X100S, Window Light, Projects, Etc

A quick follow-up from yesterdays post to address a few email questions along with a few additional thoughts on shooting the Fuji X100S. First off let's cover the X100S imaging performance in the fairly crappy lighting conditions at my disposal last Thursday. Contrary to my usual M.O. I was gravitating to a pretty funky whacked out post-processing treatment. Specifically the ++ versions of some of the VSCO film presets with added green in the shadows etc. The shot at the top was taken a few seconds after the one at the top of yesterday's long winded post. Same light. Same exposure. Same ISO 1600 wide open f/2 @ 1/60s. Without the funky film stuff - just color corrected to my mood at the moment. No NR or careful messing with anything, no local adjustments, no "fixes".

Personally I am giddy with the imaging performance of this little camera. If I can shoot indoors on a stormy day in the dark muck with this kind of IQ I am happy. I'm done. I don't really need any more. I was happy with the original X100 - this one pushes it up a hair. In fact if I were on a really tight budget I would grab an old one for a really good price - maybe even a black one for another $100 with the hood, etc and not look back. Especially now that the absolute biggest issue I had with it seems to be fixed in yesterday's firmware update for the old camera - the close focus distance is closer before you need macro mode. Looking back that's the only thing that was really "upgraded" for my needs. You have to love fuji for continuing to improve a model that's been replaced. Sources say it's focusing is as good as the XE-1 now too.

All of the typical IQ stuff is fine and dandy - the razor sharpness if you want it, the great high ISO performance, the reasonable DR, blah, blah, blah. The real reason I am giddy with the IQ is the 23mm lens and the way it renders things at the distances I happen to shoot most of the time - pretty darn close. It's downright pretty. That didn't change a bit (thankfully) between the old X100 and the new one.

Hopefully that answers the IQ thing - yes it's hard to tell when you apply a preset that has a boatload of grain, fading, etc. That brings us to the next topic - window light. Specifically a loyal reader/customer of The Window Light Field Guide asked about images that I used for illustrations in that lighting field guide and why they don't look like the image at the top or a bunch of other images I posted this week like this one…

The simple answer is that for that particular eBook I went out of my way to keep the lighting conditions as simple as possible. One window with fill coming from only the room - no gear at all. The point was not to use pretty pictures that I happened to make in a huge variety of different rooms or a greatest hits collection. It was to shoot images that isolated a particular thought process and approach to using ambient conditions without introduction of dozens of other lighting elements and effects that would be difficult or impossible to reproduce at will in any room with a window. I went for the simplest possible case. The point of that field guide is to get people thinking about ambient lighting conditions and specifically windows differently than just first glance impression.

Both the images above - the top one being a candid grab shot. The second shot five minutes later that was "set up" have a hell of a lot going on in terms of lighting. All of it with intent and using the exact same thought process I tried to illustrate in the eBook just with 3 lights (windows), and a few reflectors - a few big ones. Yes - I "cheated" by using a huge reflector to make the room act as if it were much smaller than it really was. That reflector was not a purpose built reflector - it was a 5 foot x 8 foot white paper folding room divider/dressing screen that I moved around a bunch. Sometimes improvised stuff like that is better than purpose built as I was free to include it in the frame here and there. You an see the brown/red frame of it reflected in the mirror on both images - just a sliver but I have scads of shots that shows more of it. I also moved it around to obscure the rest of the move-out mess.

Hopefully that answers the question - I do a lot of the more complicated evaluation of ambient and how to use it in workshops. It turns out much much better when you are actually in the same space while we are looking at what's going on with the scene and how to best use it.

Take the candid shot and the setup shot which are only a few minutes apart. I started shooting the candids with that terrible shot shown yesterday to gauge exposure decisions paying no attention to my subject. The very next shot after that I was paying attention to my subject as well as exploring variations on using the light available - huge difference now that I was optimizing framing and POV for the subject in front of me. Then I decided on bringing in the room divider for fill. Then I continued to make a bunch of candids for a few reasons. First was to gauge how to use the light and variations of it, second was to figure out the scene composition and my limits based on how much I wanted to move crap around in the middle of Carly moving out, and third - possibly to add to my pile of RAW material for a personal project.

How can you tell the difference between the two - candid vs. setup? I can from a mile away. Here's a few clues though - they might help you when you are shooting and include environmental context.

  • Take a look at the shot at the top - the right corner in the mirror. See all the crap leaning in the corner between the two doors? I moved it a few feet just out of frame for the "set up" shot.
  • Although not completely incompetent in terms of a POV, framing, composition, and timing to make Anastasia look great vs horrible I did mess it up a bit. Check out the lower right part of the frame and Anastasia's hip to camera right. The highlight on her pants are not really doing a great job of separating them out of from the dark dresser/green thing directly behind that spot. If you look really close you can see what's what but overall perception is not as flattering a shape as it could be. The side to camera left is fine - great actually. Same with the reflected image. Hence my comment on shooting on the fly in the mirror is a bit more difficult than I had guessed. It's like paying very close attention to two different subjects.
  • Now take a look at that same section bottom right of frame on the set-up image. Hmmm big difference in shape huh? Especially due to the use of the reflections/highlights provided by the window bouncing off the far wall (white) and the far window bouncing off the floor (warm orange/yellow). Very doable with a more set-up shot but if you move anything a hair it goes away and the separation in her legs is gone - not good for sure.
  • Nothing on the dresser is a dead give-away. I would have preferred to curate it but everything was in boxes at that point except the stuff we had while actually getting ready to shoot.
  • Note how with a setup shot I can position Anastasia precisely between myself and the window behind her while still managing placement of her reflection, manage my POV vs her shape, etc. You still know the windows there - feels the same but you don't get the blank no detail blown look in that part of the frame.

Okay - that should satisfy some curiosity about some of the project questions as well as illustrate why I didn't choose to illustrate the Window Light Field Guide with a bunch of images where there are 52 factors in play that I couldn't reproduce if I tried. In a different room on a different day there would be 52 completely different things going on - I would do my best to use those as well. All of them with the same thought process I explain in the eBook but just more variables.

One last note/question to answer - wardrobe. For the most part it's going to be mine - I will grab it cheap somewhere. I may already have it. Whatever. In this instance I only had three things that would possibly fit Anastasia's more curvy measurements - all bottoms. I had nothin' that would possibly fit on the top. She chose the tops with a tiny bit of input from me as in "Okay or NO". I had a more ambitious endeavor planned but nobody was in the mood to make a top from a lot of RAW materials I brought with me - neither was I since I couldn't shoot outside anyway which is what I had in mind. More on that later along with what that crap I moved from the corner led too…


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