The Weak End of Summer…

There were no 100 degree days this summer.

I’m not saying global warming is wrong, but back in the 90’s I recall consecutive summers in Baltimore and Georgia where the thermometer read 100 degrees or above.

The current/past summer was muggy yes. Hot? Not really to me.

I switched companies that I shoot sports for. (If you want to know to whom I switched check my Facebook page or something) Shooting sports is fun but the money is drying up pretty quickly. Fewer and fewer parents are willing to buy prints of their kid once he or she (the parent) leaves an event, and those photo tents you see at tournaments aren’t as lucrative as they once may have been. Couple that with newspapers and magazines dying slowly, and there really isn’t a major demand for sports photos. I see parents and high school students with semi-pro gear on the sidelines now all the time. They may not have the passion and skill to produce high level sports compositions, but that camera and lens they now hold represents the money they would have spent on professional photos perhaps…..

Sports are in full swing though. I’m booked to shoot every weekday afternoon (after my main job) up till probably the first week of November. I’m also shooting models now until kingdom come, and will probably miss many Sundays in front of the tube watching the Redzone channel because of it. Sundays are great to shoot models for that reason however. It’s a dead day in the city for foot traffic and that’s a perfect environment to shoot in….

MICROSTRUGGLER is nearly a year old. I mainly like to shoot women and that’s what this blog will be about moving forward: photos and women…..

Exit.

Model on Instagram is @myrlanis_

She only accepts followers who follow me first….

My IG is @rickyray73

Tee shirt available here.

FUJI X100F – 6 Month Review

Enter.

I like this little camera. Model Ana Rivera ain’t bad either.

So it has been 6 months since the Fuji X100F debuted and I of course purchased the first one sold in my city of Baltimore. In fact, I have yet to see another X100F in Baltimore, but I digress. Since I bought the camera I’ve shot ~5000 photos and spent untold lunch breaks going through the menus. I’ve shot sports sidelines, pretty models, and I’ve shot and killed streets. I’ve hooked up an external flash, more on that later, and have fallen in love with using the LCD only to shoot.

WHAT I LOVE

I started out with this camera thinking I could shoot jpegs using those cute film simulation modes. I really tried to make it work too. My favorite one is ACROS (followed by Classic Chrome). I used ACROS a lot. I knew though, that sometimes I needed to record a scene in color so I quickly started shooting RAW + Jpegs to my card, which slows my Lightroom flow down, but it was manageable. Then, at some point, I downloaded the fuji film simulation plugins from some damn place on the internet and installed it in Lightroom. That way I could change a Fuji (only Fuji) RAW file to the Classic Chrome look if I wanted, or whatever. After a while I figured there really is no fucking difference between the in-camera jpeg film simulations and the Lightroom plugin camera conversions, AND I noticed that Fuji RAW files have a shit ton of dynamic range. I shoot all RAW now. Fuck it. Those in-camera film simulation modes are too cute for me…

I never understood or cared about having a leaf shutter until I started shooting sidelines at sporting events. I normally shoot 1/1000 F5.6 and auto ISO range 200-800 during the day for streets. When I’m shooting events I turn on the built-in fill flash just for shits and giggles. This is when I discovered that I could overpower the sun and create these hauntingly half dark images. I continued this trend later shooting models using an external flash….

The image quality beats the unholy fuck out of my Canon 5d Mark III, even when the DSLR is coupled with the world class 70-200 2.8 IS II lens. This little Fuji point-and-shoot compact beats it handily as far as micro contrast and sharpness is concerned. RAW to RAW the Fuji wins handily when it comes to dynamic range for both shadow pulling AND highlight recovery. Colors are more of a taste thing, but I find Fuji colors to be more accurate than Canon, even though Canon’s colors are warm and lovely.

The face detection works reasonably well, and it will even detect a models eye (left or right depending on your chosen setting) when it feels like it.

 

This is most likely the finest street photography camera ever made.

Models and subjects smile at this camera, as opposed to my big ass Canon which makes folks get all serious or run away.

