Photographic Focus


Super EBC – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 8M

I’ve been thinking about focus over the last week. 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 could be discussed, 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 it that fascinates you, but what is it? Is it the light? The color? Design? Juxtaposition? Contrast? How can you best communicate it through a picture? 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.

I get asked sometimes how I find time to do photography. 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 the head. There are so many different people and things that require 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.


X100F – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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.

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.


Functional Dial – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 103

I think a lot of people photograph whatever it is that catches their eyes at any given moment. I fall into that a lot, 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.” 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.

Better Curating


Curtain Abstract – Mesquite, NV – Fujifilm X100F

I have a difficult time with curation. Frankly, I don’t curate well at all. I want to show all of my photographs. I’ll skip the bad ones (obviously), I’ll probably include a few mediocre ones, I’ll definitely share the good ones, and mixed within that will be the few great ones.

Great photographs don’t come around all that often. Ansel Adams stated that one great picture per month is a pretty good number. That was from one of the best photographers of all time who worked harder than most. I’m not going to capture a great photograph nearly as often as Ansel did, nor will it be as great.

Nowadays we are overwhelmed by images. There are more picture-takers now than ever before, and each picture-taker is taking more picture than ever before. And there are more means to get those pictures viewed by others than ever before. Everybody is sharing like mad on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, etc., etc., etc., and we see so many pictures each day that we are almost numb to it. It seems like you have to do so much more to get noticed.


Bike Rack Shadow -Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100F

One problem is that so many of us are so terrible at curating our pictures. We post them all! We share on social media so many images. Good, bad or ugly, doesn’t matter. You snapped it so you share it. I’m just as guilty of this as everyone else. I’ve shown a number of awful pictures on social media. I’m downright embarrassed at some of the pictures that I’ve made public.

Yesterday’s post, Photoessay: 20 Fall Foliage Photographs, actually started out as 50 Fall Foliage Photographs. Yes, I was ready to publish a post containing 50 of my autumn photographs. I then realized that I desperately needed to curate it better. So I began to trim the ones that I knew were mediocre. I still had too many, so I cut out the ones that weren’t overtly autumn. I was closer, but I still had too many, so I cut out the worst of what remained. It was now at a much better number, down from 50 to 20. I don’t think any of them classify as “great” but I hope that all of them are at least good. I probably should have kept trimming until just the 10 best remained. Less is more is a good adage.

Sometimes (or, really, oftentimes) I have a hard time distinguishing which of my photographs are actually good and which ones are not. I put so much thought and care into each exposure, I have an emotional attachment to them. I’m biased towards my own pictures. I think that they’re better than they really are. I believe that this is a common problem.


The Company You Keep – Peoria, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

Time has a way of revealing which pictures are good and which ones are not. When I haven’t viewed an image for awhile, the emotional attachment fades. I can look back at my pictures from a year ago and much more easily separate the wheat from the chaff. Even more so for photographs that are two or three years old. I sometimes look at a picture and wonder how I ever thought it was any good.

My wife is good at distinguishing which photos are good and which ones aren’t. And she’s not afraid to tell me. I used to argue with her when she would tell me that one of my pictures that I really liked was no good. Later on I would realize that she was right and I was wrong, the picture wasn’t nearly as good as I thought it was. I think everyone needs someone in their life who can discern good from bad and is willing to speak the truth about it. I’m extremely fortunate to be married to that person.

The conclusion to this rambling is that everyone needs to become better curators of their own photographs. There are so many pictures that bombard us daily, and most of them are ignored because they’re not great. The world doesn’t need more pictures, it needs more great pictures. Quality instead of quantity. Show fewer pictures, but show better pictures. That’s a goal I have for this new year.

Don’t Buy A Cheap Crap Camera Strap


I love how the Fujifilm X100F is small enough to fit into a pocket. It makes it much more convenient to carry around than a bulky camera that has to be hung around your neck or stuffed into a camera bag. A small wrist strap is all that the X100F needs.

You would think that a decent wrist strap could be found for a reasonable price. I was a little shocked at how much most want for one. I did find a nice-looking leather wrist strap on eBay for $10. That’s closer to what I wanted to spend, so I bought it.

