A Wider Palette

My KAGE colleague Jonas Rask posted about his Hasselblad X-Pan experimentations over the weekend (beautiful shots if you have a few minutes). It’s interesting how panoramic formats immediately feel cinematic, because it’s really nothing more than a cultural by-product: we’ve simply been conditioned to associate those thinner/wider ratios with moviemaking. Years ago—before HD—we’d add black bars to SD video content to make the content feel “bigger”...by actually making it smaller. Chalk this one up to the ever-fascinating psychology of visual storytelling.

The X-series have long included a 16:9 aspect ratio but I’ve rarely used it, mostly out of an ingrained reflex to conserve as many pixels as possible. When your images are going out to clients, the job is to provide the highest quality possible and technically, this includes resolution. In French we call this déformation professionnelle. It’s the reason why I’ve always focused on composition in-camera as opposed to dramatic cropping in post. This mindset has carried over to the way I shoot with the GFX 50S, even though the resolution argument all but flies out the window. Between the lenses’ resolving power, the camera’s sensor and the size of the files themselves, there’s really no reason not to experiment with different aspect ratios. At this point I’m like the people who lived through the depression and spent their lives in fear of spending money.

I still believe in the importance of framing in the field, because this speaks to our ability to see in the moment. That reflex is our foundation. But learning to compose an image with other aspect ratios really only expands on that concept. The weekend pictures below use a 65:24 ratio—one amongst an expanded set of options available on Fuji’s medium-format camera—and the resolution is still a tad higher than my X-Pro2. Part of me still cringes at “throwing away” pixels...but boy, I think I need to lighten up.

More tools, more possibilities...

P.S All images (except #4 below) were shot at ISO 6400.


Shot with the GFX 50 S and GF 120mm f/4 R WR


Quiz Night

Last summer, Cynthia and I binged on a British television series called The Detectorists, about a small town metal detecting club. Just a premise for a series of antics, really. And no, we didn’t go nuts and buy metal detectors ourselves—not many buried Roman treasures lying around these parts anyway. The reason I bring it up is that one of the shows featured a quiz night, at a local pub, which we thought looked fun in a somewhat dorky kinda way. Ok, long story short: our local gaming spot Kafée Dragon (these are becoming quite popular around here) announced their very own quiz in the fall and we joined.

Last evening was the grand finale and I’m quite proud to say our team came in second overall—and first for the night. We’re talking 100 questions here. Yup, quite proud indeed. Especially after a season where it was just the two of us until very recently. Pretty sure the beer helped ;) 

Have a great weekend!


Shot with the X100F


On the first weekend of December...

There are faint traces of snow on the ground, but still plenty of green showing through. No real winter yet. Every year it feels less and less like the season I used to know. We’re baking Christmas donuts this weekend, drinking wine...I’m testing a new lens on familiar grounds. Only weeks left ‘til the Holidays.

Crazy.


Shot with the GFX 50S and GF 120mm f/4 R WR


Five & the Update Cornucopia

Man...We’re going to need an entire week just to get up to speed. I’ve rarely seen such an avalanche of releases back to back—new versions, new apps, firmware updates, the works. But before we take a look at all of it, I need to mention one little thing: KAGE is five years old.

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Hard to believe this project began in 2012 but here we are. We’ve seen ups and downs, lived through internal changes but what an adventure it’s been so far. I’m incredibly proud of every moment with current and past photographers. Our new issue is out today and I invite you to come hang out for a bit.

Right. On with the newness...

CAPTURE ONE 11

There’s a new version of Capture One every year. And every year the company raises the bar—with actually useful features. By that I mean stuff most of us will use on a daily basis. With recent releases, the contrast in philosophy between Lightroom and C1 has never been clearer: on one hand we have little more than a standstill, a trickle of improvements combined with, at best, a deeply confused message (don’t get me started again). On the other, an update that kicks serious $ss. I’ve gone all in with Capture One and I’m not turning back—not to Lightroom anyway. But the app’s speed was never it’s forte and it was one of those things I’d simply come to accept. Version 9 had promised improvements on this front, version 10 had renewed the claim…neither ever made much of a difference on my end. Capture One 11 however, changes everything. Browsing, editing, previewing and applying styles, switching views and workspaces, all operations are monumentally faster. Enough that it makes my iMac suddenly feel like a new machine. In Adobe land that would’ve been the big achievement—here it’s essentially a by-product of the upgrade.

There are tons of big and small improvements (a new colour engine for one), but the tent pole feature IMHO is an overhaul of local adjustments—which are now called layers. All editing tools can now be applied to layers, adding levels, colour balance and all the modes of the clarity and structure sliders. Not only that: styles can be applied to a layer AND all layers now include an opacity slider. Think about that for a second; yup, it’s huge. It means an entire set of adjustments can be throttled up or down in seconds. I definitely need to write a more in-depth look at this software.

If you’re already using Capture One check out the demo. I think it’s killer.

PIXELMATOR PRO

I moved away from Photoshop a few years ago—basically before I signed up for the CC photography plan. And when I did I chose Pixelmator as my replacement. Honestly, although it was much more powerful, moving back to Photoshop after that stint (had to justify the monthly expense) was painful. Not that the app couldn’t do the job—it obviously could—but the UI made me feel like I was going back 5 or 6 years in time.

