Our Family took an extended May Long Weekend to go to Spruce Woods Provincial Park in Manitoba. It just so happened to be only 2.5 hours from where we live so no big deal, even with the near 1 year old baby in tow. I brought along my Fuji Film XPro-2 and all three “Fuji Cron” lenses (23, 35, 50 ~ 35, 50, 76). But I shot the whole trip with only the 23mm (35mm) lens. Mainly because I am used to that focal length from my X100s fixed lens camera. But also because I believe that 35mm is the most versatile focal length for travel photography.
What makes Spruce Woods awesome is that it is a gorgeous sandy desert . . . that happens to have an incredible forest of Spruce, Aspen and Juniper trees growing out of it! As I surveyed the landscape, I was bombarded with “How can this place exist?” It seems like a twilight zone time warp walking around there! We took a Belgian horse drawn wagon tour which was really neat and then did some hiking the next day around the dunes. The two main natural attractions are the dunes and the little spring fed lake called “The Devil’s Punchbowl.” But the whole place truly is something to see.
Back to the Fuji kit. The XPro2 is my fav camera of all time. So compact and versatile in and of itself and when coupled with the little 23mm lens offers a perfect mix of portability and capability. I shot primarily in JPG as I always do with Fuji because the files are THAT good. I switched to RAW for a couple shots where I wanted extended dynamic range if I wanted to make a print later. But the JPGs are so brilliant I usually only shoot that format. There’s quite a bit of latitude for editing even the JPGs but I nearly never have to do anything to the files. They come out of camera so, so sweet. Colours are amazing. Detail is crisp and clear. What’s not to love?
So 35mm. It’s truly a versatile place to live when shooting travel (especially with kids in tow). It’s a ‘pretty wide’ way to the view the world without being toooooo wide, although if you were going for straight landscapes you’d want to be wider perhaps. I’d highly recommend this one lens/one focal length approach for your next trip. See what the restriction brings! 😎
So my newborn is like 5 months old. Where did that go?!! And, because she is the 4th child, I basically have no photos of her. LOL. The first kid always has 50 billion photos and the subsequent kids grow up to think that nobody loves them! 🤣 But rest assured baby number 4, we do love thee!
I grabbed the Fuji X-Pro2 and the trusty 50mm f/2 lens and took some candids in the window light. All of these photos are completely unedited, other than the resize for the blog. Fuji absolutely nails skin tones. Every. Single. Time.
I shot all of these images in JPEG and used the various film simulation modes. The warmer ones were Astia and the cooler ones are Classic Chrome. I think the warmth of Astia is a little bit nice for a baby especially one as doughy as my Esther. 😊
I was having some weird focusing issues with the 50mm earlier in the year. It seemed to back focus quite a bit/randomly. I was happy to see that this shoot seemed to nail focus pretty good, yielding some super sharp results at 100% crop. The Fuji face/eye detect setting works surprisingly well and is no gimmick. I’ll be using that setup forever when shooting this lens wide open.
The other thing I love to death about the film simulation modes is ACROS. This yields such glorious black and white images it’s scary. To think that you can get this kind of look in camera with no extra editing? It’s just awesome. I’ve always been a huge fan of ACROS and the really nice “filmic” type grain it has. I setup my Q menu settings with NR -2, Across with a Yellow filter (makes skin glow a bit), Highlight & Shadow Tone -1 and Sharp +1. It seems to yield pretty nice results.
For another look at the various filter effects with ACROS, look at this page. It has some really good side by side comparison. The green filter would be better for character portraits to flatten out the skin a bit. But for doughy babies, yellow is where it’s at! 😎
This is just a quick blog post showing how I was shooting some macro shots of my favourite cameras this evening.
This behind the scenes iPhone shot shows the exceedingly crude setup. Main light is an AlienBee 1600 through a gridded Photoflex soft box. I setup my home made scrim as a big reflector and did a simple blue gelled flash pointed at the back wall to give a bit of colour. Very simple setup with a decent result.
