Weekly Photo Project, Week 22

There’s an advantage and disadvantage to doing a photo-a-day project like this. The disadvantage is that it can be difficult and exhausting. There were a couple of days during this week that I wanted to stop. I had so much going on with the holiday season, and the weather is cold and the daylight is short, so making time for photography seemed unnecessary. It’s easy to make excuses, but it’s important to not allow them to stop us from achieving our goals. The advantage to doing a 365 project is that, because I forced myself to capture some images when I didn’t want to, I was able to create some pictures that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I can clearly see the benefit as I look back at the pictures I’ve captured over the last five months. The advantage significantly outweighs the disadvantage, and so I persevere, still on track going into the new year.

Monday, December 17, 2018

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Sparkle Tree – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

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Mountain & Cloud – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

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Christmas Glow – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Thursday, December 20, 2018

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Wasatch Mountain Moon Rise – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Friday, December 21, 2018

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Three 35mm Film Canisters – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Saturday, December 22, 2018

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Frosted Tree & Winter Sun – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Sunday, December 23, 2018

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Monochrome Architecture Angles – Woods Cross, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Week 21   Week 23

Art & Photography

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Pas Une Abeille – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2

Photography is a form of art, or at least it can be. Discussing art is kind of a dangerous proposition because it’s subjective, and you are bound to step on someone’s toes. I think it’s important to talk about art, and, even if someone might be offended, it is beneficial to have some understanding of what it is and how it relates to photography. I’ll make an attempt at defining art and demonstrating how it relates to you.

Most photographs are not art, which means most people who snap pictures with a camera are not artists. Most people who have a paintbrush in their hands are not artists. Most people who sing aren’t recording artists. Not all people who whittle are wood-carvers. Not all people who draw letters are calligraphers. You get the idea. Just because something is similar to art, does not make it art. There is something that separates actual art from facsimile “art” that’s not really art at all.

Before jumping too deep into this, I want to clarify that it is perfectly fine that most photographs are not art. There are many different purposes for the photograph, and art is just one of them. There is nothing wrong with pictures that aren’t art, as they have their place, just as photographs as art also have their place. Just because one uses a camera doesn’t mean that person must be or should be an artist. You may have little to no interest in art at all, but you love to photograph, and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

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Curtain Abstract – Mesquite, NV – Fujifilm X100F

Webster defines art as “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination.” Oxford defines it as “the expression of human creative skill and imagination.” Both of these explanations are similar and describe the two critical components for determining if something is art or not: skill and imagination. If something is created skillfully but not imaginatively, it’s not art. If something is created imaginatively but not skillfully, it’s not art. It must be both skillfully and imaginatively completed in order to be considered art.

People have different levels of skill and creativity. You might be very skillful but only marginally creative. You can be highly creative but only marginally skillful. Either way, you can still create art, and you can work to improve your shortcomings. You can become more proficient and increase your creativity with practice. Obviously you want to be very skillful and highly creative if you wish to be an artist photographer. That’s a life-long process, and there are no easy one-size-fits-all instant answers. Just continue to work hard and be persistent.

Aside from knowing how to use your camera gear to achieve your desired results, and having imagination enough to know what you want the results to be in the first place, I think that there are a few more aspects to art that should be talked about. Look again at what Webster said of art, paying particular attention to the phrase, “conscious use of…” in the definition. You have to know what it is that you are creating. You have to be able to define it. You should be able to explain it to some extent. If you can’t, it’s not likely art that you’re creating.

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Ethos – Riverdale, UT – Fujifilm X100F

I used to show my photographs to people and they’d say, “Oh, that looks nice!” Or, “What a pretty picture!” Then one day someone asked, “What does this picture mean? What is its purpose?” I had no answer because I had never thought of that before. I really didn’t know what to say, and it was kind of embarrassing. I realized that I needed to have an answer for all of my photographs–I needed to know the purpose and meaning of each–but the answer needed to be made prior to exposure, not after. If I’m trying to make it up after the fact it will typically translate as artificial and weak. If a photograph is art, the photographer should be able to give a clear and concise explanation of the image. It doesn’t necessarily have to be profound. It doesn’t necessarily have to be obvious to the viewer. But the photographer should know clearly in their mind why they created the image and what the meaning of it is. And it’s okay if the viewer doesn’t see it the same way that you see it, it only matters that you know why you created it.

