January 6th, 2017
As 2016 turns into 2017 the Clearing the Vision blog was shocked to learn that its creator David Moore is still alive. Despite the lack of blog posts in nearly 3 (that’s three) years, it turns out he’s been living in Santa Fe all along, but just hasn’t blogged once. And not only living, he’s actually been doing a reasonable amount of photography he just hasn’t got round to writing about.
It’s true, folks. A full-time job as Communications Director at the building sector climate change think tank Architecture 2030 has been taking up a lot of my time. The good news is that I’ve still been taking photos – independently and for clients – so now I’m back on the blog at least this once, I’ll try and clear the backlog of news and views.
A quick summary goes something like this:
Photographing a whole school:
When the previous photographer proved to be a bit creepy and not that great, my daughter’s school asked me if I could shoot all the school portraits and group class photos for them. I’ve loved doing it, and this fall finished my third year photographing over 150 great kids from pre-K through 6th grade.
Shooting wedding number 2:
As a wedding gift for good friends of mine, I shot my second wedding recently and really enjoyed it. The documentary-style shooting I prefer went down very well, and with so much real emotion on display (and everyone looking good all dressed up), it was a real privilege to be able to capture those moments.
Family portrait sessions:
The day job keeps me pretty busy, but I still take commissions for family portraits every now and again – mainly from repeat clients and/or friends. One family I’ve photographed several times have six children, including triplet 1st grade boys, and while that might sound nightmarish, I actually really enjoy the challenge, and checking in with the kids every year.
My own personal work:
Some things never change, and I still, of course, photograph my daughter and the things we get up to as a family. As she’s grown, the feel has changed a little bit, but she still tolerates me and I’ve enjoyed trying my hand at sports photography as soccer/football has become more and more important to her. And a camera’s never too far away when we’re traveling, so I’ve shot in in Croatia, Italy, France, England, Canada, Denver, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and other assorted destinations.
I’m back to full-blown Fuji-ness now. As my previous post suggested, the Fuji XT-1 was finally the flexible, capable and badass camera I was looking for from Fuji, and I’ve been a happy owner for quite a while.
The XE-1 I still use a backup, but it’s showing its age now. For the wedding I shot, I rented an XT-2 which was just great. I’m saving my pennies for one, but since I’m not a working pro very often any more, I have to weigh my purchases very carefully. The 56mm f/1.2 lens is a portrait shooter’s dream, and the 23mm f/1.4 spends a lot of time on the camera too.
So that’s the briefest update. I’d like to think I’ll expand on those points with their own post (or posts) in the future, but on the basis that imperfect action is better than perfect inaction I want to get this post up as soon as I can at least.
Hope you’re all doing well.
February 5th, 2014
Long-standing readers (hello, Mum) will remember my dalliance last year with the lovely and frustrating Fuji X-Pro1. I eventually gave up on it, and bought the loyal but it turns out unexciting Olympus OMD E-M5 as a replacement.
Now as I look at the camera on my desk, it’s clear I should have waited (or at least kept the lovely fuji lenses when I sold the X-Pro1). Fuji’s widely-praised commitment to firmware updates has improved the performance of their cameras, and there was something I couldn’t shake about them that now sees me as the happy owner of a Fuji XE-1.
There are 2 stories here and here’s the brief version of them both.
Story 1 – Why the Olympus OMD didn’t end up winning my heart
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a very capable camera with a bunch of great features. Image stabilization in the body is a great idea, the correct implementation of Auto-ISO (where you can set the minimum shutter speed) should be a given at this point, the tilting touch-screen and face recognition are also very handy, and a blazing autofocus was very welcome after the sedate X-Pro1.
I said these things and more in my review, where I also mentioned one of my key problems – the difficulty creating a narrow depth of field. On several shoots this year, I used my Canon 5DII and also the Oly – either with the Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 for the wider shots, or the Olympus ED 45mm f/1.8 for the tighter ones. They’re both good lenses, but when I looked through the images, very very few of the Olympus ones ended up as my selects, due partly to its wide depth of field under most circumstances.
I know I knew this going in, and it’s my problem the camera doesn’t do what I wanted it to do when it never said it would, but if I’m not happy with the results, then why keep it around? The images also seems a little flat – no amount of Lightroom tweaking could give me the look I wanted. They weren’t technically bad, they just didn’t grab me.
So it was something like the reverse of the problem I had with the Fuji X-Pro1, which was frustrating to use, but produced intermittently amazing images. The Oly was very easy use, but produced consistently slightly flat images (to my eyes, and based on my style of shooting – which is of course all I can say).
I also found the lenses to be a little plasticky, with the result that the whole experience was of a system that was eminently practical just not very inspiring. Comparing my photos from England and France last year (taken with the Fuji) with this year’s Canadian images (from with the Oly) there was something about the Fuji’s output that I liked better.
Story 2 – the return of the Fuji
In the autumn I started a new job (though I’m still doing plenty of photography), and was anticipating not needing to make as much money through my photography. (In fact, I’ve the busiest few months with a camera in ages – which I guess proves something, but I’m not sure what.) With that in mind, I felt under less pressure to be completely practical with my gear decisions, and could indulge myself a little. So when I saw a great price on a used Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm lens, I went for it – keeping the Olympus at the time in case I’d made a mistake again.
It felt good to be back in the Fuji fold, and especially with the recent firmware updates, the X-E1 is a better camera than the mid-2012 era X-Pro1 I sold (although of course, with the firmware updates the XPro1 is a better camera now than it was then). I enjoyed the feel of the camera, and the auto-ISO updates are in particular very welcome.
