Testing the updated Nissin flash system for Fujifilm users in studio

Perception is reality. The last thing you want to do when you are shooting a model is to show up and look like you are struggling with your gear. Even if you know exactly what you are doing but have to fight fiddly controls and menus that make sense from an engineer perspective but not from a user perspective. This sends the wrong signal to your model and impact his/her motivation and performance. This is part of the reason I was looking for a very simple flash system, that does only one thing but does it reliably. Often, less is more. This is especially true when doing without superfluous functionalities will remove the need to have to delve into an over-complicated menu to change a basic setting.

Surely, I did not want to give a bad first impression to Izumi-chan, my model of the day who I was shooting for the first time. Everything went very smoothly though, as the Nissin flash system has proved super easy to use. 3 hours, 3 outfits, 1 i60A flash and 1 Air 1 commander unit mounted on my X-T2. To be complete with the gear picture, I used most of the time a Lastolite softbox that is designed to be used with hotshoe flashes.

The main change from the latest Nissin firmware update was that Fujifilm users can now do wireless radio-triggered HSS flash photography with their Nissin speedlights, so I wanted to illustrate the benefit. When shooting with flash, your shutter speed controls the amount of ambient light that will be visible in the picture. In the picture below, I am using a shutter speed of 1/160th of a second, slower than the max sync speed of the X-T2, which recorded enough ambient light for the black paper background to remain visible in the shot:

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By using a faster shutter speed of 1/800th of second I was able to kill the ambiant light, as if I had turned some switch off. Same ISO and same aperture. However, it did require to use the flash in HSS mode (which it did autonomously as I had autoFP selected in the flash menu), so to keep the flash exposure the same on the model all other things being equal, I needed to increase the flash power output.

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Anyway, not sure which picture is better, just wanted to show an example where HSS would kick in. The point is you have complete creative control. The shoot went on for 3 hours, and while there was no epiphany moment there was no frustration moment either. I simply enjoyed the freedom of being able to use my flash with a reliable radio trigger, sometimes in HSS mode sometimes not, while being able to adjust the power settings from the commander unit directly on the top of my X-T2. Just what I needed to focus on the pleasure of shooting with a great models without  the gear ever getting in the way.

Here are a few more shots from the session:

All in all, what I like about the Nissin flash system is that it is simple, capable and portable. Basically it does only one thing but it does it well without ever getting in the way, so I can focus on all the other stuffs. I think it’s a great system if you like effective gear that goes straight to the point, and/or if you are scared by off-camera flash.

I got printed in 3D by the Fujifilm GFX 50S

As I wrote in my previous article, it has been a very busy weekend, shooting Kyoto’s maikos and geikos on Saturday, and Tokyo’s geishas on Sunday (see my Twitter feed for previews).

Nonetheless, I rushed to Yokohama on Sunday afternoon, for a speedy visit of the CP+ 2017 before the show’s end. Don’t hold your breath, but probably more on that later. Anyway, the good news is that opposite to Fujikina last January, it was this time allowed to to record samples on your own memory card. Yeah!

CP+ 2017

The first lens I tried on the GFX 50S was the GF63mmF2.8, but the models working on the Fuji stage were too far for my liking to use this focal range (50mm in 35mm equivalent). So I asked the Fujifilm employee who was helping me to take my own portrait instead:

My portrait taken with the Fujifilm GFX 50S + GF63mmF2.8

This shot was taken at ISO 6,400. Obviously the lighting was horrible, which emphasizes even more the fact that I am no model, but at least you see me “pop” against the blurry background, which gives the 3D feel to the image. And I confirm Japanese people pronounce it “bokeeeeeeeeh!!” and not “boka” 😉

Thanks again to all the people working on Fujifilm’s booth at CP+ 2017 for their patience with me and support! Can’t say the same with all camera manufacturers…

More to come…

Coming of Age Day (2016)

Coming of Age Day is held every year in Japan on the second Monday of January, to celebrate those who have become “adults” over the past year. The city townhalls hold ceremonies where the “new adults” are invited to receive some encouragements for their future. Many attend the event wearing traditional clothes, though this is mainly true for ladies (wearing the furisode, a long-sleeved kimono for unmarried woman), while the guys are mostly wearing suits. Here is a typical illustration of this:

 

Many people will couple this event with a visit to the shrine/temple with either their family or friend, to make wishes for the new year, so I usually go to Meiji Jingu to take portraits of them.

 

The complete gallery of portraits:

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50th Shimokitazawa Awaodori Festival

Follow me on Instagram for previews, behind-the-scene images and random daily life things.

