Lockdown level 2.5

Auckland moved to lockdown level 2.5 this morning, down from level 3. The main difference is that shops are open at this level but social distancing needs to be observed.

At the start of the second round of lockdown and work from home routine, I decided that the path to positivity lay in taking a break each day and stepping out for a walk. I decided to head down old faithful, Ponsonby Road. Light was dull but it gave me a chance to test my custom setting

The following two shots need a boost in exposure. I was toying with using auto iso and buggered up the shots.

Nothing fancy. Just slowly working out my photography approach and documenting my work in progress.

Trialing my Custom Settings

Following on from Friday and Saturday’s crafting of my Classic Chrome based custom setting, I went down to Wynyard Quarter on a beautiful Sunday morning to test my custom setting recipe. The purpose of a custom setting on a Fujifilm camera is to digitally simulate a film look for the photos. The intention is to create a shooting experience akin to shooting with film where most of the work is done in camera. Similar to film photography, there will still be a small amount of post processing required in “developing” the final product. However, the effort to process is generally expected to be minimal.

My personal custom setting, which is also known as recipe to Fujifilm shooters (term coined by Ritchie Roesch), tries to mimic a modern high contrast look which is not too cool to touch.

I was quite pleased with the test. The custom setting generally produced pictures that I like straight out of camera. The conditions this morning were bright and sunny. The spring light was a little harsh this morning but I think the customer setting held up reasonably good. However, the weather conditions in Auckland can change quite quickly. Auckland is a narrow piece of land sandwiched by two large bodies of water. It does not take much for the wind to pick up and hide the sun behind clouds. When conditions change, I’ll either have to switch custom settings or do post processing. Here is an example of a shot taken with my custom setting that I feel would look better using my version of Luis Costa’s recipe (reproduced using Fujifilm’s Raw Studio back home). The photo with my custom setting is on the left.

Luis is better

Another observation of mine is that I tend to underexpose my shots. Given my tendency, I wonder if removing Colour Chrome Effect and Colour Chrome FX Blue and increasing highlights by 1 would be a good idea. Here is a comparison of my original on the left and the proposed changes on the right.

I’m very keen on my proposal. However, the proposed changes could also be achieved by simply changing the way I shot And exposing correctly. Isn’t the focus of this exercise to get it right in camera? If so, it will be a good chance for me to slow down when I shoot and learn to get my exposure triangle right. The experimentation continues.

Almost Recharge Friday

My plan, like those of mice and men, was to take Friday off so that I could recharge after a long and surprisingly physical couple of weeks. The plan started well. My flatmate Carlo and I had a hit of tennis at 7am. But work rolled in at 830 and I spent the next 3-4 hours away on the computer. It wasn’t a big deal as I don’t think I could have enjoyed my weekend knowing that people were depending on me to do my part.

The good thing about working on a Friday was that I got to take photos of Chris mowing.

I’ve been experimenting with different film recipes over the past few weeks. Ritchie Roesch, Kevin Mullins and Luis Costa have provided heaps of inspiration and I’ve been greedily testing and trying out different looks. Dreary and changeable winter weather coupled with my amateur photography skills have made it difficult to really get a handle on what film recipe works best for my type of photography. However, I sat down on Thursday night and reviewed what I liked and did not like about my recent trials.

Like

  • Understanding my camera well enough to achieve the shot in camera.
  • Modern and Muted.
  • Protect highlights and create more contrast
  • I love both Classic Chrome and Classic Negative but I would rank Chrome before Negative.
  • Weak Grain
  • Nothing overly processed.

Dislike

  • Strong colour casts/shifts.
  • Overly warm and rich feel

My approach is to focus on what I like rather than what I dislike. I understand like and dislikes are simply different sides of the same coin. However, I feel that I work better by approaching my film recipe (and hopefully life) from a positive angle. Here are some photos I took on our walk on Friday afternoon after finishing work and Chris has mowed the berm for half our street.

The recipe I ended up with for Friday is:

  • Film simulation: Classic Chrome
  • White Balance: Auto
  • WB Shift: R +2 B-1
  • Highlight: 0 Shadow +2
  • Colour: -1 Sharpness: +1
  • Dynamic Range: 100%
  • Grain Effect + Size: Weak + Small

The only thing I’m not 100% set on is colour chrome effect and fx blue. For these shots, I used a weak colour chrome effect. I’m going to experience a bit more with the chrome effects this weekend and see what my recipe will. Whatever I decide this weekend, I’m determined to stick to for at least a few weeks so that I get a chance to understand it and come to a solid decision.

Up next would be a recipe on Classic Negative and determine how I would implement these recipes on my camera. I still enjoy editing on Lightroom. Most of my edits are 1-2 minute affairs and I enjoy using Lightroom to manage my library and play with different looks.