As a walk around camera, especially in good light, it’s very pleasing to use, and following the example of Fuji shooters like Zack Arias and David Hobby, I’ve been experimenting with just shooting JPGs.
I’ve been keen to get out of the office during the day at my new day job, and grabbing the camera as I go for a stroll has been rewarding. The feel of the body and the quality heft of the lenses (I added a used 35mm f.1/4 quickly) is valuable to me.
Not everything in the garden’s rosy
Several times however, I’ve been reminded of the XE1’s shortcomings specifically around slow focus speed in poor light. As any self-respecting 8 year-old will do, my daughter got up at around 6.30am on Christmas morning, and I grabbed the Fuji and my 5D II (with the lovely Sigma 35mm f/1.4 attached) to document the present opening in the morning twilight.
I quickly gave up on the Fuji (with the XF 35mm f/1.4) as it just couldn’t focus at all reliably. And the speed to write an image that you did manage to get was so slow, you missed the next great reaction shot as the the EVF went black.
Today, I shot a family session with a couple of very active kids aged 5 and 8. It was indoors in an averagely dark living room, and again the XE1 had trouble focussing (although I put in on the 3fps burst mode to counter the slow response time).
I know more recent lenses are faster, and the Fuji X-E2also speedier, but it’s still disappointing as I was hoping the X-E1 could at least complement my now-aging 5D II setup, which still performs more quickly and reliably in dim conditions.
X-T1 to the rescue?
Having used the OMD for a year, before returning to Fuji, I’d come to the conclusion that if you could combine the ease of use and snappy AF of the Olympus OMD-EM5 with the ergonomics and image quality of the Fujis, you’d have a camera to rival DSLRs. And now, it seems, Fuji might have done it with the Fuji X-T1. It even looks like a cross between the Oly and the previous Fujis. Faster AF, and much faster (and bigger) EVF – this could work for me.
In all my roundabout travels through the mirrorless worlds, I’ve been trying to end up with a camera small enough to carry around all the time with me (and bring travelling when I don’t want to be laden down) that could also double as my second camera when I do paid shoots.
It would have been much easier just to have bought another Canon body for the paid jobs if I was prepared to sacrifice some performance with my walk around camera (or just bring one of the Canons with me everywhere, like I used to). Expecting a smaller camera to perform like a pro body was always too high a bar for whatever mirrorless system I was using at the time.
Maybe it still is. We’ll soon see – the X-T1 is on order. But until it arrives, I’m (most of the time) happy to be back in the X fold with the X-E1 – and that’ll do for now.
December 31st, 2013
Johnny and Sarah were very happy with the engagement session photos I’d made, and soon enough the bright autumn day rolled around for their wedding.
The ceremony was held up in the mountains above Santa Fe, with rich blue skies and strong sun for the middle of the day. For a photographer, it was a great venue, but one that also posed some problems. The clearing where the ceremony was to be held was partly in shade and partly in bright sun – a tricky combination – and the area behind where the bride and groom were to stand was brighter than the clearing.
December 3rd, 2013
I don’t normally do engagement or wedding photography, but when my friends Johnny and Sarah asked me if I’d make an exception for them, I happily said yes.
Normally engagement sessions are a way of a photographer and the couple getting to know each other, so that on the wedding day everyone is more comfortable and familiar with each other. Obviously, with friends, that wasn’t going to be an issue, but it was still useful for me to see how Johnny and Sarah were together, and so they could see how I worked and reassure them that amidst everything that goes on during a wedding day, at least they didn’t have to worry about the photographer.
We met in a park off Upper Canyon Road on a lovely Santa Fe summer evening. I worked in a similar way with them as I do with more traditional family sessions – even when I’m posing people and they’re looking straight at the camera, I’m trying to keep them relaxed and comfortable, so the photographs show them as themselves rather than stiff and uncomfortable. Which is much easier when you have an adorable assistant – Johnny’s son D, who loves Sarah at least as much as Johnny does.
As well as capturing Johnny and Sarah as a couple, photographing the inter-relationships between the grown-ups and young D was just as much of a highlight.
I really enjoyed the shoot, and was really happy with the way the images came out (and more importantly, so were Johnny and Sarah). So while I’ll always love photographing children, if another couple comes along that it seems right to photograph, I might make an exception for them, too.
November 21st, 2013
I’m a little behind in updating the blog with my shoots (including a wedding – a first for me), so preparing this post takes me back to early summer.
A classic family session with a great family – take a mum, a dad, two boys and a little sister, put them in a park, and tell the boys not to run around too much until they get their photos taken by the nice man.
The boys were patient for the the group shots – which I tend to do first when kids’ concentration and enthusiasm is still up – and then they enjoyed themselves on the swings and in the park as I stayed to get more images as they got to relax a little.
August 12th, 2013
Sometimes I get the opportunity to photograph the same kids again, which is a great treat – time has passed and you get to see how they’ve changed since the last time. And if the kids remember you, it can help make them feel more comfortable more quickly.
So I was very happy recently to meet up again with Lucas and Kira, whom I photographed first several years ago now.
We headed off to a trail with their mother, and both kids soon relaxed as I let them run around with only minimal instructions or intervention.
That’s when you see kids as they really are, and as you can tell, Lucas is thoughtful and a touch reserved, while Kira is more open and friendly.