Mastin Labs Fuji400H

Just in case you have been living under a rock the past few years I will tell you know that Fuji 400H is all the rage when it comes to wedding photography. Photographers like Jose Villa living in sunny California make their bread and butter on this light & airy style. Nine times out of ten when consulting with my brides they always ask for a certain look. They are not sure what it is but as soon as I see the examples I know its Fuji400H. Now living in sunny California definitely helps and so does shooting the actual Fuji 400H film stock still produced today. While your at it maybe spend all your hard earned cash on a Contax 645 but be sure to stock pile extra funds for when it goes down because your repair bill is gonna be HUGE!!!! If you don’t feel thats the correct road for you to take then what you can do is dive into the world of presets. Not just any presets, Mastin Labs presets.

Mastin Labs Fuji400h / Canon EOSR / EF50mm 1.2L @ 1.6

Mastin Labs Fuji400h / Canon EOSR / EF50mm 1.2L @ 1.6

The’re are certainly are a lot of companies out there dipping there toes into the preset market and understandably so. However for my work I’ve found that Mastin Labs offer me the most consistency throughout the ever changing light. I’ve used other boutique preset companies that rave about their close accuracy to the original film stock but they never seem to nail it. The greens are always off or you need to push the image way beyond comfort range in order to try and attempt a light and airy look.

Now before you assume I’m some sort of spokes person for Mastin Labs I can honestly tell I’m not. I doubt they even know I exist but maybe they will after today….LOL.

In all seriousness I write about what I like and do not like and what works and what does not. Mastin Labs Fuji400h just works. There is another company that made a big splash last year called C1ick Match. They went a different route whereas instead of using a preset formula they employed Profiles. The benefit to using a profile as opposed to a preset is all your levels are zeroed out giving you much more latitude in terms of editing. However there are times the profiles work well but I find it extremely difficult to nail skin tones and I find myself needed to work the file much more to nail the color tones accurately. It just takes too long whereas the Mastin Labs Presets are much quicker with less tweaking needed. I mean isn’t that the point anyway. Spend less time editing and more time shooting?

When I’m dialing in my look I’m concerned about a few different elements which all need to compliment one another to pull off what I’m looking for in an image. I’m looking for accurate skin tones and greens. I want my Fuji400H greens to have a pastel but less contrasty and more toned down effect. I’m looking for a slight brown and creaminess in the background greens, like a sage color. I’m looking for pastel flares in my specular highlights with the correct amount of haze. Don’t forget highlight and shadow details either. I’ve had other photographers comment that the image is just blown out and while the image may have an over exposed look you must remember that if this was film we would be most likely over exposing a stop or two and scanning for shadow detail. Now I would suggest you do the same with your digital images however instead of metering for the shadows as we do with actual fuji film I would be more concerned about highlight accuracy and shadow recovery. Camera sensors nowadays in my experience tend to handle shadow recovery much easier than highlight recovery. I’m certainly not suggesting taking you subjects silhouettes for the sake of a properly exposed sky however maybe leave some room in the highlights by under exposing just a bit….and I mean just a bit. You can pull your shadows up in post and you will afford yourself the proper exposure to really showcase those golden tones in the highlights like you see in some of these images.

Danielle & Ej

At the end of the day find what works best for you to establish a constancy to your images. Like I said Mastin Labs has given me the most accurate results and they offer much more than just Fuji 400H. Head over to their site and give them a look. Thanks again for giving this post a read.

40 in Philly

Yesterday my wife and I took a quick trip to Philadelphia with our two mini dachshunds, Cannoli & Rigatoni. Philly is not too far away for us and heading out west we can usually be in the city in under an hour. We had a quick appointment to make and I had about 40 minutes to burn. While not my optimal time frame there is always time for a few frames. Especially near Independence hall. There is such a great mixture of parks, streets, back alleys and businesses to capture in such a tight area. On this short trip I had with me a Fuji XT-3 with my new and quickly becoming favorite lens the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4.

Fuji XT-3 / Fujinon 35mm 1.4 @ f/8 ISO 1000 / 1/400th

Fuji XT-3 / Fujinon 35mm 1.4 @ f/8 ISO 1000 / 1/400th

Now normally I reserve my XT-3 for professional wedding and family photography. To be honest it never really became my go to body for street and travel. I just get so much inspiration from the X100F and XPro Line up but I wanted to take advantage of the upgraded auto focusing the newer XT-3 afforded me which I’m sure will be the same or improved upon on the XPro-3 announced this week. The one thing I’ve never really been happy with is the color science on the newest X Trans sensor and much rather prefer the older versions found in the XPro 1 and Xpro 2/XT-2 cameras. I feel like I have to work the image more dialing it in to where I like it. Maybe I just need to dedicate more time to studying the colors and tweak my profiles for this system.

