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5 Ways To Create More Engagement on Instagram

5 Ways To Create More Engagement on Instagram

Last year was all about finding myself as a photographer and lucky for me many of you resonated with my words and followed along. While I'm not giving up that side of the blog I do want to focus on more current issues in my life. See, I'm not the struggling photographer I once was when I started the blog, I've developed a style I think I can consider my own and I have a clearer vision when taking my photographs.

The next step for me is growth and getting my pictures seen. Moving forward I want to focus more on how to get your pictures out to the public.

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$7 Macro? First Impression of the Tamron SP 90

$7 Macro? First Impression of the Tamron SP 90

For the past year I've been going to my local thrift store in the hopes to find a hidden gem. I'll be honest, I never really thought I'd find a lens, but in hopes to find a really good film camera for dirt cheap, as my current Fujica AZ-1 absolutely sucked.

There are times when I tell myself that going to the thrift store is a waste of time, afterall, that's what history has proved, but regardless of my lack of luck I still force myself to stop in whenever it's not out of the way. Usually my rule of thumb is to go to the thrift store that was on the side of the road I was currently on, but this day, I don't know, it was different. I just happened to go into one that was a little out of the way, it wasn't exactly far but I had to go on the other side of the road to get there, which was never necessary during my route. I went inside and they had a shit ton of teleconverters that were absolute junk, and then I noticed the Tamron. The first thing that jumped out to me was 90mm and f/2.5, so I knew at that point it was probably a solid lens. It's not often that you find a tele prime with a 2.5 aperture that isn't worth a little money.

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More Pancakes? Why Not! First Impression of the Fujifilm XF27

More Pancakes? Why Not! First Impression of the Fujifilm XF27

When I first purchased my Fujifilm X-T1 the XF 27 was the first lens I looked at. At the time it was the closest thing, if not identical to the Canon 40mm STM that I was shooting with. For whatever reason the lack of an aperture ringed turned me off from grabbing the lens and I opted for the XF 18 instead. This was probably one of the dumbest decisions I had made, not because the XF 18 is a bad lens, but because I absolutely loved my Canon 40mm and it too didn't have an aperture ring... As you can see a lot of knowledge and growth has transpired since making these early purchases.

Fast forward till today and I found myself unhappy with my current setup. I love my XF 35, it's the most versatile lens I've ever used, it has great optics, produces great bokeh when needed and although it's not as small as the pancake lenses Fujifilm offers I still consider it compact. There was just one downfall... 

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Using Zooms as Primes: First Impression of the Fujifilm XF 18-55

Using Zooms as Primes: First Impression of the Fujifilm XF 18-55

A little while back I traded my XF 18 for the XF 18-55. It took me a while to make the trade since I considered myself as a "prime-only" shooter, but when I put my own labels to the side I realized that the XF 18-55 was superior to the XF 18 in every way. Sure I lost a stop a lot, and maybe form factor, but I had to think about what I was shooting with this lens and if those features even mattered. Without going too deep into the story I came to the grips that I typically only shot at 18 when I was shooting group photos or when I was commissioned to do event photography, neither of those situations required small form factor, of the ability to shoot at f/2.

Even though the lens had the capability to shoot at 55 on the long end, I never really saw myself using that focal length, of course in situations where it was convenient I'd do so, but when I was saying doing a portrait session I'd quickly switch to my XF 56. I only saw myself using the kit lens at its full zoom capabilities when I was shooting events, other than that it was usually at 18mm.

A month later I found myself talking to a friend about shooting street portraits with a wide-angle lens. For the longest, I've always tried to figure out how people were able to capture those grotesque looking portraits that brought out the details in people's faces. I told myself that a portrait lens couldn't focus that close, and my XF 27 (my go-to lens for street photography) really didn't demonstrate this look. We talked for a while and kept using the phrase distorted, we then got to talking about his Nikon Nikkor 20mm. He explained that his lens, though wide, presented minimal distortion and that he started to use it for more situations than intended. That's when it hit me, the way to get this look is by distorting the subject. I'm sure there is a bit of talent and timing involved, but for the most part, it's how you make the normal look disgruntled. 

