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It’s my pleasure to introduce you to the wonderful photography of Gerardo Celasco! Although you might not have seen his pictures before, there’s a decent chance that you’ve seen Gerardo. He’s a model-turned-actor (among other things, including internationally competing show jumping horse rider, accomplished volleyball player, and financial expert) who does photography as a hobby. He has a lot of talent, and whatever he does he does very well—photography included.
Although he was born in Miami, Gerardo grew up in El Salvador. He later moved to Texas and studied at Southern Methodist University. His home base is now in California, but he frequently travels internationally, and of course brings a camera along—a Fujifilm camera—to capture the moments.
Gerardo is perhaps best known for playing Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald on the NBC drama Passions from 2006-2007. He also played Carlos Peña in Moneyball, Mark Kovac in two episodes of Bones, Xavier Castillo during Season 5 and 6 of How To Get Away With Murder, Ty Salazar in Next, and Dr. Nick Vega in a recent episode of Good Sam, among other things.
In the coming-soon-to-Netflix series Devil in Ohio Gerardo plays Detective Lopez. We’ll get more into this in a moment, but below you’ll find the trailer, which you should definitely take a moment to watch right now.
Fuji X Weekly: Hey, Gerardo! I’m truly honored for this opportunity to interview you! Let’s begin at the very beginning: where did your early interests in photography come from? Were cameras and pictures a big part of your childhood?
Gerardo Celasco: We didn’t grow up taking a lot of photos in my family and we didn’t have lots of cameras around when my siblings and I were growing up. My dad was an engineer and my mom worked in sales and retail for a shoe company in El Salvador. To this day, we still don’t take many photos when we’re together. When we’re on a trip we always say, “We have to take more group photos!” And since I always have a camera on me, I’m always the one taking the photos so I’m rarely in the pictures.
Fuji X Weekly: How did you get started in photography?
Gerardo Celasco: I got started in photography pretty early on, but not necessarily behind the camera. When I was in high school I was asked to be the model for a campaign in El Salvador. Roberto Aguilar was the most sought out photographer in El Salvador. No one was doing what he was doing, and I got to be in front of his camera several times—it was my first time being in front of the camera. We became really close friends, and I learned so much from watching him work. He moved to Europe and became a professor in France for a few years, and is now living in London. Roberto was my first influence in photography, but I can also say he was my first influence in “performing” as well. I never went to drama school. I have a degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University—a life in entertainment wasn’t really in the cards for me growing up in El Salvador and the son of entrepreneurs.
Fuji X Weekly: What made you pursue photography further, take it more seriously?
Gerardo Celasco: This image [above] is my first one that shocked me when I saw it imported into my computer. I believe I shot it with a Leica D-Lux 4. There was no plan—it was on auto—and I got that “bokeh” everyone talks about. I didn’t know how that happened or how to recreate it, so that inspired me to really learn about the art form. I decided to enroll into a UCLA extension course for Photography, and did that for a few months. That’s where I learned about aperture and depth of field and things like that.
Fuji X Weekly: What was your most memorable photography experience?
Gerardo Celasco: I think that first image I shot that shocked me is the most memorable. It’s what inspired all of my other images. I still love the photo so much. It’s very raw, very real. I can feel so much when I see it. It was shot in El Salvador in La Libertad near the beach. It was sticky and damp. The two women were working and cooking on open fire in that heat. Maybe it’s because I was there, but I feel all of that every time I see the image.
Fuji X Weekly: What was your first camera?
Gerardo Celasco: My first camera was one of the really small Canon PowerShots. It was a matte silver. I carried that thing everywhere—way before we had cameras in our cellular phones. The list goes on from there: Canon 20D, Leica D-Lux 4, Canon 5D Mark II, Fujifilm X100T, Sony a7, Fuji X-T2, Fuji X-Pro3—that is the trajectory into mirrorless, but more importantly how I found Fuji. I also shoot film with a Canon AE-1 Program, and my everyday—always with me—Olympus Mju II, which always sparks a conversation or a laugh when I pull it out.
Fuji X Weekly: What made you buy your first Fujifilm camera? What do you shoot with now?
Gerardo Celasco: A trip to Morocco with my 5D led me to give up on my entire Canon photography gear. It was so heavy, and was very distracting. You couldn’t really get away with shooting discretely with a camera that size. At the time my good friend, cinematographer and camera/steadicam operator Eduardo Fierro, was a Fuji shooter. His exact words when I complained about my Canon were “Vendé esa mierda y compráte la Fuji” (which means: sell that shit and buy a Fuji!). So that’s what I did, and the X100T was my first Fuji. I now shoot with the X-Pro3, paired with a Fuji 27mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2, or 16-55 f/2.8.
Fuji X Weekly: What is your favorite aspect of Fujifilm cameras?
Gerardo Celasco: What I love most about the Fuji lineup—other than the obvious size and price—is the menu and the film simulations. The user interface is great and easy to get around. But for me, the film simulations are what really sets it apart from anything else. I don’t do any post editing on my images (because I haven’t learned Capture One or Photoshop), and I shoot everything JPEG (mainly because I don’t know what to do with a RAW file, and have never felt the need for it). Fuji X Weekly is my go to App for Film Simulation Recipes. Funnily enough, I believe that is how we met: I sent you a DM on Instagram, praising all of your Film Simulation Recipes and the RitchieCam App on the iPhone.
Fuji X Weekly: That’s right! I definitely remember that day—it was a nice surprise, and a bit of a shock. By the way, which Film Simulation Recipes do you like best?
Gerardo Celasco: My favorite film simulations are Portra 400, Portra 800, and the Ilford black-and-white ones. I honestly like the output of the Fuji Portra recipes more than the images I get with my film camera using real Portra 400 film—and it’s also cheaper.
Fuji X Weekly: What do you photograph most now?
Gerardo Celasco: I like shooting life, but I don’t like calling it “street photography.” I don’t have a style, and I honestly don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. I just shoot when I’m inspired. And I shoot what seems interesting to me at that moment. But I never have a plan. I just simply shoot, and share my images. I don’t like the pressure of someone asking me to photograph something or an event—I get so much satisfaction in just showing up with a camera and capturing beautiful moments when I haven’t been asked to, and then sharing those moments.
Fuji X Weekly: Who are your photographic influences?
Gerardo Celasco: I don’t have a list of photographers that have influenced me—I can probably only name a handful of them—but it’s not like I’m trying to do what they did. Vivian Maier, Ansel Adams, Garry Winograd, Henri Cartier-Bresson—those names comes to mind without me cheating and looking at my bookshelf.
Fuji X Weekly: How has your acting career influenced your photography?
Gerardo Celasco: Most people think that being an actor influenced my photography, but what it did was enhance it. Photography (in front or behind the camera), was my first step to becoming an actor—I’ve always felt that photography led me to my acting career. Being on set has made me more comfortable in front of the camera but at the same time it inspires me to want to shoot more. I’m always chatting up the cinematographer or the camera operators when I am on a set—mostly I’m just asking lots of questions about composition and lighting. Those men and women know so much, and I just try to learn and soak up as much as they are willing to share. Their work is what inspires me today.
Fuji X Weekly: Tell me about your upcoming Netflix series, Devil in Ohio.
Gerardo Celasco: Ah. Devil in Ohio! I feel like you and your wife have been patiently waiting for that. I think I was shooting that when I found RitchieCam and we started talking, only to find out you were the same person behind Fuji X Weekly! We’re only a couple weeks away from the premiere day. It will air on Netflix on September 2, and all 8 episodes will be available.
The show is based on a book by the same name written by Daria Polatin. Daria is also the showrunner for the show. The story was inspired by true events, which always makes it more interesting. I would describe it as a family drama meets a suspense/thriller. It has elements of both. Emily Deschanel (who I worked with many years ago on the final episodes of Bones), plays Suzanne Mathis, a Psychiatrist who is caring for an underage girl who has turned up at hospital clearly in distress. No one comes looking for the girl, so Suzanne decides to take her into her home until they can find a family for her. Doesn’t take long to realize that the girl has escaped from a cult, putting the family and their relationships in danger. I play Detective Alex Lopez, who is a transplant from big city Chicago. He’s a fish out of water, and by-the-book, but also has no idea what he’s dealing with by taking on this case. We had a great group of actors, great directors, and an incredible crew. I hope people find it and enjoy it!
Fuji X Weekly: Gerardo, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to allow me to interview you—it’s been such a pleasure!
Gerardo Celasco: I’d just like to say thank you for including me in this. I’m a big fan of Fuji X Weekly, and for you to ask me to be a part of it is really cool.
Check out more of Gerardo’s photography below:
The photographs in this article are © Gerardo Celasco.
Back in May, while on a lengthy roadtrip, I stopped in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, for the night. A small town along historic Route 66, Santa Rosa pretty much exists to provide food, fuel, and beds for travelers passing east-and-west through The Land of Enchantment. Like a lot of old Route 66 towns, Santa Rosa has seen better days—there are many abandoned buildings along the highway, and some others that appear to not be far from their inevitable fate of abandonment.
