Garden critters

bombylius major

Bee fly again

As the deadline for my dissertation inexorably draws nearer, and with school holidays approaching even faster, I am having to put photography on the back burner, again. But it is bug season! Not fair! I can’t ignore all that gorgeous mini-beast action in my garden completely. So here are a few shots grabbed in illicit moments away from my studies.

insect macro

Capsid bug

These capsid bugs normally hang out on oak trees. Luckily, my neighbour has a whopper of an oak tree so we get a lot of extra bug action. Oak trees rock.

insect macro

Really very tiny anonymous fly

This fly is so small I can’t make out the detail until I grab a macro shot and view it at native resolution on my desktop. It’s too small even for my insect field guide, so I can offer no ID.  Do step up if you know what it is!

insect

What am I?

This might be a moth. It too is very small, but rather cute, in my opinion.

I have a few more shots to share but I am going to have to be strict with myself about spending time on-line for the next few weeks. So sorry if I don’t manage to visit your site for a while. But, come September, there will be no stopping me!

Defying gravity

insect macro

On Tuesday, I waxed eloquent, well enthusiastic at least, about my new toy, the Fuji X-E1, but there is one thing it can’t do: decent macros of the very smallest critters in my garden. There my DSLR and macro lens rule supreme. This is an immature capsid bug showing off its gravity defying skills on a lavender leaf.

Fuji X-E1 – a practical review

I have just submitted drafts of the first three chapters of my dissertation so I am celebrating by finishing, at last, my review of the Fuji X-E1, my new travel companion. I had for some months been hankering after a smaller, more lightweight alternative to my hefty DSLR; I needed a lightweight travel and hiking camera I could tote around without breaking my back. But while I wanted it to be small, light, and convenient, I was not willing to compromise on image quality. A tall order given that I was used to the sublime perfection of my Canon 5Diii. The new mirror less compact system cameras seemed a good choice. I rented the Sony NEX-7, and reviewed it in January. It ticked a lot of my boxes, but not without reservations. So I kept looking and finally, in April, opted for the Fuji X-E1. Its first outing was a city break to Venice; taking a huge leap of faith I left my DSLR at home.

fuji test shot

f2.8, 1/20, ISO 3200

I am not going to try to replicate the many fine, detailed technical reviews out there – just google the camera and you’ll find them. I am simply going to share my experiences with this camera so far. The pictures are chosen to illustrate the points made in the review rather than for artistic merit.

fuji test shot

f10, 1/4, ISO 1600

The camera and its 18-55mm kit lens set me back about £900. At that price tag, this camera is aimed at professional and serious enthusiasts. It packs a healthy but by no means massive 16 mega pixels onto its CMOS-sized sensor. That is small beans compared to the NEX-7’s whopping 24 megapixels, but the upside is the X-E1 beats the NEX-7 hands down for noise control. That is also partly due to the unique array of the sensor (see technical reviews). This next shot is a jpeg straight out of camera.

fuji test shot

f2.8, 1/30, ISO 3200

And here it is zoomed in to native resolution.

fuji test shot

f2.8, 1/30, ISO 3200

Even at ISO 6400, shots are useable.

fuji test image

f2.8, 1/55, ISO 6400

Jpegs come out of this camera looking amazing. After years of shooting only Raw, I am now shooting both with the X-E1 and more often than not have no need to access the RAW file, the Jpeg is so good.

fuji test shot

f4.5, 1/30, ISO 800

Calling the 18-55mm with which the camera is usually bundled a ‘kit’ really doesn’t do justice to this cracking little lens. It captures sharp, crisp images every time with minimal chromatic aberration or distortion. Being an inveterate pixel-peeper, I thought I’d really notice the difference from my Canon L lenses, but not so. It’s sharp right to the edges, even at 18mm and f2.8. Image stabilisation is on the lens rather than in camera, which works for me as that’s how Canon does it too. And it’s good. Of course, it helps that there isn’t a mirror clunking away inside. The next image was handheld at 1/7.

fuji test shot

f2.8, 1/7, ISO 3200

There are six X-mount lenses made for this camera at time of writing, with four more in the pipeline, and Carl Zeiss has just launched an additional three, making just about every possible focal length and aperture available to the Fuji X-E1 shooter.

The electronic viewfinder is clear and very useable, not just as back up in case the sun is too bright for the LCD but a very viable shooting option and one I have found myself using often. As with the NEX-7, it operates as soon as you hold it to your eye.

fuji test shot

f4, 1/15, ISO 1600

When the Fuji X-Pro 1, the X-E1’s bigger and older brother, was first released, there were issues with RAW; Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) couldn’t read the files. I gather that this has now been fixed with an ACR update, but I have to say I haven’t had any problems anyway. I simply convert all the raw files into digital negatives and then process through ACR as normal. The next image is a raw file processed in this way.

Fuji test image

f13. 1/17, ISO 1250

A huge part of this camera’s appeal lies in the way it handles. With the NEX-7 I was frustrated by having to navigate my way through endless menus to change even quite simple things. With the Fuij, there are dials and buttons for all the important things, like shutter speed, ISO, autofocus points, exposure compensation. Aperture is adjusted using a ring on the lens. What joy! I just wish they had the apertures marked on the ring. One niggle is that the exposure compensation dial is too easily nudged by mistake, which could result in a lot of badly exposed images. However, I quickly became used to avoiding this problem.

fuji test shot

f8, 1/20, ISO 200

There are some other interesting things left for me to explore, like the film simulation modes which will appeal in particular to photogs who used to swear by Fuji Velvia film. With its retro styling, the X-E1 is easy on the eye too. But, of course, that has nothing to do with it…

Seahouses sunrise

Northumberland
I am still working on my review of the Fuji X-E1. In the meantime, here’s a shot from 2009 of sunrise over the pond at Seahouses in Northumberland. This was perhaps the beginning of me taking landscape photography seriously, well seriously enough to get up at dawn, which is pretty early in this country in July! Taken using my first DSLR, the Canon D400, plus kit lens.

Royal Holloway

University of London
I thought I’d share some images of the college where I am currently studying. The Royal Holloway is a college of the University of London, but based a little outside London itself, in leafy Egham.University of London
The main building, known as ‘Founders’, was designed by William Henry Crossland for Victorian entrepreneur and philanthropist Thomas Holloway as a women’s college. It became part of the University of London in 1900 and accepted its first male students in 1945.
University of London
The magnificent Victorian building seems a very fitting background for my particular degree, a Masters in Victorian Literature and Art. I am in the final stages now, with just my dissertation to go.
University of London
I have for some time now been promising a review of my latest acquisition, the Fuji X-E1, to follow up on my review in January of the Sony NEX-7. I hope to write it this weekend so if you are thinking of investing in a mirror-less camera, watch this space.

Venetian Ghetto

Venetian ghetto
This image was captured in the Ghetto of Venice, an sequestered spot within the city that allows the visitor to escape the crowds thronging the main pathways and alleys. It is an atmospheric place and, of course, has an interesting history, which I will soon explore in another post. Until then, I leave you with Shylock’s famous speech from The Merchant of Venice:

Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means,
warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer
as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us,
do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act III, scene i.