It was worth it

It took me a while to get out of bed but as soon as I saw that the mountains were covered in fog and it was drizzling, I made a coffee, grabbed my camera and got in the car. Two hours later, I got back home, soaking wet and with a few mosquito bites. It was worth it though. It always is.

*Canon 6D with the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art.

Finding inspiration in familiar places

Sometimes it's difficult to stay inspired. This happens to me quite often when we are not traveling to other places where everything seems to be more exciting than what we have at home. Sometimes, I don't see anything that catches my attention, because everything is familiar, same kind of roads, same forests, always the same places. This feeling became worse with the beginning of good weather and cloudless, blue skies. If you follow my work and have read previous blog entries, you will already know that I like cloudy, dramatic and foggy days in my photographs. So this led me to leave my camera at home for the last month and a half or so. 

This week, I really needed to change that attitude and I forced myself to bring the camera in my backpack all day long. Usually with my work schedule, I often have a few minutes either early in the morning or late in the evening to head to the mountains and make a couple of photos. And that's what I've been doing for the last few days. I also decided to use the 17-40mm lens that I hadn't used since last August, which has been really fun.

So these are some of the shots I made on Monday, when I went to wander around a little path I've seen over and over for so many years but I had never actually explored it. I loved coming across all that fern and wonderful leading lines. I also think it could be an interesting location for some portraits. What do you say?

The next set was taken yesterday morning when I drove to the very familiar road (by now in my photos) on the way to the mountain near my hometown. I had just finished teaching my first class at 8.30am when I decided to take a chance and see what I could find. I was surprised to see that the morning mist was still lingering, and as I walked up the narrow back country road the sun started burning through all the fog creating a beautiful ambiance. 

These aren't by any means the greatest photos of all time, but for me they are good enough to make me feel better and to know that each day can be an exciting and beautiful day even if it is photographing the same familiar places only a few minutes away from home.

Guess what I have in my backpack today, too? I'm taking my bike this evening, hoping to make it on time for sunset to a little river I know of, only a short ride away from home. 

How I edit my landscape photographs taken with Fujifilm cameras

Last week I received an email from a fellow photographer wondering if I could explain how did I finally manage to edit my landscape work with the Fujis. That is why I decided to write about what the process has been like for me. 

My journey with Fujifilm cameras started a couple of years ago when I wanted something smaller and lighter for my trips. Back then, I used to bring a full backpack with a camera, several lenses, filters and a tripod. For cityscapes though, I would bring the 6D and one lens. I remember that it always ended up being a big hustle and so uncomfortable to carry it around from one place to another. So I made up my mind, and chose to get a X Pro1 with a couple of lenses. In the summer of 2015, before going on our month and a half trip to the US and Canada, I really wanted to get familiar with the new system and went to shoot several portraits in the forest with some friends. I was sold immediately and that’s when my love for Fujifilm cameras started. I really enjoyed the sharpness and the quality of the images and I loved the camera itself. It was one of the most beautiful cameras I had ever seen and so much fun to shoot with. 

While in the US, I took the X Pro1 around NYC and other cities in California, Oregon and Washington. I was really happy, it was perfect for what I wanted. Small and great, much easier to carry on a day out exploring the streets than lugging around the 6D. I also shot landscapes with the Fuji around the Capilano Suspension Bridge near Vancouver and in the Olympic Peninsula in WA. The experiment with a new system turned out to be really exciting and I was happy with the results. So last year (May 2016), I got the XT1, and up until August or so my 6D stayed in a shelf. I also stopped taking a bag with filters, the tripod... and guess what? Everything felt lighter and so much comfortable. I loved everything about the cameras and when I used them for portraits or as daily carry I literally thought I would sell my Canon gear.