Awodori (阿波おどり) is a type of Japanese festival held in August, during which teams (called “ren”, 連) of dancers parade through the streets dancing and singing on a song called “yoshikono bushi” (thanks to Coal in the comments section for the name), accompanied by musicians playing the shamisen, the shinobue flute, the kane bell, with taiko drums to set the tempo.

The main song is sometimes referred to as the “Fool’s song”, as the lyrics go:

The dancers are fools.

The watchers are fools.

If both are fools,

Then why not dance too?

The biggest Awaodori festival is held in Tokushima during the Obon holiday, but I did not have the chance to go there yet. However, there are many Awaodori held in the Tokyo area during the whole month, with some very skillful teams. The best-known is the Koenji Awaodori, which is held at the end of August, but be ready for an over-crowded event with some people marking their spots with blue tarpaulins with their name on it gaffer-taped on the side of the street way in advance (would not try to reserve my spot like that outside of Japan 🙂 ).

I tend to prefer smaller events, which enable to be closer to the team and to sometimes catch them when they are more relaxed. The Shimokitazawa Awaodori is a good example of human-sized Awaodori that will enable you to approach the dancers and improve your knowledge of the different teams, with their different styles. There are not bazillion teams, but at least you get to remember their names and colors. I have to say my favorite one was the Yattokoro-ren (やっとこ連), and I will be looking for them in future events.

Having said that, the streets close to the train station will be very crowded as well. That is where you want to be if you want to enjoy the joyful spirit of the events, with spectators dancing on the sidewalk with some yakisoba or yakitori in one hand, and a beer in the other hand. This year was a special one, as it was the 50th anniversary of the Shimokitazawa Awaodori (which is a young age as far as Awaodori festivals go). Before joining the party myself, I first wanted to get some pictures of the event. Following the advice of Tokyobling, I positioned myself as far as possible from the train station, almost at the end of the street, where there are much less people on the side and less people jumping in front you to take their picture, which offers a much more pleasing experience for photographers. I stayed on the side of the road the whole time, which does not offer a nice variety of images and point-of-view, but I felt I had no business popping out in the middle of the street and risking ruining the experience of both performers and watchers, though some people would occasionally do it.

At the end of the parade, each team goes to a designated spot with people gathering around them for a special demonstration of their skills. I wanted to see the Shinobu-ren (しのぶ連) closer, so, following again the advice of Tokyobling, I tried to positioned myself at the designated spot early, as popular teams get quickly surrounded by a huge amount of fans, only to realize later that the pet shop I used as my reference spot was not the one mentioned on the map. By the time I reached the proper location, there were already too many people to have a good view of what was going on. Lesson learned for next year 🙂

Gear-wise

I shot with 2 bodies. My main one was the Fujifilm X-T1, with initially the new XF 90mm F2 mounted on it. But I quickly switched to the XF 56mm F1.2 and XF 35mm F1.4 as I realized even from the sidewalk I was so closed to the action I need a wider focal length. The wider aperture was also useful, as the event takes place in the evening in streets with very limited light. My objective with this body was to get some portraits of the dancers, and especially the dancers wearing amigasa hats (編笠, the half-folded circular-shaped straw hat). I used the Firmware 4.0, hoping to benefit from the focusing improvements, but overall I struggled nonetheless to get continuous focus on erratically moving dancers in dim-light, though this might be totally due to my own ignorance and lack of experience with the new Fuji focus modes.

I used the Fujifilm X-E2 as my second body, with the XF 10-24mm F4 mounted on it. I chose the wider zoom because it is stabilized and I wanted to capture the groups of dancers passing by with a slightly slower shutter speed to capture some movement. When I got home and transferred the files to my computer, I realized that I had been shooting JPEGs the whole night with this body, a setting that I had probably used for my previous shoot and forgot to change back. I reckon it also happens to me oftentimes to start shooting in broad daylight at high ISO because I forgot to check it and change it back after shooting in low light the previous day, I should pay more attention… Anyway, at least I have some images, so not such a big deal. In fact, several of these shots ended up among my favorites of the night.

I went back on the Sunday for the dance contest, that sees the different teams compete in different categories in front of a jury. Since there was no parade, I brought only the X-T1 with me, with the XF 50-140mm F2.8 zoom to have some flexibility, and the XF 90mm F2 to shoot some portraits on the side of the street.

I might go to the Koenji Awaodori at the end of the month, but I have not fully made up my mind yet. Will depend on the weather and if I can get a spot that is not completely obstructed by other people.