Follow Your Heart

This is Ross.

Ross. Downtown Eugene, Oregon. Fuji X70.

Ross. Downtown Eugene, Oregon. Fuji X70.

He's a self-proclaimed crappy guitarist, an HVAC worker, and a soul-searcher. His girlfriend recently broke up with him and he wasn't getting rich, so he hit the road and is trying to find himself. He & his buddy & buddy's dog were gonna hitch-hike out today, but it's pouring and no one is gonna wanna pick up two wet dudes and wet dog. Plus, his buddy's fancy banjo was just stolen. We talked for almost a half hour about society, hardship, and good souls. He's a good guy and not looking for handouts or to take anything without a fair trade, human to human. He's going after something in himself and the world. He's on his way to Ohio to see family and then Atlanta to see his mom, with plans to come back, after seeing the world and finding deeper meaning of life.

At the end, he asked me why I stopped. I said he had a different aura about him. He was approachable and a genuine soul. What I forgot to say is that just like Shawn Biessel & I were talking about recently, I was walking around the street guided by my heart, not my mind or my eyes. When I came around the corner, I immediately knew I had to talk to him. First thing I said was to ask if he wanted a donut, which he replied,  yes please. He likes custard filled lemon donuts. I got us each one for while we talked.
Thanks for the photo and conversation, Ross. Safe travels, my friend.

Whatever we all do with our lives, may we follow our hearts. He is and I'm glad I did, too.


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Thinking Like a Mountain on the Street

As part of my ongoing Project 365+1, I thought I'd share a story from yesterday, the 99th day.

InFormation. Downtown Eugene, Oregon. (c) 2016 Josh Spice

InFormation. Downtown Eugene, Oregon. (c) 2016 Josh Spice

Standing just down the sidewalk to the right of the frame, I had been replying to a friend's deep comments on Facebook for a handful of minutes, while watching the world go by. People were walking all around, and some quite interesting ones at that, but I wasn't real drawn to trying to capture any of them. And I was in no rush. Being almost 6 pm, the light was low angle and there were large areas in shadow. Something wasn't right and I just felt out of place. I hadn't been downtown shooting street in quite a while; maybe that's why.

I decided I'd cross the street and go to the other end of the block and shoot at the bus depot, which was more open to the sky and better lit. When I crossed, right through the image frame above, something told me to stop, so I did, still in the street. I saw this guy coming down the block and somehow immediately knew I had to have it.

The framing and his placement was already in my head. I turned on the X70 and held it up, just to verify my placement, and it was perfect - distant to capture the whole spread, but close enough to get the detail. As he walked, to my surprise, he kept his head glued to his cell phone. It was actually all coming together and I felt a rush of excitement through me - kind of like a hunter gets buck fever when they see a big rack on a deer.

I snapped when he was centered and a mirror image of the silhouette behind him. When I chimped, only then did I notice the contrasting angled light to center of frame and his white shirt on the black silhouette. It was perfect in my eye and I knew right then I had gotten my shot. The funny thing to me is, as you recall, I had been doing exactly what he is pictured doing - staring at my phone, just ahead of him, out of the frame, leaning up against the wall. I went from making a scene to making the scene. I stepped 'out of the picture' to capture, in essence, what I had been doing, just with better framing and environment.

Walking around after taking this, I was very sedated in shooting. I only saw two shots after this, one I took (my wife & I - almost doesn't count in a street shooting sense) and one I didn't - across the street and headed the other way when we were heading home. I chalked it up as seeing was just as important as capturing.

I don't often stop shooting after I get what I feel is a solid keeper when everything comes together, but for some reason today, I had that feeling strongly. With a background and schooling in ecology, conservation, and hunting, I was again the hunter, but this time it was not the excitement of the big rack, but about Thinking Like A Mountain. When the street provides to me, I feel the need to not push it and take too much away from it on any one day. When it gives me a good scene, I make it, thank it, and move on, leaving it's grit and flare, while only taking but a fleeting moment.

How do you feel when you shoot street?
 

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Fuji X70: Beyond the Specs

You can find reviews of the Fuji X70 all over the place, mostly talking about it's user-friendliness and incredible image quality in such a small, pocketable size. With over a month almost exclusively shooting the X70 for my Project 365, I'd like to touch on some of the more experienced based things I've learned about this camera that make me love it so much. And, a couple things I wish were more like the X-T1 & X-E2 I also shoot with.