My favorite thing about these cameras has always been their size, the layout of buttons and dials, the EVF and simply how beautiful they are. Also the dynamic range is incredible, and I’m always amazed by how I can get the perfect balance between the highlights and shadows. This is so much better compared to my 6D where I always have to underexpose to get some details in the clouds in post production. With the Fujis though, it only takes one look through the viewfinder to adjust the settings and you’re done. But there was something major that stopped me from selling my Canon and actually keeping both systems, and that was my editing. I couldn’t match the looks between my Canon and Fuji files. For some reason the landscapes were really difficult to edit to my liking. I could have given up and sell all my Fuji gear, but I didn’t. I just loved it so much for all the other situations!

Now that I think about it and after months of working on it, I guess my problem was with colors and the learning curve of working with a different kind of sensor and processor. I know people love the color these cameras produce, but I don’t really enjoy the blue tones SOOC and I totally dislike the greens and the way the camera renders them in landscape photographs. I have also figured out that the photographs I make on cloudy and misty days are much easier to edit to my liking than the ones taken on sunny days, I just can’t handle to edit those blue, cloudless skies (this also happens to me with the 6D, by the way). I love muted tones and for some reason I couldn’t achieve that with my usual editing. Sometimes the vivid colors of these files just don’t speak to me because I find them really different to my editing. So it was a matter of learning what works for me and what doesn’t when post processing the files and that, unfortunately, took me longer than expected.

As I mentioned earlier, if you take a look around my portfolio, you will see that the majority of my work is done on rainy and cloudy days. I believe it’s the atmosphere of those days that really pulls me to get out and photograph nature and landscapes. Light conditions and the time of the day that you shoot at can make a phograph go from stunning to meh. That is a fact. So I started to go out to photograph on days like those described above, and slowly I started developing some presets that worked for these images. Rich colors mixed with dark shadows, that was it! I developed a moody and dark way of editing that really caught my attention and made me really picky when choosing the time and conditions in which I went out to shoot with the Fujifilm cameras. 

Last summer we went on a 13000km roadtrip in our van to Norway. I knew that I would be photographing some of the most spectacular locations for landscape and travel photographers like me, so I wanted to be prepared. Since we were sleeping in our van, I decided to bring the big camera bag along with the 6D +17-40mm, the XT1+ 18-55mm and the X100T. For some strange reason, I always reached for the Fujis, so I only used the 6D for 15 photos in total and the 2000 + others were from the XT1 with the kit lens and the X100T. This made me even more excited than the previous year. I didn’t hesitate to use the Fuji for landscapes and the conditions were just as I wanted them: misty, moody and super cloudy. People may think I’m a weirdo for loving that kind of weather for my summer holidays, but when travel and landscape photography is your job and a trip like this is the perfect occasion to create some portfolio worth images, that’s all you really wish for. As soon as I came back home from Norway, I pulled out the files into Lightroom and applied my own presets. I was relieved, it had worked. I was improving, and on my way to finally love these cameras and the editing process of their files.

So I guess you are wondering how I post process them, so I will give you a few hints. As I have said on a previous blog post, I achieve these colors by moving the sliders of three different panels of Lightroom. My most used presets are based on VSCO’s Portra 160+++ which I’ve tweaked until I’ve found something that I really like and works for my images. The following are some common adjustments that you can find on the majority of my images: In the tone curves panel, I always lift the shadows and decrease the highlights a bit. If it’s cloudy, I will accentuate those clouds, but if there’s a dull sky, I will usually blow out the highlights in the basic panel. In the HSL panel, my green tones are usually yellowish, and the yellows are a bit more orange. The saturation of the greens is really low but the luminance however, pretty high. I believe split toning is really important too. I usually have a bluish tone for the highlights and a warmer one for the shadows. Those are the three panels where the “magic” happens in my editing. To give you an idea to what it looks like, check the following screenshots. These settings obviously vary from photo to photo, but it's based on something similar to this.


