wilkes Barre (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 35mm f1.4)

 

I don’t need to make excuses.  The Fujifilm X Pro 2 is an excellent camera. No more hearing how my camera is “cool but quirky”, no more defending  the brands performance deficits. This camera  just works.

For many years, Fujifilm’s offerings to the Pro/ serious amateur photo consumer were a series of reworked Nikon DSLRs with unique to Fuji sensors. But this hybridization always seemed to induce foibles in the camera’s performance,  and behavior. I owned several, and was drawn to the pleasing color balance, and fairly high resolution, but like all Fuji shooters put up with substandard autofocus and responsiveness, relative to their Nikon cousins.

After the Last Nikon/Fuji DSLR, the S5Pro, launched in 2006, Fujifilm then seemed to abandon the serious photography market until 2010, when they introduced the lovely  and very premium X100 retro-rangefinder style camera, signaling the companies return to the manufacture of camera bodies and optics. In 2012 they followed up with the interchangeable lens X Pro 1.

These early efforts were beguiling as a tactile experience , as well as quite compelling optically . But keeping to Fuji tradition, they were functionally crude, tending to be slow, with weird controls and unreliable autofocus. Laudably, this time, Fujifilm invested the resources to correct many of these problems, and with the latest firmware, these early cameras evolved into very pleasant and useful photographic tools.

Scintillating Dinner Companions (X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

Nowadays, having absorbed the lessons of the past, each new Fujifilm product, tends to be well developed at its release. So it is with the long-awaited X Pro 2.

As usual, this is not a technical review; those are readily available at places like Dpreview, and at Sean Reid’s subscription site. I offer however my observations after several weeks of continuous use for landscape, street and event photography.

I miss the unboxing experience of the original X Pro 1. Someone at the time created packaging that really created the impression of a premium product. Oh well. Better I guess that the effort was focused of the firmware, not the wrapper.

X Pro 1, X Pro 2 (Sony RX 100 Mk III)

 

The X Pro 2 is distinctly larger than the other Fuji bodies that I own. It dwarfs the XT-10 and it’s slightly larger and heavier built, than my X Pro 1. As I love the compact size of the other Fujifilm products, this did not initially seem to be an advantage. Now of course, the X Pro 2 is weatherproof. This is good. I wish my lenses were.

There is of course the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder which has been a feature of the X100 and X Pro series since the beginning. The function of this is well described elsewhere. As I use the electronic side perhaps 99% of the time, it’s less important to me.

I have discovered recently however, that if you  the camera set up to shoot black and white jpgs, the little video window in the corner  focus aid in the optical finder also becomes black and white, and much more revealing as to the state of focus.

Bikes (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

 

And BTW, thanks for the adjustable diopter. It’s about time.

I have subsequently noticed several important details related to the X Pro 2’s size that have proved very charming.

#1 Finally Fuji designs a camera where the tripod mount sits at the centerline of the lens. This plus the extra length of the body, allows the battery door to finally be clear of the tripod puck, facilitating quick battery changes in the field.

Lunch at Around Town Bikes (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

 

#2 the memory card slot has moved from the battery compartment to the side plate of the camera, and a second one added. This means an end to the frequent annoyance of unscrewing the tripod mount to change memory, and then replacing it, only to repeat the process when, 2 minutes later, the battery craps out.

All is not well with this however. There are changes in the menus that bury certain functions such as SD card formatting, and memory card slot selection behind other vague menu items. So far I cannot assign these functions to the new “my menu” feature. I wish Fuji would have stuck to the menu format of recent products which is very familiar. Fujifilm should look to Nikon who has far better approach for dealing with multiple card slots and formatting.

Watching the Parade ( Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

 

The other controls are fine. I really like all of the places where there are now programmable function buttons. I also love the idea of the new autofocus joystick but I tend to ignore it, having assigned the bottom button of the 4 way controller to autofocus selection in sync with my other Fuji bodies. I don’t want to miss a shot with for instance my X100t, while I search for a joystick that isn’t there.

They also managed to retain a threaded shutter button for cable releases, also a pleasant surprise.

Recently I have been seeing reviews of the X Pro 2 that are critical of the combined shutter speed/ISO dial. I have no issue as I tend to use custom auto ISO settings. To me the ISO portion of the dial lets me move quickly between auto vs. a fixed ISO, when I shoot moving water or panoramas.

Elsa? (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

 

And yes, the exposure compensation dial is larger than on other bodies, and more prone to being accidentally moved.

