Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Onward and Upwards with the Fuji X series

Hello, it's me again holding a Fuji X-Pro 1 with a 18mm F/2 lens. Oh it's nice!

I have a head

So it's just been over a year since my first book came out And I reckon the sequel will come out by the end of this year. And damn it, I'm working on another, a coffee table size book project, with exhibitions and a live show too,

All my shots are shot on the X-Pro 1 and X-T1 with mainly the 56mm F/1.2 and 18mm F/2 lenses. A lot of words have been written on why they are so fantastic but here's a few of my words about why I particularly like them for what I'm trying to shoot.

The 56mm F/1.2 is a very fast lens. The 18mm F/2 is sprinting very close behind. I don't use flash and try and use the available light. So backstage I tend to use the lens open with the ISO up, often quite high. On occasion up to 6400 (never over that). Once I have set the ISO so that my shutter speed doesn't drop below 1/80 sec (occasionally a little lower) I kind of let the camera do most of the technical stuff. It's cleverer than me!

(X-T1 with 56mm lens 1/160 sec at F1.6 ISO-4000)

(X-Pro1 with 35mm lens 1/150 sec F/2.2 ISO-6400)

(BEN VAN DER VELDE in the mirror)
(X-Pro1 with 18mm lens 1/50 sec F/2 ISO-3200)

DOMINIC HOLLAND (nearest to the mirror)
(X-Pro1 with 18mm lens 1/150 sec at F/5 ISO-2500)

Backstage I'm trying to get a non-posed shot, and because being a stand-up comedian myself, I know most of these jokers and so am trusted (and hopefully liked). Their guards are down, although I make sure there is no reason for their guards to be up. Sometimes their guitars are up! 

(X-Pro1 with 18mm lens 1/140 sec at F/2.2 ISO 2000)

(X-T1 with 56mm lens 1/105 sec at F/1.2 ISO-5000)

Technically, shooting on stage is a little different. The light is usually pretty bright. I nearly always shoot with the 56mm F/1.2 lens, and I pretty much always stop down and under expose, often all the way to where the camera will let me go.

Being in the comedy club, physically and metaphorically, when the comedians are onstage I often feel where and when the punchline, the facial funny or the reaction from and to the audience is coming from.

(X-T1 with 56mm lens 1/125 sec at F/2.8 ISO-2000 -2.7 step)

(X-T1 with 56mm lens 1/125 sec at F/2.8 ISO-3200 -2.3 step)

(X-T1 with 56mm lens 1/200 sec at F/5.6 ISO-2000 -3 step)

My only tip when shooting is don't go for the obvious. I search for different angles. I squat where I can, from the side of the stage, from behind and below the stage. In the gods. Anywhere I'm allowed to be, or for that matter, not allowed to be.

Here's another tip - Get a shot in... We all want to get the perfect shot, but make sure you get a shot. You're never going to get the opportunity again. For me, it doesn't matter too much if the shot is a little under/over exposed, or if something is in the background/foreground, or even if its a little out of focus. Sometimes this adds to the picture. Sometimes it doesn't. You can always muck around a little later and crop, sharpen, edit in or out an incoming bottle of beer or an exploding monkey ( I wouldn't do that!).

(X-T1 with 56mm lens 1/150 sec F/2.0 ISO-2500 -3 step)

(X-Pro1 with 18mm lens 1/150 sec F/4.5 ISO-3200 -2 step)

(X-T1 with 56mm lens 1/140 sec at F/2.5 ISO-2500 -3 step)

To be continued...

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Beginning

Who am I? Good question.

I'll be succinct.

I'm a clown photographer.

But mainly I'm a stand-up comedian - I have been one for many years. I have plied my trade all around the world, having toured with many a famous person.

I have also co-founded Abnormally Funny People, which is a group of gifted stand-up comedians strutting their funny stuff. All but one of them is disabled (that's me!) I'm the 'token' able-bodied comedian

I also take pictures. Mainly of comedians. I have published a book with 436 pictures of comedians. One comedian on each page, with a joke of theirs, and a few weird and wonderful facts about themselves.

I'm very proud of this book. Nothing like it has been done before -

So, what now? And why is Fuji posting this blog? Let me explain a bit more...

