Fuji X Camera Survives 3 Months Out in the Elements, and a Bear Attack!

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This camera survived 3 months of rain, snow and hail… and a bear attack!

One of my readers just shared an amazing story with me that I had to pass along. Back in early July, Claire was hiking in Colorado and lost her Fuji X20 somewhere on the trail. She didn’t elaborate on how this happened, but being someone who occasionally sets things down, gets distracted and then forgets them, I can relate. I lost a Nikon 50mm lens this way one time.

Hours of searching failed to locate the camera, and so she sadly wrote it off as gone forever. You can imagine what a bummer this would be.

Well, this past weekend, Claire found herself on the trail again and, low and behold, there it was! It definitely looked a little beat up; it had animal bite marks on it (probably bear) and it had endured rain, hail, and even snow over 3 months it was near the trail.

And guess what? It still works! The LCD screen was fogged, and the battery was dead, but it recharged and everything on the camera works just fine. Bringing the camera inside and leaving the SD card door open for awhile made the fog go away.

I’ve used my X20 in a variety of extreme conditions, and although it’s not touted as being weather sealed, it’s a tough little camera indeed. I’ve gotten mine pretty wet and I’ve certainly banged it around enough, but that’s kids play compared to leaving it outside in the elements for an entire season…

…Or having it chewed on by a bear! Here’s the story in her own words.

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“I found the x20 close to the tree pictured in the two trail cam photos. This trail is a bear superhighway, with at least 30 bears passing the spot where the camera was lying over the course of the summer (and maybe 3 people all summer long).”

“I suspect that the bite marks happened when a bear tried to carry it. Bears are fascinated with anything that has human scent. In one of the trail cam photos, the bear is just about to give the trail camera a very close inspection, including licking and sniffing. My best guess is that the x20 got similar bear treatment.”

“The 2nd bear photo is of a bear marking the tree that my trail camera is aimed at. That tree is the reason for all the bear traffic in the area. It was the tail end of bear mating season when that poor tree gets marked a couple of times per day.”

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In my mind, this is an amazing testament to just how well the Fuji X cameras are built. I’ve long thought that the X10/20/30 series are the best all around compact cameras, especially for the price. If you’ve ever worried that they’re not tough enough for use in the outdoors, let this dispel any such notion. Clearly they’re quite weatherproof. Thanks so much for sharing, Claire!!

The Fuij X30 has now replaced the X20, but it’s built on a very similar chassis and has all the features of the X20, plus a few more. The optical viewfinder has been replaced with a newly designed EVF, battery life has been improved, it has a tilt screen and WiFi that enables you to remotely shoot and share images from your smartphone or tablet.

Check out Claire’s blog, romp-roll-rockies.blogspot.com and see more of her photos, as well as more wild animal trail shots! They’re way cool! Bears, mountain lions, etc…

Another one of my followers just bought an X30 and loves it. Check out what William Snyder did with it on his first day with the camera.

What Kind of Alaska Photo Workshop Would Interest You?

Kichatna Spires, Alaska

I’m starting to put together my Alaska Photo Treks photography workshop schedule for 2015 and wanted to get your input. There are so many amazing things to photograph up here, and I figure if you’re going to consider coming all the way up to Alaska to learn photography from me, it only makes sense to build workshops around the subjects YOU want to shoot.

With this in mind, I’ve created a poll so that you can let me know what kind of instructional photo experience you feel would be ideal. I want you to tell me what kind of workshop or photo tour would interest you the most- Brown bears? Landscapes and glaciers? Aerial photography? Action/Adventure? In-depth in one location or a mix of settings over the course of a few days?

If an Alaska photo workshop or photo tour with me is something you’d seriously consider for next year, then please take the time to answer this poll, keeping in mind the realities of your budget and your time frame. I want this to be an accurate poll, not just a wish list, so give me honest answers. You can choose more than one option if there are areas of multiple interest, but again, think about the type of trip that would MOST likely get you up here. In essence, what are your dream Alaska shots? What do you REALLY want to learn from me?

I’ve already got some awesome ideas for remote locations and awe inspiring subject matter for next year’s trips, but I’ll definitely use this info so that I can dial them to your preferences. I’d love to see you join me on one of them, so thanks in advance for your input.

What Type of Alaska Photography Workshop Would Interest You The Most?

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Also, if you sign up for my newsletter over there on the top of the sidebar, you’ll be the first to know when my workshop schedule is finalized, and you’ll have first crack at signing up before the schedule goes public.

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Photographing Cyclocross – Tips for Shooting Action

Learn Photography Online with the Pros

_DSF9878Of all the action subjects that I tackle, cylcocross racing is one of my favorite sports to shoot. In some ways it’s easy. Being a circuit course with roughly an hour of laps, I can camp out at great spot and shoot lots of racers, which gives me plenty of opportunity to practice different creative approaches, try out different lenses and dial in my settings. Plus, it’s not just riding. With all the technical sections, there are some great expressions and compositions to be had.

In other ways, though, it’s quite challenging. Cyclocross is a sprint race, which forces me to frame my shots in an instant or I lose the moment. And, since I shoot multiple races each season, it’s constant work to come up with new ideas so that I don’t just shoot the same types of shots race after race. During the past couple of years, I’ve varied my approach with different gear, formats, in-camera film simulations, and even by experimenting with my processing techniques. 

In addition, shooting this kind of sport really tests your gear. Having shot extensively with the Fuji X-T1 all year, I’ve been looking forward to using it during cyclocross season. After all, Fuji designed the X-T1 to be a full-on action camera, and what better way to put it to the pro test by shooting stuff like this?

Of course, you can use any cameras to shoot sports and action, it just takes practice and familiarity with your gear. If you don’t use Fuji gear, you can follow along and apply what I say to your own setup. Remember, the best camera for shooting action is the one you have around your neck that day.

