Sunday, July 31, 2016

New web sites up and running

I've been a bit tardy on keeping up with the blog because I've been working on creating some new web sites for myself. The first one completed is my new commercial photogaphy site featuring portraits, lifestyle, conceptual images, and still life. The other site is for promoting my 360º Virtual Reality panoramas. I already had a site for my fine art photography.

TOMGRILLPHOTOGRAPHY.COM  is my new commercial assignment web site for portraits, lifestyle, conceptual images, and still life. My new 360º Virtual Reality site is now at:, while my fine art web site is still at: 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Portraits in black & white

Recently, I have been exploring a portrait light setup that would create a deeply dramatic look suitable for a large wall print. After some experimenting, I ended up with a single front light, a studio strobe in a small slit bank with a grid on it to keep the light tight. The soft box I have settled on is a small Photoflex half dome fit with an accessory fabric grid. It is only 35" long by 9.5" wide. I place it very high over the subject with a boom stand. This creates deep shadows on the eyes and below the chin with a drop dramatic drop off of intensity on the lower part of the subject. I don't use any fill with this.

On the black seamless background I put one light placed behind the subject. This helps to separate the subject from the background. Later in Photoshop I substitute one of the many textured backgrounds I have. Using the texture layer in Overlay mode allows the texture to blend with the spot lighting in the original background.

This is a rather simple lighting setup, but it creates a powerfully dramatic effect on the subject.

For this shot I used a ring light on the subject instead of the soft box. I also added a low hair light from directly behind . 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Layering images for conceptual effect

This is an image inspired by all that has been going on in Europe lately. It is a composite of five separate files. One is of the pensive man, another of a glass globe I shot recently, another is of a computer screen with trading data on it, one is a hazy shot of a city, and the final one is of smoke to add atmosphere. The whole assemblage was mixed by varying the layer type in Photoshop.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

New features of the Fuji X-T2

At first glance it doesn't look much different from the X-T1, but once you hold it in your hands and start to fiddle with the controls, the differences become apparent. It is slightly larger, which is probably a good thing. The controls are all updated but still retain their old look and feel. There is the new joystick focus that I've come to love on the X-Pro2. And then there is the new dual battery grip that lifts the camera into the realm of a serious contender speeding up the camera and extending the capture range.

There are also a whole bunch of little niceties that show, once again, that Fuji is listening to its user base. The shutter speed and ISO dials can now spin freely with the click of a button. One of my favorite small improvements is the reintroduction of the screw thread for a traditional release cable on the shutter button. Call me a retro addict, but I still prefer the simplicity of these old cable releases.

The Fuji X series has come from behind as a non-contender in the video field to being a serious tool with 4K capture and other video niceties. Because of its small size I am looking forward to shooting some professional video with the X-T2.

There's already been enough ink -- or is it bytes now that we're in the digital age -- spilled on this new camera so I'm just going to list the highlights of the improvements and additions until I can get a real camera to put through its paces for a week or so.

Improved features:

24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor
2.36M-dot OLED EVF with 0.005 sec refresh time (60 fps or 100 fps in boost mode)
325 AF points (169 with phase detection)
Side tilt to the articulating LCD screen
8 fps continuous shooting with AF (11 fps with booster grip)
5 fps continuous shooting with live view updates between capture
3" 1.04M-dot articulating LCD
4K UHD video at up to 30 fps for up to 10 min (30 min with dual battery grip)
F-Log flat profile and 4K out over HDMI

New features:

Joystick AF point selection
Clicking shutter-speed and ISO dials allows them to turn freely
Front and rear dials can also be used as function buttons
TTL wireless flash control for a new Fuji flash
Accessory hand grip holds two batteries to extend battery life ($199)
Dual SD card slots (UHS-II compatible)
USB 3.0 socket

All the photos in this article were taken at the Fujifilm announcement event in New York, which I had the good fortune to attend.

Exploded view of an X-T2 camera.

Along with the announcement of the camera came the introduction of the new Fuji XF-X500 TTL flash with wireless control in three groups.

Fujifilm EF-X500 flash:

Guide number 164' at ISO 100 and 105mm
Zoom range of 24-105mm in 35mm terms, or 16-70mm for APS-C format
High-speed sync of 1/8000 possible with select cameras
Manual power control of 1/1 to 1/512 in 1/3 stop steps
Multi repeating flash mode with setting of 1-500 Hz for 2-100 flashes
Requires master EF-X500 on the camera body for wireless operation
Optical pulse communication has four channels and three groups
Runs on four AA batteries of EF-BP1 battery pack

The Fuji X-T2 can be pre-ordered for $1599.00  now from dealers for anticipated delivery in September. The EF-X500 flash is also available for pre-order at $449.00.

If you are planning on buying this camera or flash, you can help support this site at no extra cost to you by clicking the link and purchasing from one of our affiliate sellers listed below -- and thanks for your support.

The Fujifilm X-T2 camera body can be ordered from:  BH-Photo  Amazon 
The Fujifilm EF-X500 flash can be ordered from:  BH-Photo 
The Fujifilm EF-BP1 Battery Pack can be ordered for $199 from: BH-Photo  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Multiple exposure concepts

I've been playing around recently with some multiple exposure conceptual images using Photoshop.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Vertical panorama with the Fuji X-Pro2, 100-400mm lens, and 2x teleconverter

A couple of weeks ago I was playing around with the new Fuji XF2x teleconverter on the 100-400mm zoom when I had the opportunity to take this shot of the World Trade Center at sunset. This view is facing south so the sun was to the right and had just passed below the horizon and gave a soft pastel glow reflecting off of the clouds and building.

I took this photo from the top of a 50 story building in mid-town Manhattan. We often don't realize how much buildings that tall actually vibrate, especially on a windy day. This makes it very difficult to shoot a steady shot at a low shutter speed of 1/2 second with such a long telephoto lens.
That combined with the atmospheric haze introduced by the 3-mile distance I was from the building made if difficult to obtain a steady shot.

The final image is a vertical panorama combining five photos. For each shot I panned the camera a bit and twisted it off axis to obtain the zigzag effect along the sides. No extra coloring was done to this photo. It is pretty much right out of the camera and converted to Fuji Provia film mode in PS.

This image taken of the same scene with the Fuji 16-55mm zoom set to 55mm gives some indication of the distance and cloud cover of the actual scene.