THINGS I HATE

The afl/ael button is useless and positioned horribly. I have reassigned it to change my focus type.

The control ring concept is so horrid that I try my best to never touch the lens unless I’m changing apertures.

What the fuck is up with Fuji and off camera flash? Nothing works right. I can get my Canon (actually a Pixel Mago) flash to fire in manual using a chord that I have to jiggle and pray to get it to work. When it works the results are good though. I’m getting the X-T2 and some lenses soon as well as this new Godox flash trigger and flash unit that’s supposed to work with Fuji TTL and HSS and do it all wireless. We shall see…

I hate the view mode button. God forbid you ever hit that bitch by accident and spend an hour thinking your camera is malfunctioning. Perhaps I’m just an idiot but still….

FINAL THOUGHTS

This camera is a nice intro into the Fuji universe and also has a leaf shutter. That’s the deal. The jpegs are good but overrated. The RAW files are superb. It’s compact yet made of steel. It’s sharp as fuck. It’s silent. The autofocus is good in single shot mode. If you’re a street photographer this camera is superior to almost any camera you can buy besides a manual focus Leica and maybe my beloved Leica Q. None of those cameras have a fill flash though. This one does….

Exit. Please like and subscribe.

Tee shirt available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8L6WS

Model: Ana Rivera @myrlanis_ on Instagram.

10 Things I love About the Fuji X100F

Here is a list of 10 random things I like ย โค๏ธ love about my Fujifilm X100F…

๐Ÿ”˜ The X100F autofocus is accurate and fast. I was worried it might be a bit sluggish when compared to the Panasonic/Leica Q. No worry needed though. It’s zippy fast!

๐Ÿ”˜ The X100F is quite useful to me for sideline shots when I shoot sports. So useful in fact that I prefer using it over having a standard two DSLR setup. ย No need for a 35mm lens on my 5D mark III when my X100F has a great 35mm equivalent lens and a filler flash to boot!

๐Ÿ”˜ I love having analog style dials for my ISO, exposure compensation, aperture, and shutter speed. It beats having to dig through menus in my humble opinion.

๐Ÿ”˜ The 35mm 2.0 lens itself is pretty sharp to my eyes, even wide open. RAW files are particularly awesome.

๐Ÿ”˜ The ACROS film simulation mode (jpeg only) is maybe the best thing about the camera to me. You can shoot almost anything in ACROS and it looks surreal and historic.

ACROS….

๐Ÿ”˜ The flash is useful in a pinch. I use it a lot for sideline shots as I mentioned earlier.

๐Ÿ”˜ I almost exclusively use the EVF. It’s so good that my original reason for buying this camera, it having an optional OVF, is a non-issue.

๐Ÿ”˜ The camera fits in my pocket and is extremely portable. It’s also so light that I can scarcely feel it dangling around my neckbone.

๐Ÿ”˜ The Fuji X100F is 100% silent when the shutter volume is turned off. Dead ass quiet.

๐Ÿ”˜ Lastly the little focus knob is swell. It works about as good as the ones on the pro DSLR’s I’ve had the fortune of using.

Thinking of purchasing this camera? Don’t do it! Lol. I want to keep all this bananas awesomeness for myself.

Please support me by buying my classic street-fiction novel available here.

Exit.

Why I want the Canon 1DX Mark II…

Somehow. Some way. I am getting the Canon 1DX Mark II.

This isn’t GAS. I need it.

My Canon 5D Mark III is awesome and everything, especially with a 70-200 2.8 IS II on the front of it, but for fucks sake it’s so slow at 6 fps. It feels like 1 fps really.

I shot a massive soccer tournament last weekend, a total of 57 games. Um, I really could have used the 14 fps that the 1DX II offers. This is really about speed people. The image quality from my 5d3 will probably prove to be a hair better in daylight shooting. For my upcoming night football this fall, and volleyball as well, the 1dx 2 should fare better when I push up the ISO.

