Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography?
I’m a photographer based just outside of Bath, UK. Reading books as a child was all about the pictures. I’m a visual person and love to create. I guess being a visual person photography has become a natural creative outlet for me. I’ve had an interest in photography for as long as I can remember, I don’t recall a specific moment that made me fall in love with taking pictures, it’s just been a life long love that crept up on me.
I did the whole college course thing, read books (looked at the pictures) and tried to improve my photographic knowledge and skills. My first ‘real camera’ was an Olympus OM-1n. Learning on film was slow and expensive.
In 2004, I moved to a digital DSLR with which digital photography brought a whole new learning curve. But the addition of Photoshop and digital processing really opened up a new world of creative options for me.
I think that having children of my own was what really got me hooked. I started to appreciate the significance of capturing moments in time. Kids are one of the most challenging and rewarding subjects to photograph.
As my photography progressed I found myself leaning towards studio shooting as a firm favourite, as I liked being able to experiment and control light. I don’t think that you can beat great natural light but you are at the mercy of mother nature – when you are shooting to a schedule, artificial light is your friend.
Why did you choose to shoot with the Fujifilm X series?
I have always been an SLR shooter, but it got to a point where my gear was impractical to carry everywhere with me. Even carrying a “Lightweight” bag wasn’t really that portable – and after a whole day on the shoulder you certainly felt it.
My journey into the X-System started with the X100 in 2012. This gave me the quality that I wanted in a small & light package. As a result, I started to carry a camera about with me everywhere.
Having used the X100 for a while I found that I was using my SLR system less and less for personal work. And when the X-T1 came out I decided to take the jump – flogged my SLR kit and moved to Fuji. The layout of the controls on the X-T1 is an absolute godsend for me. I love being able to turn a physical dial for all the important stuff and in 2015, I used the X-T1 for a 365 project. I used it with just the XF18-55mm and a Samyang 12mm. This little combo went everywhere with me, everyday for a whole year.
It didn’t let me down, not once.
I don’t consider myself to be a niche photographer. If I see something that interests me, I’ll shoot it. I enjoy portraiture and people do make up the majority of my work. Part of the appeal of the Fuji system was its small size. When photographing people with the X100 or X-T1 it stays out of the way so I can get a better connection with my subject, it’s less imposing.
What is your favourite lens in our range and why?
I guess with portraiture making up the majority of my work, it has to be my most recent addition – The 50-140 f2.8. Yes it is starting to get into heavy gear territory but not so much that I notice it. The quality of this lens is simply stunning, at any focal length and at any aperture.
The above image was shot using the X-T1 and 50-140mm in very low light (using UV) the autofocus had no problems locking on, and the OIS really helped here.
It’s great in the studio too. Having the flexibility of a zoom really helps. If your lucky enough to have the extra space you can make the most of it -from mid telephoto to telephoto gives a great deal of flexibility quickly without breaking your flow.
Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?
I’ll admit that I’m not the most organised photographer. I don’t plan things in any great detail and tend to shoot by feel. When shooting people it’s always tricky to get them to relax in front of the camera, very few people feel completely at ease under the spot light – even models. Communication before the shoot is key – even if you don’t have every last detail planned, share what you do know with your client.
When you are ready to shoot, don’t. Put the camera down and talk to your victim (I mean subject). The usual pleasantries are fine, “How was the traffic” or talk about the weather (I’m allowed, I’m British) anything to break the ice and try to build rapport.
Once I’m all set up a trick I often use is to ask my subject to keep looking in my general direction and don’t worry about me. I tell a little white lie and say that I’m just testing my light / exposure to make sure I get everything set up correctly. I know my gear and through experience I know my settings are fine. The thing is that the subject doesn’t think that the photos will be used. I find quite often these first few frames can be the most natural.
The image above was taken with a beauty dish against a white wall, using the “Don’t mind me I’m just mucking about technique”
Talking of mucking about, relax and enjoy yourself. Everyone likes to have fun and a bit of silliness now and again makes great images.
What’s next for you?
The last 12 months or so have been amazing for me. I’ve met so many great new people through photography. I’ll keep on getting out and about, planning shoots and producing more themed work. The summer will soon be here and I’m hoping to be ready for it. I’m always on the lookout for a great location that can be used to shoot in / on / over / under. I have a couple of things in the pipeline that are still just concepts at present but will develop over the next few months – I just need to find the time somewhere !
To see more of Andy’s work, please visit his website and social channels.
When I’m heading out for a long day(s) in the outdoors this is the kind of equipment I usually take with me. Now it may be more than you would ever need, but for those looking to get into landscape or wildlife photography, particularly those about to head out on safari – this blog is for you.
