Earlier this year Castel Film Studio in Bucharest, Romania, underwent a dramatic makeover. The studio’s backlot streets, previously the location of a Gothic horror movie, were re-modelled into 1900 Milwaukee, the setting of a new movie set in the American Midwest at the turn of the century. A cast of American and British actors filmed over 3 months, helped on a daily basis by up to 500 Romanian extras and backgrounds actors.
As the stills photographer on the film, I took the opportunity to use the X-Pro2 on set for the first time. Stills cameras on movie sets – usually SLR’s – have to be silent to prevent any shutter sound being picked up by microphones or disturbing the actors during a take. To silence the shutter the camera and lens is housed inside a blimp – a soundproof housing that lets you shoot during the filming of a scene. Heavy and slightly awkward to use, the blimps have only limited camera controls on the outside; changing camera settings necessitates opening the housing. The silent shutter mode of the X-Pro2 was immediately attractive; and shooting without a blimp meant saving 1.4 kg of weight around my neck.
Child extra resting between takes
Stand-in actress on interior set during lighting set up
Background actor on lunch break
I used the X-Pro2 extensively to photograph the extras and a lot of the set decoration, often switching the format on the X-Pro2 to a 1:1 ratio. This allowed the pictures to be quickly uploaded in square format on to social media to market and publicise the movie. Light levels on set, especially the interiors, were often very low, and the X-Pro2 at ISO 4000 with the XF35mm f1.4 lens worked amazingly well, even when shooting at maximum aperture.
Background actor on interior set
Camera crew on ladders
Actors on interior set
There are a number of great features on the X-Pro2; the format change option, live view when changing colour temperature selection, and the silent electronic shutter are among many outstanding choices. One irritation I have with the camera is the battery life – it’s not the best so I always carry spares.
Animal wrangler resting between takes with his horses
Castel studios backlot and re-created Milwaukee street
Movie extra resting between takes
I am currently working on a film in Germany, and am now using two X-Pro2’s with 23, 35 and 56mm lenses. So have I given up on the heavy blimp and SLR combination and switched over entirely to X-Pro2’s? No not yet; there are still some on-set circumstances where the SLR & blimp combination works better for me; but the size, weight, electronic viewfinder and options such as format change of the X-Pro2’s is pushing me ever closer to the edge of change.
Like the cliche of many photographers, I got into taking pictures by means of my dad letting me have a go on his camera, which he then struggled to get back. I ended up taking photography all the way to University, doing a degree course at The University of Plymouth and graduating with a first in 2011. I was lucky enough (and through spending my summers doing work experience at local papers) to be offered a job coming out of university for South West News Service (SWNS), one of the largest agencies in the UK, and for the last four years that’s where I’ve been, covering news and features for the national papers.
One of the highlights of being a press photographer in the South West of England is having the opportunity to shoot Glastonbury Festival each year. If ever there was an event that you could fill your entire photography portfolio within a matter of days, this would be it. Everything from portraits, to music, to all the quirky stuff that happens there, it’s a photographers dream. The last few years I had been shooting on my Canon gear, and believe me, after 5 days of lugging it around a mud strewn festival site that spans the size of a small City, you start to feel it. So this year I planned something different, I thought I would try using the Fujifilm X-T1 system to cover the festival. Armed with the X-T1, 16-55mm 2.8, 56mm 1.2, 50-140mm 2.8 and the 23mm 1.4, I took to the, for the most part, sunny fields of Glastonbury for one of the biggest festivals of the year.
The first obvious thing I noticed was just how light the little X-T1 was, even when paired with a long, fast zoom. It made light work of the arrival shots, which was of course the somewhat predictable shots of guys and girls arriving with too many bags and crates of booze.
That evening, it was a trip up to the stone circle as thousands of people watched the sun set over the massive site by the Glastonbury sign. I tried out a few panoramas here using the built-in mode on the X-T1, which worked perfectly and really gave a good sense of scale to the site, which is the size of a town!
Throughout the rest of the festival, it was a classic mix of music and colour shots. Come rain, shine, night or day I was out and about with the camera. And, the size & weight of the camera really meant I didn’t feel like crawling into my tent for a rest. Well, at least not until the wee hours of the morning. I was also blown away by the quality of the images produced as well. For a non full frame camera it was fantastic in low light with very usable high ISOs, and when it came to editing some of the built in film emulation presets made it easy to give a stylised look to the images.
After using the camera and lenses for the best part of a week, I found my favourite lens to be a fight between the 16-55mm and the 56mm. But the 16-55 might have just stolen the show with its weather sealing. It was much needed come the Friday when the heavens opened for the first of two deluges that weekend. I was confident enough that the camera and lens wouldn’t give up, even though the rain really was coming down and the mud started to build up in true Glastonbury style.
I think the key to photographing Glastonbury is to approach it with an open mind. There are pictures everywhere you look. Interesting people, music, and just the vast site that the festival is based on. Having a camera with you at all times means you’ll never miss a shot and that’s what I really loved about the Fuji system. I could carry around a body and a couple of lenses and not feel like I needed a trip to the chiropractor afterwards. Oh, and of course the main thing to remember when covering Glastonbury…wellies. NEVER forget your wellies.