Santa Rosa might be best known for a scene in The Grapes of Wrath, where Tom Joad watches a freight train cross a bridge over the Pecos River. Scars from The Great Depression are still visible if you look hard enough. The biggest tourist attraction is the Blue Hole, a natural swimming pond fed by a vast underground water system. While visiting Santa Rosa, I was asked by locals a couple of times, “Are you here for the Blue Hole?” I guess it’s a big deal, but I didn’t make time to see it.
I did make time to photograph a few of the abandoned buildings. One was an old Exxon gas station. This particular service station offered two grades of gas, two stalls for vehicle maintenance, and two restrooms. You could buy maps or a soda from a vending machine. Inside was an old Dairy Queen sign that I do not believe originated from this particular gas station, but probably another building elsewhere in town, perhaps owned by the same person.
In an empty grass-filled lot next to the gas station I found some old playground equipment. There may have been a campground or RV park there at one time, but the playground is the only thing left. I suppose on hot summer nights, the ghosts who still use the teeter-totter can get a coke from the abandoned Exxon next door.
Exploring and photographing places like this is both fascinating and frightening. It’s like a large time capsule that broke open years before being discovered, now filled with retro nostalgia and haunting decay. You don’t know what you’ll find—what’s hiding behind a corner—and even if there isn’t any danger, it’s still not safe. Going into abandoned buildings is never safe. I do believe that it’s important to photograph these places for several reasons: they’re always changing (due to nature and vandals) and will eventually be completely gone, they offer a glimpse into a previous time that’s long gone and fading from our memories, and to document the way societies deals with unwanted junk from broken lives and broken dreams. As Troy Paiva put it, these places are “steeped in Wabi-Sabi feelings of accepting loss and finding beauty and nobility in decay.”
The sun was low while I was there, preparing to set behind the western horizon—I had about 30 minutes of wonderful “golden hour” light to work with. I used my Fujifilm X-E4 with a Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 lens attached to it to capture these images. The Film Simulation Recipe that I used for these photographs was Kodak Portra 400 v2, which is one of my favorites—the Kodak-like colors and tones are just so lovely—an excellent option for this particular scene and light.
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I wanted to follow-up my interview with Troy Paiva (click here to read it), which wasn’t directly related to Fujifilm cameras and Film Simulation Recipes (although it was highly relatable), with something directly connected to the topics that are typically found on the Fuji X Weekly blog. Just as I was contemplating who I was going to interview and what the exact subject might be, I received a message from Matt Giesow of VAST Media, a photo and video production company in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “I have been running my production company for nearly five years now,” Matt told me, “and picking up a Fuji has been a breath of fresh air.” He stated that using Film Simulation Recipes on his camera allowed him to deliver some images immediately to the client, and that his JPEG workflow is “so nice.”
His words echoed in my head for the rest of that day. I felt similarly when I first started in Fujifilm: it was like a breath of fresh air—cool, crisp, mountain air. That was before I had even discovered the great JPEG output of the cameras, and before I had begun to make recipes. It must be even more refreshing nowadays, with so many resources available—such as Fuji X Weekly. It’s an honor to help others also experience that “fresh air” that Fujifilm cameras can provide. I knew that I wanted the next interview to be with Matt, so the following morning I asked if he’d be willing. Thankfully, he was very enthusiastic, and we were able to accomplish it rather quickly. So, without any further delay, here’s my interview with Matt Giesow!
FXW: Hi, Matt! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day today to do this interview! Let’s begin at the beginning. Tell me how you got started in photography?
Matt Giesow: Hey, Ritchie! I’m a self-taught photographer, dating back to 2017 from “YouTube University”—that, and being on staff at a pretty creative church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, created a great launching pad into the world of photography and videography.
FXW: What was your first camera?
Matt Giesow: An iPhone 4 and the VSCO app. My first camera purchased to learn photography on was the Canon 80D.
FXW: What were your early photographic interests?
Matt Giesow: I remember when instagram first came out, I tried to make my shots look like film using Insta’s built-in filters [laughter]. Today and I’m still interested in photographing people, places, and things with a nostalgic vintage look.
FXW: What are your current photographic interests? What do you shoot just for fun?
Matt Giesow: I enjoy street photography. Exploring cities—both ones I know and ones that I’ve not yet been to—and finding hidden gems to capture. I also enjoy photographing my family (I’m a proud dad), documenting all of our memories.
FXW: Tell me about your production company. How did you get started with that?
Matt Giesow: VAST Media started about four years ago with a desire for me to create what could exist. We primarily focus within architecture and the real estate market. I have grown the business from a solo entrepreneur to a full team and a full service company now. It’s been amazing to be a part of it from day one—with the vision of the company—to now continuing to work within the company and have several people alongside me helping to move it forward.
FXW: What services do you provide?
Matt Giesow: VAST provides real estate listing marketing, brand advertising, and full-scale video production for anyone—from a business owner to a real estate agent to major organizations—that need to share their brand and story.
FXW: What else would you like people to know about VAST Media?
Matt Giesow: What I want people to know is that VAST Media is more than a single person with a camera. From the moment it launched, my goal was to make it not about me but about we. Often people get stuck relying on one solo creative. I wanted to create a brand that, no matter who showed up from my team, was consistent, and the brand was apparent—it’s all under one umbrella, and the product was not contingent upon a single person.
FXW: What made you pick up a Fujifilm camera?
Matt Giesow: Shooting with Sony cameras throughout most of my professional career, I always wondered about owning a Fuji. This last year I began to experiment with 35mm film photography. I realized very quickly that I love the process of shooting film, but I always want my images right away [laughter]. I found the solution to my problem on the Fuji X Weekly website, where I discovered Film Simulation Recipes. I began to see what shooters like me were doing to scratch that itch. I headed to eBay and quickly found an overpriced Fujifilm X100V and went for it. The X100V is my first and only Fujifilm camera at the moment.
FXW: What do you like most about it?
Matt Giesow: It’s been a dream to shoot with! So small—it’s a daily carry. I find myself pulling the car off numerous times throughout the day to get out and snap something that, in the past, I would have used my iPhone to capture. I love shooting straight out of camera with the film simulations baked in. It’s totally changed the way I shoot! Enjoying the process now, something that only 35mm film had given me before.
FXW: Which Film Simulation Recipes do you like best and why?
Matt Giesow: Classic Negative is my go-to recipe in most scenarios for color. It fits the vibe and style that for years I tried to edit my Sony photos to look like. It’s perfect for street photography, travel—the reds are just gorgeous! Reggie’s Portra and Kodak Gold 200 are some other big favorites. For black-and-white, Ilford XP2 Super 400 is my go-to for darker, punchier pictures, and Ilford HP5 Plus 400 is my favorite for slightly softer, less contrasty black and white photos.
FXW: How has using Fujifilm cameras impacted your professional photography and your personal photography?
Matt Giesow: Honestly, picking up a FujiFilm camera has been a breath of fresh air. Over the years I’ve invested a great deal in filling our gear lockers at VAST Media, but I’ve never had a personal connection with a camera quite like I do with my X100V. For me, shooting with a fixed focal length, and working so hard to nail the perfect shot in-camera is causing me to sharpen areas of my craft that I didn’t even realize were dull. This in turn has kindled a new passion for photography that makes me feel like I did back in the beginning. The X100V doesn’t replace my ”professional” arsenal, but it’s a happy addition to every set I am on. The ability to take incredible behind-the-scenes photos on-set straight out of camera and deliver something right to the client’s hands before leaving is something very new—and I love it!
FXW: In wrapping this up, is there anything else you’d like to say?
Matt Giesow: A big “thank you” to you, Ritchie, for Fuji X Weekly! The Fuji community is just a different breed—friendly, helpful, and encouraging. It’s so great.
FXW: Thanks again, Matt, for allowing me to interview you!
Matt Giesow: Cheers!
All of the photographs in this article are © Matt Giesow, who captured them using his Fujifilm X100V and various Film Simulation Recipes.
If you already know who Troy Paiva is and have seen his wonderful night photographs, then you are well aware of how important his work has been to the genres of light painting, urban exploration, and Americana photography. If you don’t know who Troy is… well, you will soon be initiated, and you can thank me later. “Every once in awhile an artist bursts forth with such a profound impact on a genre of art that it forever alters its course,” photographer Ken Lee stated in a Photofocus article. “Troy Paiva is one such artist.”
What Troy is most known for is nighttime light-painted photography of abandoned, forgotten, or neglected roadside Americana. He visits abandoned buildings and old junkyards and even airplane boneyards during full-moon darkness, capturing long-exposure images using artificial lights to add pops of color that aren’t naturally there. His striking pictures have been displayed in art galleries and museum exhibits, and printed in magazines and books, including a couple of Stephen King covers.