Fuji X Photographer  Dan Bailey  shooting the X70 in a brutal Oregon coast rain storm

Fuji X Photographer Dan Bailey shooting the X70 in a brutal Oregon coast rain storm

1. It's not WR, but it's TINY

This means I can put it in any pocket or space to protect it from weather or damage. For the beach storm above, I had it in my rain jacket's chest pocket, which is really small. When biking, I put it in a Revelate Designs Feedbag with a cuben fiber stuff sack for when it's raining. The X70 is so small, I actually am concerned it might bounce out of the Feedbag, which fits bike water bottles. In all actuality, I'm still trying to figure out how to best carry this little tank. It's too heavy for a shirt or pants cargo pocket and a little too big for a front pants pocket...

 

2. The tilting LCD acts as a 'tripod'

The shot of my bike and I above was taken with the camera sitting on the ground, angled up. Pull out the multi-angle tilting LCD screen and it is strong and stiff enough to act as its own tripod, of sorts. Pretty sweet feature. Probably not the only camera that can do this, but the X70 certainly does it really well.

 

3. USB charging

In the car or from a USB battery pack, solar panel, or even the wall plug-in, power can go straight into the camera with no battery adapter or charger needed. Uses micro-USB, same as my Samsung phone, for convenience of only needing one charging cord for both devices.

 

4. Fast AF

Standing only 18 inches away from the rufous hummingbirds, the X70 had no problem zone focusing on the quick-moving birds, seemingly despite their best efforts to move as much as possible. I've found the X70 only hunts if the scene is quite dark and low contrast. Auto-macro mode isn't as 'auto' as I'd like to experience, so for stationary close ups like flowers, I usually switch to manual focus, set it to it's minimum focusing distance, and move the camera accordingly. It tends to want to focus farther away than it is able to. 'Tis but a minor complaint.

 

5. It's Discrete

I got the X70 in black, as I didn't want it to be a flashy device. It's small enough that people either don't notice it when you're shooting or they pass it off as nothing to get flustered about, unlike a bigger camera & lens. Multiple times, I've been bold in public with it and no one notices or cares. I don't like upsetting people with taking a photo, so I like that. I still ask for photos, but not as much as when I carry my X-T1 & X-E2.

 

2016-03-03 07.09.36 1.jpg

6. I have to mention its sharpness

Dare I say it out-resolves the X-T1 & X-E2? I'm no pixel-peeper, but all I'm saying is there are no worries about image quality with the X70. No need to say any more.

 

I shot this photo upside down and then flipped it in editing.

I shot this photo upside down and then flipped it in editing.

7. The grip

For such a small camera, it sure has a really confident grip to it. The thumb knob is perfect size, without hardly sticking out from the body, and the front piece is shaped and textured perfectly. I have a wrist strap on mine, but have no worries about quickly grabbing the camera and doing a no-look shot behind me while riding. Nice job, Fuji!

 

8. The Left Side Button that's not

On the left side of the body, from the photographer's perspective, there is a rubber, flush with the body surface button that takes (easy) intention to depress. I have it set as the self-timer, which seems perfect to me. What a great idea, Fuji. Kudos.

My personal button layout is as follows:
Movie: Focus Mode
Delete: ISO select
D-Pad: L/R/U/D Focus point
Fn: Wifi (might change, as I do wifi in image playback almost 100% of time)
Left side button: Self-timer

 

9. Digital Teleconverter

Like having three cameras in one (kind of), the built-in digital teleconverter is pretty darn good. It's more than just digital zoom, as some extra processing happens to the 35/50mm images, but quality is still high. I don't really use it, but the thing I like most about it is that when I do, the camera resets to 28mm on shutdown/startup. No need to worry about accidentally bumping the easy to move lens ring and taking a bunch of photos in digital teleconverter mode before realizing it. Another great idea, Fuji.

 

Do you see the Devil?

Do you see the Devil?

The things I don't like so much

1. Always +1/3

It seems like no matter what the scene & lighting, the X70 likes to expose 'properly' at +1/3 exposure compensation. I've shot in RAW & JPEG and it doesn't seem to matter... hmm.

 

2. Left D-Pad Button

The left button on the up/down/left/right pad around the Menu/OK button is hard to press, as it's so close to the LCD. Now, in all honesty, it's proximity to the LCD is actually not the problem, but the fact that the LCD sticks outward from the body just a little bit, creating a tight 'corner' to get your finger into in order to press the left button. I actually wish Fuji made the X70 just a tad thicker so the tilting LCD would sit IN the body, not just barely stick out from it. Minor gripe.

 

3. Movie Button

The movie button is in a good spot, just in front of the exposure compensation dial, but because it is squeezed into that tiny space on the top plate and it does not stick up from the top plate (ie, flush with surface), it is incredibly hard to press the button. This is a situation where it IS too close to a 'corner' and hard to press because of it... or the button needs to stick up like the buttons on the back of the camera do. Also a minor gripe... just frustrating when you try to use that movie button assigned to a different shooting function, like focus mode. It's in a perfectly fine spot if it just was a bigger button.