The first book wasn't really intentional. When I set out I took a few pictures with a camera phone just for posterity. Here's one of Ross Noble. The fuzziness kind of suits him.
I had a Ricoh Caplio GX100 camera with me. It was a great little point and shoot. Of course it had its limitations. It was pretty slow to start up. And it wasn't great in low light situations. Most of the pictures in the first book were taken with the Ricoh.  

So, I had a collection of comedians, which every now and then I plonked up on Facebook. Make it into a book, many people said. One such person who said this was my next door neighbour (ish - 3 doors down), Javier Garcia, who is a wonderful sports photographer, and owner of

So I did it. Just like that. Well not quite. Jeez, it was bloody hard, and rather costly.

The person who really, really, really, really helped me... really, was Drew De Soto. Drew used to be a comedian. He's still pretty damn funny. He runs a graphic design company, and in fact was running it while being a comedian. We met again when I was on my quest for the answers to my questions from the comedians. I tracked Drew down. He then asked me the question, 

'Where are you going to design it?' 
'Err, on line?' I answered back with a kind of question.
'Come into my office,' he said.

And the rest is history, so historians would say.

You're still asking where does Fuji come into this.

While being taught InDesign (actually learnt about 4% of what it can do) and Photoshop (5%) and how to kern (the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result), Drew would often pop out to take a picture with, wait for it, the Fuji X100. He loved it. All apart from the slight focusing problem, rectified somewhat with new firmware, and even more rectified with the X100s, which I will one day get him. Although I hear the X100T is out... 

So the book came out, and I had become hooked on taking photos. I was still gigging, still bumping into comedians that I somehow hadn't snapped for the first book. I'll do another book then, I thought. I wanted to up my game. Park Cameras was down the road to Drew's offices, so most lunchtimes I'd wander in and touch and stare. Mainly Fuji. But not exclusively. In fact I looked at Ricoh too, as I was pretty familiar with their kit. I took the bull by the horns and phoned up Ricoh to see if they would give me a camera as I had used their GX100 for the first book. Unfortunately the Fuji X100s was in my head as I started talking to the PR person at Ricoh.

'I love your cameras' I said, and began to explain my project of the Comedy Snapshot sequel
'It's not something we usually do, but what camera would you be looking at?' She asked.
'The X100s.'
There was a small pause.
'That's not a Ricoh,' she replied with a little laugh in her voice
There was another pause
'I've mucked this up, haven't I?' I said
'Yes, I think you have.'

I didn't phone Fuji for fear of doing the same thing in reverse. Instead I spent two weeks of lunches in Park Cameras. 

The X100s, the X-Pro1 or the X-T1? 

Fuji were doing an offer for the X-Pro1 - the body and a lens, and you'd get a free lens in the post. I went for it, I got the X-Pro1 and the XF18mm F2, and true to their word a few weeks later the XF35mm 1.4 was handed to me by the postman. What a beast! The camera, not the postman...  

So off I went taking pictures for the next book with my X-Pro1. And of course a few other shots for the hell of it. Here's a few. The 'sheer hell of it shot' made it to the Sunday Observer.






The X-Pro1 is a great camera. And both lenses are superb. It's wonderful in low light, even with smacking the ISO up high. It's not too bulky, it's quiet, and damn sexy looking... I updated the firmware. But for some reason I kept going back to Park Cameras to touch the other Fuji cameras. I needed another body. I wanted another body.

I looked at the X100s and the X-T1 again. I had no more money left.

I knew a comedian who knew a man at Fuji.

Johnny Murph 

He showed my book to him with the tag that I was doing another, all shot on Fuji. The man at Fuji liked my first book, and loved some of my recent pictures taken on the X-Pro1. Would they be interested in loaning me the X-T1 and the 56mm 1.2 lens?

I waited a few weeks.

The man from Fuji, he say 'YES'. The deal was done, no meet up, no handshake, no signatures, just coolness and a willingness to take a shot. This is not to say to say that Fuji are lending out cameras willy nilly. I think I was just a little lucky, the right man, the right place, the right face. Two weeks later a brand spanking new X-T1 and 56mm F1.2 lens was delivered by the same postman that had delivered the X-Pro1.

It really is an amazing camera and lens.

The next blog will be a bit more technical on how and where I take the pictures. But for now here's some pics taken on the X-T1 with the 56mm lens.

David Berglas and Dynamo
Tom Mullica