I believe that if something is art it should convey something to the viewer. It might be a strong and obvious message, it might be a subtle concept, it might be an emotion–there should be some kind of nonverbal communication, whether clear or vague. The photographer must decide what it is that the picture will convey, and then make decisions prior to exposure that will most strongly speak it. The Oxford explanation of art uses the word “expression” which can be defined as making one’s thoughts and feelings known. When you are an artist photographer, that’s exactly what you are doing. You are expressing your thoughts and/or feelings to others through your pictures. You are giving the viewer a glimpse of yourself through your photographs. Art is self expression. How you do this is entirely up to you. What glimpses you give of yourself is entirely up to you. You have to make those decisions, then skillfully and imaginatively create something from it.

Not everyone will appreciate your art. Not everyone will get it. In fact, if you are truly expressing yourself, you should expect criticism. People have opinions that are different than yours. People have experiences that are different than yours. People see the world through different eyes than yours. Strangers will look at something that you think is great and they’ll think it’s terrible. That’s completely okay, and you may not realize it, but you do the exact same thing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Snake River Fog – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

If you are an artist photographer, you have to expect that criticism will come. Take it for what it’s worth, and, most likely, it’s not worth much. Listen to people who you trust, and take their criticism to heart. They mean well with what they say, and they’re just trying to help you. For everyone else, give the criticism a listen, but don’t put much stock into it, and don’t let it bother you. If you’re not getting any criticism at all, it’s most likely because you are not creating art, and you are not expressing yourself through your photographs enough.

Not everyone is an artist photographer, and not every artist photographer is always creating art. Photography as art happens when someone consciously expresses themselves in a masterful and creative fashion. It happens when the photographer communicates thoughts or emotions through pictures. I’m constantly striving to be an artist photographer. Sometimes I think I’ve succeeded, other times I feel like I’ve fallen short. But I keep at it, never giving up, always striving ahead.

The takeaway that I’d like to most impart is that you and I should continuously be working towards becoming more skilled with our gear and we should daily be practicing creativity. Constantly take baby steps to become a better and more artistic photographer. Even if things are slow developing or mistakes happen, don’t give up but instead keep moving forward. Be persistent. Tomorrow’s photographs can be better than today’s.

Capturing Family Photos – Being Both Behind & In Front of The Camera

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Each year when it’s time to capture family portraits, my wife, Amanda, suggests that we hire a photographer to do the job. I have mixed feelings on this because if you want good pictures you should hire a good photographer, and I’m a photographer but it can be very tough to be both in front of the camera and behind the camera at the same time. I’m generally cheap but I’m also happy to help support the photographic community. Most years, including last year, I end up with the job and only a few times have we actually had someone else do it. Almost every year, though, the idea of hiring someone gets brought up.

This year we took our own pictures once again, deciding not to hire someone. There are  always challenges in doing this, and the results are a mixed bag. This is known going into it. I prepared myself mentally that things weren’t going to be perfect. When you are in front of the camera, you simply don’t have the control, vision or freedom that you are used to when you’re behind the camera. You rely a little more on preparation and luck, and really just hope for the best.

There were two shots that my wife and I were hoping to get good: one picture with the two of us and one picture with all six of us. Anything else would be the icing on the cake. We knew that we would do the photo shoot at Antelope Island State Park, and we purposefully chose a day that was supposed to be overcast so that we’d have softer light. We scouted out three different locations on Antelope Island for the pictures. We made a plan and had everything set.

For the photographs of Amanda and I and also the entire family, I used two cameras set on tripods. I had a Fujifilm X-T20 with a 90mm lens, and set closer (but out of the frame of the X-T20) was a Fujifilm X100F. I used the Fujifilm camera remote app to control the X-T20 from my phone and on the X100F I used the interval timer (set to capture an image every 15 seconds) to snap random shots. This turned out to be a good setup, providing two angles and capturing a little of the serendipity. For the rest of the pictures the cameras were taken off of the tripods and my wife and I both captured images, which were the “icing on the cake” photographs.

What was out of my control was the weather, or more specifically the temperature, as it was colder than we were dressed for. The kids were pretty miserable. We sent them to the car (which was never far out of frame) frequently to warm up. Besides being cold, my four-year-old son was nervous and didn’t have a good attitude for much of the shoot. Despite our best efforts, we really struggled to get him to have a look on his face that didn’t clearly say, “I don’t want to be here!”