My introduction to Troy Paiva came through an unusual book: Weird Arizona. He was a contributor to it (plus some of the other books in that series), and it had a little Route 66 writeup by Troy that included a picture of an abandoned gas station with a strange red glow on the ceiling. Later, I found Troy on Flickr, and even corresponded with him briefly on the location of one of his photographs. I’ve been a big fan of his photography for over a decade; however, he’s been doing this whole light-painting thing since the late-1980’s, well before I stumbled across his fantastic images.
I interviewed Troy recently, and I’m very excited and honored to share it with you. This is a very important article, because I’m certain that many of you can relate to it—I know that I can! Perhaps, like me, you have piles of old slides and/or negatives stored in a box somewhere. Nobody ever sees those pictures. What do you do with them? They can’t be any good, can they? Are they worth the trouble to dig through and scan? Will anyone care about them if you do? Are they even worth keeping? What will eventually happen to them if you do nothing? Those are questions that Troy Paiva recently wrestled with, and I think his answers are both fascinating and inspiring.
FXW: Troy, I love your photography—your pictures and your process! I noticed that you have been revisiting your old analog images lately—daytime photos from the late 1980’s, 1990’s, and early 2000’s. What made you dig out your old slides?
Troy: Earlier this year I bumped into a set of my images on Flickr—The Mojave Carhenge from 1992—that I had scanned ages ago. They looked bad, with low resolution and converted to B&W. I wanted to find those slides and rescan them, but I put it on the back burner. Later, I needed to re-up on the long-dormant software for my film scanner to do something for a friend, so I used that opportunity to finally dig out those slides—scanning and processing them using 2022 software and skills.
I was surprised by how my perception of those pictures had changed over the course of 30 years—how old and rare and cool the cars in it were. It was weirdly timeless, like it could have been shot in 1982 or even ’72. I put them on Facebook and I got a response that supported these feelings. I looked through a few more boxes of early ’90’s daytime slides—pictures that even I hadn’t seen since the early ’90’s—which seemed to generate the same level of surprise. It didn’t take me long to realize that I should keep going.
FXW: What camera gear did you use back then and what do you use now?
Troy: I’ve always shot with Canon cameras. In the early ’90’s it was a ’60’s vintage FX, an all-manual (broken) match-needle relic for night work, and A-1’s for metered shooting. I switched to the T90 in the late ’90’s—it was a great night shooting camera. I had several running different films. I used the FX forever, right up until 2004. Digitally, I went from the 20D to the 60D to the 6D. Once you night-shoot from a knee-high POV with a swivel screen, you never go back! All the film cameras were used—cheap. I’m pretty cavalier with equipment, and night photography has a way of wrecking and breaking your gear anyway.
In the ’90’s my lenses were constantly changing. All of them were purchased used, and lots of 3rd party junk. They’d fall apart, or get stuck on f/2.8 forever—especially the wide lenses from the early ’90’s, which were loose and wiggly in your hands and the focus fell off hard in the corners—and I’d buy another one for $25 at the flea market. All part of the character of the work: shooting junk with junk.
I used a mix of Ektachrome and Fujichrome, and a little Agfa, too. I would shoot with whatever slide film was on sale.
FXW: What drew you to your subjects back then?
Troy: A lot of the signage imagery stems from my MCM graphic design background. At the time I was working as a designer at Galoob Toys, making Micro Machine-sized gas stations and car washes. I was already obsessed with abandoned roadside long before I ever got to Galoob, and taking pictures of it—day or night—was a natural part of the headspace I occupied.
FXW: What is your process for digitalizing your slides? What challenges have you encountered?
Troy: I’ve had a Nikon IV ED film scanner since about 2001, which I’ve always used to scan my night work to put online. After moving into the digital era (in 2005), it sat largely unused. There was even a long period where it was unusable because Nikon stopped updating the software. Luckily, 3rd party software appeared at some point—I use the one from VueScan. The raw scans are not even close to right, but good enough to get them into Photoshop where I use MANY tools to make them presentable: masked sharpening/noise (grain) control, major HSB adjustments, white and black point shifts—the whole bit. Some also require perspective adjustment, cloning scratches out, creative cropping. Some mix down in a few minutes, some take a half hour to pull together.
FXW: What differentiates your daytime pictures from your night ones? What is surprising about it?
Troy: My daytime work was more about scouting locations to potentially come back and work later that night. Many of these subjects would have been impossible to do with my full moon technique because they’re bathed with sodium vapor streetlights. Or sometimes I’d get chased back to the car by dogs or some nut racking a shotgun. In many cases, the day shots are the only record.
The daytime work always took a back seat to my experimental night work, so I rarely showed it to anyone. It just sat in storage for 25, 30 years. Occasionally I’d pull some night work for a fresh scan, completely ignoring the daytime work. Why? I wish there was some smart-sounding “I was consciously playing the long game” answer, but, apparently, I was playing it unconsciously.
It’s a part of my photography that longtime followers of my night work have never seen. It mirrors it in many ways, yet doesn’t fall into the trap of having the “light-painted night” aspect take over what the picture is about. They are just “normal” pictures of things, and that makes them easier to conceptually digest.
Also, I’m still scanning. There’s a lot I haven’t even looked at yet. I am intentionally not going through everything at once. I grab a few boxes, or all the work from one trip—cull, scan, and process. Only then do I look at the next few rolls. The picture of my slides (below) isn’t even all of it—there are about 10 carousels full, too. A lot of it is personal things of no interest to anyone but me. Several boxes have nothing worth scanning, but some… every slide gets an “Oh, wow!” when I put it on the light box for the first time.
FXW: What did you discover through this project?
Troy: I discovered a body of work that almost feels like someone else shot it! Sometimes memories come flooding back as I look through them; for others, it’s, “Where was that again?”
My MO was to specifically shoot the once-loved things that looked like they were on their way out. Most of it was abandoned and heavily weathered, steeped in Wabi-Sabi feelings of accepting loss and finding beauty and nobility in decay. It turns out that my hit rate was good: it seems like 90% of these subjects are now irrevocably changed or just gone. I perform Google searches on most of the sites—looking for them on street view, images, etc.—and in many cases, there doesn’t appear to be any other “intentional” pictures of them made before they disappeared. I’ve run across a couple of motel signs where the only other picture that I could find is in the John Margolies collection in the Library of Congress. It seems like everybody shoots this kind of stuff now, but in the early ‘90s, it was rare and—frankly—kinda weird.
I haven’t parsed out what any of it means. I’m still in the middle of the scanning project, so I’m not ready to sit back and figure out what to do with it yet, except share some of it online and get it seen.
FXW: How important is it to revisit your old pictures?
Troy: Once I started to see how much of this rare imagery I had, I began to think of Vivian Maier and Charles Phoenix. Imagine finding this motherlode of daytime and weird night photography of the long lost American roadside in a dumpster behind a Salvation Army! If I didn’t scan and share it, someday when I die that mountain of boxed slides would either end up in the dump, or a thrift store to be found and exploited and re-contextualized by someone else. The 99.9% reality is that it would most likely end up in a landfill, never to be seen by anyone. Once I realized what I was sitting on, I didn’t want any of that to happen.
Time has a way of making ALL pictures better. They’re a record of a moment in time. That moment often seems inconsequential when it happens, but someday you may not be able to experience anything like that moment again because the place or people are gone, and the picture suddenly takes on different meanings that were hidden before. Ever notice when you look at really old magazines you tend to gloss over the articles and spend most of your time looking at the advertisements? The things we don’t think are important or historic now have a tendency to be the ones that end up being more interesting later.
I want to give a very big thanks to Troy Paiva for taking time out of his busy day to allow me to interview him and publish his words and photographs on Fuji X Weekly. Thank you, Troy! Many of these pictures have been shared on his social media pages, but a couple of them have never been published before, and you’re the very first (aside from Troy and now myself) to see them! To say that I feel honored is such an understatement.
My hope is that this article has encouraged you to take another look at the pictures you captured years and years ago. Maybe they have a different meaning today than the last time you saw them. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to do your own project similar to Troy’s. It could be time to dust off that old scanner, or even buy a new one. I think this article also illustrates that the photography you’re doing right now is important, even if it doesn’t seem so at the moment. Keep at it, and in time you’ll see the significance of the pictures you captured today.
Please visit Troy Paiva’s website: LostAmerica.com. Find him on Facebook and Instagram. Buy his six books on Amazon: Lost America, Light Painted Night Photography: The Lost America Technique, Night Vision, Boneyard, Night Salvage, and Junkyard Nights (seriously, pick up one or more of those books—you’ll be glad that you did!).
More of Troy Paiva’s daytime photography:
All photographs © Troy Paiva
Instagram is a dying platform for photographers.
Still shocking to me, I’ve gotten a lot of followers on the Fuji X Weekly Instagram account over the last two years: over 25K right now! I topped 10K followers on May 11, 2021, and 25K on July 9, 2022—it has grown 150% in roughly 14 months. That’s amazing, and all thanks goes to you! I never thought that was possible.