A bag for your gear
There are too many camera bags in the world, meaning that the choice available is verging on ridiculous! If there is one item that ignites G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) over anything else it is probably camera bags. I’m currently using a Pelican 1510 hard case with a Thinktank Ultralight (discontinued) that fits inside the case. This basically acts like a backup backpack as it isn’t the comfiest bag for long treks, so it generally acts as a safe and secure place to store gear. I took this set up to Costa Rica because I’m based there for such a long time so the pain of travelling with such a heavy pack was negated by the benefits it offers me over the six months away, namely water-tight, lockable security.
For when I’m out and about I have two non-camera bags to choose from: Millican Dave, a great hiking bag that when combined with a cheap padded insert becomes a very good camera bag. Or a dry bag backpack which I often use on light treks where the conditions are looking a little ominous. This isn’t to say that Dave isn’t up to the challenge (he’s pretty good at being water repellent and has rain cover), but out here in the rainforest, when it rains, it pours! And having a bag that can in fact be submerged helps to ease the mind. The advantage of both of these bags is that they are easy to stuff lots of items into. One of the issues I usually have with camera bags is that once all of it is padded, it has lost of significant percentage of space for misc items. Misc items are usually seen as add ons with certain bag companies, leaving little room for other helpful items, so hiking bags can be really helpful non-camera gear.
What photography equipment do I take?
2 x X-T1 (fantastic all-round cameras, definitely brought the X-Series to a wider audience, and very much looking forward to trying out the new X-Pro2!)
X100s (Out of all the Fujifilm cameras I’m lucky enough to have this is the one I’d probably sell last! Does everything very well, wonderful lens/camera, makes you think much more about your photography. Above all else, it is small enough to carry around everywhere. So some of my most treasured photos are taken with this because otherwise it would have been left to my phone. Combined with the wide angle and telephoto adapters, makes for a brilliant little system. I haven’t had the chance to work with the T yet.)
XF10-24mm (Almost perfect – fantastic lens, hoping for a WR version in the near future.)
XF16mm (Generates so much creativity, from the extremely close focusing to the fantastic depth of field control, 24mm equiv. is quickly becoming my favourite focal length.)
XF16-55mm (Fantastic workhorse of a lens, built to last and equipped with image quality to make any prime-lover happy.)
Soon to be – XF35mm F2 (when I get back to the UK this is high up on my list – 50mm equiv. lens, small, fast and discrete WITH WR!)
XF50-140mm (My most used lens – can’t really say a bad word about it, produces the goods every time, simply fantastic!)
Nikon 300mm F2.8 ED Manual focus (The elephant in the room, because my current role is focusing on birds, I needed something longer than 200mm equiv. As the much anticipated:
XF100-400mm Isn’t quite out yet I opted for a quirky alternative… Yes it is heavy, yes it is manual focus, but thankfully peaking assist and a sturdy tripod help to make this a viable option. Nevertheless, my back is looking forward to Fujifilm’s new super telephoto zoom!)
Fujifilm extension tubes and Nikon 2x teleconverter (yep, that gives me a 900mm equiv. lens… Absolutely bonkers!!)
Filter system (Depends on what you prefer to photograph but I highly recommend a neutral density graduated filter set up and a circular polariser.)
Flash system (Lots of options out there, depends what you can afford/prioritise – space or power output.)
Things to always keep in your bag
Get some silica packs and store some in your backpack, these can be the difference in saving your precious lenses. Many believe that fungus is an issue reserved for older lenses, unfortunately this isn’t the case, and in particular non-weather resistant lenses are vulnerable so please look after your expensive investments! Bearing that mind, always have some lens cleaner and lens cloths in your bag. You never know when a speck of mud or raindrop will ‘attack’ your lens. Though easy to deal with they can easily ruin a photo, so best to deal with any artefacts asap.
Other items I have in my bag:
Duck tape (If you use lights in particular duck tape can be invaluable to secure lights in obscure locations to light your photos or simply to repair your watertight gear)
Pen knife (Always ends up being useful for different things but of course be mindful of this when travelling internationally.)
Table top tripod (Lets face it, tripods are always annoying to carry around and generally always scream PHOTOGRAPHER, but they are invaluable for certain situations. Nevertheless on some occasions you might not be carrying around a full size tripod so as a small, light back up is generally a good idea, so have a little tripod in the bag.)
Remote trigger (I have a variety from wired to wireless, all with their own pros and cons)
Rain cover (Generally not for me as in the tropics it is nice to get rained on! But I have a cover for my camera if I’m still shooting in moist conditions.)