Some of my favorite pictures are the random ones captured by the X100F. These “outtakes” are humorous and give a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the “real” us. The out-of-focus shot of Amanda and I was a happy accident. I captured RAW+JPEG, and using the built-in RAW converter on the cameras, made both color and black-and-white versions of each picture. Our favorites are the black-and-whites, so that’s what I decided to share here. Overall I believe it went well. The pictures aren’t perfect. The photo shoot would likely have turned out a little better if I had hired someone to do it. Maybe next year I’ll do that. Or maybe once again I’ll find myself in two places at once.

The kids:

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Amanda and I:

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Partial family:

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The whole family:

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Outtakes:

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Weekly Photo Project, Week 21

My weekly photo project is an attempt to capture one picture every day for a year, taking things one week at a time. I’m 21 weeks into it now, and perhaps you have not been following this project from the beginning. If you’d like to take a look back, here’s a link to Week 1, and from there you can see each week from the start. You could also browse through it backwards using the link at the bottom of this article. I hope that you enjoy the pictures!

Monday, December 10, 2018

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Christmas Lights Display – Layton, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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Reading To Children And Seniors – Layton, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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Clouds Moving Across The Wasatch – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Thursday, December 13, 2018

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Frosted Hill – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Friday, December 14, 2018

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Watching Trains – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Saturday, December 15, 2018

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Red Chairs In Snow – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Sunday. December 16, 2018

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Ogden Airport – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Week 20  Week 22

My Fujifilm X-T20 Fujicolor Pro 400H Film Simulation Recipe

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Taking Out The Trash – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

Fujifilm Pro 400H is a color negative film that was first introduced in 2002 (originally named NPH400). It’s a popular print film that has survived the digital era, as Fujifilm continues to manufacture Pro 400H to this very day, while many other films have seen the chopping block. It’s a fine-grain (for ISO 400), natural-color, versatile film that’s especially good for weddings and portraits. I have used it a couple times myself, although not anytime recently. I do remember some of the idiosyncrasies of the film. Interestingly, the “H” in the name stands for “high speed,” which is the designation that Fujifilm gave to all their ISO 400 films.

I’ve tried in the past to create a Pro 400H recipe for Fujifilm X cameras, but I was never happy with the results. In fact, you might recall that I suggested Fujifilm include this as a new film simulation in future cameras. Recently a Fuji X Weekly reader, Mauricio, shared with me his settings for Pro 400H, and he asked my thoughts on it. I was able to try it out and I liked it! His settings were indeed close, although I felt it needed some tweaking to better mimic the film.

Anytime that you are attempting to recreate the look of a certain film with a digital camera, there are variables that make it difficult. How was it shot? How was it developed? Was it printed, and how so? Was it scanned, and how so? Those are common challenges, plus more. With Pro 400H, there is an additional challenge: the film can look much different depending on the light and exposure. There are several distinct looks that can be achieved using the film, and it’s not possible to recreate all of those aesthetics with a film simulation recipe. Despite all of the challenges, I do feel that I was able to create a look that is in the ballpark of the film, thanks to the help of Mauricio.

There were several compromises that I had to make. I tried many different things to get the aesthetics as close as I could. For example, the film is known for cool blueish shadows and a warm pinkish highlights. Split toning is not possible on Fujifilm X cameras. I could get the shadow color cast more accurate but at the expense of the highlight color, or I could get the highlight color cast more accurate but at the expense of the shadow color. The white balance shift that I settled on, which is the same one that was suggested to me in the first place, isn’t spot-on accurate for the shadows or highlights, but it’s a nice middle ground that’s close enough to both to be convincing. What you get is a cool color cast showing through in the shadows and a slight red color cast showing up in the highlights. The light and exposure of an image will change the look of it in a similar fashion to the actual film, although not completely the same. It’s as close as I could get it.