So how does one make use of 40 minutes to shoot? Don’t walk so much. Find a few nice spots and look around. Train your eye to look at things in a different way. Watch for light and shadows. Study angles and how they may interact with your subjects. Find the reflections. Hunt a little by way of staying planted waiting for the decisive moment.

What are some of the things you need in a good photograph? If you have some of them in front of you then wait for the last element to reveal itself to you. You may have the light and shadow and the framing but you just need the right subject to enter. This is where patience comes into play. The images following were all taken in the same spot…..no literally the same spot. All I did was move around in a circle and take a step or two to capture each moment. When all else fails don’t forget to look up!!!

Speaking of looking up. You can always find something interesting. You just have to frame it correctly.

35mm @ f/8 1/800th ISO 160

35mm @ f/8 1/800th ISO 160

35mm f/8 1/400th ISO 200

35mm f/8 1/400th ISO 200

The one nice advantage that we have shooting with the XT-3 is the use of a flip up screen. I’ve always favored a flip up screen while shooting street photography. I feel it offers a different point of view when capturing subjects and it also draws less attention to you. Thankfully were are getting this in the new XPro-3 however a lot of people are less then enthusiastic about the new design. You can read my thoughts on the issue HERE.

XT-3 / 1/400th / f/8 / ISO 800 Some things just look better in black & white.

XT-3 / 1/400th / f/8 / ISO 800 Some things just look better in black & white.

What better way to end my speed shooting street photography session then to capture an image of my better half on one of the many beautiful historic streets in the city.

35mm / 1/800th / ISO 160 / f/1.4

35mm / 1/800th / ISO 160 / f/1.4

Fujifilm's big failure?

Yesterday on September 20th 2019 Fujifilm held an X-Summit event where they announced and showed the world their new design for their flagship X Pro series camera the XPro-3. Some were happy and others seemed to have their dreams crushed right before their eyes. The XPro-3 body will be made from Titanium and in three different coatings. Black, Dura Silver and Dura Black. Overall the design remains the same however some of the specs that were released seemed to be favorable but a this point we still do not know what the sensor specs will be. Most are leaning towards the same sensor used in the XT-3 and I believe that this will be the case. Hopefully the focusing system will be the same if not better. We are getting a larger EVF/OVF with less distortion with a higher frame rate and brighter resolution. All this so far seems very positive but not groundbreaking by any means. However the world will never be the same and everything came crashing down due to the next announcement…….THE REAR SCREEN.

While I haven’t had the chance to shoot or even hold one of the beauties yet I can certainly say that the photography world has been turned upside down because of this tiny little screen. I myself love it but maybe thats because I understand it. In this day and age why must every camera released fit every niche of media recording. Why can’t a camera just be good at one thing. Hell Leica does it and they make no apologies for it either. Sure, go film a video in 4K on a Leica M10 and let me know how you like it. Oh wait….you can’t. Bottom line is thats not what that camera is for. What we have in the new XPro-3 is a pure simplistic approach towards photography. Nothing else and its not pretending to be anything else either. If you hate it then perhaps your just not understanding it or your mad at it for not fitting whatever mold you want in a camera.

The naysayers are crucifying Fuji for ruining the XPro Line with this bold move but is it even a new idea? Leica introduced the M-D with no rear screen at all, nothing, nadda, ziltch. There’s no IBIS to be had. Leica doesn’t even give you auto focus in their comparable cameras. Geez, one only shoot in Monochrome. Nobody is crying over those cameras so why here? Why Fuji?

We in turn should be celebrating a company so willing to risk a move as bold as this. They are making a statement that they are putting the pure art form of photography first and In their vet soul they are a photographic / Film company. Sure they will give you the bells and whistles in their XT line up but the XPro is for the PHOTOGRAPHER. As a lover of film I couldn’t be happier at this new design. It is to be taken serious in its minimalistic and classy approach. An already beautiful camera with some powerhouse features hidden on the inside. A discrete flip down screen for waist level shooting which I’ll admit was on my wish list. An informative and also retro style rear LCD which is reminiscent of film cameras with their film stock tab holders. If your a photographer who loves the history of photography and not gadgetry then whats NOT to like? The XPro-3 is sure to slow you down and force your eye to the viewfinder while studying the application of your craft. If anything, no more beat up scratched LCD screens either. NO MORE CHIMPING!!!