The 1dx 2 is expensive as fuck. It’s $5999, which is basically a billion dollars….

Still, it’s for business purposes only. I have my Fuji X100F for street stuff and even casual portraiture. I’ll likely keep the 5d3 for any major portrait work that pops up, or god forbid a goddamn wedding or something…

Quick 1dx 2 specs: 20.5 megapixels. 61 focus points with 41 cross type (same as my 5d3 basically). Faster focus acquisition and better and more reliable focusing in low light. Built like a weapon. That’s it really besides the burst rate. Well, there’s the “my camera is better than yours” factor I’ll feel when facing every person I meet along the sidelines, regardless of what they have if it’s not my camera.

I’d love to get it by the start of football/soccer/volleyball/cross country season in the fall but most likely it will be around Christmas if that soon. Once again this isn’t GAS. This isn’t me wanting the 2 year old mirrorless Leica Q for $4300 or the slow focusing medium format Hassleblad X1D for $9000. This is strictly business, as I’ll likely not even touch the 1dx 2 when not shooting sports. I’ll keep you posted as I get closer to my purchase date.

Oh….before I exit. That Sony A9? Lol. The sonofabitch has overheating issues in STILLS mode! Wow. If that proves to be a permanent feature of the camera then it’s dead to me. Well, deader than it already is, being a Sony….

Exit.

STREET PHOTOGRAPHY: Go Small or Go Home

I’m going to be a bit of a toolbox here, but bear with me….

I cringe these days when I see guys shooting street photography with a fat DSLR. Full disclosure: I used to be that guy myself just 3 short months ago. Since then I’ve gotten my tiny little Fuji X100F, which might be the worlds best street photography camera, and now I feel embarrassed that I ever pointed my big ass Canon 5D Mark III at an unsuspecting street denizen with artistic intentions. It’s like what Obi Wan Kenobi said when he tossed that blaster aside after shooting General Grevious to death: SO UNCIVILIZED…..

Of course my Fuji, and perhaps every Leica outside of the Leica S (and the Leica Sofort), is an elegant photographic weapon harkening back to ages past. Sure, you can blast away 15 shots per second with your crude DSLR but it’s much more fun to manual focus or shoot in single shot mode with a compact or a rangefinder. Also, I’ve never been braver than I am now with my small camera. Sure, we get braver as we mature as street photographers regardless, but my ninja shit is on fleek these days. (Do the kids still say that?) I can literally stand in people’s faces and my silent leaf shutter compact camera makes absolutely no noise as I snap away photos like a maniac…..

Are Leica’s and little midget Fuji cameras better than say, a Nikon D500? Probably not, UNLESS you’re shooting street. So you need to be committed to specificity if you are contemplating adding a compact camera to your arsenal or switching altogether. In my case I still have my Canon system for sports and my Fuji camera for street and candids, well, until I can afford a Leica….

May the force be with you motherfuckers….

Exit.

CONFESSION: I Still Want The Leica Q

This isn’t GAS I swear to God.

It’s just….um…. that I have mixed feeling about the jpegs I am getting from my Fujifilm X100F.

On one hand, I love the black and white photos I get shooting jpeg with my Fuji. On the other hand I do NOT like the color jpegs from Fuji X-Trans sensor bodies, at least when I’m shooting people.

Ergonomically the X100F is perfect, but I’m finding that I have to shoot RAW if I want professionally useable photos for say, my sports photography. See, I typically will use my Fuji for sideline shots and my trusty Canon for the ๐Ÿฆ lion share of my sports photos. Still, those sideline and crowd shots can make and break a sports portfolio. The Fuji does well enough, but I find the RAW files to be just “okay” as opposed to great, like the RAW files are from the Leica Q. Also, for some stupid fucking reason Lightroom hates Fuji RAW files and drags and bitches rendering 1:1 previews. Also, the waxy skin effect is apparent in Fuji RAW files too when shooting people, although it isn’t NEARLY as bad as it is in jpeg, where it is basically unusable. On the plus side, I must say however, that the Fuji has very useful dynamic range and the RAW files have a lot of play in the sliders….