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I’ve been a massive fan of Canon since becoming a professional photographer around ten years ago. Photography is in my blood, passing down through family generations, and I currently shoot around 60 to 70 weddings a year in Staffordshire, Cheshire and throughout the UK.
I had been reading some excellent reviews about the new Fuji X-T1 cameras and lenses. Lightweight, portable, compact and an incredible (EVF) electronic viewfinder which enabled the user to see live changes including white balance, exposure and so on.
And yet, was I really ready to move from my trustworthy Canon 5D MKIII’s and 1DX to the lightweight Fuji X-T1?
I contacted Fuji regarding loan units but all the loan units were out with other photographers. So here’s the brave bit. I jumped straight in and traded-in my tried, tested and trustworthy Canon 1DX there and then for the new Fuji X-T1, together with the 56mm f1.2 and 23mm F1.4 lenses.
And the results? Incredible. Fuji had since then gone on to loan me an XF16-55 F2.8 and XF50-140 F2.8 lenses to use with the X-T1. Although I was apprehensive at first to use this new Fuji equipment at weddings, I eventually found myself over the past month or so using it more and more.
Here’s why I was so blown away with the results:
• The lightweight and compact Fuji X-T1 camera has revolutionised my working day – more portable, increased maneuverability, and less back-ache!
• The EVF is amazing – One massive advantage and top tip. When shooting manual focus or ‘back button focusing’ I get a split screen image in the EVF which contains a 100% preview of the focus point and a overall framed image. I am also able to adjust and see live results of exposure changes giving me a full knowledge of exactly what the finalised image will look like. In fact, I’ve found myself shooting fully manual most of the day as opposed to 60-80% Aperture priority on the Canon’s.
• The nifty folding screen helps me to reach those awkward high-up shots and low-down shots much more easily, albeit reaching high above the bride during bridal preparation or shooting low, such as ground or water level.
• The 56mm F1.2 lens is amazing – it’s one of the sharpest lenses I have ever worked with.
• And the 50-140mm F2.8 lens is really good too, in fact, seriously good – the lens is pin sharp throughout the whole focal range.
• Amazing natural light images are captured, the colour warmth and depth to the images is stunning. If you process in Lightroom like myself I would strongly advise changing the ‘Camera Calibration Profile’ back to Fuji’s own profile as Lightroom as a tendency of applying ‘Adobe Standard’ to all imported images. The photographs seem to show a ‘film look’ using Fuji’s profile and can be a little bland when using Adobe Standard.
Any negatives? Not many. I need three or four batteries to get me through the day (bit more than usual). And, with only one SD card, I miss that automatic back-up throughout the day. Plus, the Fuji focus tracking falls a little short of Canon’s. And I still prefer to work with raw images, despite Fuji’s track-record on JPG quality.
And finally, the million-dollar question..
Would I recommend the Fujifilm X-T1 and the above mentioned lenses to other wedding photographers?
Most definitely, yes. The 16-55 f2.8 is a direct competitor for the Canon 24-70 f2.8 and the 50-140 f2.8 for the Canon 70-200, pretty bold statements I know as these lenses have such a proven track record and any wedding photographer will tell you these are the ‘must have’ lenses.
The 10th July 2015 was a landmark date in the history of Nottinghamshire. When the last shift at Thoresby Colliery finished on that day not only did it mark the end of 90 years of mining in the village of Edwinstowe but it signals the end of mining in Nottinghamshire.
The pit opened in 1925 and over the years has employed tens of thousands of local people. It was one of 46 coalmines in Nottinghamshire, which supplied more than 14 million tonnes of coal per year at their peak in the early 1960s.
The first two shafts were sunk to 690m in 1925 and subsequently deepened in the 1950s to the current pit bottom at around 900m depth.
Thoresby Colliery was the first to have fully mechanised coal production and also the first to achieve an annual saleable output of more than a million tons, it became a star performer in the British coal mining industry.
In the late 1980s it raised output to exceed 2 million tons, regularly smashing it’s production records, and the colliery became known as the Jewel in the crown of Nottinghamshire mines. A crown sits proudly on the headstocks in recognition of this achievement.
When the coal industry was nationalised in 1947 it employed a million men at 1,503 pits; prior to the miners’ strike in 1984, there were 180,000 miners at 170 pits. Today there are just two deep mines left, employing about 5,000 men, at Thoresby and Kellingley in Yorkshire. Kellingley will suffer the same fate as Thoresby and closes in the autumn.
UK Coal say market pressures have led to the closure of Thoresby Colliery. Coal generates more than a third of Britain’s electricity, but it is cheaper to import coal from countries such as Russia, South Africa and Colombia than to mine it in the UK.
For the past few months I have been recording the colliery, it’s buildings, plant and people for posterity. It was my aim to create a comprehensive record of the pit at a specific point in time immediately prior to its closure.