Many people have asked me to put my presets for sale, but I don’t think I am ready for that because I believe each of us has to develop our taste and work on something that works for our images. I really encourage people to just keep working on it and not copying literally other’s editing processes. I could keep showing you screenshots of my editing panels, but I adjust every slider in each image, so I don’t think that is worth it. However, I do have some before and after screenshots where you actually see what I mean (check previous blog posts). But I am willing to give people tips and talk about how to think on your editing while you are making the actual photographs and how to improve their editing once you are in Lightroom. If people are interested, I may even create some videos to show you how I work in Lightroom and I can make some videos also editing some of your RAWs, if that is something you might enjoy. 

So what is my plan from now on… Ever since I started to enjoy my new way of editing with Fujifilm cameras, I’ve been saving up to build a lens collection that I am comfortable with. I am currently looking for the 16mm and the 23mm 1.4 since those are my favorite focal lengths. I’m also keeping my Canon system because I can’t let go of my Sigma 35Art for portraits. I have to say that even though I have 4 digital cameras in my bag, they all have a purpose for the work that I do. Except for the X Pro1 maybe, that I only take out when I feel some nostalgia... and I know for sure that I don’t want to sell it. This summer, we are planning on going on a trip to Japan and Indonesia where I want to bring a Fuji camera with the 16, 23 and the 35 1.4 (that I already own). I want to be able to travel light, with everything that I need in a ONA bag. In some of the tests that I’ve seen, it seems like the new XT2 and X PRO2 show less mushing in landscape photographs, and I would love to hear from those who own any of them if that is true or if it's just my eyes suffering from G.A.S (which I admit, Fujifilm cameras make me have it). Hopefully, I will be able to try that for myself sometime soon and we’ll see where that leads to. 

Probably this post was longer than expected and doesn’t answer all your questions... or maybe it leaves out some important information that you were expecting to hear from me. If that is the case, please don’t hesitate to write down in the comments or dropping me an email with your questions. I will try to do my best to give you a detailed answer. 

I would like to finish this post with the before and afters of my favorite 25 photos I’ve taken with the Fujis so far. I hope you like them!




177 Years of Photography

177 years telling stories through photography. I'm so grateful for having the tools to capture the unique moment of something that will never happen again. 

Just yesterday we were going through a huge pile of prints and trying to remember what was it like when I took that photograph. They are reminders of something beautiful, a person, the light in the ocean or the fog in the forest. The places that we travel to and the faces that we've met. All of it, it's there for the rest of our lives. 

Make sure you wander and explore with a tool that captures just that. And for the sake of the craft, touch it, let it live on the walls. 

How My Photography Has Changed Over the Years

Lately I have been thinking about how my photography has changed, and particularly in the last two years or so. So here is my story:

After losing one of my film cameras on a trip to Tunisia nine years ago, I decided to buy a digital point and shoot. I travelled to several countries with it as my main camera until one day back in 2008 I decided to buy a second hand dslr. I used that camera, one of those Canon Rebels, for over six years and I only had one lense, the 18-55mm. I was interested in learning how to make photographs; I wanted to see how the aperture and the shutter affected my images and wanted to focus on being able to see the world with just that one lense. After all, you don't need much in order to make an image, right?

Last year I attended a photography course to consolidate what I had taught myself over the years. My professor saw the images I had taken and was quite surprised to see that I had been using such a simple combination of gear and a few basic ideas of post processing in Lightroom to create those pictures. The shutter release of my camera had it's own life, it was so loose...he was amazed. All those years I knew that I could buy a new camera body or a new lense, but I just wanted to learn how things worked first. So he somehow made me realize that I had outgrown the possibilities of what I had and that it was time to save for something new. So, after several months of work, I was able to fund a full frame camera which performs really well in low light conditions which is really useful in landscape photography. My Canon 6D totally changed the way I made photographs. I was very pleased with the quality of my RAW files and all the possibilities that I had with my 24-105mm lense. I totally fell in love with the wide angle and all that I could fit in my 35mm sensor, so I wanted more, something wider than a 24mm, so a couple of months later, right before our trip to Iceland, I got the 17-40mm lense. I am not concerned about my starting aperture being 4, because as a landscape photographer I can work just fine with the variable of time, and as you see in my work, I'm quite addicted to long exposure photography anyways. So just with a camera, tripod, two wide angle zoom lenses and several filters I went off on an incredible trip to Iceland and came back with some of my favorite photographs which became part of my landscape portfolio.

