What's My Genre and Where Do I Fit In?

I've been a photographer for a very long time and I find it hard to find one type of photography to focus on.  Some people say in order to be successful as a photographer you need focus.  Do one type of photography and be the best at that.  Put that out to the world with a consistent style and you will make a name for yourself.  I get that, consistency is king.  When you look at an Instagram account that has more than 10k followers chances are good that the images presented have a theme.  The majority of successful photographers are known for what they shoot.  When you hear the name Pete Souza you think Obama, Anne Geddes you think babies, Ansel Adams, Yosemite and the list goes on and on. My question is, is that a requirement for success?  

I love landscapes.  I've been an outdoorsy type person from a very young age.  I've been drawn to Yosemite and the rest of the sierras all of my life.  I've lived in Mammoth Lakes and Lake Tahoe.  I also believe I have made some beautiful landscape images over the years.

Yosemite Valley shot from the tunnel view parking area.  This obligatory location for every Yosemite photographer.

Yosemite Valley shot from the tunnel view parking area.  This obligatory location for every Yosemite photographer.

Bodega Bay California.  This is a spot called Bodega Head and is one of my favorite sunset locations.

Bodega Bay California.  This is a spot called Bodega Head and is one of my favorite sunset locations.

Found these trees along the Merced River in the Yosemite Valley.  

Found these trees along the Merced River in the Yosemite Valley.  

But there are other things I love to photograph as well, portrait photography being one.  There is a magic in the capture of someones essence.  A photograph of  a person is something, if done right, that can be treasured by future generations.  I believe it can be the best way to remember someone as the years and generations roll on.  I cherish the images that I have made of my two sons.  I have challenged myself to capture their true being, not just for me, but for them and their children and so on.  

I have also been able to create candid portraits that will be passed on for generations.

My fathers 80th birthday.

My fathers 80th birthday.

I have also tried my hand at model photography.  At first this was just a project to push the limits of my photographic abilities.  I wanted to practice my off camera flash skills as well as interacting with a subject in a different way.  I had never paid someone to be my subject but I have no regrets after seeing the results.  

In addition to the above I also love travel photography.  It is a dream to, some day, be able to travel the globe, gear in tow, and capture the essence of the places that I explore.  My latest adventure was to Vancouver BC.

So you tell me.  Where do I fit in?  Where should I focus my attention?  I love photography as a whole and can't imagine limiting myself to one genre.  I enjoy the constant challenges that different locations present.  I enjoy not knowing where my next adventure might come from.  I love working with people and capturing their being, their essence, their love for life.  I also love the outdoors and mountains and natures beauty.  So I'm torn.  For the time being I will continue on my path, shooting what arrives in front of my lens and hoping that I find a tribe or audience that appreciates me for what I am, a true lover of photography in all of its' forms.  

2016 Mid Year Review, All In With Fuji

So this is my first full year shooting exclusively with Fuji Gear.  That gear includes the Fuji X100T, XT1, 18-55 zoom, 56mm f1.2 and the 35mm f2.  I have always gravitated toward landscapes.  I love the outdoors and am lucky enough to live in California, a place that contains such varied landscapes within a short distance.  One of those places is Yosemite National Park, it has always been my favorite landscape location for obvious reasons.

Fuji XT1, 18-55 f2.8-4.  Clearing clouds, Yosemite Valley from the tunnel view rest stop.

Fuji XT1, 18-55 f2.8-4.  Clearing clouds, Yosemite Valley from the tunnel view rest stop.

People warned me that I might not like the Fuji gear for landscapes.  That I might not be able to duplicate the results that I was used to with my Nikon gear.  

Fuji XT1, 18-55 f2.8-4.  El Capitan taken from the tunnel view rest stop, Yosemite National Park.

To the contrary I believe it has enhanced my landscape photography.  Fuji is able to capture color and detail in a way that my Nikon never could.  The optics of Fuji's basic "kit" lens (18-55mm 2.8-4) far surpasses the glass that I had on my Nikon, the 18-70mm f3.5-4.5.  My ultimate landscape lens would be the 8-16mm f2.8 if and when it is made available.  Until then, I am perfectly happy with my Fuji "kit" lens.  

Over the last six months I have also enjoyed shooting portraits more than I had in the past.  The Fuji 56mm f1.2 is an amazing lens.  I love the depth of field that this lens allows.  

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2.  

This lens has expanded my portrait capabilities in ways I cannot even begin to describe.  The images made with this lens have a unique look to them.  It has a soft quality but you are able to pull amazing detail from a subjects eyes.  

I have also started to explore fine art portraiture.  Using the 56mm f1.2 combined with off camera flash using the Yungnuo 560 TX paired with the 560 IV Speedlight I have been able to create some amazing images.

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2 paired with Yungnuo 560TX and 560 IV Speedlight.

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2 paired with Yungnuo 560TX and 560 IV Speedlight.

I'm not sureif it is the camera system or my newfound excitement for photography that has pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone.  The Fuji system is just plain fun for me.  It is light weight and the controls on their cameras are intuitive.  I have shot with a Nikon FE2 for close to 30 years and the Fuji system is the closest I have been able to come to that experience in the digital realm.  

Through this equipment I have rediscovered my love for photography.  I am pushing myself to shoot more.  I am drawn to new photographic experiences and adventures.  

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Marin Headlands, Overlooking the Golden Gate.  San Francisco, CA

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Marin Headlands, Overlooking the Golden Gate.  San Francisco, CA

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Bodega Head, Sonoma Coast.  First Sunset of Summer 2016.

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Bodega Head, Sonoma Coast.  First Sunset of Summer 2016.

Who knows where the rest of the year will take me but I know that it will be fun.  Pushing boundaries is the theme for 2016 and thanks to Fuji It is easier and more fun than ever.

