It's a slow winter

Yesterday was the first day that we saw the sun here in the Basque Country ever since the beginning of February. It's been cold and snowing and I haven't really shot that much lately. Sunrise is after I get to work and sunset is before I finish my last class of the day, so the light hasn't been great when I was available to go out exploring either. But somehow, I still managed to get a few shots that I'm proud of to share here. 

The first two photos are from a rainy morning back in December when we still had a few fall colors up in the trees. Same as the third, which was taken going down from a mountain pass when I saw the fog rolling in through the pine tree forest and I had to stop on the side of the road to grab a couple of shots. 

The next two were taken sometime in January by chance. I remember finishing my first class in the morning, and while I was on my way home I saw that this forest was the only area covered by fog, since it's not too far from where I live, I decided to check out what the atmosphere was like. I recently got the Fuji 35mm f2, which in full frame terms means a 50mm. As you can see from my work, I love to shoot wide, and I mostly shoot with either the 16mm f1.4 (24mm) or with the 23mm f1.4 (35mm). So the 35mm has been attached to my little XT10 in order to learn how use this focal length and it was also, the only lens I had with me on that day. Finding a good composition in this forest was really difficult, because this focal length not only is narrow and probably works better for street shots or portraits, but I'm not used to framing like this either. I somehow managed to get a couple of photos that I'm really happy with, due to their misteryous look. 

These next two photos of the river were some of my favorite from January. I remember it was early in the morning and I drove up to the mountain in search of a cool view from our town below. As I was going up I decided to take a road that I had never driven before but that it looked like there could be something worth photographing. I was right. It was a misty morning and the sun was coming up from the side of this beautiful river. The light was incredible and I spent quite sometime wandering around the sides of the river trying to get some photos, again with the 35mm. I didn't get much because it was way too cold and I was freezing.

Also back in January I went to another forest where I usually go to and where I actually took the first two photos of this set. Another foggy and cold morning where my car got too dirty on those muddy roads but where I walked around this lovely path in seca of some compositions. 

And finally the last five shots that I just took earlier this week. These photos were taken 200m away from one another and only 10minutes away from home. I remember walking down that forest path once before, sometime last year, but it never looked that good. It was really cold, and the sun was getting through those pine trees and it looked so beautiful.

I was able to get a nice photo of the back country road before the fog was gone and the sun lit the forest, which also ended up being one of my favorite shots I've taken in quite a while. 

*I've added this photo to my print gallery in case someone wants to get one. I have already made a couple of test prints and they look gorgeous. Also, I think I'll make a new editing video to show how I made this, let me know if that is something that interests you.

Hope you like these and their behind the scenes stories!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! 

Unexpected mood while location scouting

Last Friday, I had some time in between classes and went to scout for new locations. It was bright and sunny and no sign of fog or clouds anywhere, but I have some portrait sessions coming up and wanted to check out if I could find any new spots.

As soon as I drove up to the mountains, there was a beautiful, thick fog covering the forest and I quickly stopped at one of my favorite spots. The sun was trying to get through the trees, creating some stunning sun rays through the forest. Everything was in silence, and the only noise you could hear were my foot steps. There is nothing better than being surprised like this. I didn't have any person to photograph but the atmosphere was so special that I forgot all about my location scouting plan and started shooting with my little Fuji X100T. 

After this first stop, I drove to my next spot, which is another forest, where I've previously taken some of my favorite photographs. There is a dam right next to it, and the last time I came here it was half empty. So I wanted to check how high the water was now and if there were any possibilities there. I was really grateful for that thick fog, it completely changed the scenery in front of me. The atmosphere was really moody and mysterious and I was having so much fun! I walked down towards the dam and turns out that the rain we've had in the last few months, had helped fill the muddy empty dam a bit more and was now looking much better. 

It only took me less than two hours to shoot some of my favorite photos I've taken lately. My feet were cold and my working boots a little muddy. But, I didn't care. I wasn't expecting any photographs from that morning and I definitely came back home with a handful of favorites.

*All these photographs have been taken with the Fujifilm X100T and post processed in Lightroom with my new presets and workflow.

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!




Before and afters of my images and a few editing tips

I often receive emails and messages through social media asking about my editing process. People seem to be interested in how I achieve these colors and tones in my photographs so I decided to share with you some "before and afters" of my work. 

For my craft, I use mostly two cameras: A Canon 6D and a Fujifilm XT1. I decided to incorporate images taken with both cameras to show that I can get the results that I want following the same process in Lightroom. After working mainly with Canon for so many years and learning and improving my editing style over and over, I'm finally able to decide on location how I want my image to look like. If it is a bright day, I will usually under expose in order to get details in the sky. I have already mentioned somewhere, that I am not a huge fan of blue sky days. Unless I have a scheduled session or there is no other way I will be in that location on another moment, I usually don't photograph on those days. As you can see in my work, I much prefer a darker and moodier atmosphere, because that is how I also edit my photographs. So the first tip that I can share is to see if the light and ambiance outside is something you can work with when you are post processing. I make the time to go out, shoot and scout for new locations every week, and most of the days I know if I will be able to get something portfolio worthy or not just based on that. 

My Canon 6D works pretty well in low light, so most of my images are under exposed in order to get more information from the highlights and pull out details from the shadows. The advantage of my Fujifilm XT1 is the EVF. Ever since I discovered the electronic viewfinder I really wish I could have one in my 6D, too. Exposing has become much easier and while I'm composing I can adjust how I want my photograph to look like. Also, when I'm photographing with my Fuji I often change my settings to black and white in order to see clearly all the details in the shadows. The learning curve of post processing with the Fuji however, has been more difficult. In the beginning, I was not too happy with how I was editing landscapes but I loved how the portraits and cityscapes looked like. After way too many hours and months editing, I have finally achieved the look that I am looking for and I can now edit landscapes without a problem. The majority of my photographs from Norway were taken with the XT1 and they are probably some of my favorite images ever. 

In the beginning, I used to custom edit every single image. However, over the years, I have created my own presets and I have found an editing style that I am comfortable with. A year ago or so, I found out about VSCO presets and I got their last package on which I base the majority of the presets that I use nowadays. Some of my favorites are 400H+++, Portra 160+++ and TRI-X*3++. I have tweaked them over and over until I have finally found the look that I want. 

In these before and after shots you will see a huge difference between both images. Some people prefer a more natural color, similar to what it looked like in reality. However, I believe that post processing is part of the artistic process of creativity, so the outcome of my images is sometimes too different from what it looked like in camera. I must admit I barely know anything about Photoshop, so all the differences you see are a result of working extensively in the Hue, Saturation and Luminance panel of Lightroom, as well as in Curves, Split Toning and sometimes in Profile Calibration sliders. I believe those are the real tricks of editing and finally achieving the look that you are searching for. 

These are some before and after images of my recent work. Let me know in the comments or drop me an email if you have any tricks in your process or how do you edit your work. I'm also thinking about making a video where I show how I edit a full session. Maybe with my upcoming trip to Iceland over the Christmas holidays, that can be something you might be interested in watching. 

Click on the images to see in full screen mode. Enjoy!