Fuji also announcement a new film stock simulation which i’m sure will make its way to other models via firmware update in the future. We will now have Fuji Superia Classic Negative. While I would of hoped for a 400H simulation I’m always open for new ideas and to be honest I shoot RAW 90% of the time regardless.


All in all I certainly welcome the new XPro. A serious photography tool to hit the streets with. Its going to be amazing.

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New York City Photo Walk with the Fuji XPro 1 and XPro 2

So we are at that time again. Mere weeks before a possible new Fujifilm XPRO 3 announcement. What better way to pay homage then revisit the camera which paved the way along with its more advanced successor. Yes of course I’m speaking of the Fuji XPro 1 and the XPro 2. A trip to New York City with these two coupled with the 35mm 1.4 and the new 16mm 2.8. Things are about to get interesting!!!!

Fuji XPro 1 / Hand Held 1/15th Sec on a ferry boat…..SMH!

Fuji XPro 1 / Hand Held 1/15th Sec on a ferry boat…..SMH!

While these two are similar in design they both at times couldn’t be further apart. The original Fuji XPro 1 is a robust metal camera. Beautifully designed ergonomically but definitely not without its flaws. We get a timeless rangefinder style body which allows for unlimited “nose” room when shooting. That’s right, no more smudged screens. However Fuji made some choices which I cannot understand. We have a traditional D Pad on the backside of the camera with a useless Macro button on top. The left a right pad buttons are all but useless for choosing functions while shooting. They cannot be assigned. The bottom button affords you access to AF area selection. That’s about the only thing that makes sense but then they added a dedicated and marked AF button on the left side of the camera….why? Selections shutter speeds must be done the “old way” utilizing the top dial. You can uses the D Pad to nudge your speeds up or down a few stops but to be honest this can be a hassle and I’ve found it easier to use the camera in Aperture Priority mode and ride the exposure dial. This is where the rear command dial could be helpful but sadly it does not allows access to the full range of shutter speeds or any range for that matter. It’s a dead dial. I’ve assigned the top deck function button to be my ISO to keep my sanity. I find that the XPro 1 works best on single shot, single point AF or manual. Continuous AF is spotty at best and your results may be less then great.

So after all this why still own, use or lust after this camera. Well….the sensor. It’s magical and has been made with unicorn tears. While there is certainly something special about owning the original version of a special camera such as the XPro series, Fuji’s flagship model. The sensor is what makes this camera a serious shooter. Classic and simple in its approach the files from the XPro 1 will continue to make you smile. RAW files are organic and have a true film look. This camera sings at ISO 1600 when shooting black and whites. Skin tones tend to have a magenta slant but once easily dialed in they are some of the most accurate I’ve ever seen.

Now let talk about the XPro 2. Honestly for how much love I have for this camera I think this may be the first time I’ve ever written about it. This camera was the one camera that changed my photography. I only had purchased a used XPro 1 from a fellow photographer a few weeks prior to see if I would enjoy the feel. Soon after I had the XPro 2 and everything changed for me. This camera puts me in a certain mindset. I use a hell of a lot of different cameras or professional work but when I have my XPro 2 with me I know I’m shooting for my own pleasure. I’m continually scanning for events, interactions and small stories that may I fold in front of me. I feel like a hunter stalking its prey. I’m hunting for light, shadows and tones. I’m studying movements and angles in order to place myself in the perfect moment at the perfect time to apply my craft. No other camera does this for me the same way Fuji’s XPro Series does and the XPro 2 does it so wonderfully.

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I’m hunting for light, shadows and tones…..

I’m studying movements and angles in order to place myself in the perfect moment at the perfect time to apply my craft.

Gone are the annoyances we suffered with on the XPro 1. No more Macro button or absurdly useless rear D Pad and control dial. We have real functionality now. A solid AF system to capture moments quickly. While the sensor doesn’t have that same XPro 1 magic it certainly has a magic all it’s own. Everything else feels familiar with the addition of a slightly wider rubber grip and ISO dial integrated into the shutter speed dial. However this time we have full functionality choices that can be assigned to the D Pad as well as the rear and now added front command wheels. The XPro 2 is solid street photographer’s tool.