I also shot the good ol’ Nikon Df with an old 28mm manual focus lens from 19 diggity 5. I took more of a macro approach with this shot and used that same blue flash to add that hint of glancing colour to the shadow side. The blue sets it off just that extra little bit.
I shot the same kind of angle of the X-Pro2 but it doesn’t work as well to me. The X-Pro2 is more minimalistic in its design, lending to a more covert external appearance anyways (which I like). There’s just not as much going on for the accent light to bring attention too. Anyways, just a fun little shoot for something to do.
Here’s a link to the Nikon photo in 4K resolution. I shot all these files with the Nikon D800 RAW so there’s resolution to burn. 😎👍
Every year the Frey family has their Bull Sale. It’s a wonderful family tradition. I was able to attend this year and did a little bit of event photography for them. It was a very difficult sale as Melissa Frey’s father Tommy just passed away literally the night before. As a result there was a very somber mood to the sale that is characteristically upbeat. Everyone carried on and made it through but it was tough.
The sale invites buyers to come to the farm and take a look at the bulls and the heifers. This year they had video footage of the stock and played the videos on a television screen during the auction sale so that you don’t have to get the animals riled up walking through a show ring. It makes for a much better experience all round.
As you can tell from the photos, Freyburn Farms raise Black Angus cattle. The Angus association has done a wonderful job promoting the breed, especially for meat. You can go into many chain restaurants and in the menus they will often boldly say “Black Angus Steak!” They are a very biddable breed and generally good to manage.
It’s really fun to attend the sale. It’s a very family friendly atmosphere and the Frey’s are exceedingly welcoming and gracious hosts. If you like pie, it is the place to be!
I was doing a two camera setup for this shoot. FujiFilm X-Pro2 with a 50mm and my Nikon Df with a 16-35mm. I have always found a super wide angle to be very helpful in event photography and the Fuji system kept the system light and mobile on the telephoto end.
All in all it was a really great sale, despite having to deal with very tough family circumstances. Coming together as family and friends and enduring the challenges in the hard times is what gives prairie people their true grit.
We went up to the Red Barn north of Kenosee Lake a couple of Sundays ago. It’s quite the place. They have live entertainment, a market with all kinds of sellers and crafts and all around fun atmosphere. We checked it out for a while and used the opportunity to test out my 23mm f2 WR lens from Fuji. As I mentioned in my last blog post, it’s a stellar lens. Not too wide and not too close, that 35mm on full frame is nearly a perfect lens for human group life.
It allows you get a cool perspective on life. If you back up, you get more. If you get closer, you get more.
From the Barn we went into Kenosee lake park. I wanted to take some maternity pics of my wife before she had the baby. (This is the ideal way to do maternity photos. lol). For the maternity shoot I relied upon my 50mm Fuji lens. It’s a really sweet stunner at an oddish 76mm full frame equivalent. Not many lenses were made at that focal length which adds to the unique feel of the images it produces.
We went to the beach and let the kids splash and play a bit and I captured a few more candids using all the “FujiCrons”.
We finished out our time at Kenosee by capturing a few more family pictures by the chalet. It’s such an incredible building and asset to the park! I shot a lot in ACROS film simulation which I LOVE. I have no problem ditching Fuji’s amazing colour for Black and White when using ACROS. I know I could shoot RAW and have it all but I love the Fuji JPEGs so much that I don’t even bother. There is something magical about ACROS!
Well I finally completed my collection of Fuji Lenses. I got the last of the “FujiCron” series – Fuji’s f2 WR lenses. The first was the 35mm (50mm full frame equivalent) which I took to Vegas. Then I got the 50mm (76mmFF) which gets me back to my preferred focal length neighbourhood of gateway telephoto. And finally, I sold my XE2 & 18-55 setup and bought the 23mm (35FF). This whole series of lenses is super fantastic. They are sharp and optically sweet even wide open and above everything else, they are compact. I can carry the XPro2, the 3 lenses, spare batteries and more in a small Domke bag. It’s an ideal travel setup.
I really like the 23mm/35mm focal length. It’s a really versatile way to view the world. I find it superb for environmental portraits. It shows just enough background with emphasis on the subject.