The leather wrist strap arrived in the mail and attached easily onto the camera. It was a little tight on my hand, but not too bad. I liked the aesthetic. The camera still fit into my pockets with the strap attached. I was happy with it.


I’ve used the camera with the wrist strap attached for three months now. I’ve made a lot of exposures during that time. I wouldn’t say that I’ve abused it, but I’ve certainly put it through the wringer. It didn’t look any worse for the wear.

I just got back late last night from a road trip to Seattle. On the very first day of the trip I stopped in Twin Falls, Idaho, to see Shoshone Falls (“Niagara Falls of the west”). I made several exposures. My family was with me. We all admired the massive waterfall that sits inside a deep canyon.

As we were about to leave my three-year-old son tugged at the leather wrist strap that was attached to my X100F. It broke right off! Thankfully I had a firm grip on the camera body.


Shoshone Falls – Twin Falls, Idaho – Fujifilm X100F

The leather camera strap was crap, cheaply made and unreliable. It busted off much too easily. My camera could have fallen down the cliff and into the canyon below! It would not have survived the fall. It occurred to me that I was precariously handling my camera, and I was completely unaware because I didn’t realize the wrist strap was poorly constructed.

The lesson here is don’t go cheap on your camera strap. It’s what’s preventing your camera from falling, possibly to a tragic end. I got lucky, and my X100F is perfectly fine. Spend the extra money and buy a quality product. That’s what I’m going to do this time. I should have done so in the first place.

I still don’t want to spend gobs of money, but I see the value in having a reliable strap. I don’t want my camera to fall onto a hard surface or into a deep canyon. It needs to be securely handled, and I have to be able to trust that the strap will hold up. With some luck I will find a quality product for a reasonable price. I will keep you updated when I do.

Authenticity & Photography


Ilford Harman Technology – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Photography is losing its credibility. Photos aren’t seen as honest anymore. People don’t trust pictures. It’s a crisis that nobody’s talking about.

I’ve noticed this for awhile now. When photography consumers (those who view photos) look at pictures, they are skeptical. They assume the photos have been altered. They think it’s a false representation of reality. They believe that the photographer is lying to them. They think right away that they are being bamboozled.

You’ve heard the phrase “pictures never lie” and the term “photographic evidence” but the truth is every picture lies. Photos are inherently deceitful. Every photograph is the truth as seen through stained glass windows. The photographer makes all sorts of decisions before the exposure is even made that have big implications on the outcome. It’s “reality” through the photographer’s mind, not what anyone else might view as reality. Photography is an extraordinarily biased endeavor, as it should be.


Evening In Temple Square – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

But that’s not the issue. People understand that each photographer will approach a subject differently. We all have our own experiences, thoughts and emotions that become the prism through which we view the world. Everyone is unique, and so everyone has the ability to create unique pictures.

The problem is manipulation. People are altering their photographs to a tremendous degree. Photographers are relying heavily on Photoshop to achieve their vision, and photography consumers feel like they’re being tricked. Even though it is the digital file that’s being manipulated, the viewer feels as though they themselves are the ones being manipulated. They’re being deceived. They’re being lied to.

I saw recently a photograph posted online that had been obviously altered significantly because it was impossible for the scene to exist. It defied reality. It was a composite of multiple photographs, some green-screen work, and some other digital wizardry. A person commented that this image wasn’t photography, but some other form of digital art, and it was incorrect to call it photography. He was fiercely attacked for making his statement, and the argument was made that if a camera was used then it must be a photograph.


Dying Tree At Grand Canyon Rim – Yellowstone NP, WY – Fujifilm X100F

Imagine if someone made an airplane out of a lawnmower (this is an actual thing, by the way). Is it a lawnmower or an airplane? I see that it has wings. I see the propeller spin. I see it fly through the air. I don’t see it cutting any grass. It’s an airplane made from lawnmower parts. It no longer serves its original purpose due to its modifications, so it cannot be called a lawnmower anymore. This is clear, yet people insist on calling digital art that at one point was an exposure from a camera “photography” even though it no longer resembles that original exposure.

When it is clear that significant manipulations have been made to a photograph, it is a disservice to insist that it be referred to as a photograph. Photography consumers can spot it from a mile away, and they’re saying it’s not a photograph. It makes them feel as though the photographer is trying to pull the wool over their eyes when they call it something that it is clearly not.