I couldn't be happier, my photography had totally changed and I was paying more attention to the pictures I was taking. Before, I would come back with thousands of photos and I used to choose 200 out of them as my final selection. Now, however, I take the time to compose, I choose what time of the day to shoot and I have become more picky when I select what to post process. It was a matter of learning what makes a good photograph. Also visiting art galeries and taking the time to look at other photographers work, for me all of that, including the changes in my camera backpack have had a huge impact on my photography.

However, I soon realized that I didn't want to carry all those things in my bag whenever I decided to go out to shoot or scout for new locations. Having all that gear slowed me down, not just because of the weight, but because I had the possibility to choose. I wasn't used to that, I had worked with film and digital cameras with just one lense and I was not used to being able to choose, after all that was all I had. So I started looking at something that I could carry with me all day in my bag, and that's when I decided to get a Canon G16 as an everyday companion. 

However, months later I decided that it wasn't exactly what I had expected. Yes, I had a small camera that I could carry in my bag which was able to shoot RAW files and I could work with in full manual mode. And yes, it still it makes me feel happier than shooting with my phone, but I guess I don't feel as excited when I import the photos to my computer. So, this particular camera has become a replacement of my phone. Just that. I take it to work in case I see something interesting that catches my attention or just for the daily snapshots of family and friends. Sometimes it also helps me when I go to search new locations and I use it to try out different compositions. However, as I said before, I feel that it has some limitations for the kind of photography that I make and therefore it has a specific purpose in my bag. 

So, as I was saying before, several months passed and I realized that it wasn't exactly what I had expected when I bought the little Canon, so I began to do a little bit of research again...something I had never done before. I wanted to have a camera with me all the time but I was getting frustrated with the gear I had. It seemed like gear had become more important than my photographs...I guess I kept looking and came across the Fujifilm Xpro 1. Apparently this camera had been on the market for several years but I didn't care. I was excited by the images, the colors, the textures and just the quality that the camera produced, so I found a good deal on the body with two lenses the 35mm 1.4 and the 18-55mm kit lense. I wasn't interested in having the latest body of the brand, I just wanted to do something specific with it, and yeah, the Fuji was and is good enough for it. I nailed it! Yes, it may have a slow autofocus, and it may not have all the latest features (which by the way, this is not something that I look for in a camera) but the quality I got the first day I took it out made me smile and feel really happy. 

So the Fuji was essential in our last trip to the US and Canada. Whenever I wanted to take the time to compose, work more on the image, do long exposures, make the effort to get something portfolio like, I used to carry the big dslr with all the extra gear I usually use to shoot landscape photographs. Other times, like when we wanted to walk around NYC all day long, I used to take my Fuji and still manage to get "useful" shots.

Just recently, I decided to limit myself to one camera and one focal length. I don't usually carry more than one lense anyways, but it's usually the zoom lense cause you never know what you may find. So working with one focal length has been interesting because it made me think about my composition, it made me zoom with my feet and overall, think in a totally different way. 

So as you see, whenever I am looking into getting a new piece of gear, I am trying to look for a purpose for it in my bag. In two years, my backpack has changed completely and I use every single thing it's in there, it just depends what do I want to do on that day. The mirrorless isn't going to replace my dslr, because I use each of them for a specific reason. I don't have the intention to change systems so far (ask me in a couple of years), although I have to admit that I love what I am creating with the Fuji and how comfortable it is to use it...and yes, to be honest, I may have started to look at something else...dejavu...and there goes all over again...but that will come in a new blog post.

I just try to remember that all I need is a camera and a lense, because the rest is outside my door waiting for me to explore it. And in my case it is true that sometimes I want all the accessories and gear to produce work, and other times, I just want to create memories and explore with a simple tool that still will get the job done. 

What about you? What is your experience?