Wednesday, March 21, 2012

X100 Urban Guerrilla Photography


 A run down back alley provided a great backdrop with nice soft overhead lighting
Yup that's Guerrilla, not G-oh-rilla, as in Che not Kong. If you remember back to my last outing with the X100 I had originally planned to do this sort of shoot then. Due to a sudden cold snap the last time though outdoor shooting was scrapped and we headed to the local university. Well spring seems to be here now and I'd been meaning to work with this cool little camera slinging hipster I'd met on the plane to Halifax a few years ago. Clare agreed to step in front of the lens for me as we set out downtown to scout around and just shoot at any and all interesting locations we found. I had done something similar to this once before but we stuck to outdoor locations, with the X100 being so inconspicuous I could also sneak into cool buildings without my big dSLR setting off alarms that there is a pro photographer in the building.


Nobody batted an eye while we hung out in front of these elevators shooting away

The X100 proved to be great for doing this, not only did we not get hassled even once about taking photos we were given cookies :) That's right, while shooting in a stairwell of one of the cities higher end hotels a staff member carrying a tray was approaching us, "that's it" I thought here's where we're going to get kicked out but no instead he lowers the tray which turned out to be covered in cookies and offered us one.


Taken just minutes before free cookies

I must admit I'm still getting used to the X100, I'm constantly second guessing my focus, especially when shooting at f2. Most times my paranoia proves to be unjustified I just miss that reassuring feeling of the lens shifting and locking into focus that a bigger lens on an SLR body gives you. The other thing is how the camera doesn't automatically cross over into macro when the subject gets closer than a certain distance. I don't even need auto, I'd settle for a button that I can press without having to move the camera from my eye. When doing portraits I seem to be riding this line between macro range and normal range and I missed a few poses as my model relaxed and shifted as I had to enable or disable macro mode, with the moment lost I couldn't re-pose her to get the same look. The next shoot I do I'm going to try to put it in manual focus mode and just do the AF lock trick that Zack Arias mentions in his initial review of the X100. A few other pet peeves I realized were these: Why is there no option to enable Auto ISO from within the ISO menu? I've set my custom function button to bring up ISO yet in order to enable/disable auto ISO I have to scroll through menus. The other isn't so much a peeve as perhaps a design flaw, apparently if you have your camera in macro mode with manual focus enabled then turn the camera off you should not turn the camera back on with the lens cap in place because during the initialization the lens extends, hits the cap, then your camera gives an error telling you to turn the camera off then back on. This had me depositing bricks in my joe-boxers the other night when it happened. Luckily a power cycle cleared this but still its not something I want to repeat. Fuji should do two things, a) forget macro setting when camera is powered off b) return the lens to a known starting point when powered down c) sense via incoming light if a lens cap is on before performing the lens initialization d) not design a lens that extends past the outside of the bezel in the first place. I can live with these issues however and am still stoked on my X100, in a few years maybe I'll upgrade to the X300 or 400 and by then fingers crossed maybe full frame sensors will be more affordable and will be popping up in these.

I broke a few of my own rules during this shoot too, since this shoot was about experimenting as much as it was about finding new locations. Normally I tell everyone that they're crazy to shoot using an in-camera black and white mode, my argument is that you're just limiting what you can do afterwards so you should shoot in colour and convert in post. Going into this shoot I knew I'd be converting to black and white after anyway so I thought I'd try the black and white mode. Since I was doing portraits I chose the bw+g which is black and white with a green filter, this is supposed to give pleasing skin tones for portrait work. One thing I noticed about shooting this way is that it changes the way you compose the images, since you're seeing real time what it looks like in black and white. You're not shifting your angle to block out that nasty yellow building in the background or that puke green car because now they're just pleasing shades of grey. Its the same argument I made about Lensbabies, sure the effect can be done in post but when you're seeing the effect in real time it impacts how you're taking the shots and that matters just as much if not more sometimes.

The other rule I broke was shooting in jpg instead of RAW. I've read lots of X100 reviews where people couldn't say enough good things about the in camera jpg processing and how when shooting RAW and processing in Lightroom they couldn't seem to get as good results as straight from the camera jpgs. On this front I'm not so sure, there were a few times during post where I wished I had the latitude afforded to me that a RAW file would have provided. I was shooting in some dim locations and did wind up underexposing a few times (gotta be checking that histogram!).So a tip for X100 users, if you're shooting jpg make sure you're nailing the exposure (or even just slightly over exposing).

All in all the shoot was really fun and I found a few new locations that I can draw on if needed. There is still many alleys and even more buildings left unexplored so I think there may be quite a few more urban guerrilla shoots in store for this summer, stay tuned!


You just can't beat window light

No comments: