Doors…

X10A5728Our little village in France (Montréal, near Carcassonne, in the South West) has a history dating back over 1000 years to Cathar times, and has a pretty eclectic architectural heritage. The Collégiale, or main church, dates back to the late 13th century, although it is thought a primitive church existed here several hundred years before that. Much of the surrounding village was burned to the ground by the Black Prince in 1355, and the next 400 years saw the village repeatedly attacked as a consequence of the religious strife that dominated this part of France. As a result, many of the older houses in the village date back to the 17th and 18th centuries and these sit alongside houses that have been modernised since, often in a haphazard fashion.  There are barely a handful of completely new houses in the main part of the village – all the new development has been carried out further afield.

X10A5653The somewhat diverse architectural styles in the village are reflected in the doors – not just to the Collégiale and the grand houses in the village centre, but all the smaller houses too. Every time I walk around the village I marvel at the sheer variety of styles of door on show, so for a bit of fun decided to do a mini photo project, recording as many of the different doors as I could. Camera used was (as it often is these days) the Fujifilm X-T10, this time with the 18-55mm zoom. No special technique here – just walk up, select a nice view of the door/doorway – often from the side as the streets are too narrow in some cases to use even the 18mm front-on. Photos are all RAW images, imported into Lightroom with a little ‘punch’ added, and some judicious cropping and further adjustment where needed. Here are a few of my favourites from my mini-project.

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The best ‘street’ combo yet?

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Fujifilm X-T10 and 35mm f2 lens

All photographers have their favourite cameras, and to be fair, their allegiance will often change over time.  Sometimes its a dissatisfaction or a bad experience with a particular model; sometimes its a case of ‘the grass is greener on the other side’.  But sometimes, a camera comes along which, for a particular use, is a real game changer. After years of shooting with Nikon cameras, I switched to Fuji – not because I was unhappy with the Nikons, far from it, but because my poor old back was no longer up to carrying a full size DSLR and its lenses. The Fuji X cameras work for me in pretty much every way, and are about half the size and weight.  Maybe if I was shooting sport, I would have stuck with the Nikons for their AF capability, but for my uses, Fuji cameras work perfectly.

Saturday Market, RevelEncouraged by attending a couple of excellent workshops and photo walks with Matt Hart of Fujiholics, I have been doing much more ‘street’ photography. For me this means candid photos, mostly of people going about their daily business, and generally in mono. The key here is that whatever camera I use has to be discreet – no good toting a full-on DSLR with zoom lens – you are not going to melt into the scenery with one of those!  It needs first and foremost to deliver exceptional image quality, but must have decent AF, be small, and certainly as quiet as possible so as not to draw attention to yourself.

Saturday Market, RevelShooting at street markets in France is a case in point – French people, in my experience, are not at all keen on candid photos.  Whether its a national sense of privacy, or because some of the traders at the markets are working ‘on the black’, I don’t know, but be prepared for some hostility if you are seen overtly photographing them!

So enter my current weapon of choice, and probably the best camera I have ever used for ‘street’, the mirrorless Fuji X-T10 paired with the new 35mm f2 lens.  Image quality from the camera is excellent – on a par with the larger Fuji X-T1, but in a surprisingly small package – quite the smallest SLR style camera I have used.  The focussing of the new 35mm lens is so much faster than the ‘old’ f1.4 lens, and its a fair bit smaller too as well as bitingly sharp.  The whole camera/lens package weighs just 550gms and is so discreet its not true.

Saturday Market, RevelI took this rig out this weekend to shoot the lively Saturday market in Revel in the Haute-Garonne in France. Using the LCD screen tilted at 90deg I could shoot pretty much at waist level, and with the electronic shutter activated, the camera was virtually silent.  Of the 50-60 photos I took, only this one guy realised I had taken a photo! AF was set to zone focussing, ISO was auto 3200 max, and the aperture either f5.6 or f8.  I would say that focus was spot on for 90% + of the shots I took, exceptional given that I was mostly shooting from the waist and there was little opportunity to refocus or recompose each shot. Generally I use the RAW images from the camera and convert them using Silver Efex Pro, but with so may to process this time around, these are from the in-camera mono JPG images.  A little bit of cropping in some cases, and the clarity and contrast pushed a little in Lightroom, but pretty much as the camera produced them. I’m very happy with these photos.

I have to say I am really enjoying this setup for street photos – all the required quality and performance is there, and its in such a neat unobtrusive package. The lens is newly introduced, so still around the £300 mark, but the X-T10 body can be had for about £450, and there is presently then a £50 cash back offer from Fuji which makes it extremely good value for money for a camera, which to my mind, beats anything else out there.

Here are my favourite photos from the day.

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A tip: if you plan to go to Revel for the market, do get there quite early – it was in full flow at 1030-1100am, and by noon was thinning out.

It Wasn’t Always Digital…

LE7-02101I suppose it’s easy to assume that photography only really got going with the advent of ‘digital’ – the easy availability of photos taken on smartphones and tablets, and relatively cheap and easy-to-use point and shoot cameras has revolutionised photography for the ‘man-in-the-street’. What you see is very much what you get, and cloud photo-sharing sites make sharing photos so easy.

But photography as we know it – i.e. capturing an image, and being able to chemically or digitally reproduce it, has been going for close to 200 years now.  The first photographic images were captured on sensitised paper placed in a primitive light tight box, with the image focussed using a simple lens. As with most things man-made, the process and equipment developed and was improved, but it wasn’t really until the 1940s and 1950s that photography was within the reach of a wider public – until then it was sufficiently complex and expensive to ensure it was mostly only practised by professionals who of course could command a high price for the photos they provided.

LF7-03011Box Brownie and folding cameras taking roll film, together with the advent of consumer oriented processing labs really reduced the cost of photography, and the widespread adoption of 35mm film (originally developed for the movie industry) and cheap Far-East produced cameras really opened up the opportunities for everyone to take their own photos.

Roll and 35mm film was relatively cheap, and labs would process and print your holiday snaps in a few days for less than £10.00.  Enthusiasts were also catered for, with enlargements relatively reasonably priced. There was of course no way of knowing how or indeed whether your photos would turn out – there was always that moment of nervous anticipation when you picked your photos up from the lab, or they arrived by post!

Like most people, I love the immediacy of digital, the opportunity to re-shoot an image that doesn’t look quite right, the chance to enhance or improve it after the event, or to share a photo with friends or family. It doesn’t somehow have quite the ‘magic’ of film though does it?

These are just a small selection of my images from the ‘pre-digital’ age – all were taken on Fuji Velvia slide film on a 6x7cm Mamiya rangefinder camera and have been scanned to add them to this blog.

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