A few thoughts after spending the day with my favorite duo. The XPro 1 while being a bit long in the tooth and certainly out dated will still hold it own as long as the photographer wielding it knows how to take his or her time and appreciate the art form. If you’re looking to spray and pray them move one as this purists tool is not for the likes of you. The XPro 2 on the other hand is a completely different animal affording you all the luxuries of a current mirrorless system. Nowadays cameras can become too involved in your photography. Ironically even though the features are plentiful on the newer camera the XPro 2 has a way of leaving it up to you and staying out of your way. So what will we see with the newest XPro 3 version soon to be announced. Rumors are plentiful with speculation in the form of a flip down screen which I would welcome I might add, as well as a small settings display LCD on the rear. Evoking perhaps that old style feel of film photography where there was no chimping. Whatever it will be I can most certainly say with confidence that it will master the streets just as its predecessors have done so before.

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NYC Photo Walk Street Phototgraphy.

September 15th 2019 City Walk Street Photography. Street photography is such a strong passion of mine. I love watching stories unfold in front of me. Watching people Interact with each other. Studying the light, tones and angles. Waiting for the moment but when it happens you’ve got to be ready. It is my belief that practicing street photography can improve every other aspect of your photography portfolio. Here I’m using the ultimate, Fujifilm’s XPro 1 and XPro 2. Enjoy

Fujifilm's 18mm Lens. The forgotten little beast.

OK…I’m here to talk about and in most circles defend one of my favorite lenses. A lens that for the most part everything you read you is how bad it is. I’m here to dispute that notion. I’m not going to do all that with statistical data because for all I know, maybe the charts don’t exactly favor this lens. However this lens is not to be judged by numbers but by feel, and I gotta tell you it feels just great. Well suited for the street photographer in you but also a solid contender for landscapes and everyday images with fun perspectives. It packs a serious punch.

Fuji XPro 2 with the Fujinon 18mm, Long Beach Island NJ

Fuji XPro 2 with the Fujinon 18mm, Long Beach Island NJ

The 18mm is one of Fujifilm’s older lens designs. 8 elements in 7 groups, Aspherical, with a concaved front element. 7 blade aperture design with a metal housing. A very versatile focal length of 28mm in a 35mm Format Equivalent. A very nice close focus with a sharp rendering throughout the range. The little 18 is focus by wire so if you choose to manually focus this glass it can be a bit difficult. I found the 18mm to have a noise AF motor (like most in this lens design) and although not lighting fast extremely accurate in its application. It even boasts an all medal squared hood which looks the part for a serious street shooter.

So why talk about this lens now in the latter part of 2019. Well for me I see Fujifilm releasing new lenses in 2020 and while I love the classic 18mm it would certainly be nice to see a fresh new version of this same lens. I completely understand moving with the times but I believe a lot of photographers love this little gem and I think they are missing that. The lens is small, lightweight and discrete. You can achieve surprisingly beautiful separation for a pretty wide focal length.

Works well for street portraits as well. A delicate balance of story telling and subject isolation. My beautiful wife Nikki, Cape May NJ

Works well for street portraits as well. A delicate balance of story telling and subject isolation. My beautiful wife Nikki, Cape May NJ

The 18mm gives a great distorted look when up close if you know how to work the lens and find that sweet spot. This can be a fun option to use for a different perspective you normally don’t see.

 

With a close focus less then a foot you can almost use this as a macro……well a close focus semi macro at least but with sharp optics you will certainly be satisfied.

So essentially we are at a 28mm equivalent focal length. While definitely not the widest for landscapes you can make an argument that this all arounder does a fine job capturing some dramatic images like the very first one posted above as well as some of these below. Very sharp across the range and also lends itself well to architecture pics too. Think big city here people!!!

So now thinking big city lets talk street photography. Now we get to what’s special about this lens. 28mm has been a classic focal length for street photography or some time and easily one of my favorites as well. Wide but not too wide, just a sweet spot. At f/2 we can let in a lot of light if need be and at f/8 we can guarantee a pretty favorable depth of field to ensure were in focus. I often choose to shoot this lens on my XT3 ( until we get a flip screen on an XPro Body) for a dramatic perspective. Plus it never draws attention allowing me to get close to my subjects and snag a natural expression.

Seaside Boardwalk NJ, XT3 / 18mm f.8

Seaside Boardwalk NJ, XT3 / 18mm f.8


In conclusion what are my overall thoughts? I would love to see Fuji focus more attention to this little gem of a lens. I often feel like it has been treated as the forgotten child of the Fuji line up and that is such a shame. Fun little shooters like the X70 with its fixed 18mm 2.8 are amazing and one of the reasons for this is the incredible 18mm (28mm) focal length. Sure we have the 23mm 1.4 and even the X100 series camera line up but that’s a 35mm focal length. There is a big difference between that and this. 18mm is such a great all around lens. A true story teller and travel companion. They don’t deserve the bad wrap they get that’s for sure and I can definitely say with confidence that if you were to run out and buy yourself one then most likely it would be one of your most cherished pieces of glass for years to come.

