Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I’m going to post some extra photos that really don’t fit in with anything else, talk about my new camera, explain depth of field, compare in camera jpg processing vs Lightroom 5, talk about a parent and school meeting, briefly talk about how I almost saw a female wizard, and explain why it is difficult to have a bad day in this country.  If any of these things sound interesting to you read on.  

I just received my Fuji X-T1 last week with a 35mm f / 2 lens (thanks again Brian).  My Canon 6D is a great camera and I will continue to use it for a long time to come but it is huge, heavy, and sometimes cumbersome to operate.  I got the Fuji because it is the opposite of the Canon in a way.  It is small, light, very easy to operate, has tons of new technology, and it’s sexy as all hell.  

Canon 6D with a 24mm - 105mm f / 4 Lens

Here is what all of my blog photos thus far have been taken with.  It weighs 1.7 kgs or 3.8 lb. as pictured.  It’s a great full frame camera but I miss a lot of photos because I either have it packed away or not with me.  It can also be intimidating to people when they see me pointing the 77mm objective their way.  That is a South African 2 Rand coin in the bottom right for reference, which is about the same size as a quarter.

Fuji X-T1 with a 35mm f / 2 Lens

This is what I will be carrying everywhere I go from now on.  It weighs 0.6 kgs or 1.3 lb.  It actually weighs less than the lens on my Canon plus it’s made out of metal and glass, the way a camera should be made.

The bottom line is this camera takes great photos and it’s fun to use.

Here is a random pic of a stream coming out of the ground.

This photo was taken with the lens wide open or at its widest aperture, f / 2.  A wide aperture allows more light to reach the sensor but it also narrows the focal plane depth.  As you can see in the photo above, only a narrow band of water is in focus and the rest of the image is out of focus.  Also notice that the out of focus area (bokeh in photography terms) looks different in the foreground than the background.  This has to do with whether the virtual image converges before or after the sensor.  

The above photo was taken at f / 8, one of my personal favorite apertures for outdoor work.  Notice how almost everything in the frame is in good focus.  Also isn’t that a sweet chair!  It appears to be made from two brake drum housings, and a shock all welded to a spare rim.  The African barber chair.

This photo was taken using f / 2.  Notice the difference between the background focus of the two.  The concertina wire coil fence, garbage, and mountains are all out of focus.

The Fuji has an excellent reputation for producing quality jpg files directly from the camera.  This means I have to spend less time messing with the files later.  Below is a comparison of the in camera jpg processing and Adobe Lightroom 5.  

Here is a photo directly from the camera.  

Here is the exact same photo as above except I opened the RAW data file and processed it using Lightroom 5.  I applied the same Standard photo setting used by the Fuji.  Notice how the from camera file has a better dynamic range, you can really see the extra shadow detail in the front of the wheelbarrow and in the foreground plants in the lower left.  The highlights coming through the doorway look about the same.  

Here is the same photo converted to black and white using Silver Efex Pro 2, which I am currently demoing.  While Fuji is known for producing spectacular color renditions, I think color often times distracts from a photo.  

Let’s look at a darker photo for comparison.  

Again here is a photo directly from the camera

Here is the same photo but processed using Lightroom 5 with no adjustments except the standard Fuji camera setting.  Notice how much more detail is visible in the dark regions.  The first photo from the camera is way better than the processed photo.  There is also a slight amount of distortion in the Lightroom processed photo.  This means the Fuji has software built into the camera to correct for the minor distortion.  

Note: If this doesn’t blow your mind, then you have no soul.  

Let’s see how the camera processes highlights.

I set the metering mode to average per frame, zeroed the exposure and this is the result.  Overall the photo has good exposure but there are some blown out highlights in the clouds and on the Senqu river.  

This is the same photo except I reduced the highlights, increased the clarity, and slightly boosted the saturation.  In conclusion, the Fuji is great at self-processing details in the shadows but the highlights still need work.  This is nothing new as ALL digital cameras are better at retaining low light detail than highlight detail.

Q: “That’s all fine Joel but I was curious how sharp your new camera is?”  (This is my blog and I can hypothetically ask myself questions whenever I feel like it!)

A: It’s pretty freaking sharp.  That’s because it uses a non-Bayer X-Trans sensor that Fuji has spent years perfecting.  In the most basic sense, Fuji has figured out a way to randomize the location of the pixels rather than lining them up like every other manufacturer.  When pixels are lined up in perfect rows and columns you get a weird stair step look, when you take pictures with straight lines such as a brick wall.  To counter the stair step look, camera manufacturers put an anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor.  The filter serves its purpose but it reduces image sharpness significantly.  The X-Trans sensor eliminates the need for an anti-aliasing filter because of the sporadic pixel location.  

Here is a photo of a waxing crescent moon in the evening.  I used manual, I repeat, manual focus with a 53mm equivalent focal length to focus on the moon.  I was able to do this because the Fuji zooms in on your subject when you manually rotate the focus ring.  I would never dream of manually focusing with my Canon as the subject is so small I can never tell if it is in focus or not.  

Here is a 100% crop of the above image.  Good grief that is a sharp moon!!!

*********Changing Gears**********

We had a meeting Saturday the 13th, where we had to explain to the parents why the school fees needed to increase.  Last year we had three student teachers and this year we only have one.  We took on a volunteer teacher just to help with the load.  Our Principle Selotho Mothokoa, teaches 29 periods per week.  

The turnout was pretty good despite the finicky weather.  It was sunny and hot for the first 45 minutes and then it started raining for the next hour.  

This reminds me of a story.  Last Saturday I was woken up by a crowd of 40 or so Basotho near my house.  They were meeting down the hill at my Ntate’s office.  I was feeling ill and so I just waited it out in my room.  The next day I asked my Ntate what the pitso (community meeting) was about.  He laughed and told me that the meeting was in regards to a lady in our village.  There was speculation that she was a wizard.  
In the end she weighed more than a duck and therefore would not float like wood, which means she wouldn’t burn like wood and therefore she could not possibly be a wizard.  Ok I made that last part up but the story is true.  

Here is my principle and boss, Ntate Selotho.  He is a pretty badass dude.  Around 2009, Sekonyela High School had developed a reputation for harboring some pretty rough kids.  The teachers were lazy and the test scores were abysmal.  The ministry hired Ntate Selotho and he came through Sekonyela with an iron fist and fired all of the teachers except one.  He then hired his own staff of young and progressive teachers.  Together they whipped this school into one of the better high schools in the district.  

*************Changing Gears*************

It’s hard for me to have a bad day.  Everyday when I walk out my door I am greeted by this guy.

Sheep are pretty stupid animals but I swear this one takes the cake.  This is the dumbest sheep in all of Lesotho.  It seems like he gets his head stuck in a fence every other day.  Sometimes I walk home and I wonder how long he has been stuck there.  It’s hard to have a bad day when you walk past something that is going to have a much worse day.  

We’ve had a ton of rain the past month.  For a while it was raining everyday.  As a result, shepherds no longer have to walk their animals very far from the village.  Now I encounter herds of goats, sheep, donkeys, and horses all the time.  Sometimes the donkeys bray at me and I think I’m under attack by the sand people from Star Wars but that only adds to the Africa experience.  

Small sunflower


- Joel

1 comment:

  1. Nice camera work, that Fuji takes some good pics. I have to deal with a Nikon D7000 DSLR and the various attachments, I would like to use an SLR but it comes down to what they give me. I'm no expert but taking forensic science I learned some pretty neat tricks when dealing with a camera let me know if you need any help and I'll do my best to help ya out.