To Glastonbury and beyond with Tom Corban

Professional photographer & Canon user Tom Corban takes a chance on Fujifilm for his event work. Does it pay off? Why not find out in this exciting rollercoaster of a read!

By Tom Corban

I went down with a crash. Almost immediately the mud started to seep through my trousers which were already soaked by the rain. I had cradled the two X-T1s in my arms as soon as I felt my feet sliding away from me. The rain had no affect on them, it just collected into droplets and ran off. The rain that fell on me however seemed to go into my bones. I sat up and looked around. I was surrounded by thousands of people all bent on having a good time – and succeeding. I looked down at the rain soaked cameras, it was then that I realised what I had become. How on earth did this happen?

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 25 June 2015. Aerial view of part of the Glastonbury Festival site from the Ribbon Tower. © Tom Corban

But first, a bit about me. 

I first became interested in photography at the age of 8 or 9.  My parents bought me my first camera as a birthday present shortly afterwards. As my interest grew I went to the public library to learn about processing and printing. I managed to acquire a second hand enlarger, a developing tank, some dishes and had managed to blackout my bedroom by hanging all the clothes I possessed over the window. This was well before the days of central heating, and I had a wall mounted infra red heater that glowed red which I used as a makeshift safelight when printing. Surprisingly this rather makeshift approach worked and the experience of seeing a print gradually appear as it was gently rocked in the developing tray was magical. I still have that sense of wonder when I look at prints today. The technology is different but the magic of creating a record of a moment that makes up life’s experiences remains. It gets even better when I can create an image that goes beyond straightforward recording something and which connects with other peoples emotions from when they saw or experienced something similar. That’s the reason I love combining travel and photography. It creates so many privileged situations and I find it increases the possibility of creating the types of images I love.

I continued to dabble with photography into my 20’s but life gets busy and a career in Public Service refocused my priorities until much later in life. Now with that career behind me (and contrary to public belief Public Service can have high job satisfaction and be fun) I have reengaged with photography and am now building a second career.

Why Fuji?

Why indeed. To be honest it all came as a bit of a surprise to me as I considered myself to be a Canon shooter.  I did buy an X100 when they first came out. I was seduced by the look and feel of it. The handling reminded me of and old Leica I used to own. I loved the simplicity, the clear controls and small size.

Unfortunately it did not work out for me. I found the focusing too slow and the camera stayed in a draw for a few years. In time the X100s was released but I was still not tempted. Eventually someone told me that Fuji had released updated firmware for the X100. It took me another few months before I downloaded it and gave it a try.

What a difference! It became the camera I thought I had bought in the first place. What impressed me more though was the fact that Fuji made the firmware available for the X100 rather than withholding it in order to get more people to to buy the X100s.

I thought that it was remarkable that a company would show such loyalty to its existing customers, especially in this day and age where incentives are only offered to new customers. I was so impressed with the improved handling that, when the X100t came out I bought one. I took it with me that same day when I took the dog out for a walk with the intention of trying it out. Nothing spectacular, just a nice shot of sheep and lambs in the sunshine on the Dorset coast with the sea as the background.

I was wondering if I could use the WiFi app to simplify my news workflow so, just to test things out,  I used the Fuji app to put an image on my phone and from there uploaded it to the news agency. It was only when the license fee arrived some months later that I realised that the image had been published on the Telegraph Online website before I got home. I love the simplicity and size of this camera, and unsurprisingly, my Canon 5D large and heavy by comparison.

I had a trip to Spain coming up and I really wanted to reduce the weight of the gear I was carrying in the backpack, so I decided to buy the X-A2 with the kit zoom lens and the 10-24 f4 lens. Although there were clear limitations compared to using the 5D kit there were also wonderful benefits. It was not just the weight either, I was less “visible” as a photographer. I could hand hold at lower shutter speeds, the electronic screen was wonderful in dark environments, the lenses were sharp and significantly I found that I was using the Jpeg files with little or no tweaking rather than the RAW files which resulted in less time in front of a computer screen. The GPS tagging via the Fuji phone app helped enormously when it came to captions and keywords. Overall a considerable saving of time.

It’s a slippery slope. I went and tried out an X-T1 with the idea of trading in my 5D mk 2 but keeping the 5D mk3. The logic being that I would have a lightweight travel kit and shoot news stuff using either the X-A2 and the X-T1, or the Canon 5D mk 3 and the X-T1 depending on the circumstances. On trying the X-T1 out, I found I loved it as much as the X100T, and it has the same WiFi capacity. I also found out that Cactus make some speedlight triggers that will allow Fuji cameras to use canon speedlights using the Cactus transmitter to control the power of the flash. That was it then, I bought one and a 50-140 f2.8 lens. I was intending to use it and the Canon 5D mk 3 a couple of weeks later at the Glastonbury Festival where I was one of the team of accredited photographers. As I prepared the kit for the event I wondered if those nice people at Fuji would lend me another X-T1 and a couple of lenses so I could cover the festival using only the lighter Fuji gear. Well-they can only say no.

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 23 June 2015. On the night before the Glastonbury Festival opens to the public festival participants build a small fire to keep warm. © Tom Corban

They said yes, which is how I came to be sitting in the mud in the company of 175,000 festival goers, countless volunteers, specialist staff, police, performers and somewhere on the site, that nice Mr Eavis. As I wiped the rain off the cameras and checked them for damage I realised I had become a “Fuji shooter”.

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 27 June 2015. Rain, what rain. Stilt wearing bicycle riders prepare to entertain the crowds in the Theatre & Circus area as Saturday turns into a scorcher. © Tom Corban

So how did it go?

Well it all went rather well, which was pleasantly surprising considering that the X-T1s were a new camera to me. The firmware in the cameras was 3.11. I had been hoping that version 4.0 with the significantly improved focusing would be available by the time the festival began. Unfortunately it wasn’t. Despite that, the focusing on the X-T1 was better than I expected. In most conditions it worked well and was accurate. I struggled with it a little in low light though and it was too slow for some fast moving situations. Having said that, I changed my technique over the course of the festival and my results improved.

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 28 June 2015. Roger Daltry and Pete Towshend, otherwisw known as The Who headline on the Pyramid Stage. © Tom Corban

Shooting the Pyramid Stage at night was the most difficult environment because of the rapidly changing lighting and the continually moving musicians. I ended up using continuous focusing, with the pre focusing switched on and the drive set to continuous fast. I also ramped the ISO up more than I would normally do and stopped the 50-140mm lens down a bit rather than using it wide open. To keep the speed up I shot Jpegs. With this combination, the number of sharp images increased dramatically. Unfortunately so did the overall number of images shot resulting in taking considerably longer to edit them. Up until then I had been shooting Raw and Jpegs intending to use the Jpegs and have the RAW files for anything where the Jpegs were inadequate. It’s a credit to Fuji’s technology that, despite some challenging lighting conditions the Jpegs remained superb throughout. With exquisite bad timing I picked up an email as I walked out of the festival on the Monday morning saying that Fuji just released the significantly improved version 4 Firmware!

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 26 June 2015. Several heavy downpours soaked the crowd during the afternoon. Despite the soaking spirits remained high and the Glastonbury mood prevailed. © Tom Corban

The camera’s handled well and sat in my hand nicely with most of the controls easily accessible. It was a bit tricky at first to change the focus point with the function buttons on the back, but that improved as I got used to the camera. Even so replacing the OK/Menu button with a joystick control that would perform both the OK/Menu control and move the focus point would be wonderful. Like all these things though, its about getting the right balance and I am aware that such a change may not be possible without compromising the size and style of the camera body.

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 26 June 2015. Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 26 June 2015. Nadya Tolokonnikova addresses the Left Field where large crowds attended to hear her and Masha Alekhina, the founding members of Pussy Riot, talk about their experience of the Russian Prison system and their continuing fight for human rights. © Tom Corban

Having the shutter speed, the ISO setting, the drive and the exposure compensation easily accessible via dials on the top of the camera was wonderful. Perhaps it was because I spent my early life using cameras with that sort of arrangement but I took to it immediately and it felt more natural that having to go through a menu system, especially with the ISO setting. This ease of access combined with the Electronic Viewfinder meant that I could accurately assess difficult lighting conditions and make the necessary exposure compensation without having to take a shot and play it back on the LCD to check the histogram.

The combination of one body with the 16-55 f2.8 and the other with the 50-140 f2.8 worked really well. Most of the images were created with these two lenses. It made working fast and easy. Given small size and low weight of the kit it also made swapping between cameras fast and easy. I don’t like changing lenses when I am working in this sort of environment as I have to work fast and upload news pictures soon after they are taken. Dust on the sensor slows down the processing stage enormously.  When I did change lenses though, I did not get any dust problems, or if I did the built in sensor cleaning mechanism got rid of it. I don’t know if I was just lucky of if the design of the Fuji sensor made a difference but it was a refreshing change.

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 29 June 2015. On the morning after the Festival ends a weary revellers make their way up the hill and out of the Festival Site. © Tom Corban

After a couple of days using the cameras, when I had got to the stage of not having to think about it I began to really enjoy them. The fun and experimentation of photography seemed to be coming back and I really enjoyed using the tilting LCD screen which made it easier to shoot from unusual angles. I also was not getting the aches and pains I was used to in these sort of environments. Given that I was on my feet and working from about 7:00 am to 1:30 am the next morning (with a short break sometime in the afternoon) I felt remarkably relaxed.

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 27 June 2015. The Glastonberry Festival relies on many voluntary Stewards who need no encouragement to enter into the efestival spirit. © Tom Corban

As I enjoyed this new found freedom it all went wrong..

I had found somewhere to sit and have a coffee. As I stood up I realised that I had lost a camera. As the knot in my stomach formed my mind tried to work out where I had been and where I could have left it. My pulse rate went up as I started to take straps belts and bags off so that I could find out if I had lost my camera or the one Fuji had loaned me. Neither, they were both still there. So what had I lost?  I checked the other lenses, the Speedlight, the other accessories. They were all still there.

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 28 June 2015. Lionel Richie performs live during his first ever British festival appearance in the traditional Sunday “legend” spot on the Pyramid Stage on Sunday at the 2015 Glastonbury Festival. © Tom Corban
Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 28 June 2015. A youngster shows her appreciation as Lionel Richie performs live during his first ever British festival appearance in the traditional Sunday “legend” spot on the Pyramid Stage on Sunday at the 2015 Glastonbury Festival. © Tom Corban

All that had happened was that I had got used to using the cameras and had forgotten about them. I had stood up, and being used to carrying two Canon 5Ds with L series lenses attached, the load I was carrying was so light that I thought I had lost a camera. This happened a few times over the subsequent days, that sudden feeling of panic followed by a feeling of relief, then foolishness.

One final thing worth mentioning is the viewfinder. Its fabulous.

One of the reasons I bought full frame cameras in the past was that I had used the C type sensors and was not impressed with the size of the image in the viewfinder. The X-T1 viewfinder with its magnification factor and “Full” mode is a joy to use. For me it was a game changer.

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 28 June 2015. As the festival gets into full swing for the last day the Emergency Exit Company Staff Team with their Disco Turtle and deep sea entourage, hold their Office Party. © Tom Corban

So in summary, as I said earlier, it all went rather well. In a couple of heavy downpours the cameras, the 16-55 f2.8 and the 50-140 f2.8 were unaffected, It seems that the weather resistance really does work. The X-T1 is a joy to use, handles well and is robust & light. The lenses are sharp and considering the max aperture, remarkably light. The combination of the 16-55 and 50-140 were used most of the time (although I must confess to having a soft spot for the 10-24mm). The focusing with the 3.11 firmware is not up to the speed of a DSLR but the version 4 firmware seems to be a considerable improvement.

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 29 June 2015. On the morning after the Festival ends a weary reveller makes her way up the hill and out of the Festival Site. © Tom Corban

So what next?

Well I have just started the planning for a 6 week trip to India and its definitely the Fuji camera’s that will be coming with me. And, if you would like to see more of my work please visit me at:

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, UK. 29 June 2015. As the festival goers leave the site seagulls move in for the pickings. © Tom Corban


Learn more and buy now

Click here to find retailers selling the Fujifilm X-T1

To learn more about the XF16-55mm click here

To learn more about the XF50-140mm click here

9 thoughts on “To Glastonbury and beyond with Tom Corban”

    1. Hi Lupikp.
      Thanks for the comment. Sadly I don’t have to worry about the correct use of punctuation when writing about two X-T1s as one of them was on loan and has now been returned to those nice people at Fuji and I am now down to the singular !
      Best Wishes

    1. Hi hagisbasheruk

      Glad you like the XT-1, its certainly a lot lighter than my Canon gear.