The other night we had our Souris Moose Creek Adventure Club night kayaking and canoeing along the Souris river. I threw the off camera flash bag in as well and waited for the sun to dip a bit. I had with my favourite flash of choice: LumoPro LP180. If Tony Stark invented a flash, it would be this one. It’s all manual for ultimate control. And thrown through an umbrella up close it does a great job.
I was shooting the XPro2 in Astia and Classic Chrome simulations. It kind of made for a cool colour contrast along the water.
All in all I can’t recommend the “FujiCrons” enough. I really love using them and they always do a fabulous job. One of the images in this post is an iPhone 7 photo. See if you can spot which one it is!
Our SMCAC (Souris Moose Creek Adventure Club) recently did an Intro to Trapping & Skinning event. It goes without saying that trapping fur bearing game is no longer a popular activity. In fact, it is looked down upon and even chastised by the politically-correct
cesspool society we now live in. But nothing can change the fact that the nation of Canada was created by the fur trade. It’s a Canadian tradition and is something that should be upheld, not only for nostalgic and historical reasons but also as a humane way of managing wildlife populations – a responsibility that has fallen to all of mankind.
Our event introduced young and older alike to the art of trapping and skinning. The day began with a racoon skinning demonstration by Trent Lyon, and a discussion of various traps and techniques.
The participants then had their chance to try skinning a muskrat. The kids dove right into the challenge! (Though many of the adults weren’t so keen!)
After the skinning portion, we all went out to an abandoned farm to observe an actual racoon trapline. Many racoons often will inhabit an old farm house as it provides great shelter for them, additionally so if there are grain bins nearby that have a ready supply of winter vittles!
Photographically, it was FujiFilm X-Pro 2 all day long with the 35mm f/2 WR lens. Having it all be totally weather sealed is the only way to go for our harsh Canadian climate. These JPEGs are all from camera with very little post production editing. Provia film simulation for that great Fuji colour. 😎
I pulled the trigger on getting a FujiFilm X-Pro2. Sight unseen. But I had been coveting one since it was announced. But I thought “nah, I’ve got loads of Nikon gear. What do I need an X-PRO2 for? It’s not a need. It’s a want.”
YOU NEED AN X-PRO2
From the very first moment I picked the camera up, while it was still in the protective shipping plastic bag yet, I loved it. The camera is big and solid, hefty even. It feels perfect in the hand. I threw in a charged batter from my X-E2 (which are the same by the way) and slapped on the 35mm f/2 lens. What a dream. The camera is blazing fast to autofocus & accurate. I shot the normal test shots we all do of our keyboards to test focus and it was bang on. I quickly put the camera into ACROS film simulation. Wow.
The photos have this alive/organic/analog quality to them. The transfer from shadows to highlights is out of this world. The ACROS grain is so smooth and film like even at higher ISOs my jaw dropped when viewing the files. They seemed to jump off the screen at me.
I just kept shooting the kids. Shot after shot through the EVF, the shots were sharp, and had the same filmic quality. I was hooked from the very first few frames!
The shadows are so rich and the highlights are buttery perfectly. I was shooting the camera wide open at f2 and the files are sooo sweet. I always knew that the fuji JPGs were great, my X-E2 files are wonderful. But the X-PRO2 files are just that much better. I can’t wait to actually put the camera through it’s paces.
These quick shots here are straight from camera, no editing other than a resize for the blog. Again, I’m totally blown away by the camera. The tonality of the files is wonderful. I’ve never ever felt this way about a camera before or the photographic results. If you’ve ever been thinking of getting an X-PRO2, do it. I can already see how this camera is going to change my photography going forward. More to come!
Day 7 was laden with awesome water-based adventure! It all began around 11:15AM with a scenic float down the flathead river, courtesy of Montana Raft Co! It involved one excited 7 year old jumping overboard to his heart’s delight!
Every day of this incredible road trip just got better and better. We thought we had seen the most incredible stuff the day before and then we encounter more mind-blowing scenery and unbelievable vistas. That was Day 6 in a nutshell!