 

Final word

Before I got the X70, I was using the X-M1 with the 18mm f/2 & 27mm f/2.8. I had come from SLRs and the X-T1 & X-E2 and was worried about losing the creative vision I feel I have looking through a viewfinder. After about two weeks using the X70, I forgot about this completely and I think I'm doing just fine without one. I still love using a VF when I have one, but with the X70, I'm more compelled to move the camera to where it needs to be to get an engaging shot. It's not as good as or worse than having a VF, just different. Go take photos and let the camera become an extension of your hand, which I feel the X70 has already. It helps, I'm sure, that I had previously felt this way about my 18mm f/2 lens.

With only three minor (very picky) complaints, I'd say the X70 is my most favorite camera I've ever used (and it's not even an interchangeable lens body!). Home run, Fuji. I can't recommend this camera enough. I just really wish Fuji made an 85mm focal length version! THAT would be the ultimate adventure camera kit.
 

Thanks for reading!
Stay sane. Sleep Outside... with a camera!

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Trip Photography

While editing photos, I got to (again) thinking about the number of photos I take per day when on trips. In the past, I've shot over one thousand when I'm doing aerial photography or have a great opportunity to shoot something really rare. Usually, however, it seems to be flexible between 150 - 400 photos per day depending on how occupied I may be beyond the camera, but even this is quite a range.

Here's a break-down of two recent trips of the same duration that are pretty much completely different in every other way.
 

Bike Touring the Denali Park Road & Denali Highway, August '13
Sony NEX-7 mirrorless: 1800 photos in 8 days = 225 photos/day average

Bernhard Lehnertz rides east towards Clearwater Creek on the Denali Highway. (c) Josh Spice 2013

Bernhard Lehnertz rides east towards Clearwater Creek on the Denali Highway. (c) Josh Spice 2013

Adventure Travel on the Big Island of Hawaii, January '14:
Canon SL1 dSLR: 1950 photos in 8 days = 244 photos/day average
(Excludes 600 photos in a few hours at the botanical garden on the last day)

The best part of the farmers' market is not the amazing fruit. (c) Josh Spice 2014

The best part of the farmers' market is not the amazing fruit. (c) Josh Spice 2014

Hawaii was hiking & driving, Denali was biking & one day on a bus.

Maybe half of the nights in Hawaii were spent outside versus almost all the nights on the Denali trip were camping.

Walking (Hawaii trip) is slower, allowing for more photos, but biking is more continually immersing than driving to places, so more photos can be taken continuously throughout the day instead of just specifically at each destination. There was a lot of time on the Hawaii trip just sitting in a car going to the next place.

Denali trip had more daylight hours to take photos (thank you Alaska summer), whereas in Hawaii, the sun is pretty much on a 12/12 cycle.

Camera type didn't seem to matter in the number of photos taken, which I'm happy about. It seems as if I still took all the photos I 'saw' or desired to capture. My enjoyment taking them was higher in Hawaii, however, in using a real SLR instead of a point-and-shoot camera with SLR capability. So... maybe camera type did produce more or less images?

I had the cameras readily accessible on both trips, mounted in a camera case just in front of my handlebars for the Denali trip and in a camera case slung over my shoulder and neck in Hawaii. The camera was accessible while riding the bike, but it obviously takes more skill to ride one-handed on a rough road and work a C-shaped zipper with an out-stretched arm than it is to stand in place and unclick a buckle on a case that is hanging off your body. This probably led to less photos on the Denali trip. 20 photos per day? Yeah, probably. I do remember quite a few times wanting to stop and get a shot, but didn't, for various reasons.

One thing based off of these last two points of camera type & accessibility is a closer look at the combination of those two factors instead of separately. While biking, it would be challenging to use an SLR with one hand, but a point-and-shoot style is much simpler. While hiking, I'd specifically choose the more complex camera for higher photographic ability, as...

Hiking vs biking: you can stop and get a shot anytime when hiking but when biking, there's all the downhills doing up to 45 mph... not stopping to get a shot then.

I keep my cameras on single shot mode almost all the time and did so on both of these trips.

Rain really wasn't an issue on either trip, having only to put the camera away once or twice on both trips, only for an hour or so.
 

What do I take away from all this? Well, having thought about this before, not much. Obviously, if it's raining or dark, if you're indoors or driving, or just super-consumed by whatever you're doing, you'll probably capture less photos. Beyond these obvious limitations, I'm most likely still going to see and capture about as many photo opportunities no matter what I'm doing on outdoor trips. Every place is different and every experience will therefore be, too.

What do you take away from all this?


Am I missing anything here? Any other thoughts? I'd love to hear 'em.