It was a chance conversation after giving a camera club lecture that started the ball rolling. A chap in the audience worked at Thoresby and was unfortunately in the first wave of redundancies. He asked if I would be interested in visiting the colliery to take a few pictures. It was a fantastic opportunity and I jumped at the chance. He put me in touch with the Health and Safety manager, I explained what I would like to do and we were off and running. It was at this point, after I had gained their agreement to document the colliery, that the full extent of the task dawned on me.
Starting the project
I visited the colliery on seven occasions, at different times of day, in different lighting conditions, including dawn and dusk. I planned each shoot but found that an outline plan whilst retaining a degree of flexibility to react to opportunities worked best.
At the outset I just toured the site to give me an understanding of the buildings, the machinery, the operation and the people. I took snaps to create a digital scrapbook to help me plan my approach. Essentially I was imbibing the atmosphere much as I would do when visiting a foreign destination for the first time. I wanted to get a real feeling for the place before I started the photography in earnest.
Health & Safety manager Grant was so supportive of my visits giving me more time than I could have wished for. Even coming in at 3.30am for a dawn shoot and returning to work late in the evening to get “the best of the light” didn’t diminish his enthusiasm. In fact he joked that, after watching me, he would now be able to take the best holiday snaps ever! I hope he does.
All of the images were shot on a Fujifilm X-T1 or X-E1 camera using a selection of Fujifilm XF lenses including the 10-24, 18-55 and 55-200 zoom lenses and 14, 23, 35 and 56mm primes. I also used a Nissin i40 flash for some shots, though preferred to use natural light wherever possible.
For my portraits, the unobtrusive Fuji equipment allowed me to concentrate on building a rapport with my subjects rather than intimidate them with a large DSLR and f2.8 lens combination. Miners might be tough guy’s and supermodels they certainly are not but they seemed to relax pretty quickly in front of my Fuji lenses.
There were several challenges to overcome not least the light levels that were typically pretty low in all of the buildings. Because of the poor light I used a tripod fitted with a ball and socket head for as many shots as possible. My cameras are fitted with arca swiss type plates so that I can switch from landscape format to portrait very easily and without having to waste time readjusting the tripod.
The mix of different light sources from tungsten, to fluorescent and natural meant it was difficult to assess the ideal colour temperature. However the decision early on to convert all the images to black & white certainly helped counter that problem!
In a coal mine dust was another inevitable and unavoidable issue. As the miners told me it’s not only the dust you can see that is the problem and I was very careful when changing lenses and using two bodies certainly helped. Thankfully the in camera sensor cleaning worked well and I was pleasantly surprised at the minimum amount of dust spotting required.
Working on a project
As my photography has progressed I have found that I prefer to look at a series of images that tell a story rather than seeing individual impactful pictures. Whilst I have adopted this storytelling approach in my travel and landscape photography this project was a whole different ballgame. This wasn’t going to be a six or ten image set but a large body of work that had to be planned and created in a certain style. I found this experience fascinating, though at first it was pretty daunting. However after a couple of visits I had captured some shots I was very pleased with and the plan started to fall into place. I think the discipline required in a project such as this has helped me to improve my photography and it felt good to be succeeding in this new genre of social documentary photography.
In an attempt to capture the “feel” of the colliery, and to bring completeness to the project, I also recorded various sounds around the pit and organised a series of interviews with miners past and present. I will be producing mini AV’s including these sounds and using the miner’s comments in my presentations.
It is very easy to stick to what we know in photography and limit yourself to a particular genre. Whilst my experience as a travel photographer, where you are required to be adept at many different genres, undoubtedly helped me there were aspects of this project that were not so familiar. As a result I feel I have grown as a photographer and I would urge you to move out of your comfort zone and try something new. There will be similar opportunities in your area, seek and ye shall find!
Capturing a piece of history
As I progressed through the project I realised that I was not only taking pictures for myself but that I was actually recording a piece of history, an enduring record of a place that, in just a few months time, would be gone forever. With that came a feeling of responsibility, not only to do myself justice but also to represent the life and work of the mining community. Apart from my family photographs, this project is the most important and worthwhile piece of work that I have ever created. Whilst there is clearly interest in the work now, what will its importance be in another 10 or 20 years?
A personal perspective
This project has been a fantastic experience. It has improved my photography, taken me into a different genre and enlightened my knowledge of an otherwise mysterious industry.
It has been a pleasure to work with the team at Thoresby, without whom I would not have been able to produce this body of work. Whilst the colliery may not draw its workers from the immediate village area, as in years gone by, their camaraderie, team spirit, hard work and no nonsense attitude in this tough and uncompromising industry epitomise the best of British workers. The closure of Thoresby truly is the end of an era.
I feel it is important to showcase my images to as wide an audience as possible, especially in the local area. Therefore, after securing feature in the local and national press, I will be staging a major exhibition in Nottinghamshire and am planning to produce a book – more details to follow.