Rogue Flashbender (A relatively inexpensive flash accessory, easy to pack and very effective, especially when used off-camera to help quickly improve a portrait.)
Food and water (Especially if you are trekking, these are the most important items to have on you!)
Insect repellent (Insects love me so I usually carry some form of bug spray, DEET is the best but pretty grim stuff to cover yourself with so I have a natural remedy that I prefer. Also a form Vitamin B is meant to be good for repelling mosquitoes so if you know you’re off to a problem region then start some Vitamin B pills or alternatively marmite.)
Hat and layers (Yes suncream helps to fight off sunburn but a hat can make all the difference when you are out all day. Depending on where you are, the weather conditions can change quickly so it is important to have spare clothes if it is likely to get cold.)
Rehydration sachets + general medication (You can never fully guarantee what is going to happen when you go out and about so it is best to carry some simple things with you to negate any ‘niggles’ that could hamper your day.)
Communication (Generally a normal mobile phone to contact anyone if necessary. Not for selfie usage!)
Scarf/shall (This might sound strange, being described as a ‘must have’ item, but they have a wide range of uses, from portable shade, towel, dust remover, etc.)
Thick straps, and a comfy all-round design. Makes long days so much more enjoyable!
Other items to pack in the hold:
Sensor cleaning kit (I’ve made the mistake far too many times of not bringing this with me and regretting it pretty quickly. The X-Series is very good for countering this problem, especially considering how often I change lens, but it’s best to pack safe.)
Spare chargers/cables (This may well be over the top for certain trips but if you are going into very remote regions the last thing you want is to not be able to charge your batteries or download your photos.)
Kit care in the tropics
Taking a look at the gear I have brought with me to Costa Rica. From camera gear to items keeping the cameras working, I hope this will give you a good visual representation of what to take on your next adventure!
Keep your kit dry
If visiting the tropics or areas where conditions can often be very humid then it is important to figure out a way of keeping your kit dry, generally wiping away any moisture and having some silica gels in your bag should be fine but for my current placement I created a form of ‘dry space’, an area which I draped a tarpaulin in front of and had a light bulb at the top, this is generally left on whenever it is raining and works as a dry location to keep kit dry, anything slightly damp is kept as close as possible to the light bulb to dry it out and to hopefully kill off any fungus.
My camera bag system is constantly evolving but hopefully this will help some of you looking to take your camera into the great outdoors. First and foremost, remember to enjoy yourself, that is the priority. Cameras are wonderful tools for enjoyment and capturing moments, but don’t let the very item you use to capture moments get in the way of them. If you have any suggestions or ideas for other things to take with you in the great outdoors then comment below.
Until next time, happy shooting!
A little about Ben
Ben is an environmental photojournalist, zoologist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. His passion is showing the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Find more of his work at:
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?
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 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.
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”.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
I was lucky enough to receive the TCL-X100 for Christmas and have barely had it off my X100s since. My beloved X100s goes with me everywhere and this is why it is probably my favourite camera. Though the TCL does make it far less ‘pocketable’, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyable shooting experience. The jump from 35mm to 50mm equiv. doesn’t sound like much but it does change how you shoot with this camera. It is definitely better for portraits, where the narrower angle of view helps to isolate a subject.
In terms of how this affects image quality and auto focus, I haven’t really noticed any difference, the images are still coming out wonderfully and auto focus doesn’t seem to have been affected in real world situations.
What is nice about this converter is that it is so simple, no electronics, just a well made metal barrel filled with beautiful glass. This is nice as it doesn’t add anymore complexity to X100 series shooting, which is so wonderfully simple and intuitive. Combined with the WCL-X100, this gives you a lens set up option of 28mm, 35mm or 50mm equiv. focal length, giving this little package a whole lot of usage options.
Though the original joy of the X100 series is that it is a fixed lens, the ability to simply screw on an adapter for a wider or narrower lens option makes this a really flexible set up.
The XF35mm F1.4 is a gorgeous lens but the benefit of using the TCL-X100 over the 35mm for portraits, especially using lights, is the leaf shutter which gives me flash syncing up to 1/1000 second! Yes I lose a stop from F1.4-F2, but generally for low light situations when working I would have the XF23mm F1.4 and the XF56mm F1.2 because they are wonderfully fast and sharp. I’m sure there are people who will still prefer the XF35mm F1.4 over this converter but for me it is going to replace it.
Have you had a go with the TCL-X100? If so then let us know what you think of it. Any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.