Thursday Lunch Hunt

I’m determined to make this Covid lockdown Mark 2.0 work. Firstly, I’ve reorganised my office setup. The setup gets my daughter’s approval

Bobby likes being close to me

Secondly, I decided to step out for a walk during lunch. I think that was my problem before. Working through lunch or watching the Covid news broadcasts during lunch is not a good way to stay positive.

Here are some shots taken today on my hunt for lunch.

As a sloppy dresser, it feels quite ironic that I get quite excited when I spot people who dress up nice.

These photos were made with my classic chrome recipe. If anyone is interested, it is:

Film Simulation: Classic Chrome

Grain Effect: Weak + Small Grain

White Balance: Auto, Red +1 Blue +1

Tone Curves: S+2, H+2

Colour: -1, Sharpness: +1, Noise Reduction: -2

The Evening Before

Today is 12 Aug 2020. As of yesterday evening 11 aug 2020, New Zealand has had 102 days of no Covid19 community transmission. That run was broken at 930pm that evening when Prime Minister Jacinda Arden and Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield confirmed there were 4 confirmed cases of Covid19 community transmissions.

In one fell swoop, we’re back to Covid19 lockdown. While I resent working from home, I’m completely grateful that we take fast action here in New Zealand. Short term (3 days – 4 month) lockdown pain, which I recognise does equate to mid to longer term pain for people who lose their livelihoods, hopefully translates to lives saved.

My reluctance to work from home and my general distaste of my “home office” largely stems from my conservative and inflexible appreciation of routine. My daily routine consists of walking 30-40 mins to work each day, hopefully taking some time during lunch for a photo walk and ending it with a 30-40 min walk home, met halfway by my husband and daughter (Bobby our schnauzer). Those walking opportunities give me a chance to gear up for, take a break from and unwind from work. Three key moments that strangely punctuate my day with joy and give me energy. Three wonderful moments where I’m mainly alone and meditating with my Fuji.

I’ve been experimenting with straight out of camera (SOCC) jpegs. Here are a couple of SOCC jpegs and their raw counterparts. I used a variation of the Kodachrome recipe (created by Ritchie Roesch) that I wrote about here. The only editing done to the SOCC jpegs are rotation, crop and minor tone curve tweaks. The raw files have a little more tone curve, exposure and highlight adjustments.

New Work from Home Office
SOCC on the left, Raw on the right.
Work on the Water Break
SOCC on the left, Raw on the right

Maybe this is self selecting, but I prefer the SOCC jpegs. This is especially so with the second photo of the worker sitting on the water break. The colour, tone and added grain of the jpeg call out to me. However, I’m not saying good bye to raw files. For example, I prefer the raw file version of this.

Shore
SOCC on the left, Raw on the right

Or I think I am. I hope it is not because I want to be fair.

Film Simulations

I’m pretty sure the rainy and windy Saturday evenings are not the best time to test Fujifilm jpeg settings. Anything I try is likely to suit those gloomy settings. However, procrastination like some good intentions lead to a sad, cold, wet, windy and bad place. I could go on… No time like now to get things done.

Ritchie Roesch has kindly published many custom settings aka recipes, that allow Fujifilm camera owners to replicate the look of different film stock. I’m trying to work out what appeals the most to me. I’m also very partial to the look (and story) behind Luis Costa’s Classic Negative based recipe. Kevin Mullin’s YouTube video also provided a very useful “Meyerowitz” and “Padilla” look that caught my eye.

Most of the film stock simulations that I like are variations of the Classic Chrome or Classic Negative film simulations. In good strong light, the pictures look magical. However, in Auckland’s dreary winter and overcast environment, the jpegs can look too warm for my liking.

I decided to test out how I can customise Ritchie’s Kodachrome II and Kodachrome 64, Luis’ Classic Negative setting and Kevin’s Meyerowitz. Over the course of 30-60 mins, I tried different settings and walked around downtown Auckland. It became quite clear to me that I tended to prefer Ritchie’s Kodachrome II for dark winter nights.

So here comes the dilemma. the Kodachrome II simulation is good. But I wanted a cooler look. So I tweaked it. And then I worked on the raw file at home and realised, I prefer an even cooler variation. Now I’m stumped. Here are the three files I produced.

I thought I would be confused with the three variations and bash my head against the wall. But this has been a good exercise. I’ve decided to create and store a cooler variation of Kodachrome II and identified the other 5 film settings that I’ll store in the camera. They are:

  • Luis Costa’s Classic Negative Setting
  • Kevin Mullin’s “Padilla”
  • Kevin Mullin’s “Meyerowitz”
  • Ritchie Roesch’s Porta 400
  • Plain Vanilla Classic Chrome

In addition to these settings, I’m also very comfortable editing in raw and enjoying the process. Now I’ll just wish for some good weather to test this combination out.