How to shoot Mini Sessions

Ok…the title is a bit broad and I certainly do not assume to know everything. Not even close. Everyone has their own styles and artistic vision that they place on their work but this is what works for me. Normally I schedule one to one and a half hour sessions for my clients. I don’t like to be rushed and I like to establish a relationship with the people I’m photographing. It puts them at ease and makes for a better session without a doubt. I also like to scout out the area with them and allow my clients to see me evaluating each patch of light, each area. I want them to know how important these things are to a good photographer. In todays market anyone can purchase a camera and charge money. Doesn’t mean it’s going to look good at the end of the day.

For my mini sessions I like to go to a familiar spot that I use often in various light. A place I know like the back of my hand and can predict certain light patterns. I usually only shoot for 20 - 30 minutes so I need to have a place dialed in to garnish the best outcome.

Know what poses you are going to use in each spot but don’t be afraid to get creative if the moment inspires you. I usually have a vision for each location and what I want to accomplish but depending on the client and vibe between all parties involved I will stray from time to time.

Make it simple…….I usually shoot one camera at minis. I’ll always stick to my rule of having a back up body but usually I’m shooting one camera. On this session I was using the Canon EOSR with the EF 50mm 1.2L and 135mm f/2. Thats the second part to making it simple. I bring one small bag with 2 - 3 lenses max. The legendary 50mm and 135mm are amazing for this.

This is your time to get creative. If I had a 50mm lenses for the rest of my life I think I would be fine with that. It’s amazing lens choice for environmental portraits as well as pano work. Often I’ll create a few full body shots and then at the same scene I’ll create a 4 to 5 shot bokeh pano which I can stitch later on in Lightroom. Essentially I’ve created 4 different looks. The standard image, then a stitched bokeh pano which will act as a wide angle portrait and showcase the location. Then I can also convert each file to black and white to offer a different look.

Make sure to capture candid moments. Nowadays it seems that more clients are shifting towards “unposed” photos. I love it to be honest. With the popularity of social media platforms such as facebook and instagram more and more people share their moments online which means most of your images will be viewed in this way. This is not to say that the days of the wall hung family portrait are gone but don’t spend so much time on them. Capture them and move on to story telling and more true real moments. Your clients will be happier to see you show such attentive and creative thinking in your work. If your client stands in front of a lens posed most likely your client can predict what the outcome will be like but if you catch them during their special interactions with one another they will be forever impressed and more likely to refer you to others as well.


Save yourself some time and create a preset for your session. I like to start with either a Kodak Portra or Fuji 400H film simulation base to work off of. I choose Mastin Labs to start my base coloring effect. From there I place my own little twist on what my colors should FEEL like. I’m choosing the word feel because that’s what I’m trying to accomplish with my look…..a feeling my clients get when viewing their images. I want to stay true to the scene and also pay homage to traditional film photography. I also want my style to be recognized which in turn will attract more business. I’ve heard both positive and negative remarks about my coloring and overall imagery. You most likely will as well but if you have a true vision of what you want your work to be like then stick with it and don’t stray to please others.

Over deliver. Now I’m not saying to go crazy but if you promised 20 images on your mini sessions then push beyond that. Even if its repetitive imagery in black and white or a slightly different perspective. Your clients will appreciate this and pass on the word.

Again, this is not the gold standard of how things must be done but just a few helpful insights that I’ve learned along the way. Minis can be a great way to introduce yourself to new clients which may return with bigger projects. Maybe even repeat business every year. Have fun with it and explore new techniques.




Available Prints offered for Sale

Well I finally created a link to offer some of my work for sale. Located on the main page is a section labeled “Available Prints” which will direct you to my Pixieset Gallery. Here you will find different categories featuring various work. Each print comes in a variety of sizes and materials all printed by the renowned WHCC Professional Lab. Thank you again and keep and eye out for new work as they become available.

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Fujifilm's GFX with Canon EF Glass

For quite some time I wanted to make this video however Im not sure even now that I am finished with it. Fujifilm’s GFX50s has certainly opened up new gateways into my photography, offering up a look I have not been able to achieve in the past with other systems. This is largely due to adapting Canon L Glass and specifically the 85mm 1.2

I did a little video for you.