1800 miles later - part 2 - Dave Kai Piper

Originally written for Fujilove - click here

I had spotted a layby, I pulled up, grabbed my camera and headed to a spot that I had made a mental note about before, I think I was near Bothar Na Haillite (btw, I would love to have GPS marking in the cameras). I knew the rain was about to come down, it was going to be an extremely heavy down pour. The location I had in mind meant walking out along cliff tops that stood about 50 – 75 meters vertically out of the water. The waves were hitting the rock so hard, the spray was flying over the top and making it quite the tricky image to get. I really didn’t want to explain why I had smashed a GFX or the X100F, as they were both loaned cameras, so I played it safe took my own X-Pro2 with the 16-55mm lens. After attaching a wrist strap and the neck strap, I walked out on to the rocks to see what, if any image was going to be available. The limestone rocks are full of moss and small pools of water, keeping my footing was pretty tough. It turns out my bike boots are not the best at rock hopping in the wet, however, the next challenge was even more tricky. Keeping the lens dry and clean seemed an impossible task. The solution for the I came up with, was to use a grad filter in the large Lee Filters matte box. this acts like a clear screen to line up and work out the shot and a large rain shield, then removing the filter for the image, then putting it back to quickly to stop the water hitting the lens. The solution for almost slipping over was to convert my tripod into a monopod and use it as a walking stick – pretty clever I thought! The challenge for much of this trip was keeping the lenses dry, the spray from the water combined with the rain and the wind made it near impossible. I would love to hear if anyone has tips for this?

The noise of the waves was incredible. The images I caught here are among some of my favorite images from the trip.

Camera: X-Pro2. 16-55mm @ 16mm

Bother Na Haillite

The Burren is an amazing place. In many places, the flattened limestone goes right to the edge of the Atlantic giving some dramatic coastal views. I didn’t spend much time in the Burren this trip as I had on my last trip, but it is a special place and a ‘must see’ for any photographer heading this way. I shall have to bring my drone next time too. I bet the views from up high are magic.

Last time I was over, we used The Burren as a back drop for some images with fitness brand ILU. As you can tell, the weather we had was a little bit brighter for this shoot. The landscape is almost other worldly.

The Burren is an amazing place.

Learning about the GFX & X100F

I took 3 cameras with me, with the mind set of learning about the GFX and the X100F. Both the GFX and X100F cameras from Hire-a-Camera in the UK and the service was pretty amazing (the X-Pro2 was my own camera). They come housed in Peli cases with custom fitting foam, batteries are ready charged, super fast SD cards & card readers are included too. Paperwork shows who signed the camera off and that it was checked before leaving the company and even has the tie wraps and shipping labels ready printed for the return. Firmware & drivers come installed on the USB drives in the box too. They really are ready to go out the box, in some cases, next day delivery is an option too.

GFX & X100F

As an X-Photographer, it’s almost a daily occurrence that someone will ask me about kit. In the last few years, my answers have always been roughly the same. “Rent it and see if you like it”. Renting is a great way to see if you like something and if it works for you. As I write this, I have the 100-400mm rented and the EX-500 flash. Being able to make educated choices on kit is vital and companies like Hire-a-Camera can help with this. I did want to make an extra special effort to give these guys a mention as they do a great job, but I should make it very aware that I have no idea if they can ship kit outside of the UK. I am sure each country has similar companies. Get in touch with them and take some kit out for a test run. Getting your own ‘hands on time’ with gear is going to give you all you need to know regarding if a particular lens or camera is right for you. In the first part of the blog, I think I mentioned I would rather have invested my money in the 100-400mm than have the X100F. Renting the kit gave me the chance to have both products in my hand and let me review them in the field for myself. You can do the same.

Any battery trouble on the trip?

The X100F takes the same batteries as the X-Pro2 which, solved some potential space and weight trouble, but the GFX only shipped with one battery. Which was fine, I just had to be aware of how much power I was using and not to spend too long reviewing images etc. In total, I took 8 NP-W126 and the one battery for the GFX. In colder climates, battery life is affected negatively, but you can warm the batteries back up to help them along. Keeping battery in the GFX was near a critical task as I only had the one and shooting with the GFX was the primary objective for many shots. The Peli 1510 did a remarkable job at keeping a stable temperature inside the case. We didn’t have any sub zero conditions but was cold enough to keep shooting to a minimum. In many ways, it was something I should have thought about before the trip. I like to carry at least double what I would need in terms of batteries normally, however, the GFX arrived the day before I was due to leave and it did slip my mind to ask about this when arranging the camera loan. I am sure it won’t again. If I owned the camera, I think I would have to have at least 4 or 5 batteries for the GFX to get me through a proper days shooting on location. As the camera has no optical viewfinder, depending on your subject matter you could use up much of the battery power just balancing a composition or waiting for an image to form. As mentioned before, I have the 100-400mm on loan at the moment. I rang up my fellow X-Photographer and wildlife conservation photographer Ben Cherry. He took me out for a day shooting in a local wildlife reserve. An estimated whole battery was used just to have the camera on and looking through the viewfinder tracking animals and wildlife. SLR’s have this as a major advantage and it is something I miss. I was careful enough and had enough batteries on this trip to never run out, but it would have been a shame to have to cut a day short to need to go back to recharge batteries. Charging via USB is something I would love to see in all future Fujifilm camera design – being able to move power from a battery bank or laptop to camera could be a handy problem solver.