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Holiday Decor – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

Fujifilm Pro 400H film has a huge latitude in the highlights. You can overexpose it by three stops easily (maybe four) and get a good print. In fact, a lot of people purposefully overexpose the film because the colors turn pastel and the images become more warm and vibrant. The X-Trans III sensor has a lot of dynamic range, but it cannot hold up to a three stop overexposure. I found that DR200 is a good setting in many circumstances, but in high-contrast scenes, DR400 might be a better option. I used DR200 for all of the pictures in this article, but some might have benefited from the higher dynamic range setting. I think in high contrast scenes, in order to prevent clipped highlights, if you aren’t going to select DR400, perhaps set highlights to -1. I debated on whether +2 or +3 is the best setting for shadows. I think a +2.5 option would be most correct, but unfortunately that doesn’t exist. My recommendation would be to use +2 in higher contrast scenes and +3 in lower contrast scenes. I used +3 for all of the photos here.

Another setting that I debated on was color saturation. I settled on +4, which I think is the most correct for simulating slightly overexposed Pro 400H. An argument could be made that +3, +2 and +1 are also correct, depending on how the film was exposed and handled. If you think that +4 is too saturated for your tastes, simply find the color setting that works best for you. Pro 400H is definitely a tough film to make a recipe for. I think these settings are going to be your best bet for achieving a look straight out of camera that mimics the film’s aesthetic. Even though I captured these photographs using an X-T20, this film simulation recipe is compatible with all Fujifilm X-Trans III and IV cameras.

PRO Neg. STD
Dynamic Range: DR200
Highlight: 0
Shadow: +3
Color: +4
Grain: Weak
Noise Reduction: -3
Sharpening: 0
White Balance: Auto, +2 Red & +1 Blue
ISO: Auto up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: +2/3 to +1 (typically)

Example photographs, all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs captured using my Fujifilm X-T20 Fujicolor Pro 400H Film Simulation recipe:

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Red Chairs In Snow – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Up From The Snow – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Second Day of Winter – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Frosted Trees & Winter Sun – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Cold Neighborhood Morning – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Some Lady’s Book Store – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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TV Fiasco – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Pierre’s Miniature Bakery – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Christmas Decoration – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Faith – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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FED 5c Rangefinder – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Bolsey Behind Bars – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Fake Grass In A Box – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Lavender & Twine – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Pentax & Fujifilm – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Three 35mm Film Canisters – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Vase Arm – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Red Fire Hydrant – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Neighborhood Window – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Dead Rose Bush Leaves – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Frozen Leaf – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Moon Rise Over The Mountain – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Snow Dusted Peak – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Mountain & Cloud – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Brick Wall Boy – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Car Play – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Girl By The Window Light – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

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Green Night Shed – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Pro 400H”

Current Fujifilm X-T2 Deals

I wanted to pass along some great deals on the Fujifilm X-T2 that are currently going on at Amazon. While the X-T20 is my top recommended Fujifilm camera, right now the X-T2 is probably the best value because it’s a really high quality camera that has been steeply discounted (thanks to the X-T3). If you’ve thought about getting this camera, now is the time, as I understand that these prices will change on January 1st. Also, if you use my links to buy the camera, you’ll be supporting this website, which is something that I appreciate! Oh, and it’s not too late if you are Christmas shopping.

Here are the current deals on the Fujifilm X-T2:

The Fujifilm X-T2 (body only) is $1,099, which is $500 off!
The graphite Fujifilm X-T2 (body only) is $1,199, which is $600 off!
The Fujifilm X-T2 with an 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens is $1,400, which is $500 off!

Weekly Photo Project, Week 20

I had a couple days of productive photography during this week. Because of my busy holiday schedule, the sometimes less-than-ideal weather conditions, and fewer daylight hours, there were some days where I almost didn’t capture a single picture. Luckily I did manage to take at least two images each day, which is great! Twenty straight weeks capturing at least one photo each day is certainly an accomplishment, one that I wasn’t sure I’d pull off. Now if I can string 32 more weeks together I’ll have successfully finished a 365 project. I want to challenge myself moving forward to improving the quality of the pictures. I feel as though on certain days all I’ve done is made a quick snapshot in order to have a picture. I want to make sure that I’ve created a quality image on each day, which is a challenge within a challenge, I suppose.

Monday, December 3, 2018

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Sunset Painted On The Ridge – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

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Snow Blowing Off The Roof – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

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Time For A Photographic Adventure – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Thursday, December 6, 2018

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Holding On Despite The Challenges – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Friday, December 7, 2018

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Fake Flower In The Window – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Saturday, December 8, 2018

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Lonely Road Cross Process – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Sunday, December 9, 2018

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Somewhere To Elsewhere – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Week 19  Week 21

Focus On What Matters

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I’ve been thinking about focus a lot lately. Not focus of the lens, but focus of the mind and life. How can I photographically improve? How can I use my time better? What should I be doing different? There are a lot of different aspects of this that I could talk about, and I’ll try to get to several of them in this article.