My initial thought was, do I really need another lens? The idea of purchasing the XF 16 for $1000+ just for street portraits didn't seem lucrative. I then proceed to search if there were any vintage lens in the 21-24 focal length I was looking for, at that point I found out that most vintage lenses stopped at around 24, with 21 being the widest. Anything under was typically a fisheye. I then thought to myself, well I can use my 18-55 and just shoot at 18mm exclusively. The idea brought joy to me because it gave my lens (which typically collects dust during the offseason) life. I took it out on the streets and here were the results.

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First Impression: Fujian 50 C-Mount (CCTV) Lens

First Impression: Fujian 50 C-Mount (CCTV) Lens

I haven't had much time to play with this lens, much like my vintage lenses I only pull them out in one-off situations. I always bring them to the shoot, but I just seem to never have time to "experiment" during the session. I think part of it is confidence, I know my XF 56 will get the job done, but I always keep these unique type lenses around for rare situations where I may actually step outside the box and utilize them. Emily Soto has shown me that shooting with a vintage manual lens (though her Petzval isn't vintage) for professional work is possible. Bringing out unique factors in an image that modern day lenses can't produce is something that a client can appreciate, again, it's a matter of confidence.

During week 30 of my Places & Spaces project, I decided to do just that, produce a unique look and what better lens than this one. The look is a swirly bokeh, but a rare one, I've gotten it before, but at that time I had some macro ring on it that limited its focusing ability, so this time I was actually able to use it for portraiture work. However, after several failed attempts I decided to switch to my Helios 44-2, and finish the shoot with that lens. It just wasn't working, and I could see my subject growing impatient. I left happy with my results but confused as to why my background didn't swirl in the way I wanted it to each time. There was something to this, there is a certain way to produce this look. And I was set to figure out exactly how.

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A Prime Perspective: First Impression of the Fujifilm XF 50-140

A Prime Perspective: First Impression of the Fujifilm XF 50-140

At heart I'm a street photographer, I love those candid moments, and I'm in love with the thought that my picture, my moment, is the only one of it's kind... Unless someone was there taking the picture with me. But obviously, that genre of photography doesn't pay the bills, at least not yet. So I had to venture into other fields, I've tried events, portraits, and even combined the two and gave weddings a go. Throughout this growth process, I've been shooting with primes, mainly the XF 18, 35 and 56. These lenses are a key component to my style but sometimes resulted in me missing shots during the wedding ceremony and receptions due to their limitations.

Now typically I wouldn't purchase a zoom lens, not because prime is king, but because of my severe anxiety. See mentally I can't fathom the idea of having a zoom lens, as well as primes. The idea of the XF 56 and XF 50-140 would drive me crazy, I simply hate redundancy. If I happened to use one, instead of the other and I wasn't happy with my end results, I would tell myself I used the wrong lens...To simplify this it might be easier to just say too many options can drive you crazy. 

This theory went out the window when a friend of mine offered to rent the lens for me. I shoot for him as a second shooter on his wedding sessions, so I just want to thank him, because this review wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for his generous contribution. Enough chit chat though, let's get into it!

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My New Favorite Lens: First Impression of the Fujifilm XF 35

My New Favorite Lens: First Impression of the Fujifilm XF 35

The Fujifilm XF 35 wasn't a lens on my "to get list". It never made sense to own a 35, 50 and 85 (FF eqv.) focal lengths, it was just too close of a gap to me, but when my XF 56 went crashing down I was limited to only one option due to Fujifilm's limited amount of lenses, it was also cheaper than getting my XF 56 repaired and at the time it just made sense.

When it arrived, I wasn't impressed, it was slightly bigger than my XF 18, and it just didn't seem like a killer portrait lens, I literally let it sit for a few days before I even mounted it. When I went out on my daily photography walks I either took my XF 18, or Helios 44-2 and made those units work for me, the XF 35 just didn't get me excited, perhaps it was the horrid things I read about the slow AF, or maybe in my head it would never be my XF 56, either way I was bummed out and I started to question my purchase.

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