When I reached 10K followers I signed up for a business account. While it certainly has its benefits, it also has one huge negative: Instagram wants me to pay them money to show you, my followers, my posts. They purposefully hide your content from your own followers—if someone seeks it out they will find it, but it won’t show up in their feed—unless you pay Instagram a fee. My engagement dropped in half the instant I signed up for the business account. You might think that engagement—likes, comments, shares, etc.—would have grown at the same rate as the followers, but not so. The average post at 25K has a similar engagement as a post at 10K prior to signing up for a business account. While my followers have increased by 150%, my engagement has only increased by 100%—back to where it was before Instagram cut it in half.
Instagram is a great place to feed your envy. There are people whose pictures suck that have 100K or more followers and are basically earning an income from Instagram. There are people who capture amazing pictures who have less than two hundred followers. I’ve seen both of those circumstances personally, and maybe you have, too. Now I’m not the world’s greatest photographer by any means. I see many, many photographers who are more talented than I who have fewer followers, and I also see the opposite, too. Nobody’s self-worth should come from Instagram, and the followers and engagement (or lack of it) don’t actually mean anything. Unfortunately, it’s more of a popularity contest than anything else; however, Instagram is a good way to connect with others across the world.
Once upon a time Instagram was the place to see wonderful photographs. You could find a lot of inspiration. It still is, but less so now. Why? Instagram (which is owned by Facebook/Meta) recently claimed that engagement in still photographs is down nearly 50% over the last two years, so that’s why they’re focusing on video. I call B.S. on this.
I know two things: Instagram will hide your content if they want to, and Instagram (Meta, actually) doesn’t like competition. Whenever a new social media app comes along that Meta perceives as a threat, they buy it; if they can’t buy it, they make their own version of it to incorporate into their own apps. Right now that competition is TikTok, and since Meta can’t buy it (I’m sure they tried at one point), they’re becoming “TikTok” in order to win—at the expense of you, the photographer.
I believe that Instagram has put into place algorithms to suppress still photography and simultaneously push video content (Reels, as they call it). Then they say that still photography is dying and video is booming, so they need to be video-centric. They’re paying people money to publish videos. I’m not a video guy myself, but by far my most popular post on Instagram is a Reel, with triple the engagement of my most popular still-photography post. Is it because you all are more interested videos, or because Instagram wants you to be more interested in video? In my opinion they’re trying to transform their app into TikTok, which means that photography needs to take a back seat.
You can still be successful on Instagram as a photographer. Since Instagram is pushing Reels so hard, you might consider using those to show your pictures (instead of a traditional post, or in addition to it). I’m personally not a fan of what Instagram is becoming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. A lot of people have discovered my Film Simulation Recipes through Instagram. I’ve made a lot of connections (I get about 50 DMs on IG each day!), and even made some friends. There are definitely still some positives.
I do think the time is ripe for an Instagram-alternative for photographers. I know that many have tried, and no one has really succeeded. I don’t know what its unique shtick should be, but there has to be something that sets it apart. Money is obviously an obstacle, because everyone wants a free app, but an app like that would be expensive to produce and maintain. I don’t have the solution, but I do know that an opportunity exists right now for someone who thinks that they might have the solution.
Now it’s your turn! Do you like or dislike how Instagram is evolving? Would you try an Instagram alternative if there was a good one? Is there a current app that you prefer to Instagram and why? Let me know in the comments!
Arizona gets summer thunderstorms. If you are not from this region you might be surprised to learn that on average one-in-five days are rainy in Phoenix during the months of July and August. The thunderstorms come suddenly and can be intense. Flash flooding is common in the desert. They call this Monsoon, which roughly translates to stormy season or perhaps more simply weather or season, depending on who you ask.
One of these Monsoon thunderstorms hit the house hard last night. The wind was strong, the rain was pouring, and the streets turned into streams. Things toppled over in the yard. Branches broke off of trees. Lightning flashed and thunder boomed. It was kind of scary for a few moments.
I snapped a high-ISO image of the mayhem from safely inside the house. I used my Fujifilm X-E4 with a Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 lens, which isn’t the greatest low-light combo, so I used a window frame to help stabilize the camera for the 1/5 second exposure. I had my Nostalgic Print Film Simulation Recipe programmed into the camera; however, after the fact I thought it would look better in black-and-white, so I reprocessed the RAW file in-camera to the Kodak Tri-X 400 recipe.
I went to bed while the storm was still raging, but when I awoke this morning all was calm. It was a peaceful morning. The sun was shining. The wind was still. Birds were chirping. Everything seemed normal, except for what needed to be cleaned up—a task that didn’t take long—and I was able to enjoy the moment while sipping a cup of coffee.
This made me think of life. Sometimes the metaphoric storms rage, and it can be kind of scary. But once these storms-of-life pass—and they will pass—we can enjoy a moment of peace. The sun will shine again. The flowers will bloom. I think it’s important to take in the calm that comes after the storm. It’s inevitable that more storms will come; perhaps they’re easier to weather when we can remember the calm that comes after. Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Yeah, you might have some junk to clean up, but then take a moment to appreciate the peaceful morning.
This article doesn’t have much to do with photography, but I hope that it is encouraging to some of you nonetheless. If there is a way to make this more photography-related, it is this: no matter if it is stormy in your life or a peaceful morning, get your camera and capture pictures. Expressing yourself through your images can be therapeutic, and there are many valuable lessons that could be learned.
Even though they can be scary, Monsoon thunderstorms are necessary for life in Arizona. They provide much-needed water to a parched land. They produce cooler temperatures on scorching days. The land becomes more lush and green in its wake. Similarly, your personal storms-of-life, although they’re awful to experience, can make you stronger and better, and perhaps are what will propel you forward to whatever is waiting for you tomorrow.
Leigh & Raymond Photography (formally known as The Snap Chick) dropped a video with a wonderful shoutout to my RitchieCam iPhone camera App! You’ll find the video above—RitchieCam is mentioned at about the 11-minute mark. Wow! Really, wow! I’m speechless. Thank you, Leigh and Raymond, for your kindness and support!
For those who don’t know, RitchieCam is an easy-to-use streamlined camera app intended to bring one-step photography to the iPhone. There are 18 analog-inspired filters so that you don’t have to edit your mobile pictures if you don’t want to. It is intended to be simple enough to be useful for anyone and everyone with an iPhone, although it is robust enough that even seasoned photographers should find it satisfying. Visit RitchieCam.com to learn more. Also, be sure to follow RitchieCam on Instagram!
If you have an iPhone, download RitchieCam from the Apple App Store today!
Here are some photographs that I recently captured with the RitchieCam App while visiting California’s central coast:
Yesterday, I did a photowalk around Gilbert, Arizona, with my Fujifilm X-E4 and Fujinon 27mm f/2.8. Inspired by the Route 66: Sun n Sand Motel — Trying Recipes (That Are Not Mine…) article that I published a couple of days ago, I loaded five Film Simulation Recipes that I didn’t create into my camera to try out. This post is the result of that exercise.
I found these recipes at various places across the web. The first is “Classic Neg Fade” by Luis Costa, which can be found on his website, Life, Unintended. The second is “Chrome Urban” by Jamie Chance, which can be found on his website, Jamie Chance Travels. For his recipe, I set Color Chrome Effect & Color Chrome FX Blue to Off and Clarity to -2. Next is “Diffused Chrome” by Toqeer Sethi, which can be found on the Fuji X Weekly Community Recipe page. Then there’s “Soft Cinnamon” by Justin Gould, which can be found on his website, Film.Recipes. Finally, there’s “AstiAmore” by Thomas Schwab, which can be found on the Fuji X Weekly Community Recipe page. There are, of course, many other sources on the internet where you can find Film Simulation Recipes.
I chose these specific ones simply because they seemed interesting to me, so I wanted to try them out for myself. And they’re each good. I don’t know if I used them in the situations where they work best—for example, “Diffused Chrome” seems to be more intended for night photography (yet, in daylight, it produces a soft Kodak-negative-like aesthetic). I ended up using “Soft Cinnamon” the most, although not necessarily on-purpose. “AstiAmore” is one I’ve tried before, but wanted to use again.
I’ve been thinking about community a lot lately. Oxford Languages defines “community” as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common interests….” Within the photographic realm, I do believe there’s no greater feeling of fellowship than that of those who share the common interest of Fujifilm X cameras. Yet we’re all strangers—perhaps you know a few other Fujifilm photographers, but most of us have never met. I want to do my part to foster this Fujifilm fellowship, but I’m not exactly sure what that means right now. Like a surfer who feels the wave building even before it can be seen, I feel that something is brewing, but I just can’t see it yet—I don’t have a clear vision of what it will look like.
All of this was in my mind as I received feedback from yesterday’s post, Is Fujifilm Losing Its Soul? Because that article got shared around the web (I wouldn’t call it “viral” but it did receive a lot of attention), there were non-Fuji X Weekly people commenting and messaging me. Some of it was good input, but some of it was just downright mean and nasty (you won’t find it because I deleted it). Websites like PetaPixel, DPReview, and even sadly Fujirumors, are crawling with trolls, yet this website has largely remained troll-free (yea!). Occasionally one comes along, but it’s pretty rare; however, when articles get shared to the general photographic community, sometimes nasty parasites come with that, unfortunately. I almost let that negativity stop me from sharing this article; thankfully, I didn’t. I’m privileged and honored to be part of this community, which is you guys and gals, because you are good people.
