Today I'm taking a break from my This European Diary series so I can talk to you guys directly for a change — that is, without the filter of a story between us. It's been an odd couple of weeks since our return from Italy and I have to admit I've been struggling a little; as in a rather unexpected creative slump. I guess a crash was inevitable after such an overdose of visuals that basically keeps you ON, 24/7. It's also the season: the ever-darkening mornings, the colour slowly whisked away with every gust of wind through the trees. This time of year, our entire world seems to be calling us to a long slumber.
When I feel this way I know I have to step back and breathe. Pick up the guitar and scream in a mic for a few hours. Anything to throw my mind elsewhere really. I also know it's helpful just to do things a bit differently — there's nothing worse than an old routine in these cases. It'll just drag you down even more. So this weekend I left the house with a setup I hadn't used on its own in awhile: the X-Pro1 and 35mm f/1.4. And when I found myself walking through those same woods I visit time and time again, I looked at the camera's Q Menu and on a whim decided to create a custom setup on the spot: Velvia, Color -2, Shadows +2, Sharpness +1, everything else standard. To be clear, I never use Velvia. I never use it because I find it too saturated, but also because it blocks the shadows quicker than any of the other film simulations... And here I was pushing those shadows even more. Straight JPEG too, no safety net. I also set the white balance to Cloudy, knowing I'd be adding quite a bit of orange to the mix.
You know what? I got excited. The viewfinder, set to EVF, was suddenly displaying this intense, glowing and magical world, two or three steps away from reality. So I walked around, my hands slowly getting stiffer and stiffer from the cold. When I came back inside Cynthia was busy stitching some curtains for the girls on her mom's old sewing machine. Window light from an overcast sky, the small incandescent bulb just above the needle... I looked into the camera and it was all perfect. So I spent a few minutes hovering while making conversation, watching her work. These were the last images I shot that weekend.
I sat at the computer a day later, waiting on these to import and half-expecting all of it to be a black over-saturated mess... But damn, I like 'em. I also didn't do anything other than apply a very soft curve in post — no tweaking of exposure/contrast, no local adjustments, no clarity either positive or negative. Nothing. Didn't feel I needed to.
Is this a preset I can use every day in every single situation? Of course not. But I love that I can set these parameters in-camera, shoot accordingly (by using both the EVF and histogram) and have next to nothing to do in post. And I'd love to be able to do even more, get even finer control given how powerful these small machines are today.
Btw: what a joy it was to use this camera/lens combo as a main kit again. Yes, the 35mm AF is a bit slower at times and I've been spoiled by the X-T1 viewfinder and manual controls but.. It's still such a great setup. As for the orange: Halloween's coming up right? Orange and black feels like a good fit ;)