The new Pixelmator Pro makes Photoshop look like Windows 98.

I wrote about this not so long ago but it still impresses me: what all these new, small companies have in common is a deep understanding of the API’s Apple has built into MacOS. They’re leveraging Metal 2 and machine learning and Coreeverything in ways that allow them to focus not only on features, but also on re-imagining how we interact with software. This is profoundly changing the landscape and the tools we now have at our disposal. Little guys can now hang with big guys. Take something like Adobe’s highly touted repair tools for instance (magic a few short years ago): initial repair tests with Pixelmator Pro were not only on par, in most cases they did a better job of it than Photoshop. That’s a serious leveraging of the playing field. Of course Photoshop is still a beast: if you’re working in CMYK or in need of any of its highly targeted tools, chances are this won’t work as a replacement. But in my case it does.

I’m not 100% sold on all the UI decisions in Pixelmator Pro but I have little doubt they’ve laid a foundation that holds a heck of a lot of promise.

FUJIFILM FIRMWARE UPDATES

These had been announced already so no surprise here. For most cameras we’re looking at compatibility with the new 80mm lens (update released on Nov 21). The Nov 30 updates feature support for third-party flashes (think Profoto and Elinchrom triggers), as well as the new Fujifilm X RAW Studio app. They also add functionalities on the X-T2 (new AF tracking algorithms) and the X-T20 (touch panel operation). If you have a GFX 50S the V2.00 also fixes an exposure compensation bug (it’s not listed but I can attest that the bug is gone). A similar X-Pro2 update is scheduled for mid-December. All of these are (or will be) available here.

FUJIFILM X RAW STUDIO

Which brings us to the brand new baby I just mentioned: Fujifilm X Raw Studio. This is an interesting and quite novel piece of software—I’m not aware of any other camera manufacturer doing anything similar. It’s basically a desktop version of Fujifilm’s raw conversion function found in both X-series and GFX cameras. For those who’ve never used it: this allows a raw file to be re-baked in-camera by using custom settings tools and film simulations. On the X-series it results in a new JPEG file; on the GFX there’s a choice of either JPEG or TIFF. The big deal here is that the app can do batch conversions (a much faster process) AND it uses the camera’s processor to do its thing: a camera needs to be tethered via USB in order for the software to work. Strange? Definitely. Quirky interface? Totally. But…I’ve fiddle with the app very briefly and I’ve already identified an important aspect to it: for anyone at all interested in creating in-camera custom settings, ladies and gents this is our new playground. I really wasn’t expecting it, but this is a great tool to understand how the Fuji processor works, how it affects the images we shoot. When using X Raw Studio we’re seeing the camera work in real time—we’re seeing the curves being applied, the effects of one simulation next to another, all of it. You can even compare Adobe RGB to SRGB in various scenarios, or see the effects of Lens Modulation, Colour Chrome Effect (on the GFX 50S) etc.

So while I doubt I’ll use this to convert images, what I intend to do is input all my custom settings into the app and experiment with various tweaks to see how it all reacts. As far as I’m concerned this is like a free course in X-processing.

As I said earlier: there’s a lot here to digest. If you share any of my geek tendencies however, it’s like an early Christmas. Speaking of which: it’s donut baking time this weekend. Let the season begin...

Have a great one :)

December Publications

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Guy* and I were sitting in the hotel hobby, waiting to meet friends for dinner. This would be our last night in Stockholm after two very full days surrounding the unveiling of the Profoto A1. We’d spent the morning at the company’s HQ, had met with some of the engineers and managers and done a full-blown interview with CEO Anders Hedebark later that afternoon. The plan all along had been to write a basic account of the launch event for the magazine. But I’d been sitting in my room for an hour, going over conversations in my head, dozens of encounters and moments...and my brain was quite literally buzzing.
You know, this piece I have to write...I think it needs to get a lot bigger. Can we do that?
What do you have in mind?” Guy asked.
A road movie. This journey, the A1—but ultimately…Profoto. It needs to be about Profoto itself.
Go for it”, he said with a big smile.

That story—Fearless: Profoto. The A1. The Future—is on newsstands now, in the December issue of Photo Life magazine.

Here’s the gist of it: I was deeply impressed by what I saw over there. Ultimately, beyond the almost iconic nature of this company in our industry, what I witnessed was a very small group of people pushing hard. That’s it. So I wanted to write something that would express this as honestly as possible, without becoming sycophantic. Hopefully I’ve succeeded.

Now of course, the reality of print media is quite different from these virtual worlds we build here on the web: pages cost money and space is finite. So I’m all the more grateful that Photo Life accepted to let me expand on our initial vision—especially under the crazy tight deadlines we were facing at the time.

Below you’ll find some of the images I shot for the article, along with a few more that couldn’t be included. That space thing I just mentioned.

Later :)

P.S Alongside the December issue, the magazine’s annual Buyer’s Guide is also hitting the shelves. I was contributing editor this year, my first time doing anything of the sort. Quite an intense experience but I’m very proud of the results.

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 *That’s Guy Langevin, editor-in-chief for Photo Life and Photo Solution.