This time of year in Eastern Pennsylvania, the landscapes are bleak as  we wait for foliage which will begin to emerge in the mountains in mid to late April. Our St Patrick’s day parade is one opportunity for bored photographers waiting for nature to provide some color. On that day I carried the X Pro 2 with the XF 23mm f1.4, and my XE2 with the XF55-200mm f3.5.

Father and Son (Fujifilm XE2, XF 55-200 f3.5)

 

In use, the X Pro 2 starts up quickly. Autofocus is almost instantaneous in good light, a hair quicker in comparison to my XT-10. Autofocus also seems slightly better on low light/contrast situations, but again, the improvement in my experience, is subtle (I was already pretty happy with focusing on recent Fuji cameras). There are apparently 273 separate focus  points, up from 77 on the previous bodies. I did not test focus tracking, but it works well enough on my XT-10, so it is likely no worse. Face and eye detection work nicely, though it continues to amuse me that when shooting a mixed gender group, the camera almost always focuses on a woman. Maybe it is looking for the bride?

Focus on the Women (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

 

I have not yet tested its video capabilities, but I understand they have been improved to the point that at least 1080p video is decent. There is scuttlebutt on the web suggesting that Fujifilm has disabled the cameras 4K video capability due to a tendency to overheat.

The new sensor is where to me, things get interesting, though not completely in a good way. Image quality from the new Trans-X series III sensor is excellent. Captures, particularly in Raw, are detailed, and very malleable, with excellent dynamic range. Raw files can finally be compressed losslessly, per Fuji. I still find that the Silkypix software downloadable from Fuji (or in-camera conversion) performs a slightly cleaner raw conversion than Adobe Camera Raw (Capture One does not recognize X Pro 2 files yet).

So what’s the problem? At least in my informal testing, I can discern maybe a little improvement in resolution, and high ISO performance, for the new 24mp sensor over the old 16mp chip  in comparisons using the same camera and raw conversion settings, and lenses.

X Pro 2 ISO 200 100%

 

XE2 ISO 200 100%

 

X Pro 2 ISO 6400 100%

 

XE2 ISO 6400 100%

 

Looking at Dpreview’s test shots, there does at least seem to be a reasonable increase in apparent resolution in their hands. To those of us hoping for huge leaps forward, this is slightly disappointing (though I already really like the image quality I obtain with the brand). At least I won’t pine for the X Pro 2 sensor when using my other bodies.

Vernal Light and Shadows (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 35mm f1.4)

 

Let’s talk about film simulations. Now I have never been much of a jpg  shooter.  But I was intrigued, by the images shot using the Acros film simulations that I saw in various reviews of the X Pro 2.  So I began to experiment with myself.  I  have either shot the camera set up for raw and jpg, or used the Fujifilm profiles included in Adobe Camera Raw, and the bundled Raw Converter (Silkypix) when X Pro 2 files are processed.  I really like the results that I am getting.

ACR 100%

 

Silkypix (Raw File Converter)100%

 

I’m not sure I understand why the profiles for Acros can’t be applied to other Fujifilm cameras raw files . Fujifilm says that the new processor in the X Pro 2 is necessary for creation of an in-camera “Acros” jpg, but certainly a computer running  either above raw processor should be adequate to make the conversion for other camera files. At any rate, I’ve created a custom  setting in ACR which is a pretty close match for the straight Acros conversion (no filter).

Charlie (Fujifilm X 100s Acros simulation)

 

The  X Pro 2 is a polished followup to the original X Pro 1 with most if not all of the Fujifilm quirks ironed out. In speed, image quality, and functionality it is certainly competitive with the best equipment out there. It is no longer dependent on  camera nostalgia for its appeal (though that appeal remains strong).

No more excuses. Not necessary.

 

Addendum: I received a very kind note from Stacey Moore,  who is a Field Training Representative for Fujifilm North America. Addressing specifically my comments on the SD card selection and formatting options she writes:

“I noticed a couple of tips I  can pass on to you:  shortcut for formatting cards is to press/hold trash can button and brief press on the rear sub-command dial…it will take you to a selection option to format slot 1 or slot 2.  It is rather tricky, I have found – it takes me a few tries sometimes to get it right. Another shortcut is is press/hold playback and a brief press on the rear sub-command dial will allows a quick switch between slot 1 and slot 2.”

I checked it out. Both commands work nicely, but only on the X Pro 2.  The format command does not seem to work for instance, with my X 100t.  Fuji should consider little red “format labels” near the appropriate buttons, like Nikon does

Thanks very much Stacey. Chime in anytime.

Just a Reminder: you can left click on the images  to see a larger version. Better yet you can visit my Smugmug site here.

 

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