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My benchmark for shooting this kind of action has been my Nikon gear; that’s what I’ve mostly used in the past. Nikon autofocus is top rate and their pro quality glass is fast and tack sharp. I’ve always loved using the Nikon stuff, but the weight savings that mirrorless gear offers is hard to ignore. At the same time, it’s a moot point if the gear doesn’t perform. That’s the bottom line for any camera. Does it let you do what you want or does it hold you back?

Since I have a good reference point from which to judge a camera’s performance with this kind of subject, I know exactly what the X-T1 is going to have to do in order to stand up to my DSLR equipment.

Essentially, it has to acquire and track very fast moving riders, the lenses have to give me sharp photos with little noise, and the EVF has to allow me the creativity to compose my images with uninhibited clarity, just as if I was using a pentaprism viewfinder.

When it comes to AF, I’ve found is that the X-T1 does an amazing job, even with something as quick as this. Some lenses are better than others, but overall, the X-T1′s autofocus system works just as they promised it would.

Using single shot and continuous slow modes, you can compose around any one of the 49 AF points in the viewfinder, which offers incredible creative options. I like to place my subjects in different areas around the frame. Using continuous high mode, the camera uses the 9 points near the center, although from my experience, I’ve found that it will track all the way through the frame, even if the subject leaves this central area.

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During the past couple of weeks, I’ve been using only the new XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 weather sealed lens. I’m so impressed with this lens, and even though it’s somewhat slow with regards to maximum aperture, the linear AF motor is exceptionally fast. (Read my full review of this lens here.)

The zoom range on the XF 18-135mm gives you a decent and very usable of focal lengths from relatively wide angle to telephoto. On the long, it’s as long as I’d usually need for a sport like this, especially considering that cyclocross is largely run under the shady canopy of forest trails.

In low light conditions, it’s a little bit limiting. I shot last weekend’s race at ISO 2000 in order to ensure that I got tack sharp imagery. There’s definitely some grain, but it’s not so bad that it detracts from the overall feel of the photo. With f/2.8 glass, I could have dropped the ISO down to around 1000 or below, which would make a difference, but of course, I’d sacrifice weight. f/2.8 lenses are quite a big bigger.

Also, I shot some of these using Fuji’s Velvia film simulation, which is pretty contrasty. Some of the noise is due to my brightening them up in post. In these kinds of conditions, Velvia isn’t the best choice, so halfway through the race, I switched to Pro Neg Std., which I LOVE. It makes beautiful looking images with great colors, and lower, softer contrast. Although super bright colors can look great, sometimes going a little bit muted can give you some very nice results. Not everything has to have tons of contrast._DSF9663

I also love using the built-in BW film sims and even some of the Advanced shooting modes that Fuji includes on all their X cameras, like Miniature. Between all of the options, there have plenty of tools to stretch your creativity. I like making those kinds of on-the-spot decisions, I just pick one and go. Sure, the flexibility and control of shooting in RAW can be advantageous, but sometimes it’s just nice to go with a look and let it be.

Still, I love going wide, so for this week’s race, I also brought along the XF 14mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle lens. This is an absolutely killer piece of glass, it’s sharp, fast, it has solid construction and a wonderfully wide view without going overboard. I feel that it portrays subjects with confident authority, and it lets you get in just a little bit more environment to help flesh out the story of your scene. (Read my full review of the Fuji 14mm lens here.)

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I was excited about the creative variation that this week’s race offered me. For some scenes, I was able to hone in tightly on a rider and get the in-your-face feel of action and expression; for others, I backed off and tried to show some of the greater scene.

One thing I like to do is vary my focus point. Although you usually want to show the main subject as the sharp element, but sometimes you can change things up and lock in on a different element of the frame and let your viewer’s eye wander. They’ll start at the point of sharp focus, but then work their way towards the subject. This makes your viewer work that much harder, which isn’t a bad thing.

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Add to that, things like panning, slow shutter speeds, changing up your vantage point, and you have a comprehensive bag of tricks that you can use for shooting any kinds of sports and fast breaking subject matter. More than anything, though, it just requires quick, decisive action on your part. Hesitate and you’ll lose the shot. More than anything, what matters is moment. Nail it and you’ve done your job.

Of course, the real fun part of shooting cyclocross is that when I’m done photographing the first heat, I get to race myself! All in all, it’s a complete workout: an hour of creative practice and work, followed by an hour of total, all out, heart pounding, lung busting, leg burning exertion.

I love Saturdays in the fall!!

Click here to see more juicy images from this race.

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Me holding off the leader before he passes and leaves me in his dust.

My Pick for The Best Memory Card

Sandiskcard

Cameras keep getting better every year, which is awesome. Higher capacity buffers allow you to capture huge bursts of RAW files without having the camera lock up. This is crucial when shooting sports and action, even when photographing people and lifestyle. Expressions … Continue reading

National Geographic Lists Fuji X-T1 and X-E2 as Top Travel Cameras

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The Fuji X-T1 Yes, I’ll admit, I’ve been gushing heavily about the Fujifilm X-T1 ever since it hit my doorstep back in February. Since then, I’ve used it almost exclusively for an incredibly wide range of photography, and it’s tackled everything I’ve … Continue reading

You Already Have The Right Photography Gear

HikingLW

I don’t always practice what I preach, so believe me when I say I can relate to your gear issues. I’ll give you an example. As you may know, my first passion was the guitar, and when I’m not out shooting photos, editing … Continue reading

Awesome New Photography Gear – September 2014

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There’s a lot going on in the photography world this month. Photokina has just gotten underway and almost everyone has introduced new products to feature at the giant, bi-annual trade show. Some of this stuff is pretty impressive and worth checking out if … Continue reading