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2 paired with the Yungnuo 560TX and 560 IV Speedlight.  

 

  

Old Dog Learning New Tricks

Nikon FE2 next to Fuji XT1

 

As most are aware I recently switched from Nikon to the Fuji collection of cameras and lenses. Over the last year my photography has progressed further than in the last 20 years because of this.

 I'm an old dog.  I've been making images since the mid seventies.  I was lucky enough to have a middle school that had a beautiful darkroom to explore and create in.  In High School I contributed to the newspaper and continued to make images on film until my switch to digital in 2005.  I went with what I knew, which was Nikon.  A trusted brand that I had been shooting with for over 20 years.  I began my journey with a Nikon D70 and graduated to a D7000.  I rented several full frame Nikon cameras as well.  As my abilities grew with digital I contemplated the move to owning a more professional system.  This is when I found Fuji.  I rented the XT1 and loved it.  Still not 100% sure I purchased the X100T to see if I wanted to commit.  Reasoning was that I wouldn't have to invest in lenses and would only have to sell one item if it didn't work out.  Well it worked out.  I love it and I kept it.  I now have added the XT1 and the 35mm f2, 56mm 1.2 and the 18-55mm kit lens.  Next on the list are the 16-55mm 2.8 and the 50-140mm 2.8 zooms.  All this for half the cost of a similar Nikon system.  It also looks like Fuji is about to release, crossing my fingers, the XT2 with a 24mp sensor.  This is all rumor but with the release of the XPro 2 with a 24mp sensor it only makes sense that the update to the XT1 will follow suit.  

When you look at my old Nikon FE2 alongside my new XT1 you have to see the similarities.  Fuji was brilliant to go with this form factor.  There is a huge population that grew up with old film cameras.  The nostalgia factor alone is enough for some to purchase any of the new generation of cameras that have the look and feel of old school film cameras that ruled for decades.  They haven't reached the status of Nikon or Canon but I believe it is just a matter of time.  I believe that digital camera technology is till in its infancy and has nowhere to go but up.  New features and functions are being released at an astounding pace.  Who would have thought, ten years ago, that Wi-Fi would be an expected feature in a new camera.  So camera companies please keep it up.  My abilities grow with each new feature and my mind is challenged by each innovation you make.  

 

 

SoYou Think You're a Photographer?

 I've been around for a little while. I've worked in the photography industry off and on for close to 20 years. Since digital took over there has been a growing sense in the photography community that "true" professional photography has been eroded away. This erosion caused by the new ease of use of digital equipment.

With digital tech you are able to see your results immediately. The learning curve shortened and people are able to create images, for purchase, that are acceptable to the general public, with very little time in the saddle. With film you had a process that took days and sometimes weeks to produce professional looking images. The expense was 100 times what it is today. Most professional photographers were shooting film until around 2005. It is only in the last 10 years that digital has taken over. It used to be a specialized field that involved the use of chemistry in darkrooms.  Figuring out lighting was a long and slow process.  No camera back to look at to see results.  Polaroids were the only option for immediate feedback and we all know what a polaroid looks like.  It took years to master photography.  Because of this photographers were able to charge larger sums for images.  Photographers weren't a dime a dozen.   Imagine how you would feel if you had taken years to master your craft and someone out there, with six months of experience, is your competition.  Some will say that if you were an amazing photographer you wouldn't have any trouble keeping clients in this situation, I disagree.  The problem is that when someone can get similar results, even if it is lower quality, they will go with the cheaper option.  Ask the former employees of Sports Illustrated or the Chicago Sun Times.  So when someone starts talking about the "everyone is a photographer" topic I understand where they are coming from. Just look on Instagram or 500px and you will see 1000's of amazing photos from 1000's of amazing photographers. Before the interweb and digital these people would have fallen to obscurity.  They never would have been able to express themselves to such a large audience and for that I am grateful. It's a hard pill to swallow, progress is, but one that we will have to swallow if we are going to move on and adapt.  You know the saying, adapt or die. Call yourself what you will, I know what I am and I don't need someone else to validate it for it to be true.  So pick up that camera and create your art!

 

I Went Mirrorless!

So I finally pulled the trigger on a brand new Fuji XT1 paired with an 18-55mm f2.8 to 4.  I took advantage of the discounts they were offering during the holidays and added a used 56mm f1.2.  In total I saved close to $750.  I'm going to warn you now this is not a full blown review of the XT1, just my first impressions and feelings in using it for approximately one week.  The ver first thing I noticed about this camera is that everything is where I would expect it to be.  It looks and feels like a mix between my Nikon FE2 and my Fuji X100T.  It's light weight but fits perfectly in my hand.  The viewfinder is amazing.  As most have already commented, the directional buttons around the menu button are small but i've gotten used to it.  The hardest thing for me is that the lens release is on the right side, or grip side, of the body, opposite to Nikon, so muscle memory has to be overcome.  Another peeve is that the lens hood doesn't click in as easy and smoothly as my Nikon.  Not a big deal.  

When I got home today the clouds parted for a few minutes and the lighting in my backyard drew me out.  I attached the 56mm f1.2 and started wandering.  This is my favorite way to shoot.  It's like hunting and the image is my prey.  Below are some of those shots.  All of these images are jpegs edited in Snapseed.


While this is more of a portrait lens, I enjoyed this hunt.  Focusing these images was a small challenge but was solved by increasing my distance.  I can't wait to do a portrait shoot with this lens and hopefully it will be soon.  I look forward to exploring all of the capabilities of this camera and will share as I do.  Shooting is fun again and my bag is a few pounds lighter with this smaller gear. 

Hmmmm where to wonder next?