I hope that this “feeling of fellowship” can grow stronger. I think it has to go beyond the anonymity of the internet, beyond our phones and computers, and be more personal. I don’t have the “how” worked out, but perhaps that’s just around the corner. I feel the first step that I can take right now is this article, which is an impromptu casual collaboration with you. I’m always quite busy, but I hope to do more of this in the coming days, weeks, and months if I can. If there’s a particular Film Simulation Recipe that you’d like me to try, post a link to it in the comments.
“The first recipe on my camera right now….” —Luis Costa
“This setting has grown without doubt into my favorite, every day, go-to simulation.” —Jamie Chance
“This recipe has been created to be used with a fast prime to keep the noise level down….” —Toqeer Sethi
“A gentle recipe with a subtle cinnamon tone to the neutrals. Delicious!” —Justin Gould
“This recipe is a modification of Ritchie’s original Kodak Ektar 100 recipe.” —Thomas Schwab
If you don’t have the Fuji X Weekly App on your phone, download it for free today (Android, iOS)! For those who are Fuji X Weekly App Patrons, you can use the Blank Recipe Card feature to manually input recipes into the App, so if you like any or all of the ones above, you can save them to your phone and take them with you on the go. Also, if you have an iPhone, check out RitchieCam!
The possible number of potential Film Simulation Recipes is almost unlimited. For example, on my Fujifilm X-E4, there are 750 different Kelvin White Balance options that could be selected, and 361 unique White Balance Shifts that could be assigned to each of those different Kelvin options, which means that, if all other settings were identical, you could create over 270,000 different recipes just by changing the White Balance and Shift. Granted, many would look extremely similar to others, but they’d be at least a little different. My point is that there can be millions and millions of potential recipes for Fujifilm cameras, particularly the newer cameras which have more JPEG options. I’ve “only” created just under 250 recipes for Fujifilm cameras—I’ve barely scratched the surface!
Some of you have created your own Film Simulation Recipes. A handful of you have even had your recipes included on this website and in the Fuji X Weekly App. I love that you are diving into your camera settings, getting creative, and sharing the results with the community—it’s all so wonderful! I’m very honored to be a part of all this, and to have a front-row seat.
I’ve shared before where you can find many of these Film Simulation Recipes that were created by others (recipes that are not by me), but today I want to point you to some specific ones: “C1 Classic Neg” by Luis Costa (Life, Unintended), “Aged Negative” by Justin Gould (Fuji X Weekly Community Recipes), and “Kodak Portra 66” by Justin Gould (Film.Recipes). Why these ones? They looked particularly interesting to me for the subject that I wanted to use them for.
The photographs in this article were not captured with these recipes, but instead were RAW files reprocessed in-camera to apply the recipes to exposures already captured. I used my Fujifilm X-E4 and Fujinon 27mm lens (originally with my Fujicolor Natura 1600 recipe) to photograph the burnt Sun n Sand motel in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. This hotel first opened along Route 66 in the 1950’s, had major renovations in the late-1990’s, and closed for good in 2013 after a severe storm caused major damaged. Apparently homeless moved in after it closed, and sometime later (although I couldn’t find exactly when) fire damaged much of the property. It seems to be in the process of being demolished, albeit slowly. The Sun n Sand motel has been left in a sad state, and the opportunities to photograph this somewhat-iconic site along The Mother Road are fleeting. I’m glad that I had the opportunity.
“Ironically, I think it resembles Slide film much more than Negative film!” —Luis Costa
“It reminds me of prints I made from 35mm film in the 1980s.” —Justin Gould
“Some things seem to be made to go together, and in our world of film simulations and recipes, it’s Kodak Portra and fading Americana.” —Justin Gould
If any (or all) of these Film Simulation Recipes look interesting to you, please visit Luis’ and Justin’s websites—they have many more! I haven’t personally used most of them, but there are plenty that look pretty good to me, based off of the sample pictures. I’m sure many of you will appreciate them. If you have the Fuji X Weekly App, tap the circle-with-dots icon at the top-right, and you can manually add these (or any other recipes) into the App, if you want to take them with you on the go. Don’t have the Fuji X Weekly App? Download it for free today!
This review of the Moment Tele 58mm cellphone lens is long overdue. When I started developing the RitchieCam iPhone camera app about a year ago, I figured it would be a good idea to get some external lenses for my iPhone 11, which would come in handy when needing to capture the example pictures. While there are a number of companies that offer lenses that can be attached to your cellphone, the Moment offerings stood out to me as the “better” option, so that’s what I chose.
To use Moment’s lenses, you must also use their phone case, because that’s how the lenses mount to your phone. They have a case for many phone makes and models, so there’s a good chance there’s one available for your device. The case is good quality, and has survived nearly a year of heavy use and abuse. I cannot tell you how many times that I’ve dropped my phone and thought it was done for, yet it survived unscathed, without even a scratch! While I’m sure there are cases that offer more protection, I’m pretty darn impressed with how good the Moment case has been.
One cool thing about the Moment case is that it has the “MagSafe” stuff built-in. I have this tripod-mount accessory that attaches to the case (via magnetism), which has come in handy a number of times. It’s a really good method to mount your cellphone to a tripod, if that’s something you do. There are a number of other accessories that you can buy that also use magnets to attach to your case, but the only one that I personally have used is that tripod accessory.
I had never used an external lens before with a cellphone, so I was definitely a novice when I started—I didn’t really realize how it all worked. On my iPhone 11 case, the lens mounts only over the main camera. The iPhone 11 has two rear facing cameras: 1x (26mm full-frame-equivalent) and 0.5x (13mm full-frame-equivalent). The Moment lenses cannot mount over the 13mm lens, only over the 26mm lens.
I have two Moment lenses: 18mm and 58mm. The Moment lenses are actually “conversion” lenses, and the millimeter numbers don’t actually mean anything. The 18mm is a 0.5x wide conversion lens, and the 58mm is a 2x tele conversion lens. Using the 18mm lens on the 26mm camera actually makes it 13mm, which is the same focal length of the second camera. In other words, the 18mm lens is pointless for the iPhone 11; however, I’m sure it makes sense for other cellphones. The 58mm lens makes the main camera 52mm, which is a very useful focal-length. The focal-length that these lenses will be on your cellphone depends on the focal-length of the cameras on your cellphone (either times by .5 for the 18mm lens or times by 2 for the 58mm lens). Clear as mud? I think if Moment had simply called the one lens 2x teleconverter and the other .5x wide-converter (instead of using millimeter numbers) it would save a lot of confusion. As you can imagine, the Moment Tele 58mm lens is the one that I used by far the most.
Initially I was disappointed by these lenses. I think my expectations were significantly askew. I figured that I’d be impressed by the image quality when using these lenses vs. not using them; however, the image quality will never be greater than that of the lens permanently attached to your cellphone. These lenses won’t improve on what the manufacturer installed on your device. Instead, what you get is either a longer or more wide-angle focal length without a loss in image quality. It’s much better to use the 58mm lens than “zoom by cropping” (a.k.a. digital zoom). The image quality produced by these lenses is determined mostly by the image quality produced by your phone.
The reason to use the Moment Tele 58mm lens is to double the reach of your built-in cellphone lens without degrading the image quality (or, if it does degrade the image quality, it’s extraordinarily minimal and not really noticeable). That’s what this lens does, and it does it well. It doesn’t do much else, so keep your expectations in check.
When I carry the 58mm lens with me, I get three focal-length options on my iPhone 11: 13mm (using the 0.5x camera), 26mm (using the 1x camera without the Moment lens), and 52mm (using the 1x camera with the 58mm lens). Those are all excellent focal-lengths to have available. While I prefer to use my Fujifilm cameras over my cellphone, as Chase Jarvis coined, the best camera is the one you have with you, which is sometimes my cellphone. When I do use my cellphone for photography, I appreciate having the Moment Tele 58mm lens, because it affords me additional flexibility.
I said two paragraphs ago that this lens “doesn’t do much else” which isn’t completely true. There’s a small amount of pincushion distortion, which, when combined with the distortion in the iPhone 11 camera, can do some weird things to straight lines when photographing brick walls. The solution: don’t photograph brick walls. There’s also some interesting lens flare that shows up sometimes (see picture below), which I personally like, but maybe you won’t, depending on how you feel about lens flare. The Moment lens is also softer in the corners than the 1x iPhone camera.
The build quality of the Moment Tele 58mm lens is excellent, made of metal and glass. It has six elements in four groups, and the glass has multi-layered anti-reflective coating. It comes with a lens cap and carrying bag. The lens is small enough that you can easily take it with you, although when attached to the phone, it’s unlikely that the phone will fit into your pocket (unless you have particularly large pockets).