What comes to my mind first regarding focus and photography is composition. Something catches your eyes and you want to capture it with your camera. You have to consider what it is exactly that you wish to make a picture of. There is something about the scene that fascinates you, but what is it? Is it the light? The color? Design? Juxtaposition? Contrast? How can you best photographically communicate that? Once you’ve answered those questions and many others, then you can go about creating a meaningful image by cutting out everything that isn’t important.

Photography is a lot like sculpting. The sculptor starts with a rock and chisels away everything that isn’t the finished sculpture. The photographer starts with a vast scene and removes everything that isn’t the picture that’s in his or her mind. Focus on what the picture should look like, and then take out of the frame everything that doesn’t belong.  Less is more. Successful photography is often about non-verbally communicating as clearly and concisely as possible.

I get asked sometimes how I find time to photograph every day. Life is busy. I have four young kids that keep me immensely occupied. I have to put food on the table and a roof over my family’s heads. There are so many different people and things that require my attention. It’s often easier to not photograph. On the flip side it’s also easy to photograph too much and neglect the more important things around me. I get pulled in a lot of different directions. Finding balance is difficult, but possible.

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When you are passionate about something you find the time for it. I’m passionate about my family. I’m passionate about photography. I’m passionate about writing and other things. I make time for the things that I love. Something’s got to give, so I spend less time on the things that don’t matter as much to me.

You have to focus your time deliberately and wisely. If you are flying day-to-day by the seat of your pants you’ll spend too much time on one thing and ignore the others. Everything will find itself unbalanced. You have to focus your time and energy with purpose. You have to set aside a predetermined amount of time to your passion, and focus on accomplishing what you need regarding that passion within that time.

Sometimes things can spill over from one thing into another. For example, I love photography and I love my family, so I can sometimes photograph while I’m doing things with my family, or my family can become the subject of my photography. The caution here is to not let the camera interfere with family time, and not let family interfere with camera time. It’s important to set aside time that’s just for family and just for photography. There has to be a balance. It takes careful planning, but it is possible to accommodate a lot of different things in life.

Everyone should have passions and everyone should have dreams. Your passions will be the focus of your life. Where two (or more) passions meet is where you’ll do your best work. For example, if you love photography and also horses, you should combine the two passions and create your best work. Dream of what you could possibly create by photographing what you love!

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I think a lot of people photograph whatever it is that catches their eyes at any given moment. I know that I do this often, and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with it, but it creates disjointed work. It’s better to focus one’s efforts onto refined ideas. The more specific you can be about what you photograph the better. You could call it specializing, but I don’t think you have to pick just one genre. I suggest focusing your attention on very specific photographic topics and create a cohesive body of work. If there is some subject, object, genre or style that you are particularly fascinated by, focus your efforts on that. I believe that the more specific you can be the more successful you are likely to be.

Richard Steinheimer once said something to the effect of, “Photography is about being in the right place at the right time, and that often means going places that others aren’t willing to go and at times that they’re not willing to be there.” In other words, a big part of photography is luck, but you can create your own luck through determination and preparation. Focus your energy into being in the right places at the right times to capture great photographs. This might entail extra research, it might entail going down the road less traveled (metaphorically and literally), it might entail getting out of bed and venturing out into the cold while everyone else is warm and comfortably sleeping. Whatever it means, you have to be determined to do it.

I find myself too often with metaphorically blurred vision. I feel that sometimes my efforts are going nowhere, that I’m just spinning my wheels. I need to focus better, and that includes my time, my dreams, my efforts, my subjects, my compositions and more. It’s about refining, which means removing the unnecessary stuff that just takes up time and space, and clearing away all of the useless distractions that abound each day. Focus more on the things that matter and less on the things that don’t.

Why Bokeh Is Overrated

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Kitchen Flowers – Pawhuska, OK – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 60mm

Within photography circles, bokeh is an often discussed aspect of an image, and this is especially true over the last ten or fifteen years. If you aren’t sure exactly what bokeh is, don’t worry, you are not alone, as a lot of people misunderstand it. I will do my best to explain it to you and also explain why it’s not as important as many people think.