Cliffs of Moher

Long Exposure Photography:

After a windy and cloudy few days, the weather turned into a spectacular summer’s day in an unexpected turn of events. It made sense to do the longer trip up to Connemara with the better weather so my plan was to have a head out and have play with the Super Stopper from Lee Filters. Since I was traveling on the bike solo, I had made the choice to not ride in the dark, this also did mean that I could not photograph any sunsets or sunrises, shooting long exposures was a logical compromise way to bring some extra dynamic edge to the images. The recent firmware updates had some very overdue and welcome updates to the Fujifilm ecosystem.

If you have not downloaded and installed the latest updates – check this link for download your update.

Among all the wonderful updates the most important one for me was extended shutter times. The cameras can now support a shutter exposure of 15 mins. Long exposures in the T mode previously had a maximum length of up to 30 seconds. The update will allow users to extend it up to 15 minutes. Combined with using the shutter delay, it removed the need for a third party apps or cable release buttons.

I took Steve the tripod with me and packed the Super Stopper filter from Lee Filters along with a couple of grads. Before leaving I made sure that all cameras had well fixed Swiss Arca plates on and that the handy timings guide for using the super filter was attached to the lid of the metal tin that the Super Stopper ships with. Lee filters do have an app, but, I find avoiding technology in the field is the best option, especially when I have to use my phone as a Sat Nav or map to get me home again. The Super Stopper reduces 15 stops of light entering the lens, meaning it gave me the ability to shoot super long exposures in the middle of the day

Remember – as X-Photographer David Cleland remarks in his ‘7 things to think about’ blog – spare batteries are vital. Shooting a 15 min exposure is a battery killer. Shooting with the GFX I had to be super careful, I only had one battery. Make sure you turn off Long Exposure Noise reduction if you are extra worried about battery life.

There are loads of great photographers with awesome content about how to shoot images like this, so I won’t go super in-depth, instead, check out this ace guide about shooting Long Exposures with the Fujifilm set up & make sure you check out X-Photographer David Cleland’s e-book.

That being said, here are a couple of my thoughts:

Don’t put your tripod in water for super long shots, this was a lesson I almost learned the hard way.

The water pressure was moving the tripod, it was a very small amount and only noticeable when shooting longer and longer shutter speeds. The original version of the image below was taken around the 400s mark. At a quick glance the image was great and almost didn’t check the image for critical focus after shooting, It took until I had repacked the bike when my brain clicked in. I checked the shot on the back of the camera and it was way out. I re-did the shot and reduced the time to 240s, avoiding the risk of movement messing up my shot again. Adding weight to the tripod or using Heelz can help.

The resulting image from the Long Exposure. Shutter time was 240s – f6.4 on the GFX 32mm using the GF 32-64mm lens.

We tend to think of water shots mostly when it comes to extending your shutter speeds. Extending your shutter speed can create a massive effect on the visual aspect of your images. As the clouds move about you can get some interesting movement across your images. In this image set of three images, you can see how I used Photoshop to create a hybrid of both the standard image, which has the super dark shadows blended with the version with none.

Dave Kai Piper

The above images are not color corrected at all. Normally it is common to get a color shift when using ND filters. The lack of any major shift with the Super Stopper is just one of the many reasons I like to use the filters from Lee. Below is a finished graded shot of the same location. This image was built up of a few images taken from the same spot & stitched together using photoshop.  

It should be noted that this is not how I think all landscapes should be done, or that such heavy digital work is always part of photography, just that blending images together that have different shutter speeds can produce some interesting effects. For example, I did like the blue skies and fluffy clouds in the image but didn’t like the heavy shadows they cast. Waiting around would have been a good option until the right sky/cloud combination is a very valid approach, I, however, didn’t have the time, I was there, needed to grab a shot, so using a super long shutter speed, I was able to shoot a really clean plate to adjust later.

Lough Aconeera

My time was near up & time to head home. I had a couple of days left in Ireland which I spent happily driving about and checking locations out for future trips, making notes on maps and making mental notes. In four days time, I had to be in Manchester and before that I had to drive across Ireland, stopping over in Holy Island, heading to Birmingham though Snowdonia then heading up to Manchester.

Dave Kai Piper

Images from Ireland

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