I have used the Moment Tele 58mm lens for nearly a year now. It’s not an essential cellphone accessory, but it’s certainly nice to have around. I found the lens and the Moment case (that you are required to have in order to use the lens)—plus the tripod-mount accessory—to be useful to me. If you do a lot of cellphone photography, you might want to take a closer look at these Moment products, and consider if they might be useful to you, too. Like a lot of things in the photography world, these products are not cheap, but if you think you’ll use them regularly, they might very well be worth the cost. The best place to find these products is on Moment’s website.
This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.
What is RitchieCam? It’s an easy-to-use streamlined camera app intended to bring one-step photography to the iPhone. You’ll find 18 analog-inspired filters so that you don’t have to edit your mobile pictures if you don’t want to. I think you will appreciate the app, yet it is designed for anyone and everyone with an iPhone, and not just photographers. You can read all about it at RitchieCam.com. The app is intended to be a useful free tool, yet for $9.99 (USD +Tax annually) you can unlock all of the filters and features for the best app experience.
The seventh issue of FXW Zine is out, and if you are a Fuji X Weekly Creative Collective subscriber, you can download it now!
What’s in the June issue? The cover story is Culleoka Kodachrome, which is a photography project that I undertook last month while in rural Texas using the Kodachrome 64 Film Simulation Recipe. There are a total of 28 photographs this month, including the cover image (above). I hope that you find it enlightening, entertaining, and inspiring!
If you haven’t joined the Creative Collective, consider subscribing today to get access to bonus articles and the FXW Zine—not just this issue, but the first six issues, too!
I stumbled across an old police car while in Branson, Missouri. If you’ve never been to Branson (I hadn’t), it’s a quirky tourist town, so finding unusual things—such as a 1950’s Ford police car—parked along a road for seemingly no reason isn’t unusual. I had my Fujifilm X-E4 with the Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 lens with me, so I decided to snap a couple of pictures. I used the Fujicolor Natura 1600 Film Simulation Recipe for these images.
To my surprise, the car was unlocked, so I opened the doors and captured some pictures of the inside. One of the windows was broken, and it smelled strongly of mold inside, so I didn’t climb in; instead, I stood outside while reaching inside with the camera. Most of my pictures are of the inside—the outside had a ton of reflections, and I didn’t have a polarizer, so it was extremely difficult to capture the car without capturing myself, too.
I’m not an automotive expert, so I could be completely wrong, but I believe this is a 1957 Ford 300 (if you know, let me know in the comments!). Because Branson is a weird town, it’s possible that this never was an actual police car, but was simply made to look like one. Whatever the case, it’s kind of a shame that it is left the way it is because it’s clearly deteriorating. This would be a great restoration project for someone, but it’s probably not for sale. I’m just glad that I stumbled upon it, and decided to photograph it with my Fujifilm camera.
I had an epiphany today. It’s been building in my mind for several days now, but it was only today that I believe I fully understood it: photograph wherever you are. Whichever place it is that you find yourself, capture it with your camera.
When I was 16-years-old, my family moved to a small unincorporated community in Texas called Culleoka, which is north of Dallas near Lake Lavon. At that time it was in the middle of nowhere—and it still is—but the city has been inching closer and closer, and is now at its doorstep. I finished high school while there and enrolled in college. I studied photography for two years before leaving home—and Texas—at 19. That was a long time ago; however, my parents still live in the same house in Culleoka.
I bring up all of this because I realized that, despite learning photography while I lived there, and despite all of the times that I’ve visited over the years, I’ve never photographed Culleoka. I never thought this place was photographically interesting. I always traveled elsewhere with my camera, whether it was McKinney, Plano, Dallas, or any number of other towns in the region. I never photographed where I lived.
Visiting my parents now, for some reason—maybe because I’m older—I find Culleoka to be a much more interesting place. Yes, there’s still not much to see. If you blinked while driving through you’d miss it. There’s a gas station. A Dollar General, which is a fairly new addition. An auto body shop. A fireworks stand. A couple of churches. Maybe a couple hundred people live in Culleoka, many in mobile homes. There’s access to Lake Lavon at the far edge.
I regret now not photographing where I was, because there’s actually a lot of opportunity, if only I had had an open mind. I didn’t see it before. I just thought it was a boring place. Those “other places” were much more fascinating. I had to drive somewhere else to capture interesting pictures. Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you believe that wherever it is you are isn’t worth your camera’s attention, and because you see it day in and day out it is difficult to view it with fresh eyes.
How do you view a highly familiar location with fresh eyes? For me, I think it was just being away for a few years. Actually, I saw some interesting sunlight on the gas station, and a lightbulb went off in my mind. I was reminded of Wim Winders book Written in the West, which inspired me to photograph Culleoka using my Fujifilm X-E4 programmed with the Kodachrome 64 Film Simulation Recipe. Some ideas are to envision yourself as a tourist experiencing the place for the first time, simply keeping a photographic eye out for interesting light, or reading photography books where some pictures are similar to your current location.
Just because you believe that where you are is uninteresting, doesn’t mean there aren’t things worth photographing. You have to keep a constant eye out. Maybe you need to view it through a fresh perspective. Perhaps you just need to get out with your camera on a regular basis and keep at it until you finally “see it” as some new inspiration hits you—I think just getting out with your camera is the best advice that I have.
Don’t be like me and fail to photograph where you are. Just because you don’t think it is worthwhile doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile—with a fresh perspective, you’re likely to find things that actually are interesting, things you maybe passed by hundreds of times and it never caught your attention. You have a great opportunity, and perhaps an interesting series of pictures will emerge from it.
It’s an easy trap to think that you have to go someplace else in order to capture interesting pictures. I certainly believed that for awhile, even though I used to say that the job of a photographer is to find the extraordinary in the mundane. I didn’t always practice what I preached—I assumed that where I was wasn’t interesting enough—but my statement was correct: it’s my job to find what others overlook in the places I find myself, and create compelling pictures with my camera. I hope that I’ve accomplished that this time around.
Some of the pictures that I captured in Colleoka, Texas, over the last few days:
Find this Film Simulation Recipe and over 200 more on the Fuji X Weekly App, available for both Android and iPhone.
If you have an iPhone, be sure to check out my iPhone camera app: RitchieCam! Find it in the Apple App Store.
This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.
Fujifilm produced Fujicolor Natura 1600, a high-ISO color negative film, from 2003 through 2017. It was only sold in Japan, but it became renown worldwide as word got out about this wonderful film. A lot of speculation has surrounded it. Is it simply renamed Fujicolor Superia 1600? Many people think so. Is it slightly modified Superia 1600 for Japanese skin-tones? Some people think so. Is it slightly modified Superia 1600 made specifically for the Fujifilm Natura camera? Perhaps so. I haven’t found any definitive evidence to conclude if Natura 1600 is unmodified Supera 1600 or a slightly modified variant of it—if it isn’t identical, it’s very similar.
I have a Fujicolor Superia 1600 Film Simulation Recipe already, and it’s a recipe that I personally quite like. I had no desire to remake it, but (you know) one film can have many different aesthetics, depending on a whole host of factors, including (but not limited to) how it was shot, developed, and scanned. With that in mind, I looked at Fujicolor Natura 1600 examples that I found online, and from scratch (not using the Superia 1600 recipe as a starting point) I made a whole new recipe to mimic Natura 1600—not surprisingly, the settings ended up being similar to the Superia 1600 recipe. Alternatively, this could be called Fujicolor Superia 1600 v2.
A fun thing that I did for some of these pictures is set the ISO to 1600—I think the results are especially good at that particular ISO; however, it’s more practical to use a larger range of ISOs. So set the ISO to 1600 if you’d like, or set it to Auto (up to ISO 6400) if you’d prefer—I tried both, and found either to be acceptable. This particular recipe is only compatible with the Fujifilm X-T4, X-S10, X-E4, and X-T30 II cameras. If you have an X100V or X-Pro3 and want to use this recipe, I suggest setting Highlight to -1 and Shadow to +2. The results will be similar, but not identical.
Dynamic Range: DR400
Noise Reduction: -4
Grain Effect: Strong, Large
Color Chrome Effect: Strong
Color Chrome Effect Blue: Strong
White Balance: 5500K, -1 Red & -2 Blue
ISO: Auto, up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: +1/3 to +1 (typically)
Example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs using this “Fujicolor Natura 1600” Film Simulation Recipe on a Fujifilm X-E4:
Fujicolor Natura 1600 recipe compared to the Fujicolor Superia 1600 recipe:
Find this film simulation recipes and over 200 more on the Fuji X Weekly — Film Recipes App!
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I’ve called Utah home for six years, but now it’s time to move on. It’s bitter-sweet, as I will certainly miss the unbelievable natural beauty of the state, but I’m excited for the new adventures that await. Utah is a great place to live—I feel very lucky to have called it home.
What you don’t know is that (quite literally) as soon as the last episode of SOOC ended, I began packing. And loading. And everything else that goes along with moving. I’ve been extraordinarily busy, to say the least! I apologize for not being very responsive to comments and emails and such over the last couple of weeks. I’m definitely behind on that, but I hope to catch up soon. I appreciate your patience!
