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 :)

Tuesday Tidbits

I’m genuinely excited about today’s Apple Event: there’s just something that feels historical—and a tad touching—about this first Steve Jobs Theater gig. So I got a bunch of things done this morning, clearing my schedule to catch the presentation via live streaming. I know...I’m a total geek. 

DRESSED REHEARSAL

Miriodor is headed for RIO—Rock in Opposition Festival—in Carmaux, France. If you’re around and into prog/avant rock of the highest caliber check this one out. Last night they played their full set, one last casual rehearsal, over beers, in front of a few friends. I shot a couple of images for the hell of it—X-Pro2, straight to Acros JPEG (processed in LR).

KAGE IN SEPTEMBER

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So we called this new issue WE DID WHAT WE COULD...which is self-explanatory. Things got in the way of a September 1st release but we finally managed to get it out. Jonas wrote the editorial/intro again this month and I believe he pretty much nailed it. Always surprising to see everyone pull together in the end.

A PORTUGAL SERIES

Robert Kahn is a client, who’s also a photographer, who became a friend. Life’s fun like that. We did a couple of workshops together and we’ve since kept an ongoing remote training series. Robert has always had obvious talent but this last trip to Portugal blew me away. He just recently launched a personal website if you want to take a look. Beautiful stuff. 

 

Easy

There's this point I always reach when I exercise regularly: my body feels great, my thoughts are clearer, my mood brighter...and then for some reason, I stop. Like I've earned a break. I skip one day—just one. And then another. I'm still at the top of that hill so it doesn't matter, it's all good. But the slide begins. And the danger lies in the softness of the slope, in not realizing I'm creeping downwards. A frog, unaware the water will eventually boil.

I've recently followed a similar path with photography. Sure, I've been busy—that age-old excuse—but it's never stopped me before. I've let life run by without aiming my lens to it; or not often enough anyway. Maybe because the kids are getting older...maybe out of fatigue. 

I spent last week away from home on a commercial gig, really cool stuff I'll share when I can. I bought a new strobe—a Godox AD600BM—that I'll review in a bit. But I didn't take a single picture over the weekend and for me, that's a danger zone: the eye is a muscle and seeing needs to be fine tuned, exercised constantly, over and over and over again. My friend Kevin Mullins wrote the following in his new KAGE essay (we're back to monthly issues btw—and Jonas Rask has joined the project):

I’m living in an industry where the next big thing is always around the corner. Yet, to me at least, the next best thing is the next picture I print.
— Kevin Mullins

through a hotel window...

It doesn't need to be about prints—what's important is the mindset this creates. The chronicling of days and months and years; the personal feeding the commercial, filling the gaps and making us better at what we do. We need to breathe and swallow images, always. We need to dissect our world, always.

This morning I picked up my X100F at breakfast. Very little light…didn’t matter. It’s all grainy and soft but I was breaking the ice. Then I took the GFX 50S outside, remembering how to speak the words again.

I’m incredibly blessed on many levels.
I can't waste it. I have no right.

 

The Temporary Collective | Brussels 2016

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I haven’t talked about it much but I’m leaving for Belgium and Germany on September 17th. I’ll be driving down to Photokina for the first few days of the event, then back to my buddy Bert Stephani’s place until the 28th. No speaking engagements this year but I'm shooting an essay for the December issue of Photo Life magazine and I'm very much looking forward to catching up with a whole lot of comrades.

While I'm in Europe, Bert and I will also be hosting the first official KAGE workshop: The Temporary Collective—a full-day event focusing on visual storytelling, to be held in Brussels on September 26th. We'll be discussing subject, methodology, engagement and storyboarding, with each participant expected to produce an essay that will appear in an upcoming issue of KAGE. We're keeping the group small (6 seats max) to provide a more hands-on and personalized experience. Limited X-series gear will be available to test as well.

It's on a Monday. I know...scheduling issues forced us to choose that date. But if you're interested and available we're running an early bird special until September 9th and we'd love to see you. All you need is a camera, some sort of image editing device for the processing/editing portion of the workshop and a good pair of shoes. More info here.

Btw: Fujifilm has now released its full Photokina schedule and it's jam-packed with great speakers. I'll be checking a bunch of these out while I'm there so if you're around be sure to come and say hello.

Valentine, Moebius and Publishing

Let's call this one a hybrid: part publishing update, part photo essay. I could've done two posts but what the hell. First the publishing portion of our show...

KAGE ISSUE 002

I wasn't around when we launched issue oo1 as part of the Fujifilm anniversary/launch event so I haven't really talked about this but it's a pretty big deal: we're now running KAGE Collective on a monthly magazine schedule. Lots of reasons behind that decision but mainly...to get off our collective butts. Having a deadline to focus on has so far been extremely stimulating and I couldn't be prouder of the work everyone has been contributing since the change. Essentially we publish new work on the 15th of every month instead of our previous very random and haphazard schedule. The theme for this issue is Migrations and it includes the Shinjuku at night portion of my Tokyo series. You can check it out here if you haven't already. Our Flipboard mag is also a resource worth checking out if you're in that vicinity.

5 years

I've had a draft post about my first year with Fuji literally sitting in the backend of my blog since...well, since a year after I switched to Fuji. Which would be a year after I bought the X100, when the X-Pro1 was released. But for some reason it stayed in draft form—and I'm now happy it did. Soon after I returned from Tokyo I was asked by Fujifilm Japan if I'd be interested in writing about my 5 year experience with the X Series. Carte blanche, full creative license. So I sat down and wrote an article that I feel encapsulates every single sentiment or emotion I've had for these cameras and their place in my own small universe. The post is entitled: Five Years - From X to X and it's on Fujifilm-X.com.

Photo Life Magazine

I wrote an article in the latest issue of Photo Life called Beyond the Snapshot: In Search of Stolen Moments and I'm currently working on another article for the magazine. Oh and also: my stories from Tokyo and Sendai have been translated to Greek. I'll just trust they're saying more or less the same thing. If you happen to read or speak the language and notice something weird let me know ;)

Now...a weekend in monochrome.     


I lasted six minutes. Six minutes before the blowing snow had me running for the door, my cheekbones—the only skin exposed—showing initial signs of frostbite. A windchill factor of -38ºC will do that to you. Nature wins, we lose; don't even try.

So we settled in for the weekend, hearts and arrows all around. Valentine's day you know.
Tales of Moebius and vintage board games...


Shot with a pre-production X-Pro2 using various lenses and the Acros film simulation.