      The wifi to phone workflow below is the one I use for news images where speed is of the essence. Its based on an iPhone. It sounds a bit complicated but in reality its not. Its also quicker than it sounds.
      Its based on two stages. The first removes both rejects and images I want to keep but not use at this time in order to make a final image choice without being confused or distracted. The second stage involves editing the selected images, adding headlines and captions, then sending them to the news agency.
      The workflow is as follows:

      I review the images on the camera LCD screen checking for sharpness at 100%. I will often use a Hoodman Loope which makes it a lot easier as it will cut out all the daylight. You have to remember to set the “viewmode” button to LCD only. If you leave it on “eyesensor” then as soon as you put the Loope on the LCD it will automatically switch to the EVF mode and turn the LCD off. I will delete any images that are not sharp or are clearly not up to scratch. I must admit that I have never really been a fan of this sort of editing in camera as I was told that it could lead to problems with the memory card, but so far I have not come unstuck.

      Using the Fujifilm Camera Remote app (available for iPhone and Android from the Fuji website) I transfer the images to the iPhone. This is a really easy app to use and put the pictures straight into the Camera Roll Album on the iPhone. Incidentally the app does much more than just transfer images, it also gives you the ability to control the camera remotely and the facility to add GPS information to your images while shooting. I find this invaluable with my travel work.

      I will then review the images on the iPhone, again going to 100% in order to select favorites. This is easier to do on the phone as I find that swiping between images makes comparisons easier than doing it in camera. I cant find a way of displaying the file names when I view the images on the phone so I have to flag the best ones up as favorites so they show up in the “Favorites Album” and therefore can be easily identified. This makes it easy to do a quick review of the small number of images selected in this way and “unfavorite” any that are weak or similars. This will give me the final images I intend to use.

      I will “select” all of the images left in the “Favorites Album” and transfer them into a new Album, giving it the same name as the headline I intend to use when uploading the images.

      At this stage I use an app called Photogene (not sure if it has an Android version or not). I rate the app highly. Photogene lets you do basic editing such as Shadow/Highlight, White Balance, Crop and Straightening etc. It also shows Exif data and lets you edit IPTC data. Its not good for culling and comparing images though, which is why I make the final image selection before using it. The import into Photogene is straightforward giving me a choice of what album to import from. At this stage the sorting done earlier pays off as I can go straight to the new album set up in stage 4. Its important to note that Photogene does not recognise the “Favorites Album”. If I had not moved the selected images into a new album they would still show up in the Camera Roll Album mixed up with all the other photos. As I said earlier I have not found a way of getting the filenames to show. So, no filenames and no “Favorites Album” means that you cant recognise your chosen images when you come to import them into Photogene.

      In addition to letting you write IPTC data such as headlines and captions, Photogene also has a good export facility where you can export to email, twitter,facebook,flicker, dropbox etc. Significantly for me it has a FTP export setting so I can use this to export via FTP straight to the news agency I use.

      In practice I often prepare the headlines and a basic caption in advance, then amend it as necessary on upload. Depending on the circumstances of the shoot (and what the weather is like) I can probably work through the process in about 15 minutes if all goes well. In complicated situations it takes longer.
      My preference however is to use a laptop and Photo Mechanic software. In reality though I don’t always have a computer with me and given the need for speed, the wifi capability of the XT-1 is fabulous.

      Hope this helps (and is not too confusing)



  1. Nice reading your article on the X-T1, so many thoughts i could have though of myself, especially as you write in the end about your trip to India, which was for me just about a year ago the reason to make a switch to the X-T1, which also to me was a bit of a gamble which just worked out fine !

  2. Thanks for the comment. Glad the XT-1 worked out for you in India. We have just booked the flights so we are committed. I enjoyed your website, some of your pictures have really heightened my excitement at going to India. Some of your photos look like Kathmandu- fabulous stuff. Looking at them made ma want to g back there.

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