What now? Where am I going?
The family and I started out on an epic all-American road-trip. We’ll be traveling for five weeks (!!!), which will allow for some awesome picture opportunities (and probably a few new Film Simulation Recipes). My goal is to keep up with Fuji X Weekly and all the other projects that I have going on, including SOOC, which will be live on May 12. I think some days will be particularly productive, and some days will be especially not, but with some luck it will all work out. I just ask for a little patience during those less-productive periods.
After the road trip is complete, we will end up in Arizona. We’re saying goodbye to mountains and trees and snow and hello to deserts and cacti and sunshine. We’ll get there just in time for the heat of summer, and I hope that we survive (I mean that humorously)—my wife and I used to live there years ago (it’s where we met and got married), so in a way it is a homecoming.
Utah was very good and will be greatly missed; however, many wonderful new experiences are just around the corner, and we’re very excited for that. Be sure to follow my journey on this blog and on Instagram!
I receive a lot of feedback—while most of it is positive, some of it is negative. Negative feedback isn’t inherently bad—in fact, it can be extraordinarily valuable—so I’m happy to receive it; however, not all of it is equal: there’s constructive criticism and destructive criticism.
Just guessing, about 70% of the negative feedback could be classified as destructive criticism, which is simply a put-down. It’s negativity for the sake of negativity. It’s meant to make the person saying it feel better about themselves by way of making someone else (me in this case) feel worse about themselves. People are mean sometimes, and that’s just the way it is. The world needs less destructive criticism and more kindness—the antidote is to be the kindness that the world desperately needs.
Constructive criticism is negative feedback that is meant well and is given with the intention of being helpful. Roughly 30% of negative feedback is constructive criticism. Within this, there are two sources: those who you should listen to and those who you shouldn’t. Just because someone has a complaint about something and they mean well doesn’t mean that you should listen to them. Do you trust them? Are they an authority or have some specific experience that makes them particularly qualified to offer quality advice? I would estimate that it is fifty-fifty on whether the constructive criticism is something valuable or not. That 15% of negative feedback that is constructive and from a trustworthy source is pure gold and much appreciated—well worth weeding through the 85% that isn’t.
Sometimes there are grey areas. Sometimes it’s not clear if the criticism is constructive or destructive, or whether the source is someone I should listen to or not. I tend to spend a lot of energy on these criticisms because I’m trying to figure out if there is value in it. So I have to process it. One such “grey area” criticism that I recently received is this: the pictures in one of my articles were not good enough for the words and subject—the article demanded better pictures to illustrate the point, and because the pictures weren’t good enough, I shouldn’t have published the article. Ouch!
One thing that I’ve always struggled with is curation. Advice that I’ve received over and over and over again is that I should only show the best of the best photographs. If you only show the absolute cream-of-the-crop pictures, people will think you’re a better photographer. Perception is reality, right? People will think you’re a great photographer if all of the photographs of yours that they view are great. But if they start seeing mediocre images, they’ll think you are a mediocre photographer. The truth is that everyone—even the greatest photographers—captures “lesser” pictures sometimes, but some people don’t share those pictures, so nobody knows.
I think sometimes showing these mediocre pictures is more authentic and honest. I’m not sure where the line should drawn when trying to balance perception with vulnerability. Obviously you want people to think the best of you; however, if what you let them see is too carefully curated then you’ll come across as fake, or you’ll leave people disappointed if they do ever find out the truth. I find this to be a tough balancing act. I share more of my frames than most people do, and perhaps I do show too many “lesser” pictures, and that might not be good.
Because I share some of my mediocre pictures with you on this website, I’m able to publish more content. If I waited until I had 12 or more great photographs before publishing a Film Simulation Recipe, I’d have far, far fewer recipes. That’s always a struggle: quality vs. quantity. I have a large quantity of material, but have I not focused enough on quality? Have I sacrificed quality too often for the sake of quantity? Does the quality make the content relatable? These are questions that I ask myself, but I don’t have good answers to them. I hope that I can continuously review and refine what I do, and hopefully this website becomes better and better with time.
Am I not curating enough? I’m I publishing too much content too quickly? What is the right balance? I have to really consider these things. Perhaps these are questions you, too, are pondering. I’d love to hear what you think, especially if this is something you are working through yourself or have had to work through in the past. If you have criticisms, please try to make them constructive and not destructive, but I definitely want to hear your feedback, so leave me a note in the comments!
Do straight-out-of-camera JPEGs from Fujifilm X cameras actually resemble film?
I used to shoot film. I learned photography at the height of film, in the late-1990’s. I disliked digital when it began to get popular. Yes, I was a film snob for at least a decade, almost two. I don’t want to rehash my journey (you can read about it here), but I simply want to convey that for a long time I was a film-only guy, and I have a lot of experience with it. Now I rarely shoot film (only occasionally); instead, I use Fujifilm X cameras. I make Film Simulation Recipes that often mimic various film stocks and analog processes. I know a thing or two about film, Fujifilm, and making Fujifilm resemble film.
But does it? Can SOOC JPEGs really resemble film?
Why I’m writing this post is because I stumbled upon two articles on The Phoblogger: Fujifilm vs Film Photography and We Challenge You to Identify the Fujifilm Negative Film vs Simulation. Neither of these articles are particularly profound, and Film Simulation Recipes are not mentioned, and I’m pretty sure not used. I don’t know if any of my tips for achieving a film-look in-camera were implemented, but probably not. However, as I read these two articles I began to contemplate: what makes a film photograph special, why do we even want our digital pictures to look like film, and can they?
The answer to the first question—what makes film photographs special?—is soul. Digital and film, while very similar, have unique attributes—there are advantages and disadvantages for each. Digital is often very mathematical and clinical, which certainly serves a purpose. Film is more random and serendipitous, which is the character that gives it soul. With digital, the possibilities for an exposure are endless, but with film it is much more limited—yes, there’s a lot that can be done in the darkroom, but you’re still limited by the film itself and how it was shot. You get what you get—especially if it’s slide film—but that’s the fun of it.
You might want your digital pictures to look like film for that analog soul. How can you get the best of both worlds and achieve a film-soul in a digital picture? How can you leave some of that clinical-ness behind and replace it with randomness and serendipity? My first advice is to use Fujifilm cameras, as Fujifilm has sought to use their vast film experience to infuse a little of that soul into their digital cameras. Next, I suggest shooting JPEG using Film Simulation Recipes, which make it a you-get-what-you-get process more similar to film. Then try some of my tips for achieving a film-look in-camera, such as diffusion filters, vintage glass, high-ISO, etc., etc.. This isn’t the only method, but simply what I use and recommend.
Can you capture digital pictures that resemble film? Could they actually trick someone into thinking you shoot film when you don’t? While I think the answer to both questions is “yes” (at least to some extent), I think they’re the wrong questions. Instead, the questions should be: what process works for me? And: do my pictures have soul?
If your process doesn’t really work for you, then change it. It took me years to figure out what process works for me: shooting SOOC JPEGs using Film Simulation Recipes on Fujifilm cameras. I don’t edit (aside from minor cropping, straightening, and very occasional small adjustments), which saves me tons of time. The three pictures in this article are recently captured camera-made JPEGs using different recipes on different cameras. That process is great for me, and it might be for you, too, but it’s not for everyone because people are different. You have to do what works for you and not worry about what others are doing.
While the serendipity of film gives it soul, and some of that soul can also be found in Fujifilm cameras (and even in other cameras and processes), the number one thing that gives a picture soul is the photographer. What you do with your photography gear to craft an image is what’s most important. When you infuse a bit of yourself into your images, that’s what makes it special—much more than anything else. So whether your pictures do or don’t resemble film doesn’t matter, just as long as your process works for you and you are photographing with vision. Capture the images that you want to create in the way that you want to create them. The rest just doesn’t matter.
There’s a photographic wonderland in the Pacific Northwest that everyone should visit if they have the opportunity: Fort Stevens State Park, which sits at the furthest northwest corner of Oregon where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. It’s about a 25 minute drive west of Astoria. There are many great picture opportunities at this historic location. If it’s your first visit, you might not know what you’ll find or where to begin—this article is intended to be a guide, so be sure to bookmark this if you think you might go.
Let’s take a look at what you’ll find at this incredible apex of Oregon!
Peter Iredale Shipwreck
Probably the most famous and most photographed landmark is the Peter Iredale shipwreck. This ship was a four-mast barque sailing vessel made of steel that, in 1906, was enroute to Portland from Santa Cruz, Mexico, with a load of rocks. High winds pushed the ship off course, and it ran aground at high tide near the Fort Stevens military base. Nobody was hurt, and for whatever reason the ship was left abandoned. What’s left of the ship can still be seen to this day, and is now an iconic picture location.