I’m not going to kill my lovely little Fuji. It produces stunning monochrome images and when NOT shooting people the color jpegs are really good. It’s just that I shoot a ton of stuff in jpeg and I’d really like it if the color jpegs were, you know, decent when shooting people….

Exit.

Apple: My Journey to the Dark Side…

Search your feelings. You know this to be true….

The Apple Store in Columbia Mall, Maryland
I am team apple. I was a Microsoft/PC guy until 2009, mainly because I was broke, then I lost a book I was writing and an album I was working on (including the backup drive) due to a blue screen of death boot sector virus. This was perhaps my 4th Windows device to go belly up and it would be my last. It was an Acer laptop, for the record…..

Around December of 2009 I had windfall of sorts so I ordered my first MacBook, the white shiny one. I still have it. After that I bought the Apple Airport Express router and maybe a year later, after a frustrating time using my Blackberry for the internet, I stormed into Best Buy and purchased my first iPhone. I switched to AT&T that afternoon as well, leaving T-Mobile. 

Following that I bought an iMac to process my photos (the MacBook is old now) and most recently I bought an iPad mini, which I’m using to compose this elegant, well written blog entry. When I bought my iPad mini I needed to migrate all of my iPhone stuff over so I took a class right there in the Apple Store after I made the purchase. The pretty blonde across from me was buying an Apple Watch. It was pink, the watch and band, matching her skull cap and other winter accessories. 

“So do you have all the other apple stuff too? Laptops etc?” I asked. 

She wrinkled her nose and smirked. “Yep.” 

Her journey to the dark side was complete. 

I don’t think I’ll get the Apple Watch. Of course, I said I’d never get the iPad mini either. Goddamn micro-struggle is real yo…..

Exit. 

PHOTOGRAPHY: The Black Camera Ambassadorย 

I’m going to keep this short because, well, I know my audience is basically a bunch of beer drinking white guys. I’m fine with that. Underneath my black skin and aside from sobriety, I’m basically a beer chugging white dude myself. I find something troubling however: 

There is an alarming paucity of black/African-American camera brand ambassadors…. 

I know bruh, it’s not your fault, but hear me out. 

I don’t know why the fuck this is. A number of black shooters are accomplished professionals right? It’s not like black photographers don’t spend a small fortune on camera gear like any other subculture does, but I have an impossibly hard time finding a black brand ambassador for ANY camera brand I can think of. 

Canon? Nah. Fuji? Nope. Leica? Lol! Really?

Late 80’s shooting Ricky Ray style….
I’m sure folks can point me in the direction of a few black guys who get to try out new cameras before they are released and shit like that. I’d appreciate info about them. I suspect they are coons and ass-kissers but I can surely be wrong. I’m keeping an open mind….

Maybe black folks are seen as criminals. Fuji probably thinks I’ll run off with an unreleased camera and disappear or some fuckery like that. Funny how I see so many white and Asian brand ambassadors on YouTube though…. and hardly any women either, regardless of race.

 

This is perhaps a micro-struggle, but it speaks to a larger problem in society. I don’t want to infuriate my loyal readers but I guess I’ll have to wait for you to preview new gear on the web before I buy it because it will never be me. I was born on the wrong side of the color palate. 

Exit. 

The Gears of Change

My friend told me he was contemplating a switch to Sony. 

This is a big fucking deal to me. No, seriously. 

You see, for years my friend and I defended our mother brand, Canon, against all other brands when it comes to still photography. Not to say Canon is better than say, Nikon, when it comes to image quality and dynamic range (for starters) but Canon has historically been a well rounded brand with few recalls and boasts dependable bodies. When it comes to video Canon obliterates Nikon of course, and my friend is big on video stuff. I don’t give a half of a fuck about video, as many of you know. My friend is excited about the expected release of the Panasonic GH5. 

So why Sony? Well Canon has been sucking ass lately. The 5d Mark IV is a disappointment to many folks. Nobody besides soccer moms cares about the upcoming 6d Mark II. The 5dSR is a nice camera, and is tempting for stills. The 1dX II is expensive as fuck and more than decent for video. All of the above cameras sport Canon’s sharpness murdering anti-aliasing filters, even though the 5dSR cancells the filter effect. 

As far as a camera I’d want to shoot with there is nothing. Canon has not taken producing a viable mirrorless camera seriously to this point. A full frame mirrorless that takes all of Canons famous EF lenses would be game changing, especially if it was compact and elegant. It would have to have 4K video for you guys who care about that shit, and hopefully it wouldn’t overheat like the Sony cameras do….

So again: why Sony? Well what else is there? Nikon is reporting epic losses and is cutting back on the cameras and lenses it produces moving forward. That’s not scary right? We’re talking full frame here of course. What else is there that is worth migrating to that shoots good stills and 4K video besides Sony? Each day more and more shooters are leaving the DSLR empires and migrating to mirrorless systems, myself included. I still have a Canon 5d3 and use it to shoot sports ONLY. If my sports gig ever dries up I will march up to Service Photo the next day and sell all my Canon shit. 

I hate Sony personally unless it’s time to play Uncharted or God of War. I get it though. These big ass DSLR’s just don’t seem worth replacing with another big dumb ass DSLR. Don’t get me wrong, DSLR’s are still the most professional units available for most applications, but with money drying up in photography gigs in general, it’s worth investigating how long that will remain the case….

Exit. 

Calm Down!!!! (Too Much Enthusiasm)

Street photography is fast. You must be quick out there. Your camera has to be properly set to shoot in advance. Your eyes have to frame and snap off a scene that has key elements in motion. You have to be nearly perfect. There is little room for error. Those who have shot fast moving sports can relate. Your brain has perhaps 7 things to account for in the space of three breaths, and this accounting has to be seamlessly incorporated into your shooting process.

With that being said, I offer a quote:

“Whoever is in a hurry shows that the thing he is about is too big for him.” ~Lord Chesterfield

I need to calm down. I often fuck myself over by rushing. This applies to all things, the least of which is street photography…..

Enthusiasm can easily work against you. No doubt enthusiasm is one of life’s pleasures. We are hard-wired, seemingly, to go bat-shit giddy over something in our lives at some point, no matter how cool we are naturally or are trained to be. However, one must choose carefully the things one shows enthusiasm towards. Many oversights happen at the intersection of enthusiasm and impatience, and sometimes enthusiasm creates impatience. Unbridled optimism can obscure ones natural abilitiy to wield healthy skepticism as a shield…

For me, the penalty of enthusiasm is neglected preparation. In the midst of shooting street photography in manual mode, my camera settings are all over the place depending on available light and time of day. In my eagerness to look for the next and penultimate “decisive moment” I at times forget to check the exposure compensation dial on my Fuji X100F (when I’m in auto ISO mode) which can easily be bumped to an unwanted value, or I forget to take off the lens cap, or some other stupid shit. In my rush to take that shot I may miss it because in my enthusiasm I have neglected key parts of the process. It is simply unacceptable to sidestep preperation. When shooting in the streets the “process” is happening the entire time. It’s like a military training maneuver or a meditation. Enthusiasm cuts into that meditation. It upsets the inner peace one must have to maximize ones effectiveness….

You can be overly enthusiastic about many things. I was excited to get to work and write this blog entry today, and I stupidly left my phone in the bathroom at home. You can get overly enthusiastic about a love interest and scare him or her off, becoming the classic: “overly attached girlfriend/boyfriend” and losing that person. You can be too excited about a monetary negotiation and betray that to the other party, with unwanted financial ramifications for yourself as a result. There is probably a far shorter list of things that are not hurt by over-enthusiasm as opposed to the opposite. Not much beats having a balanced mind and workflow…

Let’s end this….

“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.”Zig Ziglar

Stay balanced out there in these streets….

Exit.