Bokeh is defined as the quality of the out-of-focus area of an image. It’s how well a lens renders blur, the aesthetics of it. It’s often described in terms like good, creamy, smooth, bad, harsh, distracting, swirly, soap bubble, and so forth. It’s very subjective, and you can use any adjective you want to help describe it. What might be characterized as good bokeh by you might be described differently by another person.

I don’t remember hearing the word bokeh spoken even once when I studied photography in college 20 years ago. It’s not that it didn’t exist, because obviously bokeh did exist, but it didn’t really matter. You either liked how a certain lens rendered blur or you didn’t, and few were trying to quantify it or rate it. Nowadays people spend a lot of time and energy searching for lenses that produce the best bokeh, analyzing reviews and charts that attempt to rate it.

You will hear terms like “bokeh monster” when describing a lens and “bokeh master” when describing a person. People will say that a certain lens produces a lot of bokeh, which doesn’t make any sense, because bokeh is defined by character and is not a measurement. It’s a misunderstanding of what bokeh is. You can’t have more bokeh or less. You can only have nice or ugly bokeh, or some other description of the quality of the aesthetics.

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Holiday Decor – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 & 90mm

People confuse bokeh with depth-of-field, but they are two entirely different things. Depth-of-field is the amount of an image that is in focus, determined by the aperture, subject distance and non-subject distance, focal length of the lens, as well as the physical size of the sensor or film. A lot of people mean depth-of-field when they say bokeh. It’s a misunderstanding of terms! Depth-of-field is a mathematical calculation, while bokeh is subjective. Depth-of-field is objective and can only be described by measurement terms. A shallow depth-of-field creates a blur in a photograph, while bokeh is the description of the quality of that blur.

To achieve an out-of-focus area within an image, one needs to use a large aperture or focus really close to the end of the lens or both, which will create a shallow depth-of-field. A lot of people think that you need a large aperture, such as f/2, to achieve blur, but it depends on how close the subject is to the end of the lens. For example, in macro photography, you might have a shallow depth-of-field with an aperture of f/16 because the subject is so close to the lens. It is a math equation, and people have created calculators to help more easily understand what settings are needed to attain certain results. Generally speaking, you will have a smaller depth-of-field, which will render more blur, when using a larger aperture.

Rating bokeh is overrated. It’s something photographers on message boards talk about much too much. It doesn’t matter anywhere close to what some people would have you believe. The vast majority of people who view your pictures have no opinion whatsoever on the quality of the blur that they’re looking at. For anyone to even notice, there has to be something about it that stands out, such as swirly bokeh or really bad bokeh. Most modern lenses are precision engineered, so the flaws that make bokeh stand out don’t exist. Almost all newer lenses produce bokeh that’s at least mediocre, and most people, particularly non-photographers, cannot distinguish mediocre bokeh from great bokeh.

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Tricycle In The Woods – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios 44-2

Bokeh doesn’t matter because it’s subjective. What looks mediocre to you might look fantastic to someone else. People have different opinions. As long as it’s not bad bokeh, which I would define as being distracting to the image, then I’m perfectly fine with the quality of the blur, however the lens renders it. It’s actually difficult to find a lens that produces bad bokeh. Perhaps some cheap zoom lenses are prone to it. Most lenses render blur decently enough that viewers don’t notice the quality of it and, perhaps more importantly, they don’t care.

Ansel Adams said, “There’s nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” A fuzzy image of a fuzzy concept might be worse. Either way, the point is that the concept is what’s most important, and the other aspects, such as sharpness and bokeh, are not particularly critical. You can have a great image with poor bokeh and a poor image with great bokeh. The quality of the bokeh has little to do with the outcome of a photograph. It’s better to spend time and energy on image concepts than technical qualities.

Bokeh is the quality of the blur in an image. I’ve already said that, but it’s a good reminder of just how insignificant it really is. Think about it, we’re talking about the background blur. There are so many other more important things that we could be discussing! Bokeh is a popular topic, and a lot of people want to know more about it and are searching the internet for opinions. It’s good to know what it is, but it’s not something to get wrapped up in. You either like how a lens renders blur or you don’t, and either way it’s not a big deal.