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” People want honesty. They want authenticity. They don’t like being tricked. They don’t like being played a fool. Photography consumers have become skeptical and cynical. “Once bitten, twice shy,” as the saying goes.


Wasatch September – American Fork Canyon, UT – Fujifilm X100F

I get asked frequently when showing my pictures, “How much did you Photoshop this?” They’re not really interested in what tweaking I did. They are simply verifying their suspicions that I have manipulated the picture. It’s false. It’s a lie. It’s been Photoshopped.

The word “Photoshop” has become a bad word. It’s derogatory, whether fairly or not. A lot of photography consumers don’t like Photoshop, or at least what they believe Photoshop is and what they believe it means to use it. Sure, strong arguments can be made that photographers have been manipulating images since the invention of the camera, that doing so is nothing the great photographers of past generations didn’t themselves do. What’s different today is the degree and frequency of manipulation.

Over the last couple of years a lot of photojournalists have made headlines for manipulating their pictures. Not adjustments to contrast and color saturation, but removing or adding things. In one case, taking someone else’s pictures and adding them to their own to make a story that didn’t exist. Photojournalists have gotten themselves in hot water numerous times for manipulating the story by way of manipulating their pictures. The viewers come away feeling as though they were the ones being manipulated.


Man In The Straw Hat – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

There is a lack of trust, and understandably so. You can’t take a photograph at face value. And maybe you never could, but it is especially true today. Photograph manipulation is so common that many people assume all pictures have been edited to some degree. Some photographers have taken post-processing to levels never before imagined thanks to advancements in digital technology, so it can be tough to know what’s real and what’s not.

I no longer shoot RAW, but instead rely on out-of-camera JPEGs. Fujifilm cameras have the best JPEG processor in the business, and the X100F that I use creates especially excellent JPEGs that don’t typically require post-processing. The Film Simulation options have a film-like quality to them.

Lately, when showing my recent photographs, I’ve been asked, “How much did you Photoshop this?” I’ve answered, “Not at all, this is exactly as it came out of the camera, completely unedited.” The responses have been, “Oh, wow, that’s great!” And, “Amazing!” And, “Who needs Photoshop?” It’s the exact opposite reaction from what I got before, because I proved their suspicions wrong. The picture wasn’t manipulated. It was authentic. It had more credibility. It wasn’t fake in the eyes of the viewer.


KeyBank Building – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Now before anyone jumps on me saying that I’m anti-Photoshop, I want to make it very clear that I’m not. I have no issues whatsoever with anyone using software to help create the images that they want to create. I’ve edited tens of thousands of pictures, and I will continue using software to edit exposures that need it. What I have said isn’t about me, but about the attitudes of photography consumers.

There is a growing anti-Photoshop movement, and it’s not from photographers but from photography consumers. It’s been building for years, but it seems to be gaining momentum lately. Within some circles, Photoshop is a curse word, the new “f” word. A sentiment that’s been widening is that Photoshop equals fake. These people believe that if you use software to manipulate your photos, then they’re fake. You are a liar. Many people don’t care whatsoever how a picture was made, but a group that’s increasing fast does indeed care!

Instead of looking at this negatively, I believe there is an opportunity. You could set yourself apart by becoming a more authentic photographer. Create more in-camera and less in-software. Be more real. Be more genuine. Be more honest. That’s what the anti-Photoshop photography consumers are asking for.


Salt Lake Towers – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

It’s not pandering to the crowd to do so. You can please those who care how an image was made and those that don’t care at the same time, by creating great pictures with only limited use of post-processing tools. If you disregard the anti-Photoshoppers you will only alienate potential consumers, so there is a downside to ignoring this crisis. You might even fight against it and double-down on digital editing; however, it’s hard to fight against a rising tide.

My recommendation is to look for ways to rely less on post-processing software and rely more on your camera skills. When you do edit, be as upfront about it as possible. If you did extensive manipulation, maybe consider calling the image something other than a photograph. Try using camera-made JPEGs, and if your camera isn’t good at making them, consider a Fujifilm product, such as the X100F. Or maybe shoot film.