There are basically two times to photograph the Peter Iredale shipwreck: higher-tides and lower-tides. At higher-tides, the boat is partially covered in water and the waves crash into the metal remains. It’s less accessible and more photographically limited at high-tide than low-tide, and you’ll definitely want a telephoto lens, but it’s still worthwhile to capture some images. You can use the grassy sand-bluffs to frame the ship. At low-tide, you can walk right up to the ship—heck, you can drive right up to the ship! It’s most ideal if you can catch the shipwreck at low-tide and at sunset (this tide chart might be helpful), and a wide-angle lens will be your friend. Most likely you won’t be the only one at the boat, and it takes some patience to not get other people in your images (or yourself in their pictures).
Finding the shipwreck is super easy. Enter the park on the Peter Iredale Road and follow the well-marked signs (Google Maps). The parking lot is not far at all from the shipwreck, so it’s easily accessible. At low-tide you can drive right onto the beach (I suggest 4-wheel-drive), which makes it even more accessible.
Fort Stevens Military Base
Fort Stevens State Park has an intriguing past—if you are a military history buff, this is a must-see place! Fort Stevens was an active military instillation from 1863 to 1947. On June 21, 1942, a Japanese submarine fired 17 shells at the base. While several of the shells hit Fort Stevens, aside from several severed power lines and some damage to a baseball diamond, they didn’t do any major destruction and nobody was hurt. This was the only attack on the 48-contiguous states during World War II.
There are a lot of old military buildings in various conditions within the state park—about 25 structures, some of which are massive—and many of these are open to the public. It could be an all-day or even multi-day event to explore them all, or, if you’re not all that interested, can be briefly experienced within less than an hour. There are three sites: Fort Stevens Historic Area (Google Maps), Observation Pillbox (Google Maps), and Battery Russell (Google Maps). The Fort Stevens Historic Area is where most of the buildings are located plus the visitor’s center. The Observation Pillbox is accessible via hiking trails. Battery Russell is located not far from the Peter Iredale shipwreck, and can be easily explored right before or just after seeing the old boat.
For photography, wide-angle lenses are probably your best bet, and a large aperture option is a good idea. Consider bringing a tripod for shooting in the dark. Those interested in military history or abandoned buildings will find Fort Stevens State Park to be a treasure-trove of photographic opportunities!
There’s about four miles of sandy beach along the Pacific Ocean within Fort Stevens State Park. There’s also additional beach access on the Columbia River side of the park, which is interesting, too—especially if you want to see large ships coming and going—but the vast ocean with its lengthy sandy-beach is the real star.
At the south end is Strawberry Knoll (Google Maps), which is a good place for 4×4 vehicles to access the beach, but for everyone else will require a short hike to the ocean, and there’s limited parking. The easiest beach access is probably at the Peter Iredale shipwreck (Google Maps), which has more parking, but is also the most visited site. As you drive north on Jetty Road, Lot A (Google Maps) has easy beach access and plenty of parking, Lot B (Google Maps) has plenty of parking but it is a short hike to beach, Lot C (Google Maps) has an observation tower, a lot of rocks, a longer hike to the beach, and tons of parking, and Lot D (Google Maps) has plenty of easy beach access and parking, but technically this is the Columbia River side, and the water will be a lot more calm. Any of these locations can be good for photography.
I recommend having both telephoto and wide-angle lenses at your disposal. High-tide and low-tide can be interesting, and sunrise, midday, and sunset all offer interesting light. There’s no right or wrong time to go, and visiting at different times and during different conditions will give you vastly different photographic opportunities. I think one could spend days, weeks, or even months photographing the beaches at Fort Stevens and not run out of inspiration.
There are miles of hiking trails, thick forests, camping, ponds, lakes, and streams within Fort Stevens State Park. There’s abundant wildlife, including deer, elk, sea lions, bald eagles, heron, puffins, and occasionally gray whales off the coast. No matter where you are in the park, there are picture opportunities literally everywhere! The landscape is just incredible, and surprisingly varied. It might be easy to overlook all of this in-between the beach, shipwreck, and abandoned base, but don’t! Keep your eyes open, your adventurous spirit eager, and your camera ready, and you’re sure to capture some amazing yet unexpected pictures.
If you have the time and energy, the Fort Stevens/Jetty Loop/Ridge Loop Trail is great—mostly paved and fairly easy, but at nine-miles is a bit long (you don’t have to cover the whole thing). Coffenbury Lake (Google Maps) is worthwhile, and somewhat accessible from the Battery Russell parking lot.
If you are a wildlife photographer, you’ll definitely want to keep your long-telephoto lens handy. If you are a landscape photographer, wide-angle lenses will often be your best bet. Having a couple cameras, one with a telephoto lens and one with a wide-angle, or perhaps a good zoom lens, is a solid strategy.
Fort Stevens State Park is one of the most spectacular locations in northwest Oregon! It is a worthwhile photographic excursion that can be experienced in a day, but if you have more time to spend in the park you will surely be rewarded for it. Some parts of the park (Coffenbury Lake and Fort Stevens Historic Area) require a daily self-pay $5 parking fee per vehicle, and camping isn’t free, but otherwise the other parts of the park don’t have any fee to access.
I used three cameras to capture these pictures: Fujifilm X-E4, Fujifilm X100V, and iPhone 11. On the Fujifilm cameras I used various Film Simulation Recipes, and on my iPhone I used the RitchieCam app. All of the pictures in this article are unedited (aside from minor straightening and cropping, they’re straight-out-of-camera images), which means that I didn’t spend hours manipulating them in software. This is a great way to save time and make photography even more enjoyable. Capturing photographs that don’t require any post-processing is a wonderful way to streamline your workflow and simplify your photographic life. When traveling, where you’re making tons of exposures and opportunities to post-process those pictures are limited, things that save you time can make a huge difference. If you own a Fujifilm camera, I invite you to try Film Simulation Recipes (check out the App!) on your next photography outing. If you own an iPhone, download the RitchieCam camera app for free today!
Multnomah Falls is an iconic scenic stop along the historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon. Found within the Columbia River Gorge, it is the tallest year-round waterfall in Oregon, and the most visited natural site in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The famous footbridge was constructed in 1915, while the gift-shop at the bottom—originally a lodge—was built in 1925, and both are on the National Register of Historic Places. It is an incredible location to experience, with beauty that rivals what one might find within National Parks.
I recently visited Multnomah Falls, and used my Fujifilm X100V and iPhone 11 to photograph this amazing spot. Unsurprisingly, I had several of my Film Simulation Recipes programmed into my X100V, and I used my RitchieCam camera app on my iPhone. Because there is a lot of mist from the falls, and it was a rainy day (as is common there), having weather-sealed cameras was important—both the X100V (as long as a filter is on the front) and the iPhone can handle getting wet, and both did get wet. Really wet.
While it might seem unnecessary to carry both an X100V and an iPhone, that turned out not to be the case for two reasons: focal-length, and ease of sharing. The X100V has a very useful 34.5mm (equivalent) focal-length lens, while the iPhone 11 has a 26mm (equivalent) camera and 13mm (equivalent) camera (if I had the “Pro” version, it would also include a 52mm camera, but alas I don’t have that model). The X100V was wide-angle enough to capture some good photographs of the falls, but the wider-angle lenses on the iPhone 11 were often better options, and I used it more than the Fujifilm camera at this location. To the second point, I was able to text pictures of the falls to some family and friends immediately—before even getting back to the car—and share with you via social media pictures of the falls within minutes. The X100V pictures were pretty quick and easy to share, too—thanks to the wonderful JPEG output of the camera—but not quite as immediate as the iPhone images.
What’s better, X100V or iPhone? For pure image quality, the Fujifilm camera is hands down better, but that only really matters if you are viewing the pictures large. Looking at them on this website or on social media, the quality difference is hard to spot, and even if you can see it, the quality difference is pretty insignificant. If you were viewing 11″ x 14″ prints of the pictures, the quality difference would still be fairly small, although if you compared them side-by-side you could tell without much trouble that the X100V is superior. But if you are viewing 16″ x 20″ prints or larger, the iPhone images just don’t hold up nearly as well as the Fujifilm. So the X100V is definitely the better tool if you might print the pictures large, but the iPhone is a capable tool if you don’t think you’ll be printing large—let’s face it, most pictures don’t get printed large, or even printed at all.
There’s no reason why both the X100V and the iPhone (or other cellphone camera) can’t both live together in peace and harmony. They’re different photographic tools that have different advantages and disadvantages, and they can both serve purposes within your photography. Film Simulation Recipes make the Fujifilm workflow more streamlined and the process more enjoyable. RitchieCam does the same thing for your iPhone photography. One tool might be better in a certain circumstance, and the other might be better in another circumstance, and perhaps both might be useful in a circumstance like Multnomah Falls.
Do you like the Fujifilm X100V pictures better, the iPhone pictures better, some of each, or none at all? Which Film Simulation Recipe that I used do you prefer? Which RitchieCam filter did the best? Let me know what you think in the comments!
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Reflections are everywhere, and sometimes we try to photographically avoid them. In fact, you might even use a polarizer filter to reduce reflections. But you can incorporate reflections into your photography and use them creatively, making them an element of your pictures. Let’s take a look!