Be truthful, that’s what people want. People think that you’re manipulating them through your images, and they really want you to prove them wrong. You’d be surprised at how impressed people are when you show them an excellent photograph that wasn’t touched with editing software. There is a significant group that is much more enthralled by what you can do with your camera than what you can do with your computer. They don’t care how good you are with software, they care how skilled you are as a photographer. And they don’t like feeling as though you’re trying to fool them. They want honest pictures. They appreciate authentic photographers.

X100F & Weather Sealing


The Fujifilm X100F isn’t “weather sealed” and isn’t designed to take on harsh conditions. Is this a big deal? How important is weather sealing?

I recently took my X100F to Yellowstone National Park and inadvertently put it to the weather sealing test. It rained all day, pretty heavily at times, and the mineral-rich steam surrounded myself and my camera a number of times.

I did my best to keep the camera dry. I kept it in my pocket whenever I wasn’t using it and wiped the water off whenever I could. It still got fairly soaked at times.

At the Midway Geyser Basin the steam created a thick fog. I didn’t even realize how wet the camera had gotten until I saw that my wife’s eyeglasses were unusable. I looked down in horror to see water literally dripping from the camera. This mineral-rich moisture can ruin a lens if not wiped off completely before drying.


Disappearing Walkway – Yellowstone NP, WY – Fujifilm X100F

The rain was coming down pretty heavy at a few places we stopped, such as Kepler Cascades, Isa Lake, Yellowstone Lake, Mud Volcano, etc. The camera got more wet than I ever wanted it to.

The X100F survived all of this. It works 100% perfectly fine as if it never got wet. I’m not sure exactly how much water it can handle, and I imagine that fine dust might be a bigger issue, but it handled the elements well despite no weather sealing.

This begs the question: how important is weather sealing? Is it overrated? I think most cameras are designed in such a way that they can handle casual use in some adverse conditions. If it’s a little hot, cold, wet, or dusty, your camera should survive no worse for the wear. But if you are in more extreme circumstances, weather sealing could be the difference between shooting tomorrow or not.

If the conditions you shoot in aren’t terribly bad, you don’t likely need weather sealing, just take some appropriate precautions. If you shoot in particularly rough conditions, be sure to have weather sealed gear or else you risk ruining your camera. The X100F can take some weather, but there’s a limit, and you don’t really want to find out exactly what that limit is.

Fujifilm X-E3 Thoughts


Fujifilm X-E1 & 15-55mm Lens

I’m trying to avoid talking about gear other than the Fujifilm X100F on this blog (because this site is about the X100F), but some of you know that my introduction to Fuji was with an X-E1, so I have been asked to share my thoughts on the X-E3. This new camera, which is the fourth generation in the X-E line, will be shipping soon.

I love the X-E line, and I loved my X-E1. It was a great camera that reignited my passion for photography like no other camera, with perhaps the X100F as the only exception. It was a joy to use. I particularly liked pairing it with vintage lenses. I was sad to let it go.

What’s great about the camera is the user experience. I was reminded of the film days, and shooting with a Canon A-E1 (one of the greatest cameras ever made, by the way). I appreciated the process of creating photographs with it. Image quality was great, too.


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

The only reason that I gave up the X-E1 is because, after I purchased the X100F, I stopped using it. It was a shame watching it collect dust on a shelf. I didn’t expect that the fixed-lens camera would downright replace it, but it did.

So what about the X-E3? Well, it’s a tad smaller than the previous X-E versions. It has the same 24-megapixel X-Trans III sensor found inside the X100F. It has better auto-focus. It has Acros and film grain simulation. It has the ISO dial and focus joystick. It has a touchscreen and a simplified back.

The camera is an improvement over the previous models, I’m sure of it. There are definitely some advantages. I’m not sure that I would like the touchscreen, especially since many of the physical controls were moved to that–I can see it being both positive and negative.


The Tetons and the Snake River, 2017 – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

Here’s the deal: the X-E3 is 90% the same camera as the X-E2s, which is 98% the same camera as the X-E2, which is 95% the same camera as the X-E1. Each new generation is an improvement over the previous, but not by huge margins. The X-E3 over the X-E2s is the largest change from one model to the next, but it’s still not a massive jump. The X-E3 would seem significantly different than the X-E1, but that’s to be expected considering how many models they are apart.

If you purchased the X-E3 you will certainly be happy with that decision. You won’t regret the camera! If the MSRP is a stretch for your budget, consider one of the previous models instead, which can be found for not much money (you can find the X-E1 with a lens for under $300). I think you’ll enjoy any camera from the X-E line. If I were purchasing an interchangeable lens camera, I’d choose one of them.

Are the X-E3’s improvements enough to justify the higher cost? Maybe. I think if you routinely print poster-sized prints, or you shoot straight-out-of-camera JPEGs, or you shoot a lot of moving subjects, you may find the higher price of the X-E3 worth it. If you have an X-E1 with a lot of clicks on the shutter and you’re not confident that it will last you another couple years, perhaps it might be time to upgrade. Otherwise I’d strongly consider a previous generation X-E instead.


Barn By The Tetons – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1



5 Essential Elements of Photographic Vision


Photographing Lower Falls With A Phone – Yellowstone NP, WY – Fujifilm X100F

There are a lot of people that will tell you that you need photographic vision, but very few will explain what it means. You can search the web endlessly, but you won’t find a whole lot that lays it out simply and coherently. So let me pause from my regular Fujifilm X100F posts and briefly explain this important concept.

“In order to be a successful photographer, you must possess both vision and focus, neither of which have anything to do with your eyes.” –Kevin Russo

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” –Ansel Adams

Photographic vision is a vivid and imaginative conception. Within that definition are three (of five) essential elements of photographic vision: Clarity, Creativity and Conception. Capturing and Composing are the fourth and fifth elements. Let’s take a look at each.

1. Clarity


Black Conduit – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

In order to have photographic vision, you must see in your mind’s eye what it is that you want to create before opening the shutter. You must pre-visualize the finished photograph. You must have vivid clarity. This might be a brief moment before the shutter opens or this might be something you’ve thought about for days, weeks or even years in advance.

Great photographs are very rarely happy accidents. Almost all worthwhile pictures took some thought and planning to create. The more clearly you can see in your mind what it is that you want to capture, the more likely you are to accomplish it.

2. Creativity


Lines & Shadows – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Some people seem to be naturally creative. If that’s not you, don’t fret! I believe that creativity is something that can be learned and fostered. The more you allow yourself to think outside the box and look at things from different angles, the more creative you’ll become.

You have to relax. You have to keep an open mind. You have to use your imagination. Try to channel your inner child. This all might sound cliché, but the only barrier to creativity is yourself. Your rigid self. The self that says words like “no” and “can’t” and “shouldn’t” and other negative things. Think positive and throw all the so-called rules out the window.

3. Conception


Man In The Straw Hat – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Your photograph begins as a concept. You have an idea. You begin to see that idea vividly in your mind’s eye. As the thought forms, you begin to consider other ways to look at it. Your creativeness takes the concept to new places. This is a vivid and imaginative conception.

Speak some message through your picture. Show your unique perspective. You have something important to say. Photographs are a form of nonverbal communication, and they all say something. The stronger the communication, the stronger the image. Make your concept as clear as practical in your pictures.

4. Capturing


Ilford Harman Technology – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

The next step in photographic vision is to capture the image on film or a digital sensor. You’ve come up with a creative concept that you can clearly see in your mind. Now is the time to make it a photographic reality.

There is a lot to this, of coarse. You must consider gear and settings and lighting and composition and everything else. You have to know how to put what’s in your mind into something tangible. If you don’t know how, then perhaps you should learn. There are so many resources available on the internet and at the library–it’s all at your fingertips if you put in a little effort to learn. And oftentimes learning-by-doing is a good approach because, after all, practice makes perfect.

5. Composing


Sitting Large – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Composing probably reminds you of composition, but that’s not what I mean. Composition can be found in the previous principals. Instead, think of a symphony composer, putting everything together, placing consideration on even the smallest details. In the case of photographic vision, composing means taking account all of the little details, including editing. Especially editing.

Editing means post-processing your files if they require manipulation to fulfill your vision, and knowing how much manipulation is enough. It also means editing out the lesser exposures, deleting the bad ones and not including the mediocre ones with a body of work. It’s knowing when the vision or execution of the vision wasn’t good